Native Advertising Bidding Secrets

By Khaled Azar Tips & Tricks

Let me start off by saying I have been doing digital marketing for over 15 years and native advertising content marketing for over four. To be specific, this applies to paid content distribution networks like Outbrain, Taboola, RevContent, Content.AD, etc. Here are my secrets that I have learned having spent $$$ millions of dollars across all these networks.

Accelerate a new campaign. It's all about velocity!

When you first create a campaign in any network, their system uses an algorithm to serve impressions to the campaign to determine how your ads will perform against other ads already in the network. This is referred to as test impressions and what the system is trying to do is gauge a click-thru rate (CTR) for the ads before it starts making decisions based off that CTR. Makes sense right, it can't compare you to other ads if your CTR is 0%, so it gives you sample or test impressions.

Once those impressions are served (each network uses a different amount), it will then push you back into the non-test bucket and display your ads depending on its CTR. So if both ads have the same bid but one has a higher CTR, the one with the higher CTR will show. If both have the same CTR, the one with the highest bid will win. To save money, focus on getting a high CTR.

Well to do that, you need to get good test impressions so you can have the best CTR and keep winning. Well, how do you do that?

ad velocity

Secret: Set a high CPC and high budget for a small period of time on a new campaign. Keep an eye on the campaign and let it spend money at a high CPC even if the campaign is negative. What you are looking for is the velocity of the spend. Once you see it start to spend at a faster pace, start to lower your CPC and control your budget. You will find doing this allows the campaign to catch fire and gain better traction across the whole network.

Day and weekend parting. Seems simple but are you doing it?

So I love data and I was digging through my marketing campaign numbers over the past few weeks and found some insightful trends. Again I have done digital marketing for everything from selling office furniture to app installs, and I found this trend in MOST niches. Users are worth the most when they take action and engage the site, which seems to be during normal business hours. Whether you are generating leads for your business or promoting content, you are probably doing it at work. Think about your habits, most people read articles at work or even make purchases from their office computer. Intuition doesn’t just follow this, so do the numbers.

We found that around 4 PM PST there is a decrease in RPMs and conversion rate but not page views per session. So even though users are still engaged, on a similar level, their mindset is different and are less likely to take action.

For weekends, it is the same as above. I should state that there are exceptions to these rules. For example, you sell video game controllers. Your market might be most active during the middle of the night. You know your campaigns best.

How much should you lower it by? Well, you can use an ROI calculation so if you get half the conversions then lower the CPC by half. For RPMs, we saw a 30-40% reduction, and for conversions it can be as much as 80%. Adjust your CPC accordingly.

There is software that automates this such as Brax. Here is a screen shot:


Secret: On Fridays and evenings (daily), do not turn off your campaigns, simply lower the bid to something that reduces traffic almost to none and then turn it back up when ready.

The ad’s CTR is the key! Break-up with the impression suckers.

So you just used a software like Brax to create lots of ads in minutes. Well after you distribute all those ads to each network, and they get test impressions, they start to accumulate a CTR. Ads have two categories, they either rock or they suck, and the CTR is the metric that is the deciding factor. There are no “OK” ads, if it's not a “Rockstar” then they “Suck”. Why is there no middle ground or analysis? Because you are wrong, trust me the ad sucks. Ads are like people you date, if the first date was bad, trust me the second is not going to be better. and if it is, not by enough to justify a second date. Break up with your ads, turn them off. They are sucking up impressions from ads with higher CTR.

Set a CTR to be kick ass, say 2%. If it's not that high then it sucks. Also, set a time limit or impression limit such as 10,000 impressions and 5 days, whichever comes first. It's rare that on the 6th day or on the 10,0001 impression it becomes a rock star. At this point it is so weighted down, it cannot recover its CTR. And finally, know you will not get fewer impressions because you have fewer ads, far from it, you will get more.


Secret: Take a look at your top performing three ads and make variations of them, and maybe a few random ones. Turn off impression suckers! So basically turn the rest off.

So now that you know this, here is what is bad a**!

Did you know that all this can be streamlined using a software? I know because I had these problems and said "screw this, lets build a software to make our life easier". Brax was born out of the god-awful pains content marketers face.

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