“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Steve Wick, founder and president at MobSoc Media.
Native advertising is one of the fastest growing, most promising new methods of online marketing, but many brands are still trying to figure out the best way to measure its performance.
Does native advertising really work? How do we know what metrics to use?
One of the most common metrics used by publishers and advertisers to measure performance of native ads is engagement, which may include page views, clickthrough rates or time spent on the article. Others use traffic, social media sharing, brand lift and cost per click.
There are limitations to these methods of measuring native-advertising performance. Engagement does not always provide an immediate and measurable increase in sales or conversions. There are a few other methods to improve and measure bottom-line native-ad performance.
Don’t Depend Solely On Publishers
If you’re buying native advertising via a publisher, whether it’s in-stream ads or sponsored content, that publisher will provide a variety of metrics to show how well the ads are performing, such as the total number of people who saw the ad, total page views or time spent with the ad. Publisher metrics are a great start, but they’re not the only way to track performance. Make sure that for every native ad campaign, you include trackable links back to your own website. You need to be able to get prospective customers to click through away from the publisher’s site and onto your own company’s site or landing page.
This will help track which new sales prospects are coming from which native ads, and it helps you gain some control over getting new customers into the sales pipeline, instead of just relying on the publisher’s statistics and metrics. Those publisher metrics have value, but they’re not always the most helpful for seeing how many new sales were produced by a campaign. The brand should configure Google Analytics or a similar tool to measure whether the traffic driven to the landing page is fulfilling specific campaign objectives.
Build Your Owned-Media Capability
With native advertising, brands are becoming publishers with the ability to create their own content and attract their own audiences, but too many brands still rely exclusively on other publishers by paying for access to their audiences. Instead of just buying eyeballs from other publishers, they should build up the capacity to command an audience of their own. Write blog articles and white papers, produce viral videos and tell stories in a way that connects with customers’ interests. Buying ads from other publishers can supplement and accelerate this process, but most brands should also focus on expanding their platform of owned media in addition to paid media channels.
There are a few ways to measure the impact of increasing a brand’s owned-media capacity. First, they can look at the volume and quality of traffic coming to their own company website. How many new sales leads are they getting? Are people finding their site based on keywords that they’ve targeted as part of their owned-media publishing efforts? Second, look at what they can do to get their own content mentioned in social media – not with paid or sponsored efforts, but by organic reach. Are other bloggers writing about their company? Are people on Twitter retweeting links to their blog articles?
Also, look at the overall average time spent on an article as a metric for audience engagement. The more time that audiences spend reading or viewing branded content, the more their brand recognition and purchase intent will grow.
The impact of an owned-media platform can be measured in a variety of ways depending on strategic goals, whether that means sales leads, sales inquiries or brand awareness, or by otherwise measurably increasing influence with key audiences.
Market Native Ads Via Social Media
In addition to placing native ads with other publishers that are relevant to an audience, sponsored content should also be marketed via Facebook and other social media. For example, Facebook offers precise interest and behavior targeting where you can pay to reach a much larger targeted audience than could be reached just by posting on a Facebook page. Every time you make a new viral video or publish an article or interview for the purpose of sponsored content or native ads, you should also budget to market and distribute that same content.
You can measure the impact of marketing native ads via social media in many of the same ways as regular social media marketing, such as tracking social shares, including retweets and Facebook shares, or the number of new followers or “Likes” that result from the sponsored posts about your native ads. Marketing native ads this way can give additional momentum and life to a native ad campaign by putting the message in front of a highly targeted audience that is more likely to be interested.
Native ads can deliver excellent performance if metrics can be aligned with campaign objectives. Remember to make it targeted and trackable, and always look to create emotional connections with your audience.