Native advertising has quickly become the emerging and most potent new channel in the digital arsenal of media buyers and planners. It is essential to fully and completely understand where this new method fits into the consumer funnel, and also to understand how to properly measure its effectiveness at achieving campaign objectives.
Establishing the framework to measure the effectiveness of native advertising will help this new channel to increase its adoption among media executives and our most important account clients. We’ll outline the foundation of this framework to measure the effectiveness of native ads.
1. Utilize platform-specific tracking and optimization: conversions, time on site, engagement.
Given a growing number of options media buyers now have when they choose a native advertising provider, it’s critical to ask what kind of measurement capabilities the individual platform has. What separates the best from the rest?
Most platforms use the common measurement of “ad impression” quality and effectiveness built in. These can be metrics such as ad viewability (%), ad viewability time(s), brand safety, non-human traffic, etc. Or, these metrics can be easily obtained by attaching a variety of measurement and verification tags from 3rd-party providers. Properly analyzing this data: media buyers will learn an indispensable amount of valuable information about the quality of native placements which they have in the market.
Besides this, some platforms now offer analysis beyond the click. It can be something as simple as installing a conversion pixel (tailored to a specific action on the site), or something more sophisticated, such as getting a platform-specific analytics pixel that can measure things such as average time on site, page views, content shares, as well as new vs. return traffic.
The bottom line is that it’s critical to fully understand what each platform has to offer and take full advantage of all capabilities. As the AdTech market grows the defining factor determining the winners for digital dollars from Brands and Agencies alike are the functionality and features offered by each platform.
2. Use click-macros to get as much information from the click as possible.
This can be an alternative solution when it’s not possible to place any type of analytics pixel on the page.
Click macros are essentially small pieces of program, code that can be inserted into the destination URL (either manually or automatically), and they pass some critical information about the click to the site’s analytics software. It can be very valuable information such as the domain URL, geo location of the click, product price, etc.
This will provide a more detailed breakdown of the overall traffic from this native ad provider, and help media buyers make some optimization decisions; for example, allocating more budgets to specific sites based on “average time on site” analysis.
3. Split Test Everything!!
In any and all marketing campaign there are a lot of variables coming from a variety of angles.
- On the (native) ad level: there is an image, headline and a body text (for the majority of native units).
- On the placement level: there is an option of serving on thousands of sites, on various contextual verticals, etc.
- On the targeting level: there are interest segments, device types, frequency caps, day parting, etc.
Older marketing wisdom states: target the right user, in the right place (environment) at the right time. So it’s not hard to imagine that a small tweak in the combination of those variables above can affect the campaign in a really big way for a huge advantage.
These days the majority of campaigns can auto-optimize now. For example, platforms can take a large number of combinations (obtained by mixing different variables), serve them at an equal weight, and then focus on the best combinations.
The simple advice here is to pick at least three variables of each element (three images, three headlines, three body text elements, three contextual categories, etc.) and serve them at an equal rate. This will provide an enormous amount of learnings for future campaigns.
4. Holistic view of digital—utilize Path to Conversion Analysis
The last piece of advice—and arguably the most sophisticated one—is to take a holistic view of all your digital initiatives by utilizing the path to conversion analysis. In the simplest terms: this is done by “tagging” all your digital channels with time-stamped measurement tags. The majority of ad servers provide this type of analysis these days to help as well.
This way, every time a specific ad unit is served or clicked on (depending on the attribution model), this is being recorded, and can later be analyzed to understand how the customer interacted with various channels on the way to converting.
For instance, you can see that a customer first interacted with banners (with or without clicking), then read a piece of content on the brand’s page by following a native ad, was later exposed to re-targeting banners, and then found the product page through search and converted.
This type of approach—when you make data and measurement the central piece of any campaign—allows media buyers to learn from existing campaigns and improve on future ones.
These methods have been tried and tested and marked for success on our end and is the best approach in the new data-driven marketing world.