3 Expert Tips for Troubleshooting Native Ad Performance

A successful native advertising campaign is dependent on a whole host of factors. While uploading a campaign is easy, what do you do when that same campaign isn’t performing the way you expected it to?

We asked Michelle Hart, StackAdapt’s lead Customer Success Manager, her process for troubleshooting native ad performance.

Here are her three main tips:

1. Check Your KPIs Against Your Campaign Goal

A common problem among marketers is having a specific goal in mind and later discovering that the metrics you were using to track that goal failed to illustrate whether or not you met your brand’s objective. Here are the appropriate metrics to use based on your campaign goal:

Goal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Awareness/Site TrafficI’m looking for brand awareness, eyeballs on my site, or to stay top of mind ↑Click Through Rate (CTR)↓Cost per Click (CPC)
EngagementI want to build an audience for my content, be a thought leader, or position my brand as an expert ↓Effective Cost per Engagement (eCPE)↑Time on Site

↑Number of engagements

↑Engagement rate

ConversionI want to gather leads, make direct sales, or gather a group of interested people for retargeting ↓Cost per Acquisition (CPA)

Look at which targeting tactics and creatives are spending the most and whether or not they are hitting the desired goal. If not, consider removing them. But, be careful not remove too many elements at once! If you make too many optimizations at one time, you will have a harder time figuring out what actually caused the performance increase/decrease or you could impact campaign pacing.

2. Try An Exclusion List

At this moment in adtech, programmatic native campaigns aren’t quite at the point of “set it and forget it”. There are always certain areas: specific domains, categories, or exchanges, doing well while others are struggling. It takes a bit of strategy to optimize towards the high performing aspects of the campaign.

As a digital marketer, you tend to go into a campaign with a fairly strong idea of which targets will work best for your brand. But more often than not, you end up having to perform emergency surgery to cut out the aspects of the campaign that are underperforming, or risk wasting precious marketing dollars. We call this domain exclusion. Here are three ways you might go about it:

Domain Exclusion List

When a campaign isn’t hitting the desired KPI, cutting spending off at the most granular point is the best place to start. Going through and removing 3-7 domains not hitting the desired CTR/eCPC/eCPE every so often can get you back on track by eliminating spend where the ad is being served but not generating the desired outcome.

When looking through your domain level report always ensure you’re filtering by media cost (highest to lowest) as you want to be removing domains that are spending a lot of money but not hitting your KPI.

Poor performance by domain could be for a number of reasons. For example, the type of placement on the site, or the fact that while the site’s audience is your target demographic, it’s just the wrong time/place to be reaching them.

StackAdapt’s Customer Success team is constantly making sure native campaigns are on the right track. (From left to right: Chris St. John, Michelle Hart, Mel Bank, Sara Bui, Spencer King)

Category Exclusion List

Similar to domain reporting, category exclusions removes page categories that aren’t working for the campaign and can help shift budget elsewhere. Maybe your target audience spends a lot of time on auto sites causing this page category to spend your budget quickly, but it isn’t the right place to be reaching them.

Removing this category will then push spend to other categories where the audience is more likely to convert. This optimization allows you to easily remove a group of similar sites that are not working for the campaign.

Supply Source Exclusion List

While I am much more cautious with this optimization tactic, it’s still a handy one. If you’re going through the domain report, excluding a number of sites from the same exchange, it may be easier to just remove the exchange as a whole. This is a bit more of an aggressive optimization tactic as it can really impact scale. At the same time, you shouldn’t be spending money on an exchange driving metrics lower than you need!

3. Pause Poor Performing Creatives

The headline and imagery of a native ad can drastically affect performance. We’ve even written a whole ebook on content creation here.

While our platform does optimize ad creatives for the best performing CTR (assuming you’ve uploaded more than one version of the same ad) it will not optimize to hit CPA or engagement goals. This being the case, you can always pause underperforming creatives.

While this is a great optimization tactic, many times you may be unable to pause certain creatives due to personal restrictions, for example, you’ve been instructed to run a particular creative. Similar to above, you want to be optimizing this based on spend and the desired KPIs: CTR/CPC, CPE/time on site and CPA.

Want to know more about native advertising? Check out our Guide to Native Advertising here.

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