One of the most popular and scalable native advertising formats being used in the market today is the Recommendation Widgets such as those delivered by Outbrain, Plista or Taboola.
For those that don’t know what a Recommendation Widget is – they are the placements you see at the bottom of articles promoting other articles and content to view. Typically they have an image and a line of text, and are used by publishers to help circulate traffic around their network and by advertisers to drive audiences to their sites.
I get a lot of questions from clients on how to most effectively use this format to amplify their content. The net effect of all these conversations is that most people have a love/hate relationship with this format.
They love that this format can drive relatively cost effective traffic to their sites (and lots of it), however they struggle with its’ lack of targeting and I often hear the following statements; “widgets don’t provide quality traffic” or “bounce rates are really high”.
5 tips on optimizing widgets
In essence our conversations tend to revolve around what they can do to improve this formats performance. And there’s plenty that can be done! This native advertising format can be very successful in amplifying content that has been produced by a brand and ultimately deliver ROI against the cost of the content produced.
Here are my 5 tips on optimizing widgets for success that I thought would be helpful to share.
Tip #1: Produce multiple headlines, and update, delete, refresh regularly
It’s important to test many headlines against the content you are amplifying. Not all headlines will work as you expect so should be deleted to improve results.
Updating and refreshing headlines will also boost response rates. An important watch out – no click bait please! As you cannot target your audience with this format, your headline is the deciding factor on who clicks on your link. It’s important the headline matches the content, and self-selects your audience. Remember you’re paying for the clicks, so you want them to be the right ones!
Tip #2: Images used are just as important as the headlines
Don’t forget about the images as these can also help select your audience. Pick images that attract the right people, and test, test, test!
Tip #3: Optimize on time spent and page depth metrics, NOT bounce rates
Perhaps a controversial statement to start this tip – bounce rates are largely not relevant. Why? Because the pure definition of a bounce rate is that the user did not go to a second page on the website. So, if your audience is reading a piece of content say for 90 seconds and then leaves your site – is this bad? I would reason that this is a great result – you’ve just had someone engage with your brand for a length of time. If however they left your site in under 10 seconds, then you have a problem. Remember user behaviour of a widget will be to go back to the site they were on before they came to your site. So, the aim here is to optimize the content and headlines based on best performing as seen from time spent and page depth data.
Tip #4: Have clear call to actions (CTA’s) on the content pages
One-way to improve page depth results derived from users who have clicked on a widget is to provide clear and multiple CTA’s on the content pages. Ensure you make it easy for them to see additional content pieces that may interest them; or have clear lead generation goals such as a newsletter subscription prominent on the page.
Tip #5: Have a continual stream of new content to amplify
Best results are achieved when there is regular content to promote and amplify. This pushes the new content back out across the widget networks and gives audiences another opportunity to connect and engage. As new content is released, optimise your content mix. The more opportunities a user has, the greater likelihood there is they will click on a piece of content that is relevant for them – thus starting a (hopefully) long engagement and relationship with your brand.