[PART 1] How to grow your native ads revenue with the help of right metrics

At Content Insights, we know how complicated it is to measure content performance and estimate your ROI.

This is why we’re starting a content series on the performance metrics you should look at to assess your success, through the prism of different publishing business models.

Today on the menu: native advertising.

Understanding native advertising as a business model

Native advertising has sneaked its way into the publishing world and it turns out it might bring great benefits to it. Also known as branded or sponsored content, native advertising is a form of paid media designed to blend into the publication’s editorial content. It subtly promotes advertiser’s product or services while offering tangible value to the media consumer.

Brands realized that partnering up with a top-tier publication that’s well visited and has the same target audience – makes sense, business-wise.

Editors and publishers have been testing these business waters for quite a while now. According to FIPP’s and NAI’s report (Native Advertising Trends 2018), the majority of surveyed publishers report having positive feelings about native advertising (80%). It is believed that the overall advertising revenue for publishers will climb up to 46% by 2021.

The benefits of the native advertising business model include:

  • Solid source of revenue for publishers
  • Editors can reorganize their existing resources to satisfy the needs of brands they collaborate with, or they can create dedicated teams (i.e. brand and native studios)
  • Freedom to collaborate with brands that won’t jeopardize the trust bond they have with their readers
  • Chance to establish long-term partnerships

Despite the fact that many have their doubts about the ethical side of creating native ads (especially in journalism) – numbers do look promising.

Now, moving on to the actual measurement of success of native campaigns – something we know you’re curious about.

Introducing – performance metrics for native ads.

[Related – Use case: how The Local looks at native advertising from a new angle with Content Insights]

1. Attention Time

Brands you collaborate with are interested in the amount of engaged time their native articles manage to generate. They want to know how much time people spent attentively consuming the content because this indicates how captivating any given piece is.

More engagement means a higher probability of establishing firm bonds with relevant prospects.

Many brands feel they are entitled to people’s attention but those that invest in native ads have a pretty good idea of how readers’ behavior has changed in the 21st century.

Attention has to be earned. This is why Attention Time is one of the key metrics that brands expect to see in the content performance report of their native ad article.

Unlike Time on Page found in Google Analytics and many other analytics tools on the market which measures the total time a certain page remains open in the browser tab within a single session (regardless of whether the person is there or not) – Content Insights’ Attention Time measures real, engaged time readers spend consuming content. The so-called “idle time” is not taken into account, so if you’ve left a browser open while you’ve gone off to make [another] cup of coffee or look for a pen that actually works, our metric knows not to count that time as active. Sensible, right?

2. Article Reads and Read Depth

Native campaigns are mostly used to increase brand awareness and drive engagement, not necessarily to sell something instantly. They are supposed to guide relevant prospects through the sales funnel, intrigue them, and motivate them to get emotionally invested. If executed the right way, native campaigns contribute to the holistic selling point of the brand in question.

In that sense, important metrics to look at include Article Reads and Read Depth.

While Pageviews only indicate how many times a page was loaded in the browser and not necessarily how many people viewed the page or consumed the content, Article Reads represent the actual number of people who have started attentively reading your content.

Read Depth is another precious metric found in the Content Insights app: it shows how deeply people have got into reading a piece of content, which is a pretty useful insight in terms of engagement.

Why is this important? Well, if you have an article with an Article Reads score of 1000, but a Read Depth score of 7%, you’ll start to get a better idea of what’s wrong with your article. Is the headline misleading? Does the content in question start with an altogether far too long rambling introduction with no regard to conventional punctuation and an overabundance of superfluous vocabulary? You get the idea.

[Related – Content analytics: simple metrics vs. complex metrics for measuring content performance]

3. Engagement CPI

The level of engagement is something brands are particularly interested in, and it goes beyond just Attention Time.

Luckily, publishers can show brands the score of Engagement CPI of that particular sponsored article.

This metric indicates how well that native piece is resonating with the publication’s audience and it measures how efficient it is at influencing readers to stay engaged with the content.

Content Performance Indicator is the heart and soul of Content Insights. It is a complex algorithm that takes into consideration dozens of different content performance metrics and examines their relations. It also weighs them differently according to three behavioral models: exposure, engagement, and loyalty.

CPI is always presented in the number between 0 and 1000, where 500 is the baseline. Every score above is considered above average while scores above 900 indicate exceptional performance.

4. Exposure CPI

Of course, the success of the native campaign also depends on the number of people it manages to attract. It’s a no brainer: reaching new relevant audiences is important for brands that want to strengthen their position on the market and improve revenue rates.

But, how do you estimate the size of the audience you’ve managed to reach? Looking at social shares is not sufficient, especially because 6 in 10 people will share stories without actually clicking on them, let alone reading them.

That’s not exactly the type of exposure brands are hoping for.

However, Content Insights has a specific behavioral model that measures exposure.

Exposure CPI values volume and it expresses how well the article in question performed in terms of bringing new audiences to the website.

If Exposure CPI value is high, brands can be certain that a lot of new faces – outside of the existing, regular audience of their partner publication – have reached their piece of native content. This is pretty important for improving brand exposure.

If advertisers are still interested in what’s going on across the social networks, publishers need not worry: it’s possible to track social actions in the Content Insights app.

Social Actions within the Content Insights’ app represent the combined number of key social actions across major social network platforms. So, we’re talking about the total number of times readers interacted with the content on social media (e.g. likes, shares, comments). Data is collected from the available public APIs of the networks.

5. Referrers

Although Referrers are not a metric, they do provide a full picture for brands that invest in native advertising.

There are 5 different types of traffic referrers that Content Insights recognizes:

  • Internal (traffic that comes from within the site)
  • Direct (traffic directly from the URL, that has no disclosed referrer)
  • Search (traffic that comes from the search engines)
  • Social (traffic that comes from major social networks)
  • Other (traffic that’s not categorized in any of the above mentioned sources).

It’s fairly logical – brands want to know where their audience is coming from. With Content Insights, you can show them just that: generate a report easily and help brands understand the traffic distribution across different sources.

Not only that, but you can also see how many article reads each of these referrers have generated. This is a valuable piece of information for brands. Knowing which platforms people discover stories on can help brands tailor their future campaigns and select the right type of publishers to partner up with.

Extra tip #1: identifying the best in-house authors for native pieces

If you’re just getting started with offering native advertising services, it’s likely you will use your existing resources – not form a brand studio or a dedicated native team. This means you’ll need to identify the best in-house authors who can truly bring value to brands that are looking to invest in native pieces.

So, how do you actually do that?

You can rely on your editorial gut feeling and pinpoint a few of your writers that are already experts on the topic or demonstrate great research skills. Then, you can organize the workload as usual. That’s one way to deal with it.

The other way implies a data-driven approach. Within the Content Insights app, you can see the Authors report and explore their individual performance. We made it incredibly easy for you to do so by creating behavior badges.

Badges can be red or green, depending on whether or not the author has low efficiency or high efficiency in terms of generating great exposure (EXP badge), engagement (ENG badge) or driving readers’ loyalty (LOY badge).

For instance, if authors have a green ENG badge, it means that they did really well at writing engaging articles. If they happen to have a green EXP badge too, it means they are also awesome at attracting new audiences. This powerful combo could reflect the perfect writer’s profile for producing native pieces.

It’s not to say this is a 100% proven formula for selecting writers that carry out native campaigns, but it has certainly proven to be successful and helpful.

Extra tip #2: identifying the best real estate on your website for native content

As a publisher, you can use the CPI scores of your topics and sections to elevate your native advertising game to the next level. By analyzing all three models of CPI through these two dimensions, you can locate lucrative real estate on your website where you can place native content and sell it to brands with a better guarantee they’ll get satisfying ROI.

Let’s say that you have a tech section on your website that generates a lot of loyal and engaged readers. For specific brands that offer software services and various types of IT solutions, this means that you not only have access to their desired audience – but you have your readers’ attention and trust.

This, of course, will increase some brand’s interest in promoting their business on your website. By showing your potential clients how well you influence their target group, you can easily encourage more brands to do business with you.

What are the metrics you report on when communicating the success of native campaigns for brands? Share your struggles with us or get in touch to find out more about how Content Insights can help out!

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