Outbrain is our #2 source of commercial traffic, after Adwords. We find that content amplification can be an extremely cost effective way of generating registrations inexpensively and has a number of side benefits. For one, it it’s not search engine marketing, so it doesn’t compete with Adwords, Adsense or SEO.
But content amplification can be tricky. I suspect that bots and clickfraud problems that plague online ad platforms are a problem with content amplifiers as well. It’s easy to waste the budget if you are new to the game (let’s say I have a friend who did just that). So here are a few pointers. They may be highly subjective, but they reflect my experience and hopefully they’ll help you as well.
1. Turn mobile traffic off
It just doesn’t convert. I suspect, just like with Adsense ads, most of mobile clicks are accidental.
2. Use block list extensively
As a rule, your #1 source of traffic for any given Outbrain campaign will be crap. You can block up to 10 publishers yourself. But there’s really no limit to how many publishers you can place on your black list, if you contact Outbrain support, they’ll block unwanted publishers within a day. Blocking and unblocking publishers in conjunction with Google Analytics stats (bounce rate, time spent on page) will give you a decent idea of which publishers are the worst.
3. Start with minimal bids
When I create a new Outbrain campaign, the suggested bid price is around 80 cents. I find that with good copy and headline I can buy a lot of traffic paying 3–6 cents on average. Granted, Bitrix24 sells equally well in the golden billion countries (North America and Western Europe) and the developing world (India, Vietnam, etc), so your bids might be higher if you target specific countries, but again start low, then adjust.
4. Direct promotion almost never works
We’ve tried linking Outbrain directly to content on Bitrix24. The results were dismal. So we use a different approach now. We typically link Outbrain to articles and publications that mention Bitrix24. There are a few reasons for that. Most important one is that when people are reading Forbes or ComputerWorld, they trust these publications and their opinions much more. An article about how great Bitrix24 is placed in Bitrix24 blog would immediately raise suspicions. This technique also lets us squeeze out traffic from old content that doesn’t generate generations on its own.
5. Create list type articles
List type articles — Ten Free Tools for … Five Most Profitable … — tend to do best for Outbrain. Do avoid outright linkbait titles tough, respect your audience.
6. Form Outbrain coop
This strategy isn’t limited to Outbrain and I’ve used it extensively before, when my budget was limited (it’s funny how you can go from spending $5K to $1 million on advertising in just few years). The idea is simple — form ad pool with other companies that you aren’t competing with directly. Let’s say you are selling CRM. Find partners who sell task management, accounting services, payroll, document management or any other services that aren’t competing with you directly. Each of you can pitch in $1K-$10K a month, create content that’ll promote all of you (ex. Five Essential Tools For Running Your Small Business or Great New Small Business Tools You Absolutely Must Try), and now you are paying one fifth for essentially the same amount of traffic, you can now raise your bids and squeeze other advertisers out. Again, this type of partnerships isn’t limited to paying for content amplification, but it’s a good start. Do talk to your accountants first you’ll be receiving money from your partners about proper way to do that so that you don’t pay taxes on them.
7. Use Outbrain to increase page views, SEO and for sending social signals
Many publications judge popularity of a particular article or post by how many views it has received (total or within a given time period), prominently featuring most popular content. This means that driving massive traffic via Outbrain (in a short time span, if necessary) to that particular piece is an easy way to accomplish this. You can then turn Outbrain off and still receive benefits from being featured in “most popular”. Driving massive traffic also has other helpful side effect. A lot of new readers means a lot of retweets and Facebook reposts, if the content is great. And since Google increasingly uses behavioral signals in SEO rankings, Outbrain is your friend here.
On a more personal note, you might be wondering, why I am writing about Outbrain and not Taboola (which is another content amplification behemoth). One of the reason I stuck with Outbrain is because unlike Taboola, their platform is self service. You enter your credit card number, create your first campaign and that’s it. Not with Taboola. First, you have to contact them via site or email. Then they tell you their minimum budget is $4K. When you finally lower it to $1K (we have an internal rule to never spend more than $1K on a test — fail fast and fail cheap), you get a total … like Graeme Fauste who renegs on promises that he himself made in earlier emails. Oh well, their loss. I also can’t recommend RevContent on traffic quality grounds and how sloooooow campaigns are approved. Content.Addoesn’t have necessary amount of traffic for the service of our size and had strange pricing model, dividing content in promotional and non-promotional categories.
If you have good experience with content amplification platforms other than Outbrain, I’d love to hear it.