As the consumer research and buying process has continued to evolve and develop, the demand for businesses to move to an Omnichannel marketing strategy has become increasingly more crucial. More marketers are turning to programmatic Display advertising as an option to reach consumers while they browse the web and help ensure they get in front of them throughout their buying journey; 84% of US digital Display spend is estimated to be put toward programmatic ads in 2019. As we’ve researched and tested various platforms, one that we’ve found success with for our clients is Outbrain.
How Does Outbrain Work?
Outbrain is a content discovery platform that shows Native ads on premium sites by leveraging a programmatic auction via Real Time Bidding. If you’re new to programmatic native advertising, you’ll probably find this breakdown from Outbrain helpful:
“Native ads are built from a number of metadata elements, such as a headline, thumbnail image, content URL, description text, and more. With programmatic native advertising, a user visits a website, creating space for an ad impression. The Supply Side Platform (SSP) sends bid requests on behalf of the publisher. The Demand Side Platform (DSP) responds with metadata metrics and bids on behalf of the advertiser. Based on the metadata, the SSP selects the winning bid and instantly configures the native ad via templating design to fit into the website or app. This entire process occurs within a fraction of a second.
Outbrain Account Setup
To create an account, just click the Register button on their site in the top righthand corner:
From there, you’ll be taken to a short form to fill out to get started:
If your monthly budget is over $20k you’ll get a dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) to help you with campaign setup and optimizations.
Conversion Tracking Setup
Once your account is set up and you log in to the main dashboard, you can choose Pixels > Conversions on the upper lefthand side, then the Add Conversion button:
From there, you’ll choose either a URL or Event-Based conversion:
Then you’ll fill in the rest of the details like Category, Window, Value, etc:
Once you save your Conversion, you can enable or disable it from the Manage Conversions page, which is also where you can access the Outbrain pixel to place on your site to start tracking.
Outbrain also supports server to server tracking if needed.
Once your account is set up and your conversion tracking is in place, you can log in to your main dashboard and choose Add Campaign in the upper right-hand corner to start setting up your campaigns:
You’ll name your campaign, choose a budget and runtime, a goal CPC, geotargeting, platform/OS/Browser targeting and a bidding strategy to either maximize clicks or conversions. You can also opt into the Outbrain Extended Network, choose to exclude AdBlock users, add a campaign level tracking template and 3rd party pixels.
In addition to the targeting mentioned above, you can also target users based on Interests. You can either choose a high-level parent category, like Business and Finance, or you can choose the drop-down arrow to drill down and see and choose subcategories within:
If you hover over each option you’ll see an estimated reach for each as well. You can use the AND feature to target users who fit into multiple interest categories or exclude interests altogether to further narrow down your audience pool.
Custom Audiences in Outbrain
In addition to the targeting mentioned above, Outbrain offers a few different ways to leverage Retargeting. To build any custom audience, just click Pixels in the upper lefthand corner then choose Audiences:
From there, you’ll choose Add Segment to get started:
Similar to other channels, you can choose a more standard Retargeting strategy by specifying various URL parameters:
A second option that Outbrain offers is Story Sequencing, where you can retarget users who have seen an Outbrain campaign before. As many advertisers are finding, it can be difficult to sell your product or service on the first touchpoint the user has with your brand.
With story sequencing, you can set up a Content campaign where you offer some sort of content — a blog post, an ebook, etc — and then retarget those users with a product or demo page. Simply choose the campaign(s) you want from the drop-down menu under Story Sequencing:
Lastly, as seen above, you can also retarget converting users. Just choose the conversion action you want to use from the dropdown menu. You can even track Mobile app engagement.
If you have an account with an Outbrain partner you also have the option to import your own 1st party data. Just note that it can take 24-48 hours for these segments to show up in the dashboard. You can also create Lookalikes off of these segments.
You’ll need to create segments before you can create any Lookalike audiences. Once you’ve created your seed segments, Lookalike audience setup is easy. Simply click the Create Lookalike button on the Custom Audiences Overview tab:
From there, a lightbox will pop up where you can choose your seed segment from the ones you created:
Then in the Lookalike Targeting dropdown, you’ll see the countries and platforms you can choose. If you see any greyed out that means the segment is too small yet for Outbrain to model. You can choose up to six combinations per Lookalike segment.
Lastly, you’ll choose your audience size and the estimated potential reach:
After you’ve created your audiences, you can apply them to the campaign(s) you want by clicking the edit pencil to edit the campaign settings from the campaign dashboard and scrolling down to the Targeting section:
Additional Audience Targeting (not in the UI)
Outbrain also has access to third-party data. If you reach the monthly spend threshold and have a CSM you can reach out to them for access to the full list; if you don’t, you can contact their general support team for help with some things; however, the general support team doesn’t provide the list of audience segments, you have to be able to tell them what segments you want to target. Clix gained access to the full list of B2B segments and is allowed to share them here!
These have proven to be invaluable targeting segments for our campaigns; for example, some of the B2B options available are company revenue, company size, industry, seniority, decision maker, and more. Note that you won’t be able to see these segments in the Dashboard once your CSM or a support person adds them to your campaigns, but Outbrain is working to enable this feature soon.
Simply click through a campaign where you’d like to add your creative, then choose Add Content in the upper righthand corner:
If you need individual ad level tracking (as opposed to the campaign level, which Outbrain supports within the campaign settings) then you’ll use the URLs or Import option:
If you’re only using campaign level tracking, then you can use the Variations option. Once you click through, you’ll just put in your landing URL and Outbrain will generate some headline options, as well as an image, or you can create or upload your own:
Then just click Apply > Create to save and launch in your campaign. Keep in mind that there is some lag time for the ad review process, and your ads don’t go into review until your campaign is unpaused.
Outbrain Tips & Tricks
- Break campaigns out by Device to help better manage performance as there’s currently no way to add bid modifiers.
- If you don’t want your ads to show to previously converting users then create an audience for them and exclude from your campaigns.
- Test multiple headlines and images based on some best practices.
- Test various headline lengths and styles. The recommended length is 70 characters, but at no point are they actually cut off. We’ve also seen success using other characters, like incorporating [Free eBook].
- While optimization features like bid modifiers aren’t available yet in Outbrain, you are able to exclude platforms, geos, publishers, etc so you should still regularly review performance and work to leverage the optimization capabilities you do have.
- Consider leveraging some of Outbrain’s advanced Retargeting strategies if they fit with your business model and goals.
- Consider going beyond targeting the audience segments readily available to you in the interface and reach out to support to opt into additional valuable segments.
If you liked this article, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Advertising in Taboola.