Setting up a successful native ads campaign on Taboola or Outbrain

Native advertising on the NY Times.

Native advertising is a better way to advertise than banner ads. Online ads in general get diminished attention due to their placement and overall disinterest from users in seeing ads in the middle of the content they are consuming but native ads seem like more of an acceptable way to stand out. Despite of that, users still see native ads as a bad thing.

Native advertising or discovery ads by the likes of Outbrain and Taboola have gotten a bad reputation after allowing “click baity” ads on their platform for so long. Ads on large newspapers such as “sponsored links” or “stories you might like from around the web” used to be sponsored by shady companies to promote “Click per Action” campaign in mass. These ads had headlines that called people’s attention but were led to landing pages that had multiple step qualification or promoted different content.

The irony is that I tried to advertise with my technology company in 2015 and I could not promote a landing page. I have to promote a content page. I guess these ‘shady’ ads had more deeper pocket and were allowed in the platform for a long time, even though I see them less these days and have started seeing more larger brands taking advantage of this media.

The fact is, these ads are now more prevalent and less invasive and feel less like ads. That boosted that popularity between advertisers. They also help publishers with monetizing their content and that’s why you see them still around these days in 2020. Because they pay publishers to be on their websites and many large newspapers have taken advantage of it.

But what is native advertising?

The examples I’ve given are the most commonly referred to form of native advertising but are not the only one. Any ads native to any platform would be called native advertising, but what we understand as “native advertisement”  is an ad that adapts to the surround content and platform, being it a newspaper, a feed or an app.

But there are other forms of native:

Advertorial Ads is what Tabool and Outbrain are. They’re designed to look like an entire piece of editorial content, instead of just appearing as a small ad in the sidebar or header/footer of a web page.

News Feed Ads are some of the hardest types of native ads to recognize because they blend in so well with their surroundings. You’ll often find these types of ads on news-based sites such as BuzzFeed, Mashable, and Huffington Post. Usually, the block or page element that contains these native ads will be marked as “Sponsored” or “Presented by Company Name”.

How can small companies take advantage of Outbrain and Taboola

A regular complaint of people that started campaigns at these platforms is that they are all for spending your money without giving you much for it. Truth is these platforms have access to so many publishers now that it’s easy to get your budget spent and not see so much return from it.

To get a good campaign on Taboola, I’m going to show a few important steps.

Start with a small bid 

Yes, start with a small bid. Usually make it even smaller than what the platform indicates you. You can always adjust that and increase it if you think you are not getting enough views and clicks.

Also define monthly budget

That doesn’t break your bank. Make sure this monthly budget is smaller than what you initially planned to spend. The platform has a tendency to outspend what you defined by 20%. It’s common place to see references online to Taboola’s practices of activating campaigns that are missing information to start getting you spending money.

Provide value on your ads with good content

Your content needs to provide value to bring attention. And if you promote poor quality content, you’ll probably hurt your brand’s reputation and the relationships with your current clients.

The most important part of any Taboola campaign: block publishers

This is the most important part in not getting budget spent inadvertently. Taboola’s growth happened on allowing many apps and smaller niche publishers to monetize using their platform. With that  many of them are apps that people use for specific purposes and many of these unsupervised get clicks from bots and unintentional clicks.

It’s worth it spending time block a few apps such as dating apps from showing your content. People on these apps have one specific purpose. Why would they click your ads? Refrain

Blocking publishers on Taboola's platform.
Blocking publishers on Taboola’s platform.

In fact, Taboola makes it quite hard to block them. The list of publishers is so large and not organized by categories, which would make it easier to block them in bulk.

If you don’t few like you blocked enough publishers right off the bat, You can also block them later when you ad starts running. That’s why it’s important to start small, because these publishers will drain your budget until you can block them.

In summary, native advertising can be effective for brands of all sizes if the content and distribution is right for the business objectives and properly set up. It’s frustrating to have your budget drained because the platform doesn’t give you proper way to set them up. With Taboola and Outbrain now part of the same group, you will see other brands grow as these platforms have alienated their users, both on the advertisers side as exemplified above, but also on the publishers side, with payments being done through Payoneer, a 3rd party platform used to pay smaller publishers.

Max Francisco has been doing digital projects in Brazil and the US for the last 15 years.