I am an experienced Content Marketing Consultant who has been providing content marketing services to a wide range of businesses including startups and well established large, iconic brands. I hold and MBA and an MA in Marketing & Innovation, have won numerous awards and managed several large multi million branded businesses as a Senior General Manager. I am also the Head of SEO & SEM for a top digital agency in London. Working with me means so much more than with your typical content marketing expert. I “talk” fluently P&L, market share, commercial metrics and more. If you believe that sponsored content has a place within your content strategy then Get in Touch.
Content marketing services…
There are several main areas that your content marketing consultant should cover as a minimum. To begin with, by optimising your article for SEO you will have more chances to rank your content, help search engines understand the theme of your website, its “freshness”, increase relevant traffic and time on site, lower your website’s bounce rate and overall a great positive impact on organic SEO (for more detailed information please visit my SEO services page where I discussed at great length this subject). To understand why you should optimise your Outbrain sponsored article for SEO you only need to think again about how Outbrain algorithms work. Outbrain will show sponsored content on pages with content similar and relevant to the content on the publisher’s page. What does this mean? Well, Outbrain’s algorithms will analyse the publisher page theme, keyword density, backlinks and so on and determine that this page is about let’s say…sports. Based on this information Outbrain will then serve the most relevant sponsored content within the “sport” ecosystem. If your article is optimised for sport than it will show if not…you guessed it, it may not show. Just as in the case of Google and Bing Adwords, Outbrain is in the business of making money…if it serves your content but people will not click on it Outbrain will assume it is not relevant and will reduce or simply not show your article (after all if people don’t click on your article you are not making Outbrain any money). Similarly, let’s assume that for whatever reason people click through to your article but find that the article is not relevant…they will quickly leave your website affecting negatively your time on site and bounce rate, a signal to Google that your site is not relevant for the keywords associated with the industry, theme and keywords on the publisher’s page. Hence as your content marketing consultant I would of course ensure that your article is relevant, has click through optimised titles and content, presents interest to people with similar interests and has potential to act as a “link magnet” to your website. Needless to say that I would recommend you to seek for professional content marketing services / content marketing consultant to build up and optimise your campaign, that is…lowest cost, higher exposure, right target market with the right intent, closely monitoring results, goals, funnels, heat maps, events, A/B split tests an so much more!
Outbrain Amplify is a pay per click platform allowing readers of premium publishers as CNN, Telegraph, or SKY News to discover related content that they may enjoy reading. Why do premium publishers allow sponsored content to appear on their websites? Why do they offer digital content marketing services? Well, as you probably guessed …people don’t read paper newspapers anymore, which impacts these publishers’ advertising revenue directly. Moreover, in a digital form the advertising space is far more flexible and in more “quantity” as compared with the paper version…hence more advertising money for the publishers. Finally, improvements in targeting and segmentations mean that publishers are far more likely to tailor their audiences and improve their ROI, hence again more advertising and more money for the publisher…win-win situation. So, how does Outbrain Amplify works in practice? Well, you start by writing an article, which is relevant to your goals and optimised for SEO. You publish it on your blog. You then set up an Outbrain campaign providing your URL path to your article, the title of the article and the image you would like to display when your content is served. You will then set your CPC bid and hit start! After you have launched your campaign Outbrain will analyse your content and determines what are the most relevant pages for your content to appear. At this stage it is essential that your article is optimised for the keywords and theme you would to appear for…good optimised content = relevant placements and higher click through rates.Your content marketing consultant does of course have the opportunity to A/B split test the performance of your article by updating the title and the image but this is one area where Outbrain needs to improve…as you are advertising your article via a link to your website. For this reason I find the A/B splitting option underdeveloped and limited in scope (as you would have to publish multiple articles on your website in order to be able to A/B split test variations). Throughout your campaign Outbrain monitors the performance of your content: if the content is often clicked on (…hence you make Outbrain money) then Outbrain will show your content more often and you will generally be able to reduce your CPC as well. If, on the other side Outbrain observes that your content is not being clicked on then they may reduce or stop serving your article (you are not making them any money). So…I cannot recommend enough to take advantage of these innovative content marketing services!
Write a sports relevant article and optimise for SEO. Outbrain will scan your page, learn what your content is about and served it on the most relevant pages/articles related to your subject. Please read more about the detailed process in my posts on “ What is Outbrain Amplify” and “How does Outbrain Amplify work?” which explains how these content marketing services work.
At the moment Outbrain allows you to shut off up to 10 publishers via their dashboard but they are working very hard on extending this facility. If you are looking to shut off more publishers then you would need to contact your account manager directly and she/he will do it manually…very inefficient. Outbrain representatives strongly advise against shutting off publications as this would affect the performance of your campaign by limiting the amount of impressions your article will get, hence they argue that their content marketing services will be inefficient by reducing exposure. In reality, their main reason revolves around the manpower required to perform the operation and the potential of not getting your budget spent…while you do care where you traffic comes from they don’t (the more clicks to your article the more money they make). I regularly shut off various publications in order to optimise my campaigns and get more clicks from websites that I find more relevant to my content, targeted audience and behavioural intent.
Outbrain Amplify is the leading sponsored content marketing platform in what represents a fast growing and innovative content marketing services /native advertising on premium publisher platforms. This really is another great growth hacking method tapping a target market that, while not displaying an action oriented behaviour i.e. purchase does have an interest in your industry and the content related to your article. I cannot recommend enough employing content marketing services and strategies as yet another source of “growth hacking”.
The CPC depends on two factors…competition and performance of your campaign. If Outbrain scans a high number of articles competing for the same space, industry or related pages then the CPC will be higher. If the CTR rate for your article is high then you will generally be able to optimise your CPC and lower your cost (you are making Outbrain money). Generally Outbrain starts with a recommended CPC of £0.5, recommends leaving the campaign on for couple of weeks and then optimise based on historical trend. In reality one week should be more than sufficient to gain an understanding of your campaign’s performance.
As your content is being recommended on premium publisher platforms your content must by professionally written and Outbrain has a very strict system in place to ensure that the content being published is of high quality. Most content amplified via Outbrain are articles and blog posts.
Outbrain partnered with a very large number of publishers, too many to name it all here. As a guideline, some of the publishers that work with Outbrain include Fortune, The Daily Telegraph, Sky News, The Washington Post, Rodale, CNN, ESPN, Spiegel Online, Mashable, Le Monde, Fox News, People and many many more.
In addition to the obvious benefit of putting your band in front of people with a certain interest (and who could at a later stage seek your services) numerous SEO tests I have been running found that content marketing services in the form of sponsored content have a direct impact on your search engine optimisation rankings. Specifically, as your sponsored content is recommended to readers of similar or related content, on one side more people are visiting your website and read your relevant content. This in turn translates in higher traffic, higher average time spent on site and lower bounce rate. Complemented with the fact that the article is recommended from a premium publisher on a page relevant to your content these factors ‘inform” search engines such as Google or Bing that the website is relevant to the keywords that both your article and the publisher’s article are optimised for. Other Content marketing specialists or SEO consultants may argue that, as the article is part of a sponsored content marketing campaign Google and Bing will not perceive the link or traffic as “real votes” of confidence hence Outbrain advertising has no SEO impact. I would strongly point out to the results of my tests. In addition I would also remind experienced SEO “consultants” that Google has one goal and one goal only and it follows this goals obsessively: deliver best user experience by returning the most relevant results to user’s queries. If the behaviour of these users indicates that the website is relevant (again, the amount of analysis that Google puts into determining the relevance of the content is beyond the purpose of this post) then search engines will really deliver the most relevant content. Moreover, as more people discover your content the more opportunities for these people to link to your website if the content is relevant. Simple!
A/B split testing involves making changes to your article and then publish it on a different URL…of course this creates a duplicate content issue on your website not to mention the effort you have to put in creating new pages, publish and so on. If you consider that Outbrain recommends split testing around 10 different URLs than the task becomes unnecessarily very time consuming, and is limited in scope as well. You could also test different CPC points but this includes creating a different campaign, adding further difficulty to the advertising process. Definitely, as a content marketing consultant using Outbrain’s services quite a lot I would suggest that this is one area that Outbrain needs to work more on.
Setting up the Outbrain campaign per se is simple enough and Outbrain does a very good job at taking any new user through a series of easy to follow steps that allows users to easily set up their own content marketing campaigns. It really depends of the type of skills you require. An experienced content marketing consultant would be able to set up very granular tracking (i.e. heat maps, events, conversions, funnels, tracking links and so on), quickly asses the data and adjust your campaign on the go. An experienced content marketing specialist will also be able to set up re-marketing audiences and re-marketing campaigns based on the behaviour of your users. Furthermore, a content marketing expert will be able to A/B split test various conversion optimisation pages, steps within the funnel and more. It really depends whether you are looking for the occasional boost of your content or if content marketing represents an integral part of your digital marketing budget, and of course…the budget you have available.
Taboola Discovery is another content discovery platform providing the same sponsored content services as Outbrain Amplify does. It is the direct competitor for Outbrain Amplify…think about Google Adwords and Bing Adwords and you will quickly “get” the relationship between Taboola and Outbrain. The notable and positive difference is that both Outbrain and Taboola advertise on premium publishing platforms where the other platform does not publish. Simply, if Outbrain is not advertising on a platform is because Taboola signed an exclusive contract with that publisher and vice-versa. As an experienced content marketing consultant I would recommend all my clients to run content marketing services both on Taboola and Outbrain, A/B split results at platform level and optimise accordingly …that is keep the best out of both worlds.
The CPC for your piece of content depends on answering one question and one question only: are you making Taboola money? In a more “technical” manner what his means is that the higher the click through rate to your article the more money you make to Taboola, hence the more Taboola will show your content. A high CTR is a great opportunity to split test lower CPCs – it is more likely that Taboola would prefer more clicks for lower cost than showing other content that would generate less revenue overall. The other piece of the puzzle is the degree of competition for the space relevant to your targeted audience – the more competitors bidding the higher the cost.
Just as in the case of Outbrain, Taboola works with premium publishers hence the content has to be good quality and relevant. And, just as Outbrain, Taboola has very strict editorial policies in place ensuring that only the best content is being made available…after all, bad content would not be approved by the publisher and even if approved it will not attract clicks, hence it will not make Taboola any money.
Tabooa works with a wide range of premium publishers, too many to mention them all here. As a guideline, some of the publishers working with Taboola include MSN, BBC, USA Today, Boston Globe, and many many more.
Taboola recommends minimum of 10 variations of titles and images to ensure the right mix is identified to deliver optimal ROI. Just as in the case of Outbrain, as a content marketing consultant I would strongly suggest that the A/B splitting functionality needs improving, at the moment it is quite inflexible and inefficient. Please read my relevant post in the Outbrain section, the same ideas and principles apply to Taboola as well.
Demographic targeting is one feature I forgot to mention in the Outbrain section…my apologies. A very helpful feature that both Taboola and Outbrain incorporated within its settings is the ability to refine target audiences based on location (country, town, postcode). There are even rumours that both platforms are working on pushing the targeting functionality at a programmatic level which would of course be a highly exciting feature for any savvy marketer.
In brief, your decision of employing the services of a content marketing consultant depends of the objective of your campaign and the budget available. If you are looking for occasional amplifying of a piece of content and on low budget than a DYI strategy should do just fine. If however, sponsored content represents an integral part of your content marketing strategy then you will most likely have to employ the services of a professional content marketing specialist (read more on this subject in the dedicated area of the Outbrain section, same principles and processes apply to Taboola as well…).
This is one area that many Conten marketing consultants fail to explain to their clients in an easy to “digest” manner. Taboola “scans” your article, identifies the theme of the content, keywords, contexts etc, in a nutshell it figures out what your article is about (i.e. sports). It will then match your content to the most relevant page or article on the publisher platform. You should really not be worried that your article may appear on irrelevant pages as it is in Taboola’s best interest to ensure that your content is relevant to the page…after all, if readers of a finance page are served an article on translation it would be unlikely the would click on it, hence it would not make Taboola any money. I have explained at great lengths in the Outbrain relevant sections how content discovery platforms work, why it is important your article is optimised for SEO and much more…please read the Outbrain sections, the same content marketing principles and processes apply to Taboola as well.
As your content marketing consultant I would highly suggest you to use both! Remember that Taboola and Outbrain have exclusive contracts with the premium publishers they work with. By publishing your sponsored content via both Outbrain and Taboola you will instantly double your reach in terms of platforms available to publish your content. You would also be able to split test the results between the two content marketing platforms on various factors such as : CPC, number of visits, conversions, time on site, bounce rate, visitor intent and so on. Hence your content marketing strategy should focus on publishing on both content marketing platforms, continuously A/B split test, monitor and optimise at platforms level as well (ensuring that you will keep best producing sponsored content from each platform) .