Kunal Gupta is the CEO of Polar (formerly Polar Mobile), a computer software firm based in Toronto. Polar originally focused on mobile, but has rebranded to expand its mission, now specializing in native ads. He has been recognized as a Top 30 Under 30, a United Nations Global Citizen and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Look for his post on The Makegood the third Wednesday of each month.
This week Twitter announced they purchased Gnip, a company which will help them package analytics to the brands and marketers that are continually counting on the social site as a new channel to an untapped audience. Proving the service works is the next big challenge for Twitter as they ramp up their sponsored content programs and grow the company.
As I spend time meeting with publishers implementing native advertising on their sites, a related question emerges repeatedly. What constitutes a good return on investment to marketers, and what goals can we set for ourselves? Through these interactions we see a trend with 3 metrics stranding out: engagement, performance, and awareness.
Effective native advertising is contingent on content, thus interaction with the article page (or secondary page) provides a compelling metric. Looking at time spent on the secondary page and leveraging that data against the analytics you already have for your publication shows you how effective and engaging the material is.
You can also look at pageviews on the secondary page to gauge how effective your promotional efforts have been. From there you can experiment and determine where and how to position your sponsored content throughout your publication to boost engagement.
Social plays into engagement as well. Likes, retweets, replies, and shares offer a quantifiable view into how readers are interacting with material.
Click-through-rate (CTR) by itself will not paint an accurate picture of ROI for native advertising, one has to look for tangible points of interaction.
The first point lays on the content’s preview – the headline or feature pill which a user must click to access the secondary page. There is an assumption the quality of headline plays an important role in the CTR at this point which is a point of strength for publishers. You know what engages your readers.
The second point is the CTR on display ads placed on the secondary page. Marketers will augment or fully base a campaign on dominating the banner placement surrounding their sponsored content.
The last point is the CTR on specific calls-to-action on the secondary page and feeds into the engagement metric mentioned above. This can be a sign-up for a white-paper, webinar, or product demo, a direct link to a point of purchase (a products online store) or an Amazon Marketplace Button, or a social sharing module – automatically tweeting out the secondary page to one’s followers for example.
Combining these elements produces a metric for ROI which proves valuable for those marketers more concerned with brand awareness. A marketer choosing native advertising may not necessarily look for publications with highest number of readers and pageviews. Instead, their return is based on focus; CNN.com may be too broad of a landing page for a financial institution to implement a sponsored feature, whereas the targeted audience of Fortune’s section of CNN-Money will deliver those specific impressions. By keeping track of conversations about the brand on social sites, publishers show the worth of earned media versus the diminishing returns of a simple display ad campaign.
None of these metrics may be the single one to use to measure the return on investment for native advertising in a publication. Rather, each brand and product has differing criteria, and using elements of each of these approaches will give you a comprehensive view of where the value lays in native ads.