Using Audience Data to Power Native Ads

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Greg Brown
Greg Brown




Native advertising is on the rise for publishers—and that’s a good thing. In recent years, media companies have been dealing with the perfect storm: industry-wide programmatic ad revenues are on the decline while ad blocking is on the rise. The bottom line for these trends is that consumers are extremely picky about their online experiences. Readers want and will always want great content, but they don’t ads to interrupt their browsing experiences.

That’s where native enters the picture. Rather than interrupting natural browsing patterns, media leaders can instead, connect advertisers with readers through engaging content. The end result will be a browsing experience that feels natural rather than forced or salesy. And believe it or not, the value proposition that native advertising brings to the table is about to become even better.

As native advertising strategies become more refined, so are publishers’ personalization and targeting capabilities. If you’re part of a marketing team at a media company, you’re likely collecting data around your audience’s browsing patterns and preferences. Why not reinvest this information into the native ad packages that you’re offering your advertisers?

Stay ahead of the publishing industry curve by using the data that you’re already collecting. Here’s how you can use audience data to power your native ads:

Define a More Granular Audience

In today’s marketing context, 1:1 is the name of the game.

Instead of helping your advertisers cast their nets wide, why not help them build a deeper, stronger rapport with a specific audience subset? For instance, you may be a consumer-facing publication with an equal distribution of male and female readers. A beauty company may come to your media company looking to provide education around makeup products.

With this example campaign, you may think that the right approach is to target all women. But you may be ignoring the individuals who self-identify as women, even though their birth gender is male. You might also be casting your net too wide in targeting women who don’t wear makeup.

Why not personalize your native ad campaign to audiences who have read make-up related content in the past, regardless of where they fall on the demographic spectrum?

For more on audience segmentation, download our free ebook: Personalize or Perish >> 

Choose Topics that Resonate 

One of the biggest challenges that marketers face when designing a native ad campaign is ideation: choose the wrong topic, and your entire strategy will flop. Instead of relying on guesswork, use the data that you’re already collecting to better align your advertisers with their target audiences. 

Start by defining the group of readers who you’re aiming to reach, and then do some research around their browsing habits. What types of headlines do they find engaging? Which stories generate the most engagement? What types of content are they likely to share?

Align these natural sharing patterns with your advertisers’ marketing goals. Use data to choose the right topic.

Examine Likelihoods of a Conversion Event

Let’s say that you’re working with an advertiser who is looking to drive sign-ups to a free trial from a sponsored article. Instead of casting your net wide and targeting everyone, why not serve your ad to audiences who’ve demonstrated signs of engagement in the past? 

Don’t target your native ads to audiences who never read sponsored articles. Instead, focus on the readers who: 

  • Have engaged with or shared sponsored content in the past
  • Regularly sign up for offers and freebies
  • Show the same patterns of engagement that your advertisers are looking to optimize
  • Are self-volunteering information about themselves
  • Enjoy engaging with your media company’s email lists

Using this data, you can connect your advertisers to audiences who are likely to convert rather than passerbyers who aren’t interested. With this level of precision, everyone wins: advertisers reach their highest value audiences, and readers only see relevant native ads.

Get Precise Around Actions

In addition to reaching your target audiences, you can optimize your reading experiences around the specific actions that you want your readers to take. For instance, you may notice that in one of your audience segments, group A is more likely to redeem an offer than group B but that group B is more likely to spend time engaging with and sharing sponsored content than group A.

Why not use these user behavior nuances to create more advertiser value? Instead of creating one-size-fits-all native ad campaigns, use your on-site marketing data to provide different types of offerings for the following types of marketing goals:

  • Top of funnel brand building
  • Lead generation
  • Engagement 

You can also use your native ad units as data collection opportunities for your advertisers. Package the information you’re generating into follow-up or off-platform marketing audiences. Position your media brand as a company that supports the full marketing lifecycle in building a long-term relationship with readers.

Keep Learning and Iterating

The advertising landscape moves quickly. Maximize the value of your campaigns by learning from and building upon the data that you’re gathering. Follow the progress of your campaigns, long after they’ve launched, so you understand the results that your native ads are delivering across the conversion funnel. Improve upon your efforts over time.

Personalize or Perish

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