According to Parse.ly's "State of the Media" report, 60% of the 300 people surveyed say that in 2016 the biggest challenge the digital media industry will face is monetization. While developing multiple revenue streams seems to be the common approach, native ads and the revenue it generates are playing a bigger role in the online experience. Skeptical? The research backs it up. BI Intelligence reports that native ad spending will reach $10.7 billion this year and grow to $21 billion in 2018.
Publishers are making the investment in native ads and sponsored content because the engagement metrics show a favorable reader experience. For example, according to research conducted by HIS, native ads represent 83% of the ads on Facebook's Audience Network (FAN), and more than 50% of applications on the network use native exclusively. AdMarketplace has found that users engage with text ads in search results 5x more than display ads. While the signs point to native ads being here to stay, publishers still have a lot of room to improve and optimize the native ad experience before it has long-lasting appeal. One opportunity that publishers can take to enhance their native ad program is by delivering a custom site search experience that helps advertisers reach their target audience while also showing fast and relevant results to readers. Here are three ways to successfully incorporate native ads into your reader's search experience.
Take Inventory of What Users are Searching For
Because readers who search tell you what they're looking for, understanding "reader intent" is a key driver to delivering strong native ad engagement. Search analytics is a good place to get this view of your reader. High level search stats, like total number of search queries and searches by term are easy to find in Google Analytics and other search provider analytics dashboards. Editors use intent data to inform what their editorial calendar should look like. Sales teams can tell potential advertisers what topics they might be interested in targeting
Engagement data, like top engaged content, and conversions provide a deeper level of insights that publishers can use to show ROI. Top engaged content is more than just a top line number of clicks. It tells publishers what queries generated the most traffic to specific content. Conversions data shows publishers how many conversions of a specific piece of content happened from which queries. Sales teams that are selling lead guarantees (like content downloads or webinar registrations), can feature these insights to drive the value of native ads to potential advertisers.
Boost Visibility of Native Ads in Search Results
Once publishers have a good idea of what their audience is searching for, then they can start creating native ad offerings that best fit their advertisers' needs. The options can range from moving native ads to the top of results for a specific set of search queries, to adding native ads to the top of an autocomplete experience, to changing the search algorithm so that all relevant native ads appear at the top of all results. While all of these options give publishers the ability to raise the visibility of native ads in the search experience, make sure to balance these advantages with the overall reader experience. The last thing a reader wants is to be alienated because native ads that aren't relevant to what they are searching for keep popping up.
As with any advertising campaign, customized search experiences that include native ads will require testing. Monitoring engagement metrics, like query volume, top engaged content, time on page and exit rates will ensure that your advertiser is getting the biggest bang for the buck. There are a couple of steps to take if native ad content is not generating the expected engagement. Like with PPC ad campaigns, test different titles, descriptions, and images to see what drives the largest engagement. Testing the inclusion of other search queries, or giving native ad content more importance in the search algorithm, can also optimize engagement rates and improve the reader's experience.
Optimizing your monetization strategy should always start with reader engagement. Help your readers get the most value out of your content by paying close attention to insights about what your readers are searching for. With this information at your disposal, you can take the necessary steps to incorporate native ads into your search experience while keeping your readers and advertisers satisfied.
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