How to Create Native Ads: A 4-Step Starter’s Guide for Affiliates

Also written by Joe Addona at Outbrain

There’s been a lot of buzz about native advertising lately, and it’s not hard to see why!

Anyone in the digital media buying game has probably thought about looking for greener pastures after the significant changes to Facebook brought about by Apple’s iOS 14 update

That’s why, in this post, we’ll take a look at how to create native ads step-by-step. 

Why Create Native Ads?

There are several reasons why we’re seeing affiliates move to native ads. Here are the top 3:

  1. Ad account shutdowns through native ads are rare, because they’re not displayed on the ad network’s property. Instead, they’re displayed on publisher sites.
  2. Ad networks like Outbrain collect first-party tracking data through publishers, so the process doesn’t require cookies or other third-party tracking tools that have been disrupted by iOS 14.
  3. Depending on the niche, native ads can be a better fit in terms of targeting and reaching the right people.

For more on the pros and cons of native ads, be sure to check out ClickBank’s post on native ads vs Facebook

Creating Native Ads as an Affiliate in 4 Steps

Now that you know why native ads are performing so well for affiliates, let’s quickly walk through 4 simple steps for creating your first native ad. 

1. Pick Your Affiliate Offer

Picking the right offer is the very first step in your path to profitability on native. Like with any marketing channel, some offers perform better than others for native ads. 

What you choose firstly has to be something you’re familiar with and confident in, but it also has to be something that ‘works’ on the platform.

I say ‘works’ loosely because depending on the time of year and payout, different offers work at different times of year. Catching and riding the seasonality trend is a must-do on Outbrain for new advertisers. 

Here are a few of the top performing niches on native to be aware of.

Health offers

Health offers tend to do best when launched on December 26th, gathering data over a week or two before really ramping up from January – April. Not only do the traditional cliches hold true, like “people are more interested in their health during Q1,” but there is also a trend in the network that helps advertisers see success.

During the Q4 holiday season, some of the largest brands in the world have excess budget from their yearly marketing plan that needs to get spent. Coupled with traditional holiday promotion, rates on Outbrain (and other channels) can increase dramatically. Once December 26th hits, though, rates drop significantly, and the doors to premium inventory for affordable costs are all of a sudden open!

When choosing a health supplement to run on Outbrain, start with the payout you can get. If a health offer has a payout under $80, it’s most likely not great for Outbrain. 

Lead Gen & E-learning 

Lead gen campaigns like solar, auto insurance, Medicare, and home refinancing are all examples of lead generation campaigns that work well during the entire year. That said, there are pockets of high volume/high-performing times of year, depending on the offer.

Most of the time, once health offers start to die down in March/April, lead generation campaigns really rear their head. With rates slowly ticking up and people more interested in going outside for the summer, the focus on health supplements tend to fade.

The thing about lead generation, though, is that it’s all about the payout (similar to health offers above). Without a competitive payout, it becomes very hard for an affiliate to compete with some of the brand direct advertisers in these verticals. 

Below are some rule of thumb on payouts for these types of offers:

  • Solar – Your payout goal should be in the $35-$60 mark.
  • Auto Insurance – Your payout should be in the $15-$20 mark.
  • Home Refinancing – Your payout goal should be in the $25-$60 mark.
  • Medicare – Your payout goal should be between the $6-$10 mark.

Anything above those rates really allows campaigns to scale. If you can’t get those numbers on a payout scale, it’s going to be very hard to find evergreen success on the platform.

Ecommerce offers

E-commerce has a very specific time of year to see success on Outbrain. Unlike Facebook, which built its business on e-commerce style pages and a click-to-buy mindset, Outbrain sits at a different part of the table. 

During Q4, when consumers are more in tune with holiday shopping and their minds/feeds are surrounded by actual products, that is the time to capitalize on any physical product promotion on Outbrain. But you have to do it the correct way.

Users are on publisher sites to consume content, and when they are done consuming content, Outbrain provides that next ‘story’ to discover. Because of that, driving someone from an article to a Shopify-esque page just doesn’t work. The landing pager has to tell a story (see ClickBank’s article on the affiliate bridge page for more).

E-commerce offers, regardless of the vertical, need to be in the $40+ payout range to succeed on Outbrain. As we mentioned above, on Outbrain – and native in general – you need to tell a story and not just drive users to a typical purchase page. Because of this, the conversion takes slightly longer, and therefore fewer conversions happen than with something like Facebook. 

There is still a path to profitability, it just has to be the correct product and not too low of a payout. For more, check out the ClickBank article covering some native advertising examples in action.

2. Install Your Tracking Pixel

So, you’ve picked a great offer, and now you want to launch your new native ad campaign.

Well, hang on there!

Setting up your tracking pixel is a necessary step if you want to get the data you need to optimize your campaign.

Here’s a general idea of how this works with ClickBank and Outbrain:

  1. To set up tracking on ClickBank, you will need to get a postback URL from Outbrain.
  2. You will put that URL into ClickBank as a custom/standard pixel.
  3. You will modify the URL parameters ClickBank sends to match what Outbrain is expecting.

ClickBank goes into a lot more detail about how to set up tracking on the ClickBank order form and confirmation page in their Integrated Sales Reporting overview. You’ll want to scroll down to the “Generic Tracking Pixel” section to see the full process.

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3. Build Your Native Ad Campaign

Phew! With that technical stuff out of the way, now you just need to build your native ad campaign.

The good news is, this is much simpler than people think! Below is the setup you should follow each time when launching a campaign on Outbrain looking for cold traffic acquisition:

  • Campaign 1: Targeting desktop and tablet in one campaign, choosing semi-automatic conversion bid strategy. If you’re targeting across the U.S. as a whole, CPC should be set to $0.60.
  • Campaign 2: Targeting smartphones, choosing semi-automatic conversion bid strategy. If you’re targeting across the U.S. as a whole, CPC should be set to $0.35.
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No other settings need to be changed for the start of a campaign. No additional targeting should be layered. No other toggles should be switched on or off. The first week of a campaign should be about getting data back and letting the algorithm get enough data to optimize.

Sometimes, over-targeting a campaign actually harms things instead of helps. What we’ve seen work best over here is going broad with the actual targeting, and letting your creative “over-qualify” your audience. 

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For example, call out your audience in the headlines: 

  • “Are you over 50?” 
  • “Have you been looking to solve X?”

When you buy on a CPC, sometimes the most effective (and monetarily efficient) targeting strategy is creative.

When it comes to the ads themselves, here is a helpful resource from Outbrain about best practices. Ideally, you should use headlines of 70 characters or less. Good copywriting comes in many different forms, but when a consumer is left wanting a little more than they see… that’s a win! 

With that said, don’t get too clickbaity! High clickthrough rates are typically a blessing in the advertising space, but it’s always a balance between having a clickbait headline and a converting one. I’ve included some more information about headline CTRs below, so you can base your copywriting success off of those general numbers.

4. Test and Optimize Your Native Ads

Once your native ad campaign is up and running, your next step will be to test and optimize it to find your winning combinations.

We’ll break this down into three simple parameters you should be testing.

Creatives

First and foremost, your creatives are on the front lines of any campaign. 

A lot of people think ‘I need a high clickthrough rate in order to make a campaign successful.’ While that is sometimes true, it goes a little deeper than that. 

Here’s a good benchmark to keep in mind about Outbrain CTRs:

  • Desktop & Tablet: CTR above 0.08%
  • Mobile: CTR above 0.12%

Anything above those and you’re most likely doing better than average compared to other advertisers.

At times, though, CTR isn’t the biggest indicator of a successful campaign. Of course, what we all care about in this world is cost per acquisition (CPA). When your ad’s CPA gets to about 2.5-3x your goal, it’s a good indication to either pause it or decrease your CPC bid by 50%+ on that individual ad. 

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You can find more information from Outbrain on CPC adjustments here.

Publishers & sections

Besides the front-line soldiers (aka our ads), the other key piece of a successful campaign is where things are being promoted. Outbrain has a massive amount of inventory, and during the first week of a campaign, it’s imperative to ensure the publisher spread is performing at or as close to your CPA goal as possible.

We don’t usually recommend blocking sections completely – it’s more about making granular bid adjustments on publisher sections within each individual campaign (not the account level).

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A good rule of thumb is bidding up by 30-35% for high converting sections, and bidding down 50-60% for low converting sections.

Time of day

Accounts default to start at 12 am EST, but sometimes that is not best, depending on the offer. Outbrain’s dashboard reports back on conversion by time of day, and you now have the ability to set a specific start time OR daypart a campaign

This really comes in handy as you optimize a campaign.

How to Create Native Ads Wrap-up

Thank you for reading this guide on how to create native ads! We hope it’s helped clarify the process of getting started with native ads, whether you’re a Facebook Ads veteran or a paid ads newbie.

Of course, reading about it is one thing, but you won’t see results until you get started!

If you want to learn more about running native advertising campaigns with Outbrain, please visit our site here.