What I Learned About Promoting Content on Outbrain

Outbrain is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that  allows you to promote your blogs and videos to interested readers. You choose the blogs or videos you want to promote, where you want them to be seen, and by what audiences.  You can individually choose blog by blog or video by video or hook up an RSS feed and go with auto-pilot.

Find Your Readership in a New Way

As in most ad platforms, your bid determines placement and how often your link will be seen. What makes Outbrain different is that you are not placing links for ads, but instead placing links to your own blogs or videos.  The links appear in the sidebar or footer of well-known publications online, like Forbes, VentureBeat, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and others.  Outbrain chooses where they will go and you have to trust that they’re choosing publications that will bring on readers interested in what you have to offer. For the most part, they’re right, with a little fine tuning. You can add a tracking link to anything you place with Outbrain, and when you go into your Google Analytics, you can see Outbrain as a referrer steadily moving up in the ranks. Most importantly, you can see how long visitors are hanging around on your page. If they are there for a second or two, the content is a bad match; if they’re staying around long enough to watch your whole video or read most of your blog, it’s a win.

So far, so good, right?

What Works Well

I have been using Outbrain on the self-service level. Whenever I had questions, the staff was fast to answer them. I was able to change campaign targeting locations geographically, by country, state and even metro region, and specify that I wanted a video icon to designate videos.  So Outbrain can be fine-tuned. You can get the people you want to your pages and boost unique pageviews.

What Requires Work

Remember, all you’re doing with Outbrain is inviting people to come to your page and give your stuff a view. It’s up to you to have a compelling call to action, either at the end of the blog or video, or in a sidebar. I’ve discovered that Outbrain can be used to stimulate signups to your mailing list – useful if you’re wanting to build a user base or preparing a pre-marketing campaign for your startup. It doesn’t work so well when asking viewers to buy something straight up. The reason for this, I believe, is Outbrain puts you at the start of the sales curve. People at the originating site (Forbes, SF Gate) are there for news, not to be pitched outright. They are a couple of clicks away from a purchase and your content isn’t likely to bring them there in one visit, unless it is free.

What Might Surprise You

It feels really good to turn on a big firehose of unique pageviews and watch all your graphics go up in Analytics. Wowee! Aside from the ego boost (it’s good to do on a Blue Monday) it’s pretty useless.  Dialling in the people you need to reach is really the game; you want those clicks to stick, not to have high bounce rates as visitors quickly realize they’re been brought to the wrong site.  Getting that right means posting different versions of the same blog or video with different headlines until you get it right.

A few tips:  Outbrain says that testing various titles works well, and titles that have eight words in the title do best, getting a higher click through.  Adding a colon or hyphen to show a subtitle increased clicks by 9%.  Lists and galleries tend to work better than news posts

Outbrain - Advertiser Dashboard 2014-05-12 13-28-38 2014-05-12 13-28-42