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With literally thousands of online marketing services available, what is the advantage of using Outbrain? We decided to find out.
9 Clouds tested the content distribution juggernaut for a month. To summarize our findings, we'll tell you what Outbrain will do for your business as well as what it won't do. Then, we will share a few more details about what we learned about ourselves and Outbrain during the experiment.
What Will Outbrain Do for Your Business?
Outbrain will distribute your content to a massive audience. We submitted various blog entries, and in just over 30 days, our links garnered more than 950,000 impressions and 591 clicks for $320, an average cost per click (CPC) of 54 cents.
It is difficult to achieve this reach on other platforms–at such a low cost, anyway. Facebook and Google Adwords campaigns vary greatly in CPC, ranging anywhere from 40 cents to $10 per click, but neither will provide the same bang for your buck when it comes to impressions.
For example, a $100 Facebook ad we ran for one of our clients reached an audience of 11,885. If a $300 ad tripled that audience–around 33,000–it would be a far cry from the 950,000 impressions we received for the same price on Outbrain.
What Won't It Do?
Outbrain won't allow you to target your audience like a Facebook ad, nor will the distribution network permit you to choose the website that will display your ad. So you won't know whether your content is reaching the right people–just that it is indeed reaching people, perhaps more cheaply than any other method of advertising.
You can target a specific state or city, but it will cost you much more per click (more on that below).
Our content found its way to a variety of websites–including some that are very widely read and respected. Fox News and CNN are prominent sites, a content distributor's dream.
We don't doubt that MobileLikes.com is also highly trafficked, but do we want our post about marketing ROI next to a story about Kim Kardashian advising her sister against cosmetic surgery? To put it kindly–no, not necessarily. This is one thing to consider when deciding whether your business should use Outbrain.
What We Discovered About Our Content
Our three most popular articles during the test run were about eye health, project management skills, and Google Hangouts. Our submitted posts ran the gamut, ranging from the definition of an alt tag to methods for getting published in The New York Times.
It's difficult to say why readers were drawn to the top three posts. After a few days, Outbrain discovers your most popular content and displays it more frequently. So if a link doesn't catch fire during the first few days, Outbrain will not advertise it.
Headlines Matter. A LOT.
Our most widely read piece was a post advising computer users how to keep their eyes healthy. But it didn't start out that way, which is the interesting part. The post received zero clicks and just 213 impressions under its original title, “Eye Health Tips for Computer Jockeys.” When we changed the title, we saw a massive uptick.
This is an important takeaway, regardless of whether or not you end up using Outbrain. Headlines will have a massive effect on the success of your blog or website, so choose them carefully.
Local < Nationwide
We ran a pair of localized campaigns in addition to our nationwide campaign, and we found that the local market is much tougher to penetrate.
While our nationwide campaign hit our daily budget of $10 each day (often in the morning), the campaign we geo-targeted to Sioux Falls didn't hit the daily budget once, even after running for a week. It garnered six clicks and 27,000 impressions at a cost of $4.20, or 70 cents per click. The South Dakota campaign hit the daily budget on the seventh day, drawing a total of 108 clicks and 113,000 impressions for $64.80, or 60 cents per click.
So if you geo-target to your region (which can be done by special request to your Outbrain rep), expect to pay much higher CPC rates.
Should You Use Outbrain?
We set up special UTM tracking codes in Outbrain so that we could track our campaign's success in Google Analytics. We achieved 30 goal conversions out of our campaign that, according to our calculated value of conversions, returned a total of $300 on our investment. That's a pretty good ROI, especially when you think about the fact that our content achieved nearly one million impressions.
So now the big question: should your business use Outbrain?
This article should help you answer that question. We found Outbrain to be a useful tool for promoting our content, exposing our content to a larger audience than before we began the campaign.
To get started on a campaign, visit Outbrain's website, set up a profile, and contact a representative for more details (the minimum is $300 per month).
Interested in reading more about content distribution? Download our free e-book about the growing blog website Medium.