Inside Outbrain: content marketing is about distribution

Editor's note: Sorry for the unscheduled break from the blog. I've been focused on my duties as managing editor of the Swanepoel T3 Group. The last few months have been consumed with editing and preparing the Swanepoel Trends Report (release date: Feb. 1, 2017), an in-depth report analyzing the huge trends that will shape residential real estate for the foreseeable future, and the Swanepoel Power 200 (release date: Jan. 9, 2017), the definitive ranking of the most powerful leaders in residential real estate.

Great content is gold, getting it seen is diamonds raining from the sky.

Distribution is hard and expensive. If a new post hits the blog forest, and stays there, it doesn't make a sound. Ask any publisher, Facebook has them in a stranglehold -- you have to spend money to get content seen. If you're a media company and want to grow audience on the platform, you're paying for Page likes, too.

Facebook is a great option, and comes with a regular tithe, and email marketing is also effective, but, if you're like me, you protect your inbox like a castle guard, spear in hand -- a tough barrier to crack.

I've been writing about the power of real estate content marketing -- I help firms and agents devise and execute smart strategies around it -- and distribution is always a tricky beast.

Platforms like Outbrain and Taboola offer one compelling solution. They sell ad space to content marketers on popular sites across the internet including CNN, ESPN, People, USA Today, Wired, and Condé Nast (they each manage their own distinct network of sites). When readers on these sites click a sponsored link, they go to the post on the advertisers' own sites.

These services are part of the sponsored content media revolution, which allows struggling newspapers and magazines to rake in ad dollars in new ways. As opposed to display ads, these "sponsored content" engines advertise marketers' editorial content, leverage the trust (and eyeballs) professional media firms build and foster. 

As distribution becomes trickier amid the blaring noise of content, these sites offer a compelling way to grow audience and get specific pieces of content seen by a wider audience.

Inside Outbrain

Outbrain head of sales (western U.S.) Brandon Bergmark (husband of real estate's wonderful Vanessa Bergmark, owner of Oakland, California-based Red Oak Realty and a prominent industry player) broke his firm's product down for me recently.

Outbrain leverages cookies, the powerful (and a little creepy) internet ad reality, to serve up links to readers they may be more likely to click based on the online content they recently viewed. Typically, these links show up on websites accompanied by a note such as "From our sponsors" or "Recommended by Outbrain").

Outbrain sponsored stories on CNN.com's tech page.

Outbrain sponsored stories on CNN.com's tech page.

The 10-year-old firm allows its clients to geo-target readers by country, state, demographic market area (DMAs generally map to metro boundaries) and ZIP code. When readers click on an Outbrain-sponsored link, they access the article on the advertiser's site.

Outbrain's service comes in two flavors: a self-serve option with a minimum spend of $10 per day and an Outbrain-managed option at much higher price points. Outbrain clients have access to a backend dashboard that helps them manage their campaigns and analyze their performance, including click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates and spends. 

The firm works on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, charging clients only when a reader clicks through to their content. Users set the maximum they want to spend for each click and the max they want to spend per day. CPC amounts determine how often content shows up, as the cost is market-driven -- campaigns with higher CPC thresholds will show up more often on partner sites.

Marketers can place multiple articles under one campaign. Initially, Outbrain will showcase all articles equally, but over time its engine will increasingly feature only the best-performing ones. The platform also allows users to test multiple headlines and images for each article, helping them select the most effective ones.

Outbrain does more than just generate traffic, Bergmark said. Users can define what constitutes a "conversion" within the platform, which helps optimize campaigns. Users can define conversion events in a variety of ways including when a lead submits a form, a thank you page comes up, readers scroll to the bottom of an article, spend X number of seconds on the page or spend X seconds watching a video. 

What this means

Outbrain and Taboola are great options to kickstart a campaign, highlight positive company news and grow and establish an audience for a content marketing site. Given the broad audiences they reach, they fit best with well-designed content marketing strategies, which have clearly defined audiences and engaging high-quality content.

Schedule a free consultation to find out HageyMedia can help you design a smart content marketing playbook.