Threepipe Roast Gemini

Going native – why search and native advertising can work in tandem to maximise digital campaigns

By Sean Hargrave

April 9, 2015 | 7 min read

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The link between how paid search can sharpen native campaigns is in its infancy but soon the two channels should be working in tandem to stretch budgets and maximise performance, says Sean Hargrave.

Search has been inextricably linked to display, particularly retargeting, for several years but, until now, it has not informed decisions made around advertising’s latest major buzzword – native.

Until now, native has cause a big stir but has largely sat in a silo. That was, of course, until Yahoo recently made its Gemini product available across desktop and mobile. It works on Yahoo properties by tracking what a user has conducted a search for (on Yahoo) and then offering brands the chance to place a piece of native content in front of them when they next open up the Yahoo homepage – other sections are expected to soon offer the format.

According to Andy Jones, director of search account management at Yahoo, Gemini is already working well for early trialists, which have included Honda, Argos, Lowcostholidays and Marks & Spencer.

“We obviously have a lot of data of what people have been searching for on Yahoo and so that is very useful in helping brands target their native content,” he says.

“If someone’s been looking for holidays in a particular country, for example, we would know that and they might prove a good match for a tour operator running a native campaign with great content about that destination. It’s charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis and we’re currently delivering results well below CPC rates elsewhere.”

In fact, in a recent campaign for Honda, Yahoo claims to have halved the car maker’s average CPC on other channels to 11p and delivered a cost-per-lead performance of £7.77 – 73 per cent lower than the average of alternative channels.

Forming strategies

With this direct correlation between paid search and native advertising in its infancy, most digital marketers are at the stage of waiting for similar products to be rolled out across multiple publishers. At the same time, though, they are also proactively using paid search to help shape native content strategies.

For example, Farhad Koodoruth, managing director at digital marketing agency Threepipe, has been using native content to take some of the heat out of popular keywords and help fashion retailer Reiss stretch budget.

“You can often find that some very popular generic keywords like ‘little black dress’ can become so expensive that they’re not cost-effective to bid on,” he explains.

“When we find an area like that, particularly in the high basket value items, we’ll often add some native content to a campaign. We also find that it’s great at introducing new people to the brand and tends to lead to higher basket values than paid search, where people often stick to what they were searching for and are a little more price-sensitive.”

Content steers

It has been a similar experience at digital agency iCrossing, where paid search teams have been looking at search behaviour to determine which characteristics drive web users to become customers for its clients Visit Wales and recruitment company Reed. As Sam Fenton, the agency’s head of media explains, search is helping to create native strategy rather than the other way around, due to useful data coming from search more easily than native.

“Paid search is obviously hugely driven by data and there’s a lot to get your teeth into,” he says.

“Native isn’t the same because publishers don’t always want to share their data. So, we’ve been getting a better idea about what is driving our clients’ customers. With Visit Wales, for example, we realised a few things but one of the big areas was the importance of families doing something for the first time together, like rock pooling. We used this to build a native campaign and results were hugely successful.”

The same principle went in to videos for Reed, for which short pre-roll adverts themed around job hunting, food and sport were displayed, depending on which search term had been entered on YouTube. Click-through rates, iCrossing claims, trebled the average expected to reach just over 3.6 per cent.

Honesty lessons

For Alex Bussey, a PPC specialist at Pinpoint Designs, until Yahoo Gemini style products are available across more channels, the greatest link between paid search and native should be an educational one for marketers to help them figure out what works best in native.

“Paid search is data-based yet the demographic targeting around native can be a little sloppy so it’s important you do your homework and find out which sites you want to be seen on,” he says.

“It’s exactly the same with the content itself. There’s so much clickbait out there where a headline gets you in but the content doesn’t deliver on the article. That’s the precise lesson you learn from search. PPC copy is very honest and direct because if the page you click through to doesn’t deliver on the copy, people get annoyed, they don’t convert and you’ve wasted budget.”

Virtuous circle

The more direct, targeting link between paid search and native is in its infancy, yet according to some digital marketers, that will not be the case a year from now. Gareth Owen, managing director of new digital marketing agency, Roast, points out that as he and other agencies build data management platforms, native could not only be shaped by paid search lessons but could also start to help inform brands which customers are worth bidding on in PPC auctions.

"It’s going to be very interesting to see someone who’s been cookied by you for reading a specific piece of content, say for Spanish holidays, turn up on paid search looking for golf breaks,” he says.

“You could use your knowledge they’re looking at Spain to bid to put a PPC creative in front of them about Spanish golf breaks. Similarly, someone you know has been searching for golf holidays could prompt a travel company to bid to put a piece of creative on a site they’re reading about championship courses. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s definitely coming.”

The link between paid search and native is just starting out, but should be on a very different bilateral footing within a year – whereby PPC will still be helping to tailor native campaigns but, crucially, native will help inform brands’ paid search campaigns.

Until that happens, the information flow is generally going to be in one direction as paid search learnings are used to build better tailored native campaigns which deliver improved results.

This feature was first published in the April 1 issue of The Drum.

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