Measuring the Success of Contextual Advertising Placements

Portrait of Matthew Kammerer
by Matthew Kammerer
Mar 25, 2019

For a long time, brand marketing was seen as this intangible, hard to quantify activity that was the bane of C-suite execs everywhere. Usually, this opinion was the result of two things: investing in brand marketing too early, or not investing in it all.

Holly Chen, Slack’s group growth marketing manager, navigates these concerns when managing the brand’s digital marketing. On Re:Growth, she told us that Slack’s forays into more adventurous advertising only came after they had a well-oiled performance marketing machine in place. Once they became pretty good at converting those easier-to-acquire leads, they added brand marketing to the mix to “blow it up.”

A key part of every marketing strategy is, of course, measurement. While this might be the last stage of the campaign, it should be one of the first things you think about. Being intentional with how you prepare for, track, and evaluate your contextual advertising efforts is one of the most important things you can do to ensure success.

Be consistent with your measurement

It’s common that marketers will run campaigns and only consider afterwards how their tracking should have worked from the beginning. Establishing a consistent measurement system for campaigns is critical to actually gauging success.

For example, you likely already use a web analytics service like Google Analytics, but now’s a good time to check that it’s actually set up in the best way to track your new campaign.

First, make sure the landing page link you’re using in your ad has campaign parameters added to the URL, so you can identify traffic from a specific source. Double check with the publisher hosting the ad campaign to see if they will provide this. You should also start using a consistent naming protocol for these parameters. Keep it in an easily accessible spreadsheet so it's easy to compare different channels, campaigns, ad creative and other elements without having to decipher what you meant three months ago.

Track people through the funnel

While measuring contextual marketing efforts will always be tougher to evaluate than performance marketing, we know that brand-building campaigns do inspire specific behaviors that can be measured.

For the most part, marketers organize these behaviors into three different buckets: traffic-driven, conversion-driven, and revenue-driven metrics.

Traffic-driven metrics include data like impressions, clicks, CTR, CPC, etc. This is where your measurement should start but it can’t be where it ends. Acting on this data alone can be limiting because you don’t have the full picture.

Conversion-driven metrics are actions like new leads or sign-ups. When a potential customer visits your website from your campaign, you’ve done a great job in making them aware and interested in your product, but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to buy.

However, once you capture their information from a form or sign-up, you can nurture them with activities like drip campaigns (automated emails that send out prompts and encouragement to bring your leads further down the funnel).

One of my favorite pieces of advice for drip campaigns comes from Dave Gerhardt, Drift’s VP of marketing. He said it best on Re:Growth: “You have to understand where people come from and where you’re trying to get them to.” Think about it: if you try to run generic campaigns that have the same messaging for every user, they probably won’t be that effective. That’s why Drift creates drip campaigns for every one of their marketing channels and tailors the email content based on what would be most relevant to that specific type of visitor.

Revenue-driven metrics are, you guessed it, sales. The metrics I’ve outlined so far contribute to the top and middle of the paid marketing funnel. These are great when monitoring various campaign elements campaigns, but for most marketers, the holy grail comes in the form of attributing your marketing efforts to actual revenue.

By tracking the journey from top to bottom this way, you have a complete view of the paid marketing funnel. Instead of simply understanding how much a conversion costs, you’ll know how much it’s truly worth and its impact on your business.

Be prepared for traffic volume

Seeing that your ads are driving traffic to your website is obviously a good thing, but is your website ready to handle the tide? For example, the Pocket newsletter shows up in 5 million inboxes each week. If you sponsor Pocket but your website can’t accommodate the resulting surge in traffic, you could end up being a victim of your marketing success.

The last thing you want is to lose your traffic at the first hurdle, so minimizing load speed is incredibly important. For a quick overview, try using a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It will provide suggestions like reducing image file size or leveraging browser caching which you can pass to your development team to implement. You might also want to give your IT team a heads-up prior to launching a contextual advertising campaign so they mitigate any issues before they happen.

Level up your contextual advertising measurement

If you’re looking to get your brand noticed by highly relevant potential customers, contextual advertising is the way to go. Before launching your ads, make sure your website, marketing automation, data analysis, and reporting systems are set up and optimized to reap all the benefits of brand advertising.