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Thinking with Cleriti

We're always thinking, discovering and sharing our knowledge of how to connect with customers in the digital age. Here we share some of those thoughts.

Content Distribution: Outbrain on the Brain

Content Distribution: Outbrain on the Brain


If you’re doing inbound marketing (and you are, right? ‘cause if you’re not, we’ve got an ebook for you!), you probably know how hard it can sometimes be to get your content seen — particularly if you don’t already have a large following on social media channels.  It can be frustrating to spend time writing a great blog post or whitepaper that you know has value for your target persona, but have it languish there without the number of views you expected.

If this describes you, then we need to fill you in on our secrets and talk about paid content promotion.  Yes, I know, it’s unfair that you spend money to get your content written and then have to spend money to get it seen — luckily, it’s not always necessary.  Given enough time and effort, you can grow your social following and start ranking on important keywords used in search that will get you found.  But if you need a quick traffic fix, paid promotion of exceptional content is a great way to go. 

National Content Discovery That Works

For companies that do business nationally as opposed to locally or regionally, one service we particularly recommend is Outbrain.  Outbrain is a content discovery platform that helps internet users find relevant, timely content they might not otherwise come across.  Outbrain has partnerships with many of the nation’s largest content producers that allows them to place their widget on the producer’s page.  Ever been to CNN.com? You’ve seen what I’m talking about:

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Right there at the bottom of most articles, you’ll find the Outbrain widget which is a pay-to-play content distribution or "content discovery" platform.

How does this provide value to content publishers like you? The publisher of each one of those articles above paid to place that particular piece of content in Outbrain’s distribution network.  The system works a little like Google’s AdWords bidding system — you select the content you want to promote, bid your CPC, then Outbrain publishes it in its widgets across its entire distribution network.  So, your articles could be found by people who are already reading content on CNN, Slate, FastCompany, Inc., and many more websites that have large audiences.

The next question you’re probably asking is, “But does it work?”  It has for Cleriti in our application of it.  Recently, we’ve been running an Outbrain campaign for a market research client.  Here’s an example of the performance of a blog post we promoted for that client:

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The post was published on July 11.  We ran it through Outbrain from September 1-October 1.  As you can see, traffic to that post skyrocketed during the month it was promoted through the Outbrain network.  We’ve had similar results with other content pieces for that client.

You can do it too!  Here are our four secrets to outbrain success and some things to keep in mind when you start your first Outbrain campaign.

1. Write for your audience.

Even though your content will be seen across the internet, remember that you’re still writing for the benefit of your target persona.  Don’t feel like you have to write to appeal to a broader audience, because that’s not the traffic you’re hoping to get.  Think of Outbrain as a way to reach more individuals in your target persona, not just more individuals.

2. Bid a high enough CPC.

One mistake we made early on was sticking with the “suggested bid” amount given by Outbrain.  You’ll get some clicks out of that, but clicks skyrocketed for us when we bid over the suggestion.  

3. Pick an eye-catching image.

Which of the images from the widget screenshot above draw your eye?  It’s most likely either the picture of Angelina Jolie or the beer belly.  That’s because there is a clear focal point in the image.  The problem with the other two are that there’s too much going on in them to convey what each image is about at a glance.  So, knowing that your selected images are going to be shrunken to a thumbnail, pick something that a user will be able to focus on if they’re just scanning that portion of the page.

4. Write clickable titles -- more than one for each article.

Outbrain allows you to create multiple headlines for each piece you promote.  We highly recommend taking advantage of this and trying out alternate titles (3 at a minimum, 6 at most) to see which one resonates and gets the most clicks.  And make it interesting. If it wouldn’t make you curious, chances are your audience won’t be either. 

Have you used other content promotion tools?  With which have you had the most success?  Let us know in the comments!