Recently, at inPowered labs, we got our hands on millions of dollars’ worth of pre and post-click native advertising data, and organized it based on channel and vertical. It’s data we’ve been collecting over the first half of this year - we wanted to look at vertical click-through rates, cost per engagement, engagement rate and average time spent with content post-click. This post will hopefully kick off a new annual ritual for publishing benchmark data.
Generally, digital platforms don’t track post-click content engagement, and instead report on ad click-through rates, impressions and cost per click. That's is all well and good, but as a content marketer, I want to know what happens after the click - what am I actually getting once I've earned that initial engagement?
Here’s where our data comes in. At inPowered, we optimize all of our campaigns towards post-click engagement, which is defined as '15 seconds or more of time spent in the active window with the content'. Benchmark data is nice to have in native advertising, but this is the first time we’ve been able to see a post-click picture by industry vertical.
The below verticals have data collected from campaigns spending between $100,000 and over $3 million. The data is significant for benchmarking.
- Home & Garden
- Travel & Tourism
These verticals had spending between $20,000 and $100,000. I mention this because my preference is to make conclusions on at least $100,000 of ad spend. As a result, I’m not including them in the vertical-specific sections of the below. As we collect more data over time we’ll append the below verticals.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Shopping / Retail
- Style & Fashion
- Family & Parenting
- Health & Fitness
Since we work with over 35 native and social media networks, we had to come up with a way to organize, compare and contrast the channels. As a result, we’ve grouped the channels into three areas – native exchanges, Yahoo Gemini and Facebook.
The native exchanges are as follows:
- Google AdX
- Glispa (Avocarrot)
In a later post we’ll break down the above individual networks’ numbers.
I don’t believe there’s ever been such a robust comparison of post-click content engagement on this many exchanges - so let’s explore the different industry verticals and the performance of their native advertising and content.
But before we dive into the numbers, lets get on the same page with some definitions.
- Click-through Rate (CTR) – The percentage of users that saw and clicked on a native ad unit
- Average Cost Per Engagement – The average cost it took to get a user to spend 15 seconds or more in the active content window
- Average Engaged Time – The average amount of time users spent engaging with content post ad unit click – measured in seconds
- Engagement Rate – The percentage of users that viewed content post-click from a native ad unit and spent 15 seconds or more in the active window
- CPAE – Cost Per Active Engagement
Except for the 'Energy', 'Telecom' and 'Home & Garden' verticals, Facebook garners the best CTR of any of the channels measured. However, as a lone data point, it doesn’t mean Facebook is the best overall channel for content amplification and engagement. Let’s look at some of the other data sets to see how the channels stack up against each other.
The above shows how much it costs, by vertical, to get one user to spend 15 seconds or more consuming content post native ad click. The 'Education' vertical was a strong outlier with its native exchange data - this was caused by some experiments done this year. As a result, I pulled the vertical from this chart. That said, native exchanges are consistently cheaper to earn content engagements across verticals with just a few exceptions.
If you were to just look at CTRs, one might come to the conclusion that, for the most part, Facebook is the top performer. However, as you start to look at post-click data, like average engaged time, you’ll notice users who click on a Facebook ad unit spend less time consuming content for most verticals – 'Arts & Entertainment' and 'Telecom' are the only exceptions. This means that not only are you paying more per click, but more per second of engaged time, too.
This shows the percentage of users who viewed content post-click and spent 15 seconds or more consuming it in the active window. Facebook outperforms all the other channels across all verticals in engagement efficiency post native ad click.
What overall picture do these charts paint for us to take away?
Choosing your channel mix should come down to your budget, goals and the content behind the native ad unit. Generally, you’re going to spend more per click for engagement using Facebook, however its average engaged time across most verticals is the lowest of all the channels. You’ll want to consider this if you're promoting longer form content.
Now we'll look at the individual industry verticals and juxtapose some of the data.
The below charts reflect much of what's presented above, however Yahoo Gemini cost more to earn a content engagement than Facebook in this vertical. It’s also important to point out the average engaged time from the native exchanges – it’s nearly 100 seconds.
Auto Click-through Rate
Auto Cost Per Engagement
Auto Engagement Rate
Auto Average Engaged Time
Native exchanges in this vertical outperform Facebook by 400%, and Yahoo Gemini by nearly 150%, for average engaged time. If engagement is the goal in this vertical, native exchanges are the most efficient channel delivering the lowest cost per second of active time spent consuming content.
Technology Click-through Rate
Technology Cost Per Engagement
Technology Engagement Rate
Technology Average Engaged Time
Here’s a vertical that seems to buck many of the trends mentioned in the overall dissection of the data above. Yahoo Gemini has the best average CTR, beating Facebook, however, in telecommunications, Facebook’s average engaged time is greater than 100 seconds. This is unique among the verticals.
Telecom Click-through Rate
Telecom Cost Per Engagement
Telecom Engagement Rate
Telecom Average Engaged Time
Travel and Tourism
This vertical is one of the most evenly matched across the channels – from CTR and cost, to engagement rate. However, there’s a stark difference in the average engaged time between the native exchanges and the rest.
Travel and Tourism Click-through Rate
Travel and Tourism Cost Per Engagement
Travel and Tourism Engagement Rate
Travel and Tourism Average Engaged Time
Marketers are notorious for using their gut and making assumptions about personas and/or verticals. Before looking at the data, I would have assumed that Facebook would underperform - who wants to see Finance content on Facebook. right? I also assumed that the average engaged time would be high across all channels, because if somebody is consuming Finance content, they have a vested interest in fully comprehending it.
All of the assumptions above proved incorrect. Facebook has the highest CTR and engagement rate of all the channels, and the average engaged time is not equally distributed. Native exchanges are the clear winner for engaged time.
Finance Click-through Rate
Finance Cost Per Engagement
Finance Engagement Rate
Finance Average Engaged Time
Home and Garden
This vertical closely matches many of the same trends seen above in the macro view of the channels – Facebook costs more and has a higher engagement rate. However, native exchanges outperform the other channels with average engaged time. That said, it’s interesting to note that the CTR for all channels is very similar.
Home and Garden Click-through Rate
Home and Garden Cost Per Engagement
Home and Garden Engagement Rate
Home and Garden Average Engaged Time
The best performing CTR came from Yahoo Gemini, however it also had the lowest performing engagement rate. In addition, Facebook costs close to three times that of the native exchanges, which delivered an average engaged time of 90 seconds. Facebook delivered just over 70 seconds of engagement.
Energy Click-through Rate
Energy Cost Per Engagement
Energy Engagement Rate
Energy Average Engaged Time
What’s the key lesson from this study? Not all content across verticals performs the same when it’s amplified. Some verticals, like 'Technology', perform very well with active engaged time metrics on native exchanges.
It’s also clear that post-click data can paint a much clearer picture of native ad and content performance. Just because one channel has a high CTR, that doesn’t mean it’s the best at delivering real engagement with content. Unfortunately, CTR is still the metric most content marketers are basing their content distribution decisions on - but as this study clearly shows, without going deeper into the engagement metrics you can leave some efficiency and performance on the table.
We wrongly assumed in the 'Finance' vertical that native exchanges would be poor performers when compared to Yahoo Gemini and Facebook due to CTR. What we didn’t know was that 'Finance' content delivered through native exchanges deliver nearly 100 seconds of active engaged time with the content being amplified - outperforming the nearest competitor by nearly 40 seconds of engagement. Depending on your goals, native exchanges might be the most valuable channel for Finance.
Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a content amplification campaign by its CTR - you need to open that book up and read. For the full picture, you have to look at post-click content engagement metrics.