The Best KPI for Measuring Native Ads

2016 is the year that recruitment marketing gets serious about native advertising. Traditional banner, text, and search engine marketing ads are dropping in effectiveness as inventory climbs, while the number of messages a person can absorb remains constant. This is the next generation of “banner blindness” as we learn to filter out the commercials.

(And yes, ad blockers are just getting started to make an impact, but I’ll let someone else argue the pros and cons of that issue.)

So native ads will become a staple of online recruiting this year. If you don’t know the term, they are the paid/sponsored messages that look like the rest of the website. For example, when you’re reading The Atlantic or BuzzFeed, a handful of those articles were written and inserted by a paying company to put their information in front of you. Another example is that block of “you might also be interested” grid of links that all seem to go to other websites. The argument being that if people are actively or passively filtering ads from their reading, they might read content that looks like the rest of the site.

Assuming you’ve written an interesting and engaging article to push out to a target audience, you will want to measure its effectiveness. The mistake is trying to using standard media metrics to a completely different beast. If you are using conversion metrics with native advertising, what is likely the future of media will appear to be a poor investment.

So in determining KPIs for native ads, we will get the standard coterie of impressions, reach, clicks, etc. Those are fine from a reporting standpoint. but it won’t serve to explain the value of what you’re paying for.

To establish a clear case for native ads, we need to go back to what makes them effective.

For a standard banner ad (for example), the goal is to be bright and attractive, delivering a compelling message in two seconds (even if that message is “come read this message!”) to people looking for something else. We know that a single ad very rarely changes behavior. In fact, you really need to see an ad over and over again to realize that you’ve seen it and remember the message.

The most effective ads are those targeted to people who already know you, already know your message and just need a reminder or nudge to take action. This is why retargeting is so effective.

So from a metrics stand point, if you’re clicking on an ad, you are either 1: already aware of the message and are finally taking action or 2: clicking on anything that moves. If No. 2 is junk traffic, then the audience in No. 1 is an active audience. They’ve already been to your Facebook page, or your career site, or seen a bunch of other ads, or read some job descriptions. From a conversion funnel standpoint, these are active candidates pretty far down the funnel.

But the audience of a native ad is very different. These are people who are looking for information or entertainment on a website. They aren’t looking for jobs. These are passible candidates. The value of a native ad is that it doesn’t feel like an ad until too late, when they’ve been exposed to message.

And we know that people who are aren’t looking for a job aren’t anywhere near ready to click the apply button. So conversion rate metrics for native ad readers shouldn’t be a factor. It’s equivalent to asking how many people who just walked through the doors of your store have purchased yet. They simply haven’t had a chance to look at the merchandise yet.

So when establishing a valid KPI for native, the focus should be on the value of native: getting the attention of passive candidates and getting them to become active candidates.

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Granted, only one of these two metrics is easy to measure. Total number of readers is how you measure how well you were able to get the attention of passive candidates. If you have a tracking tag or pixel on your content, you should be able to see how many people that read your content eventually began looking at your jobs. Just make sure you set expectations (and tracking tag settings) properly. A well-written piece might not get someone interesting in learning more today, but might plant a seed that sprouts weeks later.

The last step is how to value these metrics. In some companies, passive candidates aren’t sought after, so going after that market is of limited value.

If attracting an active candidate is worth $1, what is a passive candidate worth? Your reports should reflect than different value to show how effective your native ads are.

So get ready to implement native ads this year. It’s an effective means on expanding your talent pool to people who weren’t even looking for jobs.