Native Advertising Wars by Vertical: Exchanges vs. Facebook vs. Yahoo Gemini [New Benchmark Data]

Native Advertising

Recently, in the 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 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 article is kicking off a new annual ritual for publishing benchmark data.

So oftentimes the networks and others don’t track post-click content engagement and instead report on ad click-through rates, impressions and cost per click. This is all well and good, but as a content marketer I want to know what happens after the click. What am I actually getting post-click?

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.

  • Auto
  • Energy
  • Finance
  • Home & Garden
  • Technology
  • Telecom
  • 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
  • Education

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:

  • AdsNative
  • PubMatic
  • PubNative
  • Playtem
  • Outbrain
  • Google AdX
  • Glispa (Avocarrot)
  • MoPub
  • Revcontent
  • EngageYa
  • Floor6
  • My6Sense
  • Infolinks
  • Sharethrough
  • Rubicon
  • LiveIntent
  • TripleLift
  • AppNexus
  • Yieldmo
  • Adyoulike
  • Thoughtleadr
  • Spoutable
  • Quantum
  • Stoeer

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. In the meantime, let’s explore the different industry verticals and the performance of their native advertising and content. You may notice some data missing with some of the six verticals previously mentioned. That’s because those verticals don’t have quite enough data in some areas to satisfy every aspect of this study.

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

CTR by Vertical

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.

Average Cost Per Engagement-by-Channel

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.

Average Engaged Time

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 not only are you paying more per click but more per second of engaged time, too.

Engagement Rate

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 are promoting longer form content. Now let’s look at the individual industry verticals and juxtapose some of the data.

Automotive

The below charts reflect much of what was pointed out 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 CTR CPE

Auto Cost Per Engagement

Auto CPE

Auto Engagement Rate

Auto Engagement Rate

Auto Average Engaged Time

Auto Average Engaged Time

Technology

Native exchanges in this vertical out perform 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

Tech CTR

Technology Cost Per Engagement

Tech CPE

Technology Engagement Rate

Tech Engagement Rate

Technology Average Engaged Time

Tech Average Engaged Time

Telecommunications

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 CTR

Telecom Cost Per Engagement

Telecom CPE

Telecom Engagement Rate

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 CTR

Travel and Tourism Cost Per Engagement

Travel CPE

Travel and Tourism Engagement Rate

Travel Engagement Rate

Travel and Tourism Average Engaged Time

Travel Engaged Time

Finance

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 are 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 CTR

Finance Cost Per Engagement

Finance CPE

Finance Engagement Rate

Finance Engagement Rate

Finance Average Engaged Time

Finance Avg 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 out perform 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 CTR

Home and Garden Cost Per Engagement

Home CPE

Home and Garden Engagement Rate

Home Engagement Rate

Home and Garden Average Engaged Time

Home Avg Engaged Time

Energy

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 CTR

Energy Cost Per Engagement

Energy CPE

Energy Engagement Rate

Energy Engagement Rate

Energy Average Engaged Time

Energy Avg Engaged Time

What’s the lesson here in 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 doesn’t mean it’s the best at delivering real engagement with content. Unfortunately, the CTR is still a metric that most content marketers are making their content distribution decisions with. As this study clearly shows, without going deeper into the engagement metrics you can leave some efficiency and performance on the table.

We’d wrongly assume in the Finance vertical that native exchanges are poor performers when compared to Yahoo Gemini and Facebook due to CTR. What we wouldn’t know was Finance content delivered through native exchanges deliver nearly 100 seconds of active engaged time with the content being amplified. It outperforms 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 must open that book up and read. You must look at post-click content engagement metrics.