Programmatic 101: Campaign Optimization
You’re setting up a programmatic campaign and going down your digital checklist before the campaign goes live. Have you targeted a specific audience? Check. Established the KPI? Check. Set the bid, uploaded the creatives, and chosen the inventory? Check, check, check. Now you’re ready to sit back and watch the impressions flow in.
The digital work doesn’t end once a campaign is up and running. You need to keep an eye on how the campaign is performing and optimize for maximum success. Optimizations can be the difference between a campaign merely generating impressions and a campaign generating powerful results.
Fun fact: The work of optimizing begins even before the campaign goes live. In order to have something to optimize toward, you should look at your goals and translate them into measurable KPIs (CPC, CPA, CTR, conversions). It’s a lot like picking a campaign targeting tactic. Without doing the work and research beforehand, you’re playing a guessing game and casting your net too wide.
Once you’ve decided what you want to achieve, and once your campaign is live, it can be a challenge to figure out how to start optimizing. Let’s break down the different optimization strategies to help you get started:
Data is the first thing you need. But that doesn’t mean you can or should optimize based off just any amount of data. The sample size needs to be large enough to be valuable and allow for informed decision-making.
Optimizing a campaign based off one hour of campaign data is not sufficient. Generally, you want to wait until either 10-20% of the campaign is delivered or the campaign has been running for one week.
Minor optimizations can be made on a tactical level to push spend towards delivery and performance. Minor optimizations include adjusting the bid for win rate and efficiency, or shifting your budget to higher performing tactics. You can also look at your top spending sites to see if they are meeting or exceeding your KPIs. If they are, increase your bid, and if they’re not, turn the site off.
Some sites might be getting thousands of impressions, but not enough engagement. That’s often a sign that an ad might not be reaching the right audience, or the content on the page doesn’t have a strong call-to-action. If that happens, you may want to consider turning those sites off and allocating the budget to sites that are producing better results.
Major optimizations are made once you notice the campaign needs more dynamic changes. Major optimizations include:
Building whitelists & blacklists: Identify top performing domains. Running across them in a separate tactic will help concentrate budget on the top performers. You can create a new tactic with a whitelist of top performers or use a blacklist to exclude poor performers.
Optimizing Creatives: Reviewing the performance of your creatives will help determine which ones are pulling the most engagement. You might notice certain creative types are bringing in more clicks, and you can turn off types or sizes that are driving the least amount volume. That being said, make sure each creative has delivered at least 10,000 impressions before determining if it should be shut off or not. If you notice a size is doing particularly well, think about uploading a different creative type or style in the same ad size.
Adjusting Inventory Placements: Running a campaign can reveal performance data you didn’t expect. Many people think above-the-fold is the better ad placement, but you may find your ads placed below-the-fold are producing better results. Analyzing campaign data to see which placements work best is important when deciding how to adjust or where to place your ads moving forward.
Pulling Data Segment Reports: Pull a data segment report and see which segments are working well. You can add or remove segments as you see fit.
Review exchanges: By doing this, you can uncover if there is one or multiple dragging down performance. Removing an exchange could help with a campaign’s performance, but this should only be done on campaigns that have been running for a few months or have a large budget (at least 10,000 impressions per exchange). Don’t be afraid to make a change and see what happens. If it’s no good, you can always add the exchange again.
Other major optimization strategies include turning off under-performing tactics or evaluating day-parting (look for higher-performing days of the week or time of the day).
Beyond specific optimization strategies, there are some best practices and key things to keep in mind when optimizing:
Don’t optimize too quickly. Give the campaign time to accrue enough data, so you’re able to take a data-driven approach.
Don’t optimize too frequently or infrequently. There is no right time to optimize. You don’t necessarily need to optimize every day, and checking into the campaign on a weekly basis is a good place to start. Always allow enough time, spend, and data between changes.
Keep track of all your changes. Even using a simple Excel doc to track campaign tweaks will be very helpful to see what changes produce what results. If the CPC goes up, and you’re tracking changes, you may notice you recently removed an exchange and that could be the reason. You can always undo, revert back to the original, or try something else.
Optimizing can be easier than you think, especially with Basis DSP, which has in-line editing at the placement level to make optimizations a breeze.