A two-year-old post about actress Vanessa Williams’ discoveries using the AncestryDNA kit, for example, continues to be a top performer because it highlights her surprising heritage.
Ancestry primarily creates the content itself, though this year it started working with other publishers, like LittleThings, to display Ancestry content on its site. Right now, it’s tough to make those relationships meet the company’s CPA goals.
“It tends to be expensive [to work with publishers],” Dalton said. “Publishers want to do things on a CPM basis, and the way we run our program, CPM doesn’t work for us.”
Alternative models where it works with publishers, like giving sites free articles authored by Ancestry, show greater promise.
Ancestry’s focus on direct response has revealed that what can be great for getting the word out about the Ancestry brand doesn’t always drive sales.
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an article that proved using Ancestry data that President Warren Harding had a child with his mistress.
Because it mentioned Ancestry, Dalton’s team seeded the article across its network, including on Outbrain, hoping the mention would drive sales.
“It had a fantastic click-through rate, but drove no conversion rates whatsoever,” Dalton said. “That was a surprising one.”
Because Ancestry looks not just at click-through rates, but sales, it was able to optimize accordingly when the post failed to perform from a direct-response perspective.
“Some posts will kill it in one channel, but not do as well in others,” Dalton reflected. That “highlights the needs for testing and trying different angles and different channels with all your pieces to see what sticks.”
While many brands are still tentative about making mobile investments, Ancestry spends heavily there. Conversions are lower, but so are the costs, making mobile a “huge share” of its content marketing ad spend, Dalton said.
As native advertising expands, Ancestry is being armed with more tools, targeting and wider coverage among publishers, all of which make content marketing more efficient and scaled for the company.
Dalton suspects other advertisers will join him in using content marketing for direct response soon enough.
“There are advertisers with awesome products that can tie a hard metric to [content marketing], and they just haven’t realized what that KPI is,” Dalton said. “If you pick a goal, you can definitely make native ads work.”