Hey buddy!

This is the 7th instalment of the Arbitrage Diary and I just wanna say thanks for the positive feedback. It is really encouraging to read and makes the whole thing feel worthwhile. Keep firing questions our way!

However, we’ve realised that you are perhaps a step ahead of this arbitrage diary! Well, fear not, this is the final part of the basics covering how to set up your campaigns in a clear methodical way.  We’re going to get to the good stuff – optimising the s*** out of things – as of next week.

By the way, here’s our very first paycheck from Google!



Sure, it’s not going to get us to Aruba, but given that we only started this whole adventure 2 and a bit months ago (with ZERO knowledge or experience of native ads/arb/internet marketing) we’re pretty stoked with it!

We actually had about a 2 week break where not a lot got done. I had to go away (New York baby!) and we had to wait on confirmation of our accounts from the networks and then ensure that all the widgets and Google Analytics were set up correctly (as we’ve detailed in the last few posts). This stuff can be a ball-ache BUT it’s definitely better to do make sure everything is working 100% than to get impatient and rush. In the long-run, when we’re pulling in 6 figures a month (and finally scoping out that holiday to Aruba), then two weeks of waiting isn’t going to be a problem.

So, setting up a Outbrain campaign. Here goes…



In Outbrain click on the “Add Campaign” tab in the top right hand corner. This takes you to the “Create Campaign (Step 1 of 2)” page:

Name Your Campaign:

You’re going to end up with lots of campaigns so use logical clear titles e.g. if you’re slideshow is about hamburgers and you’re going to target it only to US desktops then “Hamburger_US_Desktop_01” isn’t a bad shout.



We’ve started off targeting the US only. Why? Because there’s lots of good traffic and good quality advertisers in the US and we think our content appeals to US audiences (in fact, we’ve written in that way). However, we plan to target other English-speaking countries (UK, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa) in the future, once we have campaigns that we’ve shown work in the US.


You can choose when your campaign starts but we just start it off and let it run continuously.


However, a word of warning. Before we’d started proper optimisation we ran our first ever test to make sure that the Outbrain tracking code (see below) and Google Analytics were all working correctly. We wanted to spend $50 for one day only, but we accidentally left the “Run continuously” setting on and spent $250 over a long weekend when neither of us bothered to check in on Outbrain! $250 down before we’d even started! Lesson learned!


This is the important part!

Your CPC (cost-per-click – but you should probably know that by now!!) is the maximum you are willing to pay for a user to be sent to your website. However, not all your clicks will be charged at this rate (some will be cheaper) – it’s just the upper limit.

Outbrain, cheekily, suggest quite high CPCs! We’ve found that starting off at $0.5 and bringing it down by e.g. $0.1 a day, over the first 3 to 4 days is the best way to a) let the Outbrain algorithm do its stuff and optimise your campaign in terms of what sites your ads get shown on while b) allowing you to find your profitability sweet spot. Ultimately we have found that the sweet spot for most of our campaigns is a CPC value of $0.10–0.15.  (We’ve tried starting campaigns with low CPCs of e.g. $0.1, but found that traffic can be very slow and the Outbrain algorithm does seem to work better if you start higher and gradually lower it –– we’d be interested to hear from your experience of this…?!)



Set your daily budget here but be aware that Outbrain does almost always spend 20% more than the value you put (which they do warn you about). E.g. if you choose $100, then you’ll almost always spend $115-120, in our experience. When we start testing campaigns we use $50 a day, and then scale up once we’ve optimised.



This is also really important!


Tracking Code:

To track your campaign’s performance you need to include tracking tags. If you don’t then you’ll have no data in Google Analytics to pour over and figure out where optimisations can be made.


Here’s the tracking tag we use.


It consists of four parts:

  • utm_medium=Outbrain – The name of the advertising platform that sent the user to your site  
  • utm_source={{origsrcid}} – The site from where the click originated from
  • utm_campaign=Hamburger_US_Desktop_01 – The name of your campaign
  • utm_content={{ad_id}} – This will show you which specific ad was clicked (you’re going to be testing a bunch of different headline+image combos for each campaign, so you need to know which are winners and losers)

So for each campaign you set up replace the campaign name (and the medium name, when you start running traffic on different platforms). Other than that, just let the tracking work its magic! You’ll then be able to view breakdowns of these stats in Analytics:


Enter a sample promoted link to test your code:
We don’t bother doing anything with this field.

Once you’ve filled out all these click on “Next: Content”.


First, add your URL e.g. www.mysite.com/worlds-best-hamburgers-2016 in the box and click “Add”.


This will automatically generate a thumbnail taken from the URL you enter:


(This actually isn’t our site but we wish it was!)

You then need to duplicate this entry and add the various different images and headlines that you want to test.

During this whole process it pays to be methodical: in an early test, Jake accidentally pasted a link to the Youtube video of Rihanna’s Work that he’d been watching earlier in the day (busted!) into the URL field resulting in us being very confused for a while and basically paying out of our own pocket to advertise one of Rihanna’s videos, not that she needs the help!!


So, have your images stored in one folder and your headlines in a stickie or text file so you can copy/paste them straight in (likewise have the URL and tracking code typed out before you start). (Btw, to get your headlines formatted consistently in title case use this: http://titlecase.com/.

Also, although we’re going to cover our experience of writing the best eye-catching headlines for you soon, if you want a head start, Rob from Native Ad Buzz just released his book which has a s***-ton of great examples that he’s collected that have been shown to work really well.)

The quickest way to create all the headline+image combos is to upload the first image and then use the ‘Duplicate’ button to create as many versions as you have headlines. Then paste the headlines into the boxes for that image. Then repeat this for the second image, and so on. We try to do about 5 headlines and 5 images for each campaign so 25 variations in total.


Once you’ve done that click “Launch campaign”! Then you just have to wait for the campaign to be approved by Outbrain.

With our first campaign we fell foul of Outbrain’s T&Cs and got turned down. Why? Our content was clean e.g. no swear words, nudity or HEAVY CAPITALISATION in the headlines, so we were very confused. We contacted Outbrain (who in general are very helpful and responsive) and they gave us two reasons! First, the links to our ‘Contact Us’ and ‘About Us’ sections were obscured by our Cookie Consent banner and, second, we had temporarily taken our site navigation tool bar down. The second one was not a dealbreaker for Outbrain but the first would have been. We just moved our Cookie Consent banner to display at the top of the page instead. Problem solved, campaign approved.

It’s been incredibly satisfying to see traffic running and things starting to move after ~2 months of planning and putting everything in place! In the next installment, we’ll tell you how we’ve been optimising the campaigns using a combination of the stats we’ve collected in Analytics and Outbrain.

Over and out,