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How Gutefrage.net took its marketing into its own hands and quickly founded highfivve

When Gutefrage.net launched as a Q&A platform in 2006, programmatic marketing and in-housing of advertising space through highfivve was still a long way off. In this article we trace the creation and development of highfivve for our customer Gutefrage and show how the marketing of the platform has changed over the years.

In Gutefrage's 18-year history, the marketing of advertising space has changed profoundly: from dependence on just two sources of revenue to a highly optimized multi-partner setup. It's high time to take a closer look at highfivve's first customer and shed light on how the Q&A platform took the monetization of its inventory into its own hands and founded the marketer highfivve as part of this success story.

17 million users ask and answer questions

Gutefrage.net was started in Munich in 2006. The concept is as simple as it is successful: users ask questions, other users answer. With around two million daily users today, Gutefrage.net is one of the ten largest websites in Germany. The platform originally offered its inventory for marketing in two ways: display ads through a third-party marketer and in-feed and in-article ad spaces through Google AdSense text ads.

However, this approach revealed serious disadvantages: the contractual separation prevented cross-channel optimization, which in turn led to dependence on a few sources of income. Rigid contracts with marketers made it impossible to adapt to the changing online advertising market.

Additionally, the user experience suffered from long page load times caused by external AdServer tags and an uncontrollable number of third-party technologies. The reporting was also not optimal: a meaningful overview of different sources of income was practically impossible because there was no way to pull daily and comprehensive reports.

Resolve one-sided dependencies

Gutefrage replaced this approach with the development of focused in-house marketing and thus quickly threw overboard inefficient marketing strategies and the one-sided dependence on a few sources of sales.

From now on, the motto was “Programmatic First”: the entire inventory was offered programmatically, direct campaigns were no longer preferred. Since then, Gutefrage has been independent of the approach of external marketers and has direct access to the entire advertising inventory of its websites.

A main driver for the marketing success of the Q&A platform was and is active mobile use: in 2018, more than two thirds of Gutefrage traffic came from mobile devices. For this reason, it was only logical to offer the mobile inventory programmatically via our own Google Ad Manager instance instead of selling it further via an external marketer. From now on, thanks to dynamic allocation, direct bookings had to compete with the CPMs of programmatic bids.

From two to twelve revenue sources in less than two years

In addition, the number of SSPs connected to the server has been increased. The marketing team had display, text, and native ads bid on the same placements and used exchange bidding, enabling real-time auctions. As part of the “smart monetization strategy,” Gutefrage was able to significantly diversify its revenue sources: in 2018, the company derived its revenue from twelve revenue sources instead of just two as in 2016.

Single stack ad serving for more performance

Gutefrage uses Google’s single-stack ad serving technology to control ad inventory, sales and trafficking. The aim was to continuously diversify and optimize the sources of demand. With the tool, Gutefrage manages all advertising spaces and demand partners via a single single stack ad server. The result was 26 percent fewer requests to external servers. This resulted in a 34 percent faster page load time and a 29 percent faster display of the first ad.

With all of these measures, it was possible to resolve the classic conflict of objectives: Sales went up; in Q4 2018, sales per page view increased by 21 percent (vs. Q1 2017). Since the start of self-marketing in Q1 2016 to Q4 2018, Gutefrage's mobile CPM has tripled. At the same time, the ad quality and user experience were improved. In this way, the platform can not only better meet users' needs, but also increase advertiser satisfaction.

The founding of highfive

Due to the success of their programmatic approach and the very positive market feedback, Gutefrage decided to spin off the unit - highfivve GmbH was born in 2019. Since then, we have also been helping external publishers to market their inventory independently.

But the journey also continued for Gutefrage. Together with Gutefrage, highfivve implemented all privacy-relevant topics such as consent management and later the introduction of a paywall. In addition, a data management platform was built for publishers and Gutefrage has since successfully offered the first-party data from the programmatic buyside for better control of campaigns.

The first identity solutions were implemented as early as 2020 in order to prepare for the development towards cookieless marketing. At this point, browsers such as Safari and Firefox had already significantly reduced third-party cookies and Google also announced for the first time that it would switch off third-party cookies on Chrome. highfivve is well positioned when it comes to the cookieless future and is ready for a new era of advertising. In classic digital marketing, new special formats were also established and a lot was invested in the area of video marketing.

We are very excited to see what developments will emerge in programmatic advertising for publishers over the course of the year. We are also looking forward to tackling the challenges and opportunities together with our most loyal customer and reason for founding Gutefrage.net as well as all other customers in our portfolio and continuing to grow together.

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