Native Advertising 101: Let’s Get Started

October 17, 2017   /   by  Diane Callihan

Learn the Perks & Pitfalls to Native Advertising

Native advertising is a form a paid advertising that looks and acts like the editorial content of the online publication/user experience it appears in. In other words, native ads appear to be blog posts, infographics, videos, search results, social media posts and more. They are often so seamless that people do not realize they are ads.

Native ads are the result of the blowback against more interruptive advertising, such as banners and pop-ups, which many users now block.

And it seems to be working. A recent report from the Mobile Marketing Association showed that mobile native ads performed 10X better than mobile banner ads, and users spent 40% more time interacting with native ads than with traditional ads.

The downside is that users can feel duped when they read an article only to discover that it's an ad. To avoid alienating prospects, advertisers need to provide value in their native ads and make them targeted and helpful.

A recent Inc. Magazine article suggests that successful native ads focus on providing content that is valuable to your audience, instead of promotional or salesy. Additionally, the ads should serve up expected content – not send users to a site just to accumulate clicks.

To avoid making your visitors feel duped, the sites you post to should offer clear disclosure that the content is paid. This is done by labeling content - such as a “promoted post”, “presented by” or “sponsored by”. This is not a foolproof way to avoid confusion. People may not understand that those words mean the content is a paid advertisement. Marking the content as an “ad” or “paid” is clearer, but less people may click when those terms are used.

Types of Native Ads

Native ads come in many forms. Sponsored content is one form, where the advertiser pays to promote an article written by the publication. This is not directly promotional, but instead helps establish the advertiser as an industry expert. This definition is becoming blurred, however, since many sites use “sponsored content” to refer to any kind of native ad.

Branded content is written and branded by the advertiser. For example, an article may have “written by Dell” at the top, along with Dell’s logo in the header.

Sponsored or recommended posts on Facebook or LinkedIn and promoted Tweets on Twitter look just like the rest of your feed. The largest segment of native advertising spend currently goes to social media.

Even PPC advertising – the paid search results that appear at the top of the page – are technically native ads. Even though they are marked with the word “Ad”, people often mistake these paid posts as organic search results. In fact, ads in the top 3 paid advertising spots of a search will receive 46% of the clicks on the page.

In-feed or sidebar ads (provided through companies like Outbrain) may be promoted as “Related Content”, “Recommended Content” or “Trending around the Web”. Sometimes these articles are criticized for being unrelated, overtly salesy or clickbait. They may drive traffic, but that traffic may not result in many qualified leads if the content lacks value or relevance.

Finally, if you sell products on marketplace sites like Amazon, you can utilize promoted listings which works similar to PPC and lets you jump to the top of the results page. These listings are also labeled to indicate they are paid.

According to Business Insider, native ads will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. If you haven’t started exploring what native advertising can do for your business, you may be missing out on a key opportunity. Want help putting a plan in place? Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.