In 2019, native ads make up over 61% of display ad spend, making them one of the fastest growing formats on the market.
If you are not doing native advertising, you are missing out.
But I’ve got you covered. In this guide, I’ll go over everything you need to know to get started with native advertising.
What You’ll Learn:
- What native advertising is
- Why it’s so effective
- How it differs from content marketing
- How native advertising works
- The goal of native advertising
- Examples of effective native advertising (and one ineffective example)
- SEO and native advertising
- Native advertising FAQ
In 2018, native ads made up over 60% of display ad spend, and they are now the fastest-growing part of the market.
If you are not doing native advertising, you are missing out.
If you’ve been following all the trends in online marketing over the past few years, you know that Google has been saying that “Content is King” for quite some time.
It’s only in recent years that marketers have figured out how to make sense of written content as a way to advertise their products that wasn’t what Seth Godin called “interruption marketing.”
This gave rise to trends like content marketing, which I’ve written about previously. The clear trend in online marketing now is to produce content that serves the needs of its target audience. That’s why content marketing has proven so popular.
It’s also opened up space for brands to use written content in different ways than traditional print, radio, and television advertising. Native advertising is born out of brands finding better and more direct ways of getting their content in front of their target audience.
Here’s how native advertising works.
What is Native Advertising?
The basic definition of native advertising is that it’s essentially a paid advertisement. But it’s a paid advertisement that functions a little bit differently than a traditional paid advertisement.
Using written content, native advertising is essentially an ad that’s disguised as original content by the platform. You could also call it native content. Think of it the same as a traditional PPC ad in the Google SERPs. Though they clearly say “ad,” they’re still interspersed with other “non-ads” in the results.
Advertisers have found that these ads are extremely profitable, nonetheless. Plenty of people continue to click on those ads, and buy those products.
Native advertising takes the same principles as these other ads and inserts them into written content.
In a magazine, a native advertising example might appear as an insertion that’s written as another article in the magazine, but is actually an advertisement. It’s designed to fit seamlessly into the content that surrounds it, which is why it’s often mistaken for actual content.
Native advertisements are usually presented in one of three ways:
- In-feed ads: ads that appear in social network news feeds (think Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Search & promoted listings: ads appear at the top or sidebar of the Google SERPs
- Content recommendations: ads appear as recommended articles
Why Native Advertising is Effective
The reason why native advertising has proven to be so effective is that they are usually better received by their target audiences. This method helps to combat ad fatigue and further engages the audience.
Because they don’t “feel” like advertisements, people are more inclined to view them and consume their content.
In traditional advertising, a graphic advertisement can be easily ignored, as people are constantly inundated with marketing ads throughout their day. One of the benefits of native advertising is that it allows brands to get their message across with a greater likelihood that it gets consumed by the target audience.
As online marketers, we’re seeing more and more that, in order to keep up with the changing digital landscape, brands are embracing content marketing and/or native advertising as the means for getting their marketing messages across. This is because both of these tactics offer a more direct link to the target audience.
Over time, consumers have learned how to “tune out” the unwanted ads and marketing messages that they never asked to receive in the first place. Native ads and content marketing offer marketers a way to circumvent this and get their messages in front of their audience.
You can see the evidence of this in the growth of ad-blocking software, as well as subscription models (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) that allow consumers to pay a higher fee in order to receive NO advertisements. Clearly, the old way of forcing marketing messages at people has gone as far as it possibly can.
Native Advertising is Different From Content Marketing (and Sometimes Controversial)
What are native ads compared to content marketing?
The main difference between these two is that native advertising is a “pay to play” service. Brands pay for the ability to put their content in places where they think their target audience will find it. Essentially, native advertising is paid media.
With content marketing, the objective is to focus on owning media, rather than paying for the ability to place it somewhere. Over time, this approach is geared towards driving profitable customer action with this owned media.
Content marketing is not advertising, while native advertising very much is.
So, if it’s a format designed to look like non-promotional content, how can users tell it apart?
Generally, it will either contain markers like “sponsored post,” “promoted post,” or something similar, as in the example below.
Or, it will have a small clickable icon that separates it from non-promotional content, like the native ad below.
Some Native Advertising Statistics
- Viewers spend nearly the same amount of time reading editorial content and native ads — 2 seconds and 1 second, respectively.
- 70% of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising.
- People view native ads 53% more than banner ads.
- Native ads increase purchase intent by 18%
- US advertisers will spend almost $44 billion on native ads in 2019—$8.66 billion more than they did last year.
- The CTR is 1% greater for the pets, food & drink, and family & parenting categories.
- When it comes to branded content versus traditional advertising 2 out of three generation X and Z consumers trust native content more.
- Native ads have a CTR of 40 times higher than classic display ads.
How Native Advertising Works
First, a brand pays for the placement of their content on native advertising platforms of their choosing.
Just like any other advertising venture, picking the correct platform is a crucial step in the process. You’ll want to pick the channel(s) that are your target audience is on, whether that be social media (and drill down to specific platforms – do they spend the most time on Facebook? Twitter?) Google, etc.
Then, the native content is created (by the brand) to have the same look and feel as the content that surrounds it on the platform. What brands are actually paying for is the ability to “rent” the platform for their own distribution.
After the content is created and approved, it’s tagged with a “warning” of sorts that may say something like “Advertisement” or “Paid Advertisement.” This creates some transparency within the native advertising platform because it doesn’t completely disrupt the experience as say, a television commercial advertisement might.
What Native Advertising Aims to Achieve
To put it simply, native advertising is another place to put your content in front of (hopefully) the right people.
With so much content being produced these days, it’s getting even more difficult to find the right pockets of consumers that your content is serving. Another one of the benefits of native advertising is that it helps eliminate that guessing game and puts your content directly into spots where your audience is most likely to read it.
Native Advertising Examples
Here are a few native advertising examples that you may have seen before.
Each of them appears to present content in a meaningful way to the target audience, but are clearly examples of advertising. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s clearly noticeable once you understand the native advertising process.
#1 – Guinness Beer
Here’s a native advertising example that the beer company Guinness created.
This is an older ad, but it is still an important example of native advertising and how it works.
The idea is to provide some information on oysters, while also using the same ad space to sell Guinness Beer. If you look closely, you’ll see that the ad implies that these oysters would all be much better if they were enjoyed with the exact type of beer that Guinness shows in the final frame of the ad.
#2 – Dell Computers
Here’s another native advertising example along the same lines, this time from Dell.
While the title is suggestive of an article about today’s changing workplace, it’s actually a clever example of using relevant content to sell a product without immediately losing that relevance.
It’s definitely conceivable that a millennial (Dell’s target consumer) could read this native ad’s content and be that much more inclined to purchase a Dell computer.
#3 — H&R Block
The popular satirical news site known as The Onion ran sponsored content for H&R Block.
One is a comical post about people not wanting to complete their tax forms, the company ran a native advertisement for H&R Block without a call to action. With a simple banner for the tax preparation company located at the top of the page, readers were unlikely to click on it.
#4 — Land Rover
Creating a short, suspenseful film that was a little over 6 minutes long, Land Rover has had huge success with native advertising.
Using Dragon Challenge as its native advertising platform, Land Rover released a nail-biting ad showing their famous Range Rover SUV attempting to climb the Heaven’s Gate landmark in China. With 999 steps to scale at a daunting 45 degree angle, viewers couldn’t look away.
This ad is a great example of how easily native advertising can put your content right in front of your target consumer.
Native Advertising: What Not to Do
Let’s take a look at one more example. This ad from the Church of Scientology is one of the more well-known examples came from the Church of Scientology.
This ad was widely criticized when it came out for giving a misguided view of the church while appearing to look like a normal piece of native content published by The Atlantic. It highlights an important criticism of native advertising in general: that it can be used as a sneaky way to get your content viewed.
The Atlantic, the news site where the ad originally appeared, took a lot of heat for this native ad and eventually took it down altogether.
The lesson learned here? Make sure your ad matches the platform it appears on. The Atlantic suffered because it ran an ad preaching a subject its readers didn’t care about – and because it blended into the site’s usual content, it was easy to think that the publication was simply running an article in support of Scientology, rather than just hosting an ad.
As mentioned earlier, the first step in successful native advertising is choosing the proper channel. Make sure you do so wisely.
SEO and Native Advertising
How do search engine optimization and native advertising fit together? Like this.
The latest trend in online marketing is the emergence of content marketing as a valid method for generating exposure for brands. The driving theory is that SEO is moving away from explicit link-building, and more towards a content marketing based approach.
Native advertising is separate from SEO, however. I think that a small business that already has a strong SEO and social media base would be one that would be worth experimenting with native advertising for.
Native advertising is another arrow in your online marketing quiver, not a be-all, end-all approach. It should be one of the tactics you use, but not the whole strategy.
I tend to think of native advertising a bit along the lines of guest posting, but without the outright benefit of links. Native ads are simply another place for you to get your content into the hands of the right audience (hopefully).
FAQ on Native Advertising
1. Is native advertising more effective than content marketing?
Short answer: no.
While it certainly has its advantages, it’s not meant to replace content marketing. Native advertising is typically a one-time thing; it’s a great way to introduce yourself and your business to an audience, and to give them a reason to dig deeper into what it is you offer.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is all about the long haul. It’s mean to solidify a brand’s reputation and create an ongoing relationship with customers through different media and channels (which could include native advertising.)
2. Are there different native advertising formats?
Yes, there are different formats, including:
- In-feed ads: promote sponsored content in natural feeds
- Recommendation widgets: these appear at the end of articles in the “recommended for you” or “you may also like” sections
- Promoted listings – used to promote sponsored products and appear with other listings
- Paid search ads – similar to promoted listings, but appear at the top of search results
3. Is native advertising affected by AdBlocks?
One of the advantages of native ads is that they generally don’t get caught in ad blocking software. This, of course, is due to the fact that they’re served along with regular content.
Most ads that do get caught by ad blocks are ones that have been classified as overly annoying or intrusive. However, in February 2018 Google began to block certain ads in the Chrome browser, including some native ads.
4. How do you measure native advertising?
Just like other digital marketing channels, you can measure native advertising’s effectiveness in terms of data. You can measure impressions, click through rate, clicks, etc. There are tools created specifically to track your native ad analytics, such as SpyOver and Parse.ly.
5. Can a user tell if they’re clicking on a native ad?
Not necessarily. In fact, studies have shown that consumers often identify native ads as as articles. That same study revealed some other interesting facts about native ads:
- Consumers often have a difficult time identifying the brand associated with a piece of native advertising (but it varies)
- Consumers who read native ads that they identified as high quality reported a significantly higher level of trust for the sponsoring brand.
- 48 percent have felt deceived upon realizing a piece of content was sponsored by a brand
6. Why should you use native advertising?
There are four stages of a sales funnel: attract, convert, close, and delight.
The attract stage is when people are first introduced to your content. While this might seem like the appropriate place to utilize the benefits of native advertising, it actually isn’t.
The proper time to execute native ads is somewhere between the convert and close stages. You want to target people who are already familiar with your brand and who may have already consumed your products/services in the past.
7. How can I start using native advertising?
Now that you understand the theory behind native advertising, you probably want to put this new knowledge into practice.
If you have already begun a strong content marketing campaign, congratulations! You’re already on your way to native advertising.
The next step is to take these engaging stories that you have created for your brand and pay native advertising platforms to promote them. Research the best native ad vendors in your industry and collect pricing information and offers from them. Once you decide on the right platform to reach your target audience, you can utilize your existing native content to run a profitable native advertising campaign.
Native Advertising in the Future
Native advertising is exploding in popularity.
I think that most brands can benefit from using native advertising as a tactic, but it shouldn’t inform your whole online marketing strategy. Anything that allows you to get your content in front of the right audience is something you should embrace.
It will be interesting to see how native advertising influences the way we consume content in the future.