Despite the proven effectiveness of native advertising, it’s a concept that remains a little murky for many marketers.
Copyblogger performed a study on native advertising, asking people whether they knew what it was and how knowledgeable they were about it.
Here are the results:
Clearly, it’s still an ambiguous concept to many.
Simply, native advertising is a tactic that blends promotional content with the rest of the content—native content—of a page.
Here’s a good example:
When compared to more traditional advertisements such as banner ads, native ads tend to be more effective:
consumers interact with native ads 20% to 60% more than they do with standard banner ads.
That’s probably because they don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Furthermore, we’re seeing significant growth in the use of this strategy:
In the US, the native ad market is expected to grow to $53 billion by 2020.
More and more marketers are catching on and seeing the potential of this approach.
The problem with content distribution
An interesting phenomenon is taking place in regards to content marketing.
More and more content is being created, but it isn’t translating into audience growth.
This image visualizing data from a Nielsen and BI Intelligence study puts things into perspective:
Notice how the amount of content being produced has grown significantly while the audience size has basically plateaued.
The reason for this, of course, is that there is a far bigger supply than demand for content.
There aren’t enough people to consume all the content being created.
Just look at what happens every single minute:
And that’s just on four major social networks. This doesn’t take into account blog posts, articles, infographics and so on.
This means that it’s no longer enough to simply create great content.
You need an effective means of distribution, enabling you to reach your audience on a larger scale.
This tweet from former BuzzFeed Vice President Jonathan Perelman hits the nail on the head:
Native advertising is the perfect solution to this problem.
It’s an excellent way to distribute your content and extend its reach by leveraging the exposure and brand equity of other publishers.
It’s also one of the smartest ways to connect with consumers and get them to engage with your brand.
And if you play your cards right, you can use it to drive a huge volume of traffic to your site.
In this post, let me offer some basic strategies for using native advertising in tandem with content marketing.
Do extensive research
For this tactic to work, your content must fit in perfectly with the style, tone, theme, etc. of the publisher’s site.
It needs to be seamless.
To ensure it flows smoothly, you need to understand the publisher inside and out.
Here are a few questions to answer to help you with that:
- who’s their target audience?
- what kind of themes and subject matter do they cover?
- what type of content does their audience respond to?
- what kind of editorial style do they use?
The native advertising platform you choose should have a creative team to assist you with this and provide you with direction.
But I recommend putting in the extra effort so that you know precisely what type of content to create and how to create it.
The more knowledge you have, the better your odds of having success will be.
Align your content
Once you have a firm grasp of the publisher’s site, you’ll want to base your content around it.
Keep in mind that today’s Internet users are incredibly adept at sniffing out promotional content and dodging it.
That’s why native advertising is becoming so popular.
It’s able to get much higher click-through rates (CTRs) than standard display ads.
According to Marketing Land,
the average CTRs for display ads have fallen over time to 0.17%.
the average CTR for native ads on Adnow is 1.5%.
But CTR this high doesn’t just happen on its own.
Your content must align perfectly with the publisher’s site.
How do you do this?
Create high-quality content matching the publisher’s, based on the research you performed.
Center it around a topic their average visitor is interested in, and style it accordingly.
Just treat it as if you’re guest-posting, keeping in mind that it’s essential that your content conforms to the publisher’s style and guidelines.
Here’s an example of Dell pulling this off perfectly:
They wrote an article in The New York Times regarding millennials and their collective distaste for the traditional 9 to 5 lifestyle.
Read through it, and you’ll notice that it uses the same style and tone of pretty much everything you’ll read in The New York Times.
An untrained eye would have a hard time detecting this was an advertisement.
And that’s a good thing.
When you think about it, the ultimate goal of native advertising is to advertise without people even realizing they are looking at an advertisement.
I like to look at it as just content marketing as usual.
It relies on the same concept of creating high-quality content for a specific audience.
The only difference is you’re paying to have your content featured on a publisher’s website.
It’s a quicker, more efficient means of distribution so you can reach a larger audience in less time.
Look beyond articles
When considering which type of content format to feature on a publisher’s site, the first thing that probably comes to most people’s minds is a conventional article.
It’s the obvious choice, right?
I can definitely see why this would be the popular choice.
And quite frankly, it tends to make the most sense when you’re testing the waters with native advertising.
But gaining any real traction can be difficult when you’re doing what everyone else is doing.
It’s harder to stand out that way.
Fortunately, you’re by no means limited to conventional articles. You have a buffet of options to choose from.
Just take a look at some of the top B2B content marketing tactics:
Now, I’m not saying you should create off the wall content just for the sake of being different.
What’s most important is that you base it around what resonates most with your audience.
For example, here’s a breakdown of the consumption habits of consumers, depending on their ages:
If you were trying to reach a younger demographic of 18-24-year-olds, videos and infographics would be potential choices.
Optimize your landing page as well
Let’s say you nailed your research, figured out the perfect style to use and created brilliant content that visitors to the publisher’s site absolutely ate up.
That’s great, and you’re likely to see a great CTR.
But your job isn’t done yet.
You still need to ensure that your leads are arriving on a well-designed landing page poised for conversions:
Just think about it.
It won’t do you much good if you do everything else right but fall short with your landing page.
You’re just throwing money away.
Now, landing page optimization is a whole other topic in and of itself and one that I’ve covered extensively in the past.
I’m not going to explain all the details here, but to learn pretty much everything you need to know about it, check out this guide.
Let me just point out that it should be designed with the purpose of moving prospects deeper through the sales funnel post-click.
Ideally, it will build upon the content that prospects just digested and provide them with additional information to encourage them to buy.
Don’t forget to do A/B testing
I won’t go on a rant about the importance of A/B testing.
I’ve already mentioned before that only 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.
Considering that this is a practice you want to implement into many other areas of marketing, it only makes sense that it should be done with native advertising as well.
There are several different elements you can test, including:
- type of content
- positioning on the publisher’s site
Let’s be honest.
It’s not realistic to nail it the first time around. You’ll need a fair amount of experimentation to get it right.
A/B testing is the best way to quickly optimize your efforts and work out the kinks.
Native advertising gets real results but isn’t necessarily on the radar of every content marketer.
But it should be!
It’s the perfect way to solve the ongoing distribution problem many content marketers are facing.
It can be a godsend if you’re a new brand hungry for exposure.
By combining native advertising with content marketing, you’re speeding up the process of reaching your audience.
But like with any other marketing tactic, you need to follow best practices, which primarily involves researching the publisher, aligning your content with their website and tailoring your content around the preferences of your core audience.
If you can do that, you can expect a rock solid CTR and plenty of targeted traffic to your site.
For information on potential native advertising platforms to use, check out this post from Entrepreneur.