Native Advertising might sound foreign to you, but believe me; you'll want to know all there is to know about this powerful new traffic- generating strategy. Not only is this one of the easiest ways to send a swarm of high-quality traffic to your websites, but it’s also amazingly effective.
And don’t worry, this isn't some here-today-gone-tomorrow trend. Native advertising is an ‘evergreen’ strategy that is bound to be accepted by publishers for many years to come. As you’ll soon discover, it’s quickly becoming known as THE leader in advertising models.
In fact, in 2016, 3 out of 4 publishers offer some form of native advertising on their websites, with over 90% of publishers planning to launch native advertising this coming year!
So let’s break it down for you, simply and easily. Are you ready?
Back in 201, we started to hear a lot of buzz around a traffic generation strategy called “content marketing.” Well, native advertising, while even easier than content marketing, is based on the same idea.
You see, native advertising based campaigns will send your click-through rates through the roof because not only are they highly targeted, but they are designed to look like really appealing content rather than traditional ads. Hence the word ‘native.’ Your content will look and feel like the platform that it’s being hosted on.
Here's what it looks like:
So, what does that mean for you?
It means that, as an advertiser, your ads will blend into the platforms in which you are being featured, giving users a positive experience, and encouraging engagement with website visitors who are there to consume content! Most often, your visitors won’t even realize that they are ads at all, which increases interaction and makes it easy for you to build brand awareness.
In fact, native advertising is often created in such a way as to disguise the fact that it’s an ad at all, and instead, is designed to look like an article, news, or blog posts. One example would be a native ad campaign set up as a lead page in order to generate and collect subscribers or leads, but is made to resemble a high quality article, relevant to the niche you are targeting.
A traditional landing or squeeze page usually includes a headline, an opt-in form and a few bullet points outlining what the person will receive after subscribing to a newsletter, and the call to action. There isn’t a lot of content or value that is visible upfront.
However, a “Native Advertising” ad is totally different. It offers exceptional value in some form of engaging content, and the landing page that visitors may end up on will deliver on that promise.
So, how do you get started with native advertising, and build highly effective marketing campaigns that will generate maximum traffic and increase sales? Let’s start by looking at the top 3 ways of building incredibly powerful native advertising campaigns.
3 Native Advertising Strategies
Native advertising can be incorporated into sites in a number of different ways. And while there are many different ways to get your advertising message in front of a relevant audience, here are the three major types of native ads that you are likely to encounter.
The most effective type of sponsored content is when you cleverly design ads that are meant to educate and inform, rather than directly sell. In turn, you are maximizing brand exposure, and consistently building brand recognition (which will automatically increase sales).
Sponsored content doesn’t look like your typical advertising, at least not to the average visitor, or reader. If done correctly, your sponsored ad will blend in with the existing website content, providing real value to its readers, while giving them an authentic, and positive user experience.
Many people think of sponsored content as just blog posts or articles. In reality, sponsored content could also include Pinterest posts, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, or even BuzzFeed listicles (list articles).
One of the most important elements of a successful sponsored content ad is to make sure that it is created so that it feels natural on the platform that it’s being featured on. For example, if you plan to create a native ad based sponsored content piece on YouTube, you will want your video to look and feel similarly to those already featured on the channel, focusing on the same target audience, particularly that of the main feed.
And while sponsored content falls under the same marketing umbrella as native advertising, they are a bit different in the fact that sponsored content slots offered by publishers are typically less restrictive than authentic native advertisements. With sponsored content you aren’t always required to use the same font or style as the blog or website that your campaign is being featured on, but we highly recommend that you do anyway. Native ads always look and feel like the host website which in turn will feel far more authentic to website visitors.
Remember, customers will always trust editorial based content over advertising. If you can create your campaign to look and feel natural to the audience who is familiar with the host website, you will see much better results. I’ll show you a few examples of highly successful native ads that use this very format in an upcoming chapter so you can see for yourself just how easy they are to build, and how incredibly effective they are.
Tip: When considering sponsored content opportunities, don’t overlook the popularity of microblogging websites such as Instagram, Pinterest and twitter. Instagram has over 500 million users on their platform, and offer sponsored content spots throughout their website. Image based websites work particularly well for infographics, recipes, and cartoon-based campaigns.
SnapChat is also making it easier to set up sponsored content advertisements with their new “Memories” platform that allows users to save video clips into custom streams (similar to the way someone would create a playlist on iTunes.)
With recommended content, your brand appears as a recommended resource by prominent websites and networks online, including content discovery networks (more on that later). Here's an example of recommended content from The New York Times:
Publishing networks make money by offering campaigns that typically run on a PPC model. These ads are embedded into the content or theme in some way as to provide a more authentic experience for readers, and quite often will look exactly like other areas of the website such as navigation menus, or other internal links so that readers don’t see them as advertisements at all.
This method of advertising on in-feed social ad networks is one of the easiest places to start if you’re new to native advertising. In-feed ads are those you’ll find on places like your Facebook News Feed, where box-type advertisements will be shown right along with updates from friends and family. In-feed social ads don’t always include a call to action within the ad itself, but instead will direct people to a landing page or product information page where you can capture the lead.
You can also find in-feed social ads on Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. Ever see those YouTube videos that you can skip after 5 or 10 seconds? Those are in-feed ads!
How To Get Started Quickly
Long gone are the days when you could simply send someone to a sales page and get them to buy from you. Today, you need to prime them and build their trust first. Or, as we say in the digital marketing world, you need to engage them before you can convert them.
So would you like to venture a guess what the easiest method is for creating a high converting landing page for your native ads?
Create a high quality blog post
Start by deciding on the topic you want to write about. Then, create (or outsource) a killer content piece that is ultra-focused on your market. Make sure it’s informative, entertaining or fun (or all of the above!).
Your content doesn’t have to just be textual. Perhaps you have video content you can implement into the blog post, or you have a PowerPoint presentation that you’d like to feature. Whatever you choose, make sure that it provides exceptional value to your target audience, and is relevant to a product or service you are interested in promoting.
If you want to guarantee that it’s a hit, use content from any other platform that you are on that has yielded results. Have you had a newsletter perform better than usual? Have you ever ran an ad campaign on Facebook that yielded incredible results? Analyze your most recent successes, and create a blog post based on that material.
Provide exceptional value
Don’t be afraid to over-deliver on content. Give your best advice, your insider strategy, your best tip.
Make sure its relevant and targeted. You should know your audience better than anyone. Make sure your native-ad landing page provides the kind of information they are hungry for.
Include a Call to Action
Don’t forget to motivate visitors and remind them of the value in subscribing to your newsletter or mailing list. Weave your CTA within your content, adding it once more for a strong finish.
This high quality material will form the basis of your landing page. This is where your native advertisements will bring visitors.
Make sure you implement a strong call to action into the post. This includes an opt-in form where visitors can sign up to your newsletter, and you can collect leads. Add more content after the opt-in form, ensuring that you over-deliver on killer content. For best results, weave your call to action into your content, ending your blog post with a secondary call to action. Make it feel as authentic and natural as possible. More content than calls to action!
Once you have a high quality landing page, it’s time to use In-feed social sites to generate exposure and get that traffic pouring in! The easiest way is to post on your Facebook page. Include the same headline that appears on your blog post, enough content to capture attention and keep visitors engaged, and then a photo or image that is relevant to your landing page (make it as interesting and evocative as possible!).
Feel free to expand on your content, adding in an extra punch to your ad, giving readers no choice but to click-through.
When you’re happy with your ad, it’s time to boost it! Just click the “Boost Post” button beneath your ad, and set your budget. I would recommend starting low (maybe $5-10 to begin), and go from there. You can always tweak your ad as you go, utilizing Facebook’s self-serve advertising tools to keep a pulse on activity.
Once you’ve seen just how effective your in-feed advertisements are, branch out to other native ad platforms like YouTube and Twitter. And then you’ll be ready for the monster content discovery networks.
Once you’ve had a taste of those, there’s no going back. 😉
It’s easy to confuse content advertising with native advertising so let's take a moment to clarify before we continue, just so you are aware of the differences. After all, both strategies involve using high quality content to generate interest and build brand awareness, and you’ll often hear people using content advertising and native advertising interchangeably.
With content advertising, you are typically creating material in order to generate a sale, or lead, through paid distribution channels. This might include paid social media posts, promotional pieces on blogs and websites, or traditional PPC campaigns.
Typically, content advertising provides editorial-style content that is designed to inform readers of a product or business, which in turn increases brand awareness. And while native advertising also increases brand exposure, ads are typically designed to convince, rather than just inform.
Native advertising would include: videos, blogs, articles and other content aimed to convince an audience of a brand’s worthiness, and are biased towards the brand.
Content advertising comes in many forms, such as newsletters, reports, or even by publishing a whitepaper that focuses on solving a problem in your niche.
With native advertising, the idea is to build campaigns that feel organic. Your content should blend with the host website it’s featured on. In many cases, that includes right down to the type of font you use, graphic sizes and types typically found on the website, and the content has the same tone as the majority of content found on other pages of the host website.
Regardless of whether you call it content advertising or native advertising, your focus must be on building campaigns that feel natural to the user. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your focus always needs to be on creating content that blends with existing material found on the website, in a seamless way that goes unnoticed.
And by taking advantage of native advertising opportunities, you’ll be able to partner with influential blogs and websites, as well as indirectly network with influencers and established leaders in the industry, just by being featured on their high-traffic pages.
Think about the potential in that!
Content Discovery Networks
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of native advertising is by going to the leaders in the industry, namely the top 4 CMD networks. These guys connect advertisers with publishers, making the process very easy.
Can you imagine just how much traffic you’d be able to generate if websites like CNN or NBC recommended your content to their users? Well, there’s great news! Content Discovery websites can make that dream a reality!
Some of the most popular content discovery networks include:
Taboola started as a video recommendation network, and have grown tremendously over the last few years. With Taboola, you can create native ads for all devices, and mobile. In addition, you can end up featured on Business Insider, Mail Online, NBC or Yahoo!
Taboola provides real-time insights on all of your campaign activity so you can keep a pulse on how your ads are performing, and quickly make any adjustments or modifications that are needed.
Known as one of the most selective content discovery networks online, RevContent provides you with the opportunity to give your readers exactly what they want. Using their advanced technology, you are able to enhance user experience by providing them with the content they are most interested in. This is a very good network to start with.
A very prominent content discovery network that serves over 4 billion content recommendations every month. With Content.ad, you are able to create ads for desktop, tablets and even mobile. Very flexible options.
One of the largest content discovery networks, Outbrain features many popular brands including People magazine, Bills.com, and even Forbes.com. OutBrain allows you to geo-target, but do not allow you to choose which publisher websites your content will appear on. Instead, their system will analyze your content and match it with the best publishers based on your market.
With OutBrain your content could appear on Rolling Stone, NBC News, US Weekly, Reuters, Fast Company, People, and even ESPN!
There are many other networks available to you. Here are just a few more worth exploring:
With each of these networks you are able to design a campaign optimized for your industry and put it in front of hundreds of thousands of visitors in a matter of a few minutes.
But before you go off and design a campaign, it’s important to know exactly how to create one that is destined for success.
Where to begin? By analyzing what others have already done successfully, of course!
Let’s take a look at a few case studies of successful campaigns featured on some of these content discovery networks so that you can begin to envision your very own campaign.
The first thing you need to keep in mind when creating your native ad campaign is that the objective is to educate and inform potential customers of your brand and brand message.
You are not building these ads to hard-sell. That’s not the purpose, and it’s important to keep that in mind when creating your ads so that they feel authentic, and are tailored to what your target audience is actively seeking out (quality content, informative posts, etc.). If you create your ad correctly, readers will find it very difficult to differentiate between what is sponsored content, and what is informative content or impartial journalism.
How do you do this easily? Always focus on over-delivering exceptional value in the form of highly engaging content that matches the editorial style and tone of the website it’s on. This will not only maximize click- through rates, but will ensure that your ads don’t actually look like ads.
So, rather than direct selling, consider creating helpful videos, interactive tutorials or infographics, or perhaps recipes, if that’s your niche market. You could create humorous pieces, funny video clips, and any other type of content that is focused on engaging with your customer.
When you start off with building high-value sponsored ad campaigns, you will, by default, lead your visitor to your website or product. You won’t even have to ask for the sale, because your brand will be front and center in their mind, and they will actively seek YOU out.
So how do you get started?
By taking a look at a few examples of successful sponsored ad campaigns, of course!
The King of native advertising is BuzzFeed. They have abandoned all traditional advertising methods including banner or display advertising and have chosen to focus only on native advertising, such as promoted posts and articles.
Here are a few examples of highly successful native campaigns on BuzzFeed:
13 Things You’ll Miss Most From Your Twenties, published March 2015
This advertisement strongly promotes the TV Land brand message without being too in-your-face (even though the entire page promotes their brand with links to their Facebook page, twitter and website). The content is entertaining with different videos, animated cartoons and engaging content that keeps readers browsing the page. This is native advertising done right.
15 Bands That Probably Wouldn’t Exist Without Led Zeppelin, published December 2013.
Spotify is the sponsor of this highly engaging piece, and what they’ve been able to do with this page has been nothing short of amazing. By tapping into a huge audience of rock fans, they lure in readers with a captivating title and then slam them with great content while casually (and effectively) building brand awareness.
11 Jokes Only Call of Duty Fans Will Get, published October 2013
Any COD gamer will want to read this article that outlines 11 jokes that only COD fans will understand. This sponsored ad on BuzzFeed was created to promote the launch of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and was an instant hit with visitors.
BuzzFeed isn’t the only one with success in native advertising. One of the most hilarious, satirical websites online, The Onion, also features native advertising on their website as does Vanity Fair, Forbes, and Gawker, just to name a few.
By analyzing these examples of successful campaigns, you should have a better understanding of how native advertising works, and how you can make it work for you.
• How can you emulate a successful native ad by imitating what has been proven to work?
• What article titles come to mind that would capture your audience’s attention?
• What kind of entertainment value can you offer up?
• What sort of images, cartoons, trivia, riddles or jokes, or other content would your readers find interesting, and likely to share with others?
Regardless of your industry or niche market, you can easily adapt your ad campaign to focus on engaging methods of driving in traffic, and getting your readers attention, as long as you have a firm understanding of your market and what they are looking for.
If your business is in gaming, think about article titles that would instantly capture attention with your audience. If you are in weight loss, think of a catchy headline such as “10 Pounds in 10 Days”, and go from there.
Keep in mind that your native ad doesn’t have to be too extensive, or even lengthy. The most important component is that it’s informative, and highly entertaining. The more you can engage readers while reminding them of your brand and products, the more successful your native ad will be. So put on the thinking cap, and get to work!