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Beginners Guide to Native Advertising

The digital marketing sphere is buzzing with talk on native advertising lately.

If you’re looking for a low cost way to advertise your products or services and actually make more money back than you spend, then you’re going to love native ads!

Let’s Start With “What are Native Ads?”

Apart from the seemingly endless conversations about this new addition to the marketing mix, several social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr; and even players in the publishing industry like Time Inc., Forbes, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today have been integrating native ads into their own websites.

Sharethrough.com defines native advertising as “a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed”.

These advertisements deviate in form and function from traditional banner ads. They would look and act like natural content in that particular environment.

In other words, native ads published on Twitter would look like a normal tweet while a native ad placed on the New York Times would look like any other news or feature article. This creates a seamless and non-disruptive experience for users wherever they may be on the internet.

Because native ads have to be placed on third-party sites, they also have to be contextually relevant to the audience. Meaning it has to provide helpful information to the reader. This way, site users are more likely to engage with the native ad than a banner ad. In fact according a study made by CMO.com,

“Consumers are 25 percent more likely to look at a native ad than at a banner, and they look at them 53 percent more frequently. They check native ads out 4.1 times per session on average, versus 2.7 times for banners.”

Moreover, they have also found out that “Consumers are considerably more likely to share a native ad with others (32 percent versus 19 percent) and showed 18 percent more purchase intent after viewing them”, and that “Seventy-one percent of consumers who had previously bought a product from the advertiser said the brand was one they “personally identify with,” versus just 50 percent for banner ads.”

A notable feature of display ads is that need to come with warning labels like “sponsored stories”, “sponsored tweet”, or “sponsored content”. This is to make sure that the paid placement is 100 percent transparent to the audience.

Why Use Native Advertising

Over the past few years, countless publishers and marketers have bitten the dust and decided to include native advertising into their online marketing strategy. The same study from CMO.com revealed that

“Thirty-two percent of CMOs say they have bought or are planning to buy native video advertising in the next six months.”

In addition, “Nearly three-quarters of polled U.S. publishers said that they already offered native advertising on their site, and another 17 percent said they were considering offering it this year. Only 10 percent didn’t have any native ad plans.”

And “U.S. native ad spending on social sites will reach $2.36 billion, or 38.9 percent of total U.S. paid social ad expenditures. By 2017, social native ad spend will grow to $4.57 billion, and its share of social spending will inch up a few percentage points to 41.7 percent.”

These statistics can be attributed to the apparent benefits of native advertising. Here are some of the reasons why you should also consider adding native ads into your campaigns:

  • It effectively captures consumer attention. Since native ads don’t look like traditional ads (provided that there is sufficient caveats placed around it), they fare better in engaging the audience.
  • Native ads are shareable since they take the form of valuable and contextually significant content. This amplifies the reach of the brand significantly.
  • They build relationships through fostering interactions between a brand and its target consumers. Businesses who connect their native ads with the media outlet and its target audience have improved chances of having their content shared.
  • They work well with mobile platforms. Native ads are hosted on third party sites’ main content area meaning they can be deployed across devices including desktop, tablets, or smartphones. This increases the reach of the ads significantly.
  • Native ads pave the way for deeper and richer level of engagement between brands and consumers. They are for more informative than traditional ads which do nothing more than interrupt the consumers which means they are able to attract inquisitive consumers better.

What do Native Ads Look Like?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines six types of native ad units:

  • In Feed Units. These are stories that look like they are part of the news feed.
  • Paid Search Units. These are ads that appear in search
  • Recommendation Units. These are paid content recommendations based on what you are reading and your searches
  • Promoted Listings. These are products promoted on such sites as Esty or Amazon
  • In-Ad (IAB Standard) with Native Element Units
  • Custom / “Can’t Be Contained”

Ten Best Practices for Native Advertising

When used correctly, native ads can help you reel in more conversions for your ad campaigns. Below are top ten tips when buying display ads:

  1. Aim for a 0.50% or higher CTR. The click prices are determined by your CTR. The higher your CTR the lower your CPC.
  2. Unlike Facebook, the image matters little. Just make sure it’s relevant and has bold colors. Nothing too busy. Less is more.
  3. The ad copy does 80% of the work. BuzzFeed style headlines work wonders here. Don’t be too clever though.
  4. Instead of pausing your ads reduce your max CPC or daily budget. Pausing pulls your ad out of line and out of the optimization algorithm. Obviously, you can pause horrible ads, I’m talking about good ones.
  5. Create a new campaign for each interest you target, otherwise you won’t know which interest is causing the good or bad conversions.
  6. Create one campaign that targets no interests aka “run of network.” Their optimization algorithm is pretty good, let it do its job. Just set you max CPC to like $0.20 so it doesn’t get expensive.
  7. Always be testing multiple ads in each campaign. Try BuzzFeed curiosity style copy and plain straight to the point product benefit copy.
  8. Treat their landing page and ad guidelines seriously or else you’ll constantly get your ads disapproved. They aren’t nearly as strict as Facebook, but they like to keep it classy. No red borders, weird/gross images, or text images.
  9. If you’re spending more than $1,000 per day ask to speak with a managed account rep. They can offer you additional targeting settings on the back end like age ranges, retargeting, and additional audience segments.
  10. You don’t have to send your traffic to an advertorial, however, that’s what works best. Use an article that your target customer wouldn’t be able to resist, make the article educational and entertaining; include a reason why they should buy your product that fits nicely with the theme of the article.

What About Native Ads on Social Networks?

My favorite way to do native ads is through Facebook and Twitter ads. Yes, Twitter ads actually work, in fact I’m using them right now to promote this blog post.

All of the native ad networks above are great. Nothing wrong with them, but let’s face it, they are not as big as Facebook or Twitter. Nor do they have the deep targeting options that both social networks have with their ad platforms.

I’m not saying native ad networks don’t have targeted traffic. They do. You can target by demographics, location, even interests. However, Facebook and Twitter ads let you target keywords, hashtags, fan pages, and more. Even specific mobile devices.

This is why I use these two social networks for the bulk of my own personal native advertising.

Best Practices For Social Network Native Ads

As described above, native ads means they are native to the platform. When you use Facebook ads or Twitter ads for native advertising you should make them look and feel just like any other post on the platform.

You can do that by using an educational video that offers a tip and then offers a book, course, or physical product at the end. For example, if you are selling kitchen knives you’d use a video that teaches food preparation techniques and then offer a coupon for your knives at the end.

It doesn’t have to be video either