Digital media flourished in the ad-supported digital ecosystem, and almost overnight, online marketing went from being a technical wonder to a business must. At one point, however, the traditional banner, pre-roll, and pop-up advertising that did the trick in the past started to push customers away instead of drawing them in.
Digital marketing is a fast-paced and ever-evolving industry where the bleeding edge is everything in the never-ending battle for customers’ attention. Yet, after all, the best marketing is one that doesn’t feel like marketing at all. And that is how native advertising, one of the most immersive advertising experiences, was born.
Our all-in-one native advertising guide will help you unpack the mysteries and intricacies surrounding this marketing strategy of the future. Read on to find out what native advertising is, why it matters, and how you can use the power of native ads to boost your digital marketing efforts and skyrocket your business success.
Take a deep breath because we’re diving right in!
Native advertising is a form of paid advertising. It’s the process of designing ads that seamlessly match the structure and function of their surroundings – the media format they appear. In other words, native advertising is non-disruptive paid media relevant to the consumer experience and harmoniously integrated into the surrounding content. Scratching your head? Let’s break it down.
The key idea behind native advertising is creating ads so cohesive with the content of a web page or app, flawlessly camouflaged into the design, and consistent with a digital platform’s overall feel that the viewers feel it naturally belongs there and, thus, don’t perceive it as an ad.
Native ads blend into their surroundings by matching the look and feel of a site or an app to provide a better user experience for visitors, instead of jumping out at readers screaming: “Hey, this is an ad! Look at me!”
The “sell-sell-sell” and “in-your-face” advertising methods simply do not work in today’s advanced digital era. In fact, they do more damage than good by putting off users and leaving them running for the “X” button. After all, nobody reads advertising – people read stories, information, and solutions. Thus, marketers should not seek to disrupt conversations but to integrate. And that’s where native ads come into play.
Native ads are ads that fit “natively”, naturally and seamlessly on the web page they appear on – hence their name. In contrast to banner or display ads that are often seen as intrusive, native ads are consumed as if they were any other piece of content, with barely a blip in the consumer experience.
By taking on the look of the media they appear on, they help spread commercial messages that don’t look like traditional advertisements that overtly push products or services without raising any promotional “red flags” or disrupting users’ interaction with the page, so they can be consumed as if they were a natural part of the user experience architecture of a given digital platform.
Innovation is crucial to digital marketing. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up and reconnect with the users in the modern advertising space, we’re in trouble.
Back in the day of online advertising’s first baby steps, the blinking web banners ruled the web as they caught users’ eyes with their flashy design. Over time, users got accustomed to these dull ads to the point they didn’t even notice them anymore. Then came the notorious, pestering popups that unapologetically interrupted the browsing experience. Eventually, the click-through rates (CTR) started to decline, so the marketing world needed to breathe new life into its advertising methods.
Unlike traditional display ads, modern-day native advertising offers the opportunity to truly connect, engage and build trust with users and impact purchase behavior subtly. It does that by naturally blending into the media format of users’ choosing and seamlessly integrating into the potential customers’ experience to avoid being intrusive and disruptive.
Native ads benefit everyone in the ecosystem: the users, the publishers, and the advertisers. The list of all the pros and distinct advantages of using native advertising could go on forever – there are numerous benefits to using this strategy for building brand awareness and driving engagement and revenue.
Here are some of the most prominent ones:
The biggest advantage and true power of native ads lie in their ability to expose readers to promotional content without sticking out and users dismissing them like they would traditional ads. Native advertising works because it doesn’t feel like advertising at all – it may be promoting a product or a service but doesn’t oversell or annoy readers.
The effectiveness of native advertising is another one of its digital superpowers. Native ads generally perform better in contrast to many other ad formats. In fact, 71% of consumers say they personally identify with brands that launch native ads, while only 50% feel the same way about traditional display ads. Sound like a win-win!
Does native advertising actually work? Statistics would agree – native ads drive 8.8 times higher CTR and 18% higher purchase intent than traditional display ads. Talk about effectiveness! The contextual relevance of native ads allows them to produce high Click-Through Rates and, thus, significantly boost conversions and ROI.
Native advertising helps brands build trust among their target audiences and connect with them by sharing valuable content without resorting to annoying pop-ups or intrusive and disruptive messages that feel “forced” and “fake”, completely ruining user experience and brand image.
Native ads are successful only when done right. To achieve their “invisible yet visible” quality, native ads must be unobtrusive, fit in with the rest of the user experience and provide value. However, success in native advertising is not all about execution – it also depends on picking the right channel and form of native ad that aligns with your digital marketing goals and brand.
One of the most common types of native advertising is one you probably come across daily – the ads on search engine result pages. The top of the first search results page is almost always adorned with paid ads, but if you weren’t familiar with Google’s paid ads, you probably wouldn’t even it’s there – the only difference between sponsored search results and other organic search results is a small “Ad” label that sits unobtrusively in the corner.
Native ads can also be run on social networks, where they take on the form of a regular post. Sponsored posts on social platforms perfectly fulfill their native advertisement duty of blending into the format of the medium they’re presented on.
You probably noticed how posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest seamlessly blend into the rest of the feed – they look completely natural, apart from being labeled as “sponsored” within the well-hidden caption or location stamp, enabling them to look and feel authentic and organic while subtly promoting a business, product or service.
Many websites, social media platforms, and news outlets incorporate some variation of a “feed” for the online content they provide. In-feed ads are placed natively in the news feed or social feed of a platform and appear in line with the rest of the scrolling selection of organic content.
Native ads are often intelligently embedded in personalized suggestions and recommendations for content users might be interested in, in the form of scrollable content carousels. They also found their way into promotional listings, like Amazon’s.
Digital advertising campaigns and native advertising options are constantly evolving, continuously opening the path for new creative ways to seamlessly blend in native ads to engage with target audiences and drive conversions. As native ads are masters of camouflage, custom sponsored content can be integrated into any digital platform or take on any form – they could be anything from Snapchat and Instagram filters to videos or tweets.
Why don’t we sneak a peek at a few other interesting and popular examples of native ads and how they work their magic to help you get the pig picture?
On a blog-oriented website, the native ad would be a blog post, written and displayed in a way that looks like all the other blog posts on that site, apart from a little note somewhere that it’s sponsored by an external brand. Promoted social media posts are native ads, for example, as is sponsored recommended content at the ends of articles.
Paid video content on Youtube is a great example of how native mobile advertising works. This promotional media is designed to match the visual design and function of natural content appearing in your Youtube feed of recommended videos.
Certain people warned about the danger of potentially “angering” users by resorting to trickery and deception by masking native ads into regular content people came for and called for greater transparency regarding native advertising.
Despite the stigma and controversy around native advertising, regulators and publishers consider native ads ethical, as long as they’re labeled clearly. The reasoning behind this is that if readers know they are looking at promotional, commercial messages (like when the ad is clearly labeled), then native advertising isn’t deceptive and, thus, ethical.
So, there are laws and legal guidelines that regulate the native advertising landscape. For example, although savvily blended, mandatory texts such as ‘promoted by’ or ‘sponsored’ within a post or a thumbnail are there to indicate that it is paid, commercial content.
Although we’re currently in the golden age of native advertising, it might not be as effective in the long run.
Just like the “banner blindness” eventually evolved, people might become numb to native ads at some point, as well. There are also indications that some people don’t trust brands that promote branded or sponsored content, in general. Perhaps the greatest potential threat lurking around the corner is ad blockers, slowly evolving to recognize sponsored online content.
It remains to be seen how this will shape the future of native campaigns. In the meantime, feel free to leverage all it has to offer, as this powerful native content marketing strategy drives sky-high ROIs and strong click-through rates for businesses worldwide, making it oh-so worth your time.
Native ads have left traditional forms of advertising biting the dust and risen to the very top as the most popular and successful form of advertising in today’s digitally-centered world. Their superpower is their unique ability to camouflage their way into customers’ minds and hearts without interfering with their digital experiences, as well as evolve alongside the digital sphere and media as they change.
When executed correctly, native advertising campaigns are some of the most powerful tools modern-day marketers can leverage. Try to steer away from deceptive, over-the-top, or dull native ads, as they can damage your advertising efforts. Use our tips and insights to navigate the digital native advertising landscape and natively advertise, or, shall we say – camouflage – your way to digital marketing success!
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