Gaining positive attention online is getting harder and more complicated by the day. Consumers are increasingly avoiding traditional advertising in favour of more subtle sales techniques.
PageFair has found that since 2016 mobile ad-block usage has grown by approximately 108 million, while 11% of global Internet users now have some form of ad-blocker installed.
On top of that, a study by Sharethrough found that consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than regular display ads and that native advertising raised purchase intention by 18% compared to banner ads. This suggests a definite distaste for blatant selling techniques, highlighting one of the many reasons why so many companies are now investing in native advertising.
So what is native advertising and how is it different to content marketing? Content marketing focuses on creating content to improve your own website and should be part of your overall marketing strategy. Native advertising focuses on creating content to be published on a third-party site in the same or a similar style to their own content.
This doesn’t only include written content. Youtube has proven to be an effective platform for placing native advertising, while vloggers can use products and services as part of their ‘daily routines’ or ‘tutorials’ as long as they state somewhere on the page that it’s an Ad.
If you need some guidance on the subject, here are our top tips on how to get started:
Potentially the most important factor in successful native advertising is seamless integration. Good native advertising matches the layout and style of the platform it’s displayed on and is designed to communicate your brand’s message in the least intrusive and most organic way possible. Put simply, it should not look or feel like advertising.
For successful native advertising, not only must the layout and aesthetic of the content match the external site, but the tone, message and writing style must also be compatible. Finally, while it’s okay to drop your brand name, don’t go in for an immediate hard sell approach. This is a sure-fire way to expose your true intent and discourage users.
The next rule is to create content which stands up on its own merits. Content comes first, so don’t focus all of your energy on the product. Instead, think of creative content ideas which you can indirectly relate to your brand. Your content should be honest, engaging, informative and factual, and first and foremost should be all about the quality of the user’s journey.
The native content you create should add value to the reader’s life, otherwise, they will have no reason to engage with it – either through buying, liking or sharing. Creating important, relevant and interesting content which benefits or enriches your reader’s lives can create a positive association with the brand. It also has the potential to make users more open to what you have to say in future.
Part of improving UX is to consider the visual and aesthetic potential. We all know the saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’, and if you’re using images within your native advertising this can be particularly true. A Study by Kissmetrics suggests that users are increasingly showing a preference for visual over written content. This is because they are able to take in visual content faster and more effectively than written content, making for a more straightforward and relaxed experience. Users are also more likely to engage with and share visual content, enabling you to reach a wider audience.
It’s more important than ever to make relevant, insightful and, above all, shareable content. Native content should be of interest to your user outside the parameters of simply selling your product. It should benefit the reader in some way, possibly through providing information, enjoyment or even humour.
No post about native advertising would be complete without mentioning Buzzfeed for exactly this reason. Buzzfeed offers a niche platform for creating shareable content. This promoted post from BMW on Buzzfeed is a great example of native advertising in action. It has a hook, provides readers with information that will be of genuine interest to them and fits in with the rest of the content on Buzzfeed.
Social interaction is a huge part of why people use the Internet, particularly social media. It has revolutionised the way many people form and maintain relationships, and a significant proportion of these interactions are made up of sharing and exchanging enjoyable content.
The better the quality of your content, the more likely it is to be shared.
As we’ve stated, UX should be your primary concern. However, the next rule is to always keep in mind your content writing basics. Curate and refine your content for search engines and readers alike. Create awareness, interest or a need for your product or service, invest in a proof-reader or proofreading software optimise your keywords and remember the importance of your CTA.
Capitalising on current events in a timely manner will give you a head start at prioritising your content. Due to high levels of competition and quick turnovers, it’s critical that your content answers the need of the digital user of today and tomorrow, not yesterday.
It’s also crucial to keep your finger on the pulse. You can do this by following digital marketing blogs such as Moz, Kissmetrics and Occam’s Razor. These will help you keep up to date with the latest digital news, updates and strategies. In such a fast-paced environment where the rules of best practice seem to change every month, it’s especially important to keep up to date.
Finally, native content must be compatible or adaptable for use on multiple platforms. It must fit in with the user’s journey as part of a conversion path which makes sense. Additionally, consider the device your user will be viewing the content on. Stone Temple research shows that 55.79% of web traffic comes from mobile devices and suggests that this is only going to increase in future.
It’s never too early to think about how you’ll create native content for the next big device, such as an Alexa or Echo style home gadget. We’re already seeing native advertising being used in new and innovative ways through apps. For example, Taco Bell’s sponsored Snapchat filter in 2016. This innovative twist on native advertising received approximately 224 million views in its first 24 hours.
If you follow all of these rules, the content you create should serve you well.