Native Advertising: A Guide to How Native Ads Work

Gabrielle Hass
Published: Dec 03, 2021
Last Updated:
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The advertising market is saturated. As the business world grows increasingly competitive, advertisers have embraced every possible advertising location and opportunity. Standard ads are so pervasive that many customers are growing tired of advertising in general.


That's why many marketers are turning to native advertising. A native ad is a piece of content that's indistinguishable between sponsored and regular content on the platform it appears. These ads don't trigger the same fatigue as different kinds of marketing because they're interesting, engaging, and don't look like an ad at first glance. Keep reading to learn all about native advertising, its benefits, and how to implement it effectively.

What Is Native Advertising?

The term "native advertising" gets its name from the practice that makes it unique. A "native" ad blends in with other content on its hosting platform, similar to an advertorial. It looks like it belongs on the site, rather than looking like a traditional banner or pop-up ad. As a result, users are less likely to ignore the content and engage with your brand.

For native advertisements to be effective, it needs to be relevant content. This is what sets it apart from a standard advertisement. For example, a native ad on a social media website looks like any other post on that platform. It fits the form and function of the site and relies on engaging information to get attention.

Programmatic native advertising is the natural evolution of this concept. Not only does it present ads in a way that looks natural to your audience, but it also chooses when to show ads to users based on hyper-targeted audience segmentation. Sites will use information about their users to show your ads to the people who will care about it the most, letting your target narrow niches more accurately.

What Are the Benefits of Native Advertising?

Why is native advertising becoming so popular? Because it works. Studies have shown that native advertising is more effective at capturing attention and keeping people engaged. In fact, the click-through rate of native ads is more than 40 times higher than that of standard ads.

This marketing technique isn't just a way to keep your audience from ignoring ads, though. It can encourage people to interact with and share your marketing materials. People can easily miss a banner ad or close a pop-up. However, if you use exciting videos or engaging blog articles as part of your native advertising, people may seek out your content and share it.

What Are the Types of Native Advertising?

There are many types of native advertising. Any platform can host native ads, from social media posts to magazine editorials, but some are more effective than others. There are three main locations where native advertising is often found: blogs and news feeds, search engines, and social media sites. Here's how this form of advertising works in each of these locations and examples of what it looks like.

Recommended Content

Recommended content is some of the most subtle native advertising available. It can take several forms, such as:

  • Product recommendations on a partner website
  • Paid editorials on blogs and news sites
  • Sponsored reviews on YouTube

What all of these have in common is that when you use them, you're working directly with another content provider to promote your brand. You're paying your marketing partner to recommend your brand to their audience in a natural way so you can capture their attention.

The blog Wit & Delight performs some great recommended advertising content for brands like Grove. In this article, the author writes about the product in her usual style, presenting it to the audience like any of her other posts. If it weren't for the short disclaimer at the top of the article, it would fit right in with the rest of her editorial content.

Wit and Delight Native Advertisement

Even with the notice, though, her readers are still willing to read the sponsored content because it's engaging, and they trust her to only partner with quality brands. This is just one of several popular examples of advertising to consumers with what seems like natural content.

Promoted Search Results

Some of the most well-known native advertising examples are promoted search results. People use search engines to find information and products to solve their problems. While improving your SEO to appear at the top of the search results is excellent, you can also use paid native advertising to place your pages above even the top-ranking site.

Native ads in a search engine look like any other search result, except they are marked as "sponsored" results. They appear just under the search terms before the actual results. This can be a massive benefit for your company if your SEO isn't getting you to the top of the page. Two-thirds of people only look at the top five results, so a simple native ad can make a big difference to your site's traffic.

You can select search terms and bid how much you're willing to pay for each ad display. The search engine then delivers your ad to people who have searched for your keywords, and you pay for each time the ad is displayed.

Here's a great example of what native ads look like in Google:

Google Search Native Ads

In this promoted result, the ads are relevant to the user's search. Since it appears at the top and answers the question, many people will click it instead of further scrolling to see the other results.

"In-Feed" Ads

Native ads on social media sites are some of the most flexible types of advertising. They typically look like the other posts on the site, which is very flexible on most platforms. For instance, a Facebook native ad could be a simple post with images, video ads, a link to feature articles, or even a live stream. Twitter and Instagram can do the same. The only difference is the inclusion of a small piece of text above or below the post that states it's sponsored.

To post an in-feed ad on a social media site, you'll use the built-in advertising features to promote a particular post. You can set a budget for how much you're willing to spend on ads and choose your preferred demographics. The platform will then present your ad to people who fit those demographics until you've met your budget.

Here's what in-feed ads look like on Facebook:

In-Feed Ads on Facebook

Similarly, in-feed marketing on Twitter looks like this:

Tiwtter In-Feed Ads

Notice how both posts follow the standard format for the platforms. If it weren't for the "Promoted" or "Sponsored" tags, you might not even notice that the posts are paid marketing.

How Can You Implement Native Advertising?

Implementing native advertising is different from managing other styles of marketing. Native advertising needs to appeal to your audience as exciting or helpful content while meeting government regulations for customer awareness. Here's how you can implement native advertising that complies with marketing laws while also bringing in customers.

Understand the Regulations

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has specific advertising standards and regulations regarding how companies can advertise their products, especially with native ads. The most important rule for native advertising is simple: It must be clear that the content is an ad. That means that the platforms that have been paid to post your content must state that they received compensation for it.

This law was put in place to protect consumers. Before, unscrupulous marketers were paying for ads that weren't identified as such. Customers who encountered those ads were unfairly influenced, assuming the ads were honest and unbiased opinions.

Remaining in compliance with native advertising regulations is simple. If you're paying for ads on a social media site or search engine, the platform will automatically designate your content as an ad. If you're paying for content elsewhere, such as on an influencer's blog, just remind the person posting it to include a disclaimer that the post is sponsored.

Choose Your Native Advertising Style

Your business probably lends itself better to certain forms of native marketing. Consider the ways you already advertise and which methods are currently most effective. Do you lean heavily on social media and online advertising? Then in-feed ads could be an excellent way to bring in more followers. Do you invest in content marketing? Then a content recommendation is a natural fit. Do you get a lot of organic search engine traffic? You may be able to increase that traffic through search ads.

By choosing your preferred style that matches your current marketing campaigns, you can focus on creating targeted content for it. If you're not sure, try all three kinds and stick with the one that gets the best results.

Connect with the Platform

If you don't already have accounts or relationships with the partners you want to use, it's time to start. With Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it's as simple as making a page and profile for your company. All you have to do is to set up these respective social media business accounts.

If you're using recommended content marketing, you'll need to reach out to the specific sites and influencers you want to use. You can contract for one piece of content at a time or enter a long-lasting partnership right away. The specifics of these arrangements vary, so don't be afraid to negotiate.

What Are Some Native Advertising Best Practices?

What if you've already begun your native advertising campaigns? You can still improve them. There are a few native advertising best practices that you can implement that will make your native ads more effective.

Look for a Good Platform Match

It's important to choose a native advertising platform that's suitable for your business. When improving your native advertising, you need to choose venues that work best for your company.

For instance, Instagram and Twitter prioritize very different types of content. While you can share posts on both social media platforms, Instagram requires all posts to include images while Twitter does not. This makes Instagram a better choice for businesses with image or video content. Each site's respective userbase is very different from the other.

Similarly, if you're performing recommended content advertising, the people and sites you partner with will vary. If you're targeting a younger audience, you might choose to work with YouTube and Instagram influencers. If you're looking for older or more serious leads, you could focus on blogs and news outlets. Like other types of advertising, focus your efforts on channels that your target audience uses.

Create Engaging Content for the Platform

Once you've found the platforms that work for you, it's time to develop your content. With native advertising, your content on every site needs to be built for that platform. For example, prioritize your images on Instagram and use curated hashtags on Twitter. Make sure your ads in search are enticing.

Content creation can be some of the most time-consuming parts of native advertising but it's worth doing it well. If you're creating a large amount of content, or if you're looking for long-form blog posts to share, you can work with a copywriting service to produce engaging, original articles that will catch the attention of your target audience.

Manage and Track Campaigns in Real-Time

A significant benefit of native advertising is your ability to improve your campaigns while they're running. You can update posts and refine your target audience without needing to start from scratch. However, to make these improvements, you'll need to track your campaigns' performance.

Big sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter provide built-in tools to track your ads' key performance metrics. You can also use tools like Google Analytics to monitor whether native ads on other platforms are sending you traffic. Keep an eye on your native ads, and you'll be able to make them more effective with every new post.

How Do You Get Started With Native Advertising?

There are plenty of ways to begin adding native advertising to your marketing plan. You may have already been using this strategy without realizing it. Native advertising is as simple as designing ads that fit in with your chosen advertising platform instead of standing out. This simple change helps your target audience pay attention to your content instead of ignoring it.

You can make the most of native advertising by following a few basic guidelines. As long as you've chosen platforms that mesh with your brand, follow FTC guidelines, and create native content that's built for the platform you're using, you're on the road to success.


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