What Is Native Advertising?

What Is Native Advertising?
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: May 20, 2024

Many marketers don’t know what native advertising is — or if they have heard about it, they don’t know the difference between traditional advertising and native ads. In fact, 55% of marketers don’t know enough about it.

This leaves us with a small percentage of experts who are familiar with native advertising. The good news? Our go-to native advertising guide for beginners will help you unpack the intricacies of this marketing strategy and help you discover how it can grow your business.

What Is Native Advertising Exactly?

The official definition is that native advertising is paid media created to match the form and function on the platform on which it’s displayed. We know — it sounds confusing and vague, but this breakdown might help.

A native advertisement adapts to different platforms, so if you have an online publication with blogs, the native ad would be a blog post. It would be written and displayed so that it looks exactly like all other blog posts on that website.

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What Are Native Ads?

If native advertising is the process, a native ad is the product. As mentioned earlier, it is an ad created specifically to match the tone and style of the platform it’s run on. The only difference is that you can find a note somewhere around it, signifying that an external brand has sponsored it.

There are several types of native ads (which we’ll cover below), and they can be segmented according to the place they originate from and the platforms on which they can be found.

Native Advertising Channels

There are several types of native advertising channels. They can be segmented according to their origin and the platforms where they are available.

  1. Search Engine Native Advertising
  2. Native Advertising on Social Media
  3. In-Feed Native Ads

Search Engine Native Advertising

Even today, the most common form of native ads used remain those found on search engine result pages. When we view the first page of search results, the initial listings are typically paid ads, despite appearing identical to other search results on the page. How can you tell? All native ads have “sponsored” written just above them.

Check out this excellent example of a native search engine advertisement.

Search Engine Native Advertising
Many initial search engine results are paid native advertisements, such as the first result above.

As you can see, the only difference between the first search result and the one below is the “Sponsored” label. The snippet otherwise remains the same as organic options below, including the amount of text, layout, overall call to action, and goal of the search result.

Native Advertising on Social Media

Today, social media is the market for many companies. And it’s all thanks to native advertisements. Usually, these posts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X feature a “Sponsored” label beneath the handle in the upper left corner.

What’s interesting about this native advertising channel is that the general feel isn't that of a typical advertisement. Instead, each ad here is a relevant post, boosted to reach more people. It enables them to appear authentic and organic while subtly marketing a business, product or service.

For example, a digital marketing agency that provides consultancy services can use Instagram, create a post with a catchy line like “Not generating enough traffic? Check out how we can help!” and boost it. This way, the ad serves as both a post that will stay on their account and an ad that will circulate for the time they’ve paid for it.

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In-Feed Native Ads

In-feed native advertising are ads inserted into a site’s feed without appearing like an ad. They blend with all other posts without disturbing the user experience. The only indication that a post is an ad is the word "Sponsored" placed somewhere on it.

A simple example of an in-feed ad would be the posts you usually see on the side of a news page integrated with all other articles. It can also be a link to another brand (this is called a static in-feed ad). Let’s clear this up!

Imagine we’re a random blog post you’re reading, and you see a link placed on the best social media tools you can use to grow your brand. If you click it, it will guide you to DesignRush and a complete guide on the topic. This link is an ad calculated in CTRs that guides interested users to a topic without directly promoting it. It’s also merged in the feed, which is why it’s an in-feed native ad.

But it’s not just with posts. Videos can also be used as in-feed native advertising. Take a look at this video production YouTube ad.

In-Feed Native Ads

These in-feed native ads are integrated, presented as ordinary videos, with the only difference being, again, the word “Sponsored”. And of course, once you click on the thumbnail, you get directed to a video.

However, remember: Today’s in-feed native ads are not product placements. Yes, product placement is a predecessor to native advertising but there’s a distinction. In native ads, the product and content are merged, whereas in product placements, the product is added to the content.

The Benefits of Native Advertising

As you have probably gathered so far, native advertising works because you don’t feel as though it’s advertising at all. The content may promote a product or a service, but it won’t oversell or annoy readers — the content itself will be very natural and authentic.

But aside from this, native advertising has several other benefits:

  • An ability to reel in: Native ads can tease the content, without making readers dismiss the information. In fact, 26% of users think that native ads are less intrusive than traditional ads but with enough relevant information for them to click.
  • Bring in more profit: A Sharethrough/IPG Media Labs survey found that people see native ads 53% more than traditional banners, which translates to more clicks and a better return on investment (ROI).
  • Driving purchases: The same Sharethrough survey also concluded that native ads have a better purchase intent — 18%, compared to 9% with banner ads. Banner ads are so obsolete that an advertising company, Solve Media, made several “more likely to do than click on a banner” posts — one of them said that it’s statistically 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than to click on a banner.
  • Less expensive: If you’re wondering how much native advertising costs compared to traditional banners, the answer is way less than you think. Unlike TV commercials or live banners, with native advertising you just need to create content based on an already existent platform.

How To Grow Your Business With Native Advertising

Now that we’ve answered what native ads are, let’s dive more into how this type of marketing can help you grow your business. We will explore how to use native advertising to increase your return on investment and click-through rates.

  1. Label Your Native Ads
  2. Be a Guest Blogger
  3. Pay Others To Write for You
  4. Experiment With Different Native Ad Formats
  5. Choose the Best Headline
  6. Be Informative
  7. Match the Style And Form
  8. Sell, but Don't Underdeliver 
  9. Guide the Consumers of Content
  10. Retarget Users Who Engaged with Native Ads

1. Label Your Native Ads

Make sure you mark any native advertisements as sponsored posts (or the appropriate label). You need to maintain integrity to ensure your consumers don't feel deceived.

This rings true especially if you are new to creating content. In the first couple of native ads you place, you might create the wrong balance of selling and pitching, so having a clear label allows you to play a bit loosely with the rules.

Just remember — until you strike the right balance, you won't quite be writing a native ad piece, but a content marketing article. However, proper labels keep your brand honest and trustworthy and give you time to master the learning curve without alienating consumers.

2. Be a Guest Blogger

You can promote your products or services by finding opportunities to share your expertise and content on other people’s blogs. In fact, one survey found that guest posting is the third most popular strategy to link building and increasing traffic to your site.

In addition, you can use sites that allow you to become a contributor, writing your own native advertising piece and building authority within your target demographic and industry. This tactic is also great for SEO purposes by increasing link building from a major publication with a great online reputation.

3. Pay Others To Write for You

Publishers wouldn't have achieved their current status if they weren't adept at using effective content marketing tools and writing native advertisements. They are the experts, after all. Of course, you can always learn how to create an effective content marketing strategy with DesignRush's comprehensive guide.

4. Experiment With Different Native Ad Formats

Maybe an in-feed native ad is the right choice for your business, perhaps you can achieve success with some paid search results, or you can promote more of your already written content with simple content recommendations. There is a multitude of native ad options — you just need to find the one that works for your brand and business goals.

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5. Choose the Best Headline

The headline is arguably the most important part of a piece of published content. It sets the tone for the rest of the article and encourages people to read your native ad — or any type of content you create. Unfortunately, it's also why clickbait headlines work so well.

Yes, their primary goal is to spark curiosity, but that can quickly lead to anger for not receiving the promised, enticing news. Plus, people might click on those links, but often leave abruptly, ultimately harming your search engine rankings and optimization.

Your on-page time will decrease, your bounce rate will increase, and that will flag the content as undesirable to search engines. Instead, try writing powerful, engaging headlines.

A good rule of thumb when you’re having doubts about your headlines is to think about writing it simply for social media. Try something short, sweet and to the point that accurately describes the article. Then, include an adjective and an active-voice verb. 

6. Be Informative

Educate readers and provide real value that will be interesting enough to drive the engagement even further. Within your content, offer real tips and insights into a subject and, in general, write high-quality content so that people will feel satisfied with the read, and the “gain,” in terms of added value.

Stumped? Try topics like how-to guides and tips and tricks, as that type of content has a high conversion rate. For instance, in 2015, North Americans alone watched more than 100 million hours of how-to content.

7. Match the Style And Form

To create a successful native advertisement, you must match the style and format of a publication. Even though the labeling should clearly state that the post is sponsored, every other design, layout, topic, and tone of voice should subconsciously counteract that. This would allow the user to perceive this paid ad as the regular content piece on the publisher’s website.

8. Sell, but Don't Underdeliver 

This statement is true for both the content and the headline. You must walk the line carefully here — if you miss out on pointing out what you will bring to the table with your native ad content piece, people might not click, read, or comprehend it.

But if you go overboard, overpromise, and underdeliver, you will be leaving a lot of content consumers unsatisfied — you can risk losing their trust and long-term business. Market your piece at the exact right amount of value provided.

9. Guide the Consumers of Content

Whether it’s a video or a written native advert, learn how to guide the content consumers and ease them into an ad placement. If you do it too soon, you will lose their interest and your credibility. If it’s not relevant or if people can’t accept it as part of the natural flow of the content, then you executed the project poorly and need to reevaluate your approach to consumers.

Remember, native ads are called native because they must feel natural. Don’t try to force the ad. 

10. Retarget Users Who Engaged with Native Ads

Since native ads are responsible for a much higher click-through rate than banner ads, you can use retargeting to achieve better results with display ads. Because the users are already engaged with the native ad, they will be more receptive towards the display ad.

This is due to the fact that engaging with a native ad headline brings 308x better customer attention, as opposed to processing images or banners. A processed image might bring instant gratification, but a native advertisement will be impressed in their minds, ensuring consumers think about the product more and remember it with more clarity.

What Problems Does Native Advertising Face Today?

There are some indications that, while native advertising can prove to be a great investment, it may not be sustainable in the long run, as people might start to feel unfazed by it.

There are also instances of people losing faith in the promoted brand. In fact, only 30% of customers today trust brands, proving that native advertising is a tricky line to tow.

But it doesn’t stop there. People may also mistrust the publisher who ran the content piece. Additionally, ad blockers are also threatening the expansion of native advertising, as they are slowly evolving to recognize sponsored ad content on publisher sites.

However, this shouldn’t discourage you — now is the golden age of native advertising; as long as it is not being overused. The strategy still brings plenty of return on investment and strong click-through rates to businesses that are looking to expand their outreach.

Native Advertising Examples

1. In this article, we've scattered a few native advertising examples. But to deepen your comprehension of this topic, here are a few additional ones. Take a look at this in-feed ad on Yahoo News. It’s inserted between two other stories, making it seem entirely like a common Yahoo News post. However, the small “Ad” in the upper corner says otherwise.

Native Advertising Examples

2. A good example of a native ad would be this sponsored piece The Onion did for H&R Block. The latter paid for the ad and The Onion constructed it to look entirely like their other articles, allowing for seamless integration on the site.

3. You've likely experienced it: scrolling through Instagram reels or TikTok videos, only to encounter a post that's predominantly a picture. But it's also an advertisement? That's native advertising for you!

If you're hesitant about native advertising, consider this: the market is projected to exceed $650 billion by 2032. So, it could be advantageous to start investing in a native advertising strategy right away.

Native Advertising FAQ

How do you spot native advertising?

It’s pretty simple — just look for the “Sponsored” label around the post. On Instagram or Facebook, this is right below the handle, while for in-feed ads on some blog platforms, you can find it in the lower section of the post.

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