Did you know that the first banner ads went live nearly three decades ago? If you remember Netscape, you should also recall how unappealing web pages were compared to today’s standards. Despite their lack of aesthetic appeal, business websites still drew attention from people who were in awe of the internet as a concept.
And after the World Wide Web gained traction, monetization wasn’t far behind. Paid media found new real estate in October of 1994, where—you guessed it—equally unappealing banner ads appeared in digital form. Their flashiness and mystery commanded people’s attention—Ooo, what happens if I click here?
But that was when digital advertising was in its infancy. Fast forward to today, and we see a very different story when it comes to banner ads—an abysmal 0.6% click-through rate (CTR). Flashiness aggravates people, the mystery is long gone, and no one wants to find out what happens if they click.
As people have naturally started to tune out banner and display ads, businesses have sought new ways to capture people’s attention while browsing. Enter native advertising, a form of online advertising that strives to seamlessly integrate with the surrounding content. Instead of doing everything they can to stand out, native ads attempt to blend in to avoid disrupting the user experience. The result of this unique approach is a CTR that’s 8.8 times higher than traditional display ads.
Native advertising offers a better experience for users, which is why many business owners find this form of advertising more appealing than its conventional counterpart. Below, we will walk you through a few benefits of this advertising approach and the types of native ads you can use for your business.
Benefits of Native Advertising
Before exploring the different types of native ads, consider the benefits your business can experience by using native advertising:
Native ads encourage greater user engagement
Native ads are contextual by nature since they aren’t created to stand out. Instead, they relate to the content around it. If someone is already engaged in the surrounding content, they’re more likely to interact with related content (i.e., the native ad) than unrelated content (i.e., a random banner ad).
Native ads circumvent ad blockers.
Besides users’ general lack of interest in banner ads, there’s also a technology barrier at play: ad blockers. Over one-fourth (25.8%) of internet users block online ads on their devices. This primarily includes banner and display ads. However, native ads are typically not impacted in the same manner.
Native ads provide a better ROI.
As previously mentioned, the CTR for traditional banner ads is extremely low. Even if the ads are cheap, you can’t expect to get much in terms of results. Assuming your banner ads are even seen, users won’t trust that they hold any value. In contrast, digital ads that appear natively and contextually will result in more clicks and increase the chance your online advertising dollars will produce promising results.
6 Types of Native Advertising
Now that you understand how native advertising can help you market your business, see below for the different types of ads you can employ. Keep in mind that marketers may refer to these ads by other names, so pay close attention to the description of each to confirm the types of online ads you’re trying to place.
1. Recommended Content
Think of the last article you read on a news site or blog. When you reached the end of the piece, you were probably greeted with other content you could explore. These were articles relevant to the piece you read, whether because of the topic or the time it was published.
What you may not have noticed, however, is the “Sponsored” tag on some of those related articles. These particular articles were recommended content ads that a business paid to appear there. (You may have even clicked on one!)
Recommended content ads appear in different ways, depending on the publishing environment. These ads are similar content-wise and may be written by the publisher, the business that purchased the ad, or some combination of both. In any case, recommended content ads are only distinguishable at first glance by their labels, which tend to be visually discreet.
2. In-Feed Web Ads
In-feed web ads are virtually identical to recommended content, but they differ in where they are placed on the page. Recommended content pieces typically reside at the bottom of the page—at the end of the publisher’s content. In-feed web ads are placed somewhere within the publisher’s content feed.
Whether one is better than the other is up for debate, as both have their good points. You could argue that in-feed web ads can be more readily seen since not every visitor will make it to the bottom of the page. In the same vein, visitors who make it to the bottom can be considered more engaged and likely to click on recommended content.
3. In-Feed Social Media Ads
In contrast to the previous ad type, in-feed social media ads are exclusive to social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Instead of appearing as related content, they are visually similar to standard social posts. With social media advertising, paid posts adhere to the same dimensions, structure, and requirements as posts on each respective platform.
In-feed social media ads can be liked, commented on, and shared like regular posts—unless you choose to disable these social actions. Digital ads on social media are denoted in different ways, depending on the platform. Typically, you can look for a “Sponsored” or “Promoted” tag to determine whether a business has paid for you to see a given post.
If you consider how most people use social media (i.e., endless scrolling), users likely will interact with a post before realizing it’s sponsored—assuming you’ve done a good job making the post relevant and appealing, and they’re interested in the subject matter.
4. Paid Search
Your favorite search platform is another place native ads can appear. Whether you’re searching for a new dentist or the best type of project management software, you’ll see paid search ads that fit in with standard search results. If you look carefully, you’ll see “Ad” tags on the first few results, and sometimes on the last few as well—like “Sponsored” tags, they denote paid items.
In the case of the dentist search, you’ll likely see dentists in your local area due to location-based targeting, an advertising practice that places ads where users are geographically. For the software example, search results will be popular or high-paying solutions in the market. Clicking a paid search result will likely take you to a product page where you can learn more about the solution and potentially make a purchase or subscribe.
5. Promoted Listings
Unlike the first few types of native advertising that are generally some type of editorial content, promoted listings tend to be sponsored products. You often find promoted listings on sites that sell other products. Amazon is a good example. Try searching for bed sheets or dog toys, and you’ll quickly notice several products fitting those item categories—only they have “Sponsored” tags (or similar labeling).
Other than their labels, promoted listings are identical to regular listings. The “promoted” aspect is essentially just a way to get products seen before customers choose a competitor. Much like standard search results, people tend to stick to the first page because they feel the initial results are most relevant.
6. Custom Ads
Custom ads are unique. Unlike all the other ad types, there is neither a standard method of creation nor a specific digital location to serve them. Generally, if an ad goes off the beaten path of the preceding types, it’s considered custom.
As an example, consider Snapchat, a popular social media platform. A user-favorite feature is the Snapchat filter—it gives users the ability to visually manipulate their appearance in all manner of ways. A business can deploy a custom native ad here by creating their own branded filter and serving it on Snapchat.