Native Advertising: The Key to your Competitive Edge?

how to master native advertising

In a 2014 Copyblogger survey, nearly half of the respondents didn’t know what “native advertising” was.

Are you in the group that doesn’t know what native advertising is?

The survey, as I understand it, measured the general population, but for purposes of our discussion I want to break that down into two groups:

  • Small business owners, and
  • Consumers.

In many ways, consumers aren’t supposed to know what native advertising is, but if you’re a small business owner you really need to understand it and see if it is a marketing or advertising tactic that would benefit your business.

What are native ads?

Simply put, native advertising is advertising designed to look like regular content wherever it is used. It’s been around for a long time. You may have seen newspaper articles like the clipping below where an ad is designed to look like standard newspaper editorial content. Or you may have seen a TV commercial where it looks like a news anchor is talking to a health care provider about a new procedure for relieving back pain, or something similar.

newspaper native ad

With the rise of the Internet, many new native ad formats have become popular. In fact, much of what we read in the social media are native ads, or “sponsored content advertising.” An interesting fact is that consumers do not seem to object to native ads. They get a tremendous amount of engagement. Frankly, I think the content of most native ads is superior to regular content because advertisers need to set high standards in order for their ads to be effective.

NerdWallet is one online company whose native advertising I’ve noticed, and in fact I’ve shared links to many NerdWallet articles; they are generally quite good. You’ll see here how a company as big as Nasdaq is using native ads for content through its partnership with NerdWallet, and others I suppose.


Even Google seems to like native ads. I subscribe to various Google alerts and I’ve noticed that quite often they include articles that are actually native ads. I don’t know if Google’s algorithm is written to recognize native ads on a blog, for example, or not. I should also mention that the ads at the top of Google’s search results are themselves native ads – they look almost identical to regular search results.


Native ad networks

If you are working hard to create great content but not getting the traffic you want – or not getting it as quickly as you want – you might consider signing up with a native advertising network. Among the contenders for your native ad business are TripleLift, Gravity, Taboola, Outbrain, and Sharethrough. This is far from all of your options, so dig into the topic a little more deeply if you think native ads are worth pursuing.

Mobile native ads

The boom in mobile has created a parallel boom in mobile native advertising. These can be content, apps, social media and other creative forms of advertising. You’ll find ad networks that specialize in mobile native ads, including Mopub, Inmobi, Appsfire, and NativeX. The biggest player here may be Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg et al, are intent on being the leaders in all things mobile and advertising is at the top of their list.

There is a lot to learn about this arm of advertising, including important specifics that can vary by network, such as their native ad units and native ad formats. And, before we leave the topic today, let me cite one more finding from the Copyblogger survey I mentioned at the top: Only 3 percent of the respondents said they were “very knowledgeable” about native advertising.

If you can gain entry into that elite crowd, native advertising could prove very profitable for your small business.