December 6, 2013 Part 2 of our 5 day series on Native Advertising

I set out to write about developing a content strategy for native advertising programs with our own experiences in mind. We’ve learned through our own campaigns that our native ads performed best when the content was seasonal, unique, compelling and engaging. Then I set up time to chat with 5 marketers that are running successful native ad programs. Needless to say, my perspective quickly shifted. Compelling and engaging content is key. Unique and seasonal? That’s up for debate.

“Advertorial stretches as far back as the late 19th century when John Deere created “The Furrow,” a magazine to teach farmers how to make more money using John Deere products. Native advertising isn’t even new for the digital age. Google’s AdWords are native ads, as they match the form and function of search.”  –DigiDay

Content created for native advertising must be relevant—to the customer, audience and native ad publisher.



Your content marketing strategy is most-likely overwhelmed as it is. Loaded with plans for topics, channels, buying cycles and targeted customer stage. How can you meet these requirements, when each native ad publisher will also have a list of requirements for each piece of content you plan to run?

Native advertising, by definition, is creating ads that blend look, feel and style well with the property it runs on. A simple example is a sponsored article on the Washington Post, where the article looks just like a news story the Washington Post would publish.

One term—dozens of placements. Native advertising includes:

  • Sponsored  Articles
  • Discover Links on StumbleUpon
  • Promoted Videos
  • Promoted Tweets
  • Facebook’s Sponsored Stories
  • Promoted Instagram Images
  • Sponsored Blog Posts
  • Featured FourSquare Promoted Updates
  • Captcha Features
  • Playlist Sponsorships

When it’s time to plan for and create content for your native ad campaign, where do you begin? How do you plan for topics, seasons, and call to actions? Here are a few great places to start:

1) Take inventory of your published content.

The first golden rule of content marketing: reuse your content again and again. It’s the easiest way to get started quickly. Repurposing content to run on native ad networks isn’t an exact science. Your content may need a few format changes, fresh headlines and call to actions. But reusing your best performing content to get started gives you a foundation to get started, quickly.

This is where my ahaha moment happened. After talking with a few marketers of big brands, I learned that running strong, ever-green or re-purposed content on native ad networks is a hugely successful approach. Sure, you can revise & optimize the headlines and call-to-actions, but duplicate impressions long term isn’t as a big concern in this channel.

The 2nd golden rule: leverage and repeat; there’s power in repeating your message.

“Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.” – Seth Godin

First, find your best performing content. Then take note of slow performers, though don’t discount those yet!

From the best performing pieces, pull apart components for re-use. For example, find a top performing blog post and consider how you can use each component of that post in native placements. Use images, graphics, charts, blocks of copy, and statistics. Format the content based on the networks requirements, create or revise headlines and calls-to-action.
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Once your best performing content is running, add in your slow performing content analyzing and testing as you add each new piece.

2) Find the trends and hot topics.

Similar to planning topics for a content marketing strategy or PPC campaign, the google keyword planner is a robust resource where you can get insights to what’s being searched for and talked about.

3) Plan content based on network placement:Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 11.20.06 AM

Native advertising yields such high response rates because each piece of content is curated for a specific channel. Your content marketing strategy may call for a specific message to feature across many channels, in native advertising you’ll need to convey it differently. A promoted tweet   has different requirements than a facebook sponsored story or a sponsored blog post. Each placement requires you to interact with the audience differently.

Planning content by native ad placement takes a lot more careful attention to style, format, and brand voice. This is what serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk calls “the native tongue of the platform.”

A few good examples:

1. publishes timeless posts on their own blog, using native ad networks for amplification.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 12.22.00 PM

2) Levis sponsored image on Instagram leaves out a direct product message, instead features a branded lifestyle image.


3) Sponsored post by Intel on BuzzFeed

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Can Native Ads Scale?
As an online reader, it may feel like each native ad is created uniquely for each site. But native ads have recently seen the rise of their own networks. Technology driven publishing platforms like OutBrain and Nativo can deliver native ads across their huge networks of publisher sites.

Native advertising requires many versions of each marketing message, it also may require your brand to create or sponsor content that isn’t exactly on topic.

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i found this recently posted article sponsored by Intel on BuzzFeed, the headline “10 Sci-Fi Mash-Up Genres We Wish Existed” doesn’t exactly speak to an Intel product. But they somehow tie it together with the line “some things are better together. Like laptops and tablets!” It’s a bit of a stretch, and probably a better example of what not to do. When your publish content to simply publish content, it shows. This sponsored article makes the brand look tired and out-of-touch. The readers are feeling the same way, live for about a day and yielded just than 150 social interactions. Intel has more than 23 million fans on Facebook, they are missing the mark by sponsoring content that’s trying to be cool, and falls flat.

We shouldn’t lose site of the lesson here, content should always be interesting, engaging, compelling and line up nicely with your message. Don’t stretch it to thin – or you risk falling flat, wasting the opportunity and turning readers off.

Search Insiders Summit is scheduled for this weekend—December 8-11. eZdia co-founder and industry leader Alok Jain will be joining the awesomely experienced Native Advertising Panel (check out the other panel participants here) to discuss “When Search Marketers Go Native”.

For the 6 days leading up to the panel’s discussion, we’ll be dishing up the latest in Native Advertising. Here’s our schedule.

Drop us a comment — What’s the biggest hurdle to creating a content plan for native advertising? What tools are you currently using to help plan for native ad content?

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