The secret to getting links from national newspapers, enhancing your SEO and skyrocketing brand awareness

06 August 2014

Native advertising is a way for brands to promote themselves using content or ads that resemble their surroundings. So, on Buzzfeed for example, native advertisers might produce humorous list posts and, in The Guardian, they could create authoritative-looking feature articles.

Why use native advertising?

Traditional ads are firmly out of favour. Whereas a banner ad in 2000 might have had a 9% click-through rate, nowadays this has dropped to 0.2%, and this is why advertisers are looking to native advertising to deliver ads and promotions that consumers do pay attention to. Making content and ads contextual so that they merge with the format of a website is an effective way to combat this ‘ad blindness’.

A significant benefit of native advertising is the ability to place your branding in front of a much wider audience. Their existing fans have already demonstrated that they like a particular style or format of content, so make sure that what you share is adapted to suit the host website. Transparency is key: never try to disguise the fact that native advertising is paid content. Leaving readers feeling cheated is not an effective marketing tactic!

Native advertising can be focused on Open Platforms or Closed Platforms. Closed Platforms are single websites like Buzzfeed whereas Open Platforms, such as Taboola and Outbrain, are services that share content out over multiple websites.

Native advertising with Taboola and Outbrain

These two services present links to ads for ‘related posts’ on other websites. With algorithms that match the content of an ad to the content on a webpage, they present relevant, ‘you might also like…’ style links at the end of an article or blog post, usually on a pay-per-click basis.

These kinds of native ad networks offer brands widespread exposure across a large range of platforms. Plus, they are relevant to the reader and, because they aren’t intrusive in the way that flashing banners or pop-ups are, they don’t annoy site visitors.

The Daily Mail website uses the Taboola widget, which contains this kind of contextual advertising:

The Taboola widget recommends over 1 million pieces of content and gets 400 million unique visitors per month. Their advertisers pay between $0.25 and $0.75 per click.

The Guardian favours a similar service to Taboola, called Outbrain.

Outbrain has stood out thanks to its efforts to rid its network of spammy posts and, in 2012, they banned advertisers who used misleading claims in their headlines. This resulted in a 25% drop in revenue, but they have remained determined to providing good quality links that readers will want to click.

Native advertising and SEO

The question of whether native advertising can boost SEO is somewhat complex. However, the key points to bear in mind are:

  • Paid links, and this includes links in native advertising content, must be marked as rel=”nofollow”, which means they can’t directly pass any SEO benefit
  • Great content shared via native advertising can introduce new visitors to your website and encourage social sharing and natural backlinks, and all of these do help with SEO.

Seeing SEO as purely a matter of ‘dofollow’ backlinks is short-sighted. The better your content, the more organic virality it will see, and this applies to native advertising as much as self-hosted content. So, even if your promoted post on BuzzFeed can’t pass any link juice, if it’s well targeted and good enough to entertain BuzzFeed readers, it will invariably result in higher brand awareness, increased natural links, earned social media promotion and better customer engagement. This is something we recently implememted for our client the digital marketing recruitment consultant Altitude Digital with great success.