June 18, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
When we talk about content marketing, we often discuss the organic methods brands use to get more traffic and recognition without paying for them. The downside of an organic content approach is that it takes time to work and see results. Many companies combine their organic methods with paid ones to see results more quickly. But writing sales copy for paid search differs from content marketing writing. Wouldn’t it be great to use the content you already create for paid marketing? You can, if you engage in native content development. We’re exploring native content in this article with topics like:
Native content is a paid piece of content marketing that appears on a site other than your own. The content matches the look and feel of the host site seamlessly. Readers may not even know it doesn’t come from an outside brand or source unless they’re paying close attention. Native content goes by many other names like:
While each one of these types of native content has its own little nuances, they essentially all do the same thing. One brand creates a piece of content and pays to share it as an integrated part of another website or host source. For transparency’s sake, most native content features a disclaimer message to alert readers that what they’re seeing is part of a paid sponsorship between two brands.
The host site dictates how the content looks, where it shares pieces, and the payment model for the partnership. The final decisions for these elements typically come from content meetings between marketing teams and management from both companies. Often, the host site recommends native content to readers and viewers based on their browsing habits. These suggestions generate based on tags or a site algorithm and show up in the footers and sidebars of the website.
Though they sound the same, and many marketers use the terms interchangeably, native content and native advertising aren’t the same things. Native advertising came first. It got its name because these ads didn’t look like the typical ones people were used to seeing. Instead, the advertisements mimicked the look or feel of the websites they were on. Native advertising includes links, banner ads, and images that take you to paid or sponsored content.
Native advertising is promotional and action-based. It encourages the audience to click, move, leave the page they’re on, and “do” something. Native advertising is also an interruption. Though it flows with the look and feel of the website, it’s still an ad. These promotions appear in the header, footer, or sidebar of a website, or sometimes intersperse among paragraphs in content. In the end, they still look like ads, even when they fit the site’s aesthetic.
Native content isn’t just clickable images or links that take you from one place to another. It includes both long- and short-form pieces of content like blog posts, articles, and videos. These pieces tell stories, provide value to the audience and do all the things traditional content marketing does. Unlike advertising, these pieces aren’t interruptive. Sharing native content is still a paid media strategy, but the goal doesn’t always have to be making a sale or reaching a conversion.
To make things more confusing, a native ad can lead to native content. For example, you may click a native ad within an article on a website and it takes you to native content from another brand. Both work together to secure conversions and increase brand awareness to round out your marketing strategy.
The idea behind native content is that your brand wants to integrate its message or presence into media and material people already see on a daily basis. If you can put your brand name and content in front of your target audience where they already spend time, you don’t have to do anything extra to get their attention. Here are some primary reasons to use native content in your marketing strategy:
Native content takes the best parts of inbound content marketing and takes it to a channel where you can get more readership or viewership and brand recognition. Because the content integrates into the host site, it’s non-intrusive. You’re not smacking their audience in the face with your ad or cluttering up your audience’s search page with paid results. Your brand simply shares content just like it would on its own channels, but in a space made to access new leads.
There are likely subtle brand mentions and links throughout the content and in the disclaimers, but you’re not making a hard sell for your products. You’re simply existing in the same spaces as your audience and giving them the opportunity to notice your brand.
Clients and consumers get ad fatigue. They get sick of seeing ads for so many products and services every day that they start blocking them out. It doesn’t matter how relevant the ads are to their needs once they’re weary of seeing yet another hard-sell promotion. Using native content works the same way as your other content marketing. It gives your audience the chance to find your brand on their own.
You’re not trying to persuade them to do anything or push products on them. Native content proves them information, answers, or value in another way, in places they already spend time. This helps them remember your brand in the future when they do want to buy something. They have better feelings associated with your brand because it wasn’t one of the ones clamoring for their money without providing additional value.
If you do traditional content marketing, you already have the resources to engage in native content development. Your marketing team, copywriters, and SEO and social media specialists create and promote pieces for your brand every day. The only change you need to make is finding the right paid partnerships to host the content they make rather than putting it on your own website.
When your content appears on a host site, that’s like getting the other company or influencer’s stamp of approval. It shows that they trust your brand as a quality resource. The host company’s audience trusts them. They wouldn’t visit that site or follow that account if they didn’t. That association helps build their audience’s trust in your company. By associating your brand with one members of the audience already like, you’re able to snag some of that credibility. Their audience may be more willing to give your company a chance, sight unseen with less research, just by the host site’s recommendations.
There are benefits and drawbacks to everything you do in marketing. Native content is no different. The decision you have to make when picking content marketing channels and strategies is if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for any given plan.
The cost is likely the biggest concern for any brand looking to engage in native content, especially those new to paid marketing. Pricing differs based n the host site but you may look at a price of $250 to $750 per article for traditional written content. For social media posts, depending on the brand or influencer, you could pay anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per post.
If native content is something you want to pursue, there’s likely a platform out there where you can make it happen. But that brings up another potential drawback: does the channel or partnership you can afford actually appeal to your audience? Affordable native content options are a waste of time and money if they’re not on your target audience’s radar. In situations like this, you have to decide if you want to pay more money to display your content where your audience spends time. The answer differs for every company and campaign, and only you can make that decision for your brand.
Native content is just like traditional content marketing you’d do on your own site, in the development sense. For that reason, any content you’d create to post and promote on your own channels also work for paid native content. Some options include:
Some native content online is really clear and easy to spot. Take sponsored online content from Seventeen magazine, for example. Not only does the site have a full section dedicated to partnership content, but it also provides a full disclaimer of the partnership at the top of each article.
But, if you continue to scroll down within the article, you wouldn’t be able to tell this is sponsored content. It looks just like any other article on the website.
Most written native content appears this way on the host site, with some kind of distinction in the byline or near the beginning to indicate a partnership. Then, the piece jumps into what would otherwise be a traditional article for the host site.
Social media posts have even more indicators when you come across native content. In the description, you might see hashtags that read #ad or #partner. You may also notice two account names at the top of the post, sharing the influencer or host brand as well as the sponsored brand name.
Image via Instagram by @tameramowrytwo
The look and feel of native content and the terms of the sponsorship deal fall to the host site or account. While things may look slightly different no matter where the audience visits, most native content follows similar rules to be transparent with readers about brand partnerships.
Use these tips to make the most of your native content within your marketing plan:
Understand your target audience or audience segments deeply before jumping into producing native content. Your audience’s behaviors, needs, and wants help you decide what content to create and which platforms to choose. If you haven’t created client personas for each segment of your audience, start there. This can give you insight and clues about where your audience spends their time and the content they look for when visiting those channels.
Related: FAQ: What Is Audience Segmentation?
Just because you can use native content on a channel doesn’t always mean you should. The strategy is only going to work if you’re using native content in places where people you want to bring into the fold spend their time. You also need to consider the cost of doing paid marketing and how it fits into your budget. Finally, consider that if the partnership takes off and you need to scale up production, how will you do it?
Each one of these items factors into finding and choosing the right host site. It’s okay to be picky and ask a lot of questions before you agree to a native content partnership. The best deals like these happen when both brands benefit from the partnership. If the fit doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. In those cases, it’s okay to walk away from a potential deal and find one that’s a better fit for your content and your company.
One of the key hallmarks of native content is that it’s supposed to fit seamlessly within the other content on the host site. If your content team creates the pieces to share, they need to be in tune with how the host site looks and how that brand publishes content. Do they use short or long paragraphs? Can you include images or other media? Is one type of content, like a list, better than another?
While you want to keep your brand voice and message authentic, you also have to blend into the crowd when doing native advertising. To hold true to your brand voice, choose host sites that match the kind of content and tone you already use. For example, if your brand voice relies on humor, you might try to partner with a host site like BuzzFeed rather than the Wall Street Journal. The fewer changes you have to make to your own brand voice and content to get them to integrate on a host site, the most likely you’ll be to get more qualified readers and leads.
Have you ever watched a television show or movie and it was blatantly obvious which companies sponsored production because of prominent product placement? You don’t want your native content to come off like that. Remember, it’s supposed to blend in with the host site.
Native content is not a hard-sell advertisement. Yes, it can be persuasive. Yes, it can name-drop your company and even link back to your products and services. But it’s not a traditional ad. Develop native content the same way you’d develop pieces for your own website. Focus on value, answering questions, and sharing your brand personality rather than jumping straight to the bottom of the marketing funnel and trying to make an immediate sale.
If you want your audience to trust you, don’t manipulate or trick them. You always want to be sure that readers know when they’re seeing sponsored content. If they feel deceived, they may lose trust in both your brand and the host website. Thankfully, most sponsored content partnerships have plans and safeguards in place to alert the audience when they encounter branded information. Work with your host company to talk about how to display your company’s name or logo. Write out a disclaimer that lets readers or viewers know who received compensation for the content and how they get it.
This step shouldn’t be a surprise. If your brand engages in content marketing, one of your goals is to create top-quality content. Though sometimes creating content in your brand voice to share on another host channel can be tricky. But you don’t have to do it alone. CopyPress develops content marketing for any of your projects to whatever scale you need. Work with our team of strategists to get the tone and feel just right for content that appears on your host partner sites. Schedule your first call with our team today to get started. Then, subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter to get more content marketing information, tips, and tricks delivered right to your inbox.
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