I'm working in online advertising since 1998 and finally decided to start my own blog.

What is native advertising and how you can benefit from it?

Banner blindness is a serious issue, for both the site owners (publishers) and advertisers, as well as for affiliates who serve as the middle men between these two. The more the users ignore the ads, the harder it is to sell them something. In order to fight this, the internet marketers have to come up with new ad formats all the time.

HOW TO MAKE BANNER BLIND SURFERS CLICK AN AD?

There are basically two ways of getting the “banner blind” users to click on your Ads :

– Distract them with intrusive AD formats like POPs, Interstitials, Self-Maximizing video banners … the problem with these is that they are annoying. They do produce results for sure, but the latest trends are not favoring such intrusive ADs. Google announced a new update that will penalize sites with “too-big” interstitials for example.

– The second option is to come up with ADs, that do not look like ADs 🙂 And this is what Native Advertising is about. Native AD units, called WIDGETS, are designed to look like they are a natural part of the sites, that they are displayed on.

Let me show you a sample of what a Native advertising widget looks like, I’m sure you have seen these before on many sites. The sample below is a widget by “RevContent”.

revcontent-widget

PORN SAVES THE INTERNET ONCE MORE! 🙂

The whole idea of a native widget is not a new one at all. As many things on the internet, we have to thank the Porn business for this one. Adult webmasters have been using this technique to “Trade Traffic” for maaaany years already. The idea was very simple: “Send some traffic to my site, and I will send some back to you in exchange”.

In order to do this in a non intrusive way, webmasters would use a small photo (thumbnail) along with a small text, to link tot he web or page of a “Trade Partner”. The first adult network that realized the $ potential was PlugRush.Com, so we could technically name them the first Native Ad Network in the world.

plugrush

Mainstream Native Traffic Sources simply adopted this technique. The very first mainstream Native ad widgets utilized the “Recommended or Related Content” approach, linking to similar or somehow related content pages on other sites. Networks that operated them, helped webmasters of similar sites to exchange traffic, but also offered them the option to sell part, or all of the widget impressions to advertisers.

At first, these widgets were not labeled as ADs at all, so the CTR’s were through the roof. But soon enough, the regulative bodies decided it’s time to stop to mislead the surfers and native ad networks had to label their widgets. These days you will see a short notice like “sponsored content, sponsored links, ads by …” on every widget, along with a name of the particular ad network.

WHO CAN USE NATIVE ADS?

Native advertising means good news for both the site owners and those who want to advertise on them. These ADs are usually billed by using the CPC system, so the more clicks, the more money the site owner makes. Which is awesome for them, as native widgets usually have a high CTR. Advertisers want TONs of traffic, so good news again, high CTRs mean a lot of clicks to buy.

The rise of native advertising actually gave birth to a new type of sites, let’s call them “Viral Arbitrage Sites”. You have seen a ton of them too I’m sure. Think about stuff like : “Top 10 people you wouldn’t believe existed… Top 10 plastic surgeries that went wrong …”

10smartest

These sites have one purpose only, to create content that has the potential to go viral on Facebook and on other social media. Each of these sites is full of native ad widgets, to both monetize the traffic and also to exchange some of it with other viral sites – in order to reach the viral effect faster.

In case you are looking for an idea on what site to build, these viral sites are pretty hot right now. Even thou, Facebook announced a algo update that will reduce exposure given to “click bait” posts, which were pretty crucial for fast viral effect these sites rely on.

Native Ads are a vital alternative to Google Adsense, so in case you are running some sites, definitely try to put the widgets from some native networks on your sites. Just keep in mind, you need a high trafficked site in order to get accepted to many of these network.

Obviously, Native ADs became very popular with advertisers and media buying affiliates very fast. It’s something like the HOT trend right now, everyone is running tests with native ads right now and you should be too. Let me take a closer look at how to approach this traffic type.

HOW TO BUY TRAFFIC THROUGH NATIVE ADVERTISING?

revcontent-screen

First of all, you need to create an account with some native ad networks, so let me list some for you. I’m writing them down just as they pop up in my brain, in no particular order.

Revcontent.com
Taboola.com
Outbrain.com
Mgid.com
Adnow.com
Gravity.com
Nativo.net
Triplelift.com
Nativeads.com
Content.ad
Adblade.com
Adsnative.com

There is a fuck load of them and new ones are popping up all the time. Each of these networks has it’s pros and cons, and it will be up to you to decide, which ones to test. All of them have good and bad widgets, none of them is crap free 🙂

There is one thing that is specific for Native Ad Networks, they utilize the categories of particular sites that they serve widgets on. These are often called “Targets/Categories/Interests ..”, depending on the particular network. Below is a screenshot from RevContent, showing their “targets” along with estimated weekly clicks and bid prices.

revcontent-targets

Picking widgets that are related to your products, is the first optimization step you can do, when running campaigns on native networks. Oh, don’t get confused if you don’t see a link to create a “campaign” in the admin, native networks call them “content boosts” or something like that. It has to do with the fact that they evolved from traffic/content exchanges. Again this will be different from network to network.

Native Ad Networks are a lot like any other type of traffic network actually, with all the PROS and CONS. There are some specifics that I noted tho, so let me list the most important ones.

1. The back-ends are quite crappy at times, many of them are like “work in progress”. I guess they just became popular too fast and the infrastructure didn’t catch up yet. Many of them miss the basic traffic targeting options. I’m pretty sure it will change fast, but for now, you better expect some headache 🙂

2. Approvals of ADs can take days! This one is pretty annoying, I waited as long as 5 days with some networks already, to get my ads approved. Or rejected, which is more painful, as it was often a minor stuff that made me wait for several more days.

3. They tend to overspend. Watch your daily spends closely, some of these networks have a ton of volume and sometimes they tend to ignore daily caps. Make sure to complain in case that happens!

4. Some of these networks have plenty of very big bot placements. Having some kind of BOT traffic detection in place is absolutely crucial in case you don’t want to loose an arm and a leg. BOTs are a plague in the online world, I hope someone can eventually put an end to this in the future.

5. Categorization can suck at times. Especially with VIRAL sites that jump from one topic to another. These viral sites usually offer pretty poor traffic in the first place anyways. In some cases, it’s better to avoid them completely.

6. Due to the high amount of traffic and the need to target the proper widgets, a rather large budget is required to make Native work. I wouldn’t recommend anyone with a budget of $1000 to even start there.

7. Due to the nature of the AD format, many people do not realize they even clicked on an AD! In order to take advantage from this, use landing pages that look like real sites, blogs, articles … not like pages you ripped from a flier.

WHAT SELLS WELL ON NATIVE TRAFFIC?

ukraina-bride

Native traffic responds well to “shocking stuff”, hence the popularity of shocking and graphic stuff with the Viral sites. This means that whatever you can promote with a shocking headline, should do well. “Get slim in a week! Learn English in 2 weeks! Get a Ukrainian super model to marry you, even thou you’re ugly as hell! Look 150 years younger in 2 days! Make a million $ in 23 days!

I’m sure you’ve seen ADs like this before, and that’s because they work. Stuff like : Dating, Nutrition, BizOpps, Skin Care, Brain Stimulation .. it all sells well on Native Ads.

To be honest, native traffic is like any other traffic – find a way how to target the proper audience and you can sell pretty much anything. Of course it will be easier to use it for some verticals than for others, but it’s not like ONLY a few can work there.

Native ads can also still serve as an amazing way of generating cheap traffic for your new sites. Especially when targeting lower competition GEOs – think about countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia … you can get a crap ton of traffic for the minimum bids at some native networks. Use it while it lasts!

Thanks for reading!


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