How Native Advertising is Kicking Serious Banner Ad Butt (And What You Can Do About It)


Do you remember the last television commercial you saw? How about the last radio ad you listened to?

Okay, here’s one you’ll remember for sure: What company was behind the last banner ad you saw online?

My guess is that you don’t remember any of those three types of advertising. But don’t feel bad about it. You’re probably suffering from “Horse Blinder Syndrome.”

Native Advertising

It’s nothing serious, just a natural progression of how we humans have developed a tendency to ignore advertising. Especially online.

Display ad click-through rates have plummeted over the years, and according to DoubleClick research and HubSpot, the average CTR is now at a miniscule 0.1%.

So how do we brilliant marketers and creative advertisers improve? Well, there’s something called native advertising. And I’m 100% positive you’ve been exposed to it already. With native advertising showing better performance than banner ads, it’s no surprise that people in the industry are listening.

Native advertising is a way for your content (ads) to blend in with the overall user experience, so it doesn’t necessarily look like an ad.

Advertisers and publishers are quickly adopting this form of advertising, not just through ads, but also through sponsored articles. Here are two native advertising examples from Gizmodo:

Native Advertising Example

What Is Native Advertising

Both Virgin Mobile and IBM do native advertising

If you go to Gizmodo on your phone and start browsing through the articles, you’ll notice that the sponsored articles blend in perfectly with other “native” content. It’s not trickery, I promise. It’s a smart way to offer interesting content that is relevant to what you sell.

Plus, if people find your content useful, they’ll be more likely to share through social media – something that regular ads have a hard time accomplishing.

Other examples of native advertising:

  • Promoted Tweets
  • AdWords & Bing Ads SERP ads
  • Facebook news feed ads (sponsored stories)
  • StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery

How You Can Create Native Advertising

As PPC enthusiasts, we’re always curious (and anxious) to find new ways to increase and improve client revenue and profits. Therefore, native advertising should definitely be in your arsenal of weapons.

You’re already creating text ads for the search network, so you’re covered there. But what about display?

Even though Google does not allow display ads to mimic site content, that shouldn’t prevent you from testing out several color combinations from your leading traffic generating sites on the display network. Be careful not to copy the publisher site colors exactly, as this is not allowed.

You can test out the same fonts or maybe one of the site colors and see the difference in CTR compared to your regular ads. Just make sure your logo is visible and not hidden as it wouldn’t benefit you to trick a visitor. Your initial goal should be to get eyeballs on your ad, then the click, and then the conversion.

I’ve seen positive results with this before, and yes, it’s a bit work intensive but it could work out very well. Start off with the placement giving you the highest display traffic, then lather, rinse and repeat from there.

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Melina Bright
Jun 05, 2013

Haven't heard of the term native advertising because commonly marketers use only what is the latest. But reading through this blog can make you feel that you have to take a shot out of it. 

Jun 05, 2013

Hi Melina,Not sure I understand your comment correctly :) But native advertising is a new and old way to promote your content, whether that be a blog post, e-book, or an ad.Please let me know if I can clarify anything for you.

Randall Magwood
Jun 05, 2013

A great internet marketing guy once said that the secret to making your ads a success, is to NOT make it look like an ad. Does this qualify as being the same concept of native advertising?

Jun 11, 2013

Absolutely :) Native advertising is supposed to blend in with the regular content a visitor consumes. It's NOT supposed to look like an ad.You'll usually see that the ad is "Sponsored", like Facebook and Twitter, and even AdWords search ads that say "Ads related to".

David Henry
Jun 13, 2013

Hi JohnathanI have never been a believer in banner ads to drive traffic and at best they provide brand awareness but I mustadmit I didnt know the CTR was so low.I think the native ad idea works well but I did read somewhere in the latest Penguin 2.0 update that thistype of ad must be made very clear that it is not pure content, even allowing for this a clever campaign can getgreat results based around a general page theme.Regards David Henry 

Johnathan Dane
Jun 14, 2013

You're absolutely right David. Matt Cutts (head of search spam at Google) said that native advertising is okay, as long as it's disclosed as a paid endorsement. Many image ads you see via the display network have the little AdChoices icon in the top right hand corner.Is that enough? It's a little grey area, but that shouldn't deter you from testing out different display ads.The sponsored story could be pure content and also appear with the creators logo, which is a type of inbound marketing. You can see Cutts' video about it here:

David Henry
Jun 16, 2013

Hi JohnathanThanks for the link, I think the idea of creating pure content for the sponsored story is a clever way to almost distractfrom the paid ad and this general theme looks to be the next big traffic generator to replace the traditional banners.It will be intersting to see what unique twists we can all come up with whilst obviously keeping withinthe guidelines of Google David Henry

Alex green
Jul 16, 2013

Agreed with your point Jonathan, People have this syndrome. I'm not saying all of them have it, but mostly Ads are ignored and no one shows interest in following the ads. If a person or businessman is spnending some money to attract you to his business, what is worng in that? If you won't have the knowedge of the work of a business person, how would you find something you want to have or service you want to use when you need it? Thats okay, because it will take a lot of time to make changes like this, to change people mentality. I think banners which are used with hordings are more effective, becuase it is easy to show ads against users wish because when website have given you space on their site to show ads, you can easily show your ads, but attracting customer's attention while he is not into anything or any mood to do shopping, that's a real deal. you need to choose the words carefully to get people's attention.

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