Native Advertising vs. Content Marketing: Differences and Best Practices

Written on
August 14, 2020
by
Caitlin Schubert
in
Content Marketing
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Native advertising vs. content marketing: what’s the difference? When do you use which? And how do you use each effectively? Here we’ll cover what each of these promotional methods is, which best practices apply to each, and which common mistakes to avoid. We’ll also explain what each of these marketing methods can do for your promotional campaigns and when you should use native advertising vs. content marketing.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing promotes your brand, product or service by publishing digital content. Examples of content types used for this purpose include:

  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • E-books
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Memes
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts

Content used for content marketing normally resides on your website or social media profile. An exception is guest blogging, where a partner site hosts your content.

Because content is normally hosted on properties you own, you have a large degree of control over how it is displayed and viewed. You also don’t have to pay to host content the way you would pay for advertising space. Expenses are limited to other areas such as the cost of producing and managing content.

Content marketing is typically used for a number of purposes:

  • To build your brand’s reputation and authority
  • To position your brand against the competition
  • To improve your search engine ranking on target keywords
  • To attract traffic from markets interested in your target keywords and topics
  • To provide information which engages your audience with your brand
  • To encourage audiences to follow you on social media or subscribe to your email list
  • To lay a foundation for sales interactions with your audience
  • To link to other pages on your site
  • To point audiences towards sales pages on your site

These varied uses make content marketing one of today’s most important digital promotional tools.

What Are Best Practices for Good Content Marketing?

To be effective, content marketing should follow some best practices:

  • Set measurable goals for your content marketing campaigns
  • Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress towards your goals
  • Define your brand’s core marketing message and build it into your content
  • Use market research to identify your audience’s interests and which keywords reflect those interests
  • Create valuable, unique content which addresses your audience’s interests
  • Incorporate target keywords into your content
  • Include both blogs and multimedia content such as videos and memes
  • Create and publish content on a consistent schedule
  • Invest in link building after publishing content
  • Track the results of your content campaigns
  • Showcase your best-performing content

Good content marketing should also avoid some common mistakes. In particular:

  • Don’t use a tone which makes your content sound like a sales page
  • Don’t stuff keywords in an artificial-sounding way

Following these guidelines will help your content generate SEO results, drive traffic and promote conversions.

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising uses paid ads or content which resemble content on the publishing platforms they inhabit. For example, if you’re on the home page of a news site, some links on the page may go to actual news articles, while others may take you to paid ads or promotional content. Another example would be if you’re looking at a YouTube video and the sidebar displays an ad for a video on top of a list of recommended videos.

As these examples illustrate, native advertising blends into its platform by mimicking the look, feel and function of other content from the same publisher. Common types of native advertising include:

  • In-feed ads, which are ads that appear in lists of content between pieces of content such as blogs or videos
  • Search ads, which are ads where the advertiser has paid to have the ad appear at the top of a list of search results or in another attention-grabbing position
  • Recommended content, where the publisher recommends content such as videos based on what content or search results the user has already viewed

Unlike content marketing, native advertising typically uses platforms your brand does not own. This gives you less control over how your ads are displayed. It also means you have to pay for advertising space.

Native advertising can be used as a paid method to promote content from your content marketing campaigns. It can also be used to distribute ads that drive traffic, clicks to landing pages or sales.

What Are Best Practices for Good Native Advertising?

Many of the best practices for content marketing also apply to native advertising. You should track measurable goals, use market research, and provide value that appeals to your target audience. In addition, effective native advertising follows some of its own distinctive best practices:

  • Use your native advertising to amplify the outreach of your content marketing
  • Choose advertising platforms which will reach your target audience
  • Make sure your ad links to content which matches the content of your ad
  • Consider where your customer is in their customer journey when they click on your ad, and tailor your ad accordingly
  • Test different versions of your ads to determine which version performs best, a practice known as split-testing or A/B testing
  • Monitor your campaign performance, including where clicks are coming from, to make sure you’re getting a return on investment
  • Evaluate campaigns in terms of overall results, including not just audience clicks but also post-click behaviors such as opt-in conversions and sales

Good native advertising must also avoid some common pitfalls:

  • Don’t fail to disclose the commercial nature of your ad, or you risk violating federal regulations
  • Don’t trick audiences with ads which don’t match the content they promote
  • Don’t fail to monitor the performance of your campaigns, or you will run the risk of wasting your advertising budget

Avoid these mistakes to ensure the success of your native advertising campaigns.

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Native Advertising vs. Content Marketing: When to Use Which

Content marketing and native advertising are best viewed as part of a spectrum rather than opposing techniques. Content marketing typically resides on your website or social media profiles you control. Native advertising typically involves working with other publishers who give you varying degrees of control. When you pay for a publisher to promote branded content to the top of results or recommendations, you have some limited control over your visibility. With other types of native advertising, whether or not your content gets displayed depends more on audience behaviors which you don’t control.

These varying degrees of control correspond to varying costs and results. Content marketing does not incur paid advertising costs, but shifts your expenses towards content production and management. A tradeoff for this reduced cost is that content marketing can take a longer, more persistent campaign to deliver results. On the other hand, native advertising can allow you to reach a larger audience more quickly but requires a larger investment in paid advertising fees.

These considerations mean that it’s not really a matter of native advertising vs. content marketing, but it’s more a question of when to use which. Use content marketing to:

  • Build your brand’s reputation
  • Improve your long-term SEO results
  • Increase long-term traffic while keeping costs down

Use native advertising to:

  • Increase traffic rapidly
  • Build your email list or social following quickly
  • Generate immediate sales

These two tactics can also support each other. You can use native advertising to drive audiences to content from your content marketing campaigns. In this way, content marketing and native advertising can be complementary.

Select the Right Mix of Native Advertising vs. Content Marketing for Your Needs

Both content marketing and native advertising can play an important role in a complete digital marketing strategy. An experienced marketing agency can help you develop a comprehensive strategy that makes the most of both methods and other promotional tools. SimpleTiger specializes in helping B2B SaaS businesses develop effective SEO and content marketing strategies that drive traffic and conversions. Take a few minutes to fill out our online form and schedule a discovery call with our team to discuss how we can help your website get better marketing results.

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