Native ads can be an effective alternative to the banner ad, and more businesses seem to be taking note. While a year ago, marketers were only spending 5 percent of their overall budgets on native advertising, about two-thirds planned to spend more on native advertising in 2015, according to an Association of National Advertisers survey.
Spending on native advertising is also skyrocketing. Spending on native ads will reach $7.9 billion this year and should grow to $21 billion in 2018, rising from just $4.7 billion in 2013, according to BI Intelligence research.
Yet many small businesses still aren’t utilizing this new ad format to drive growth. This may be because they're still not exactly sure what native ads are. Basically, they're ads designed to look more like content, as opposed to the traditional banner ads. They fit and blend directly into content, as opposed to pushed outside of the content.
One of the biggest examples of native advertising is Facebook ads. Facebook allows businesses to post ads that show up in activity streams, allowing users to click, like and share the ad, just like any other piece of content in the activity stream.
The Benefits of Native Ads
Look and feel. For starters, native ads just look better than traditional banner ads. They flow nicely with the content, which can make the ads more appealing in general.
Engagement. Because the ads can look and behave like the rest of the content, banner blindness may not be as big of an issue.
New Leads. Facebook has more than 1 billion daily active users. There’s a good chance you can find a whole new pocket of leads and buyers for your business.
Excellent targeting. Facebook knows a lot about each of its 1 billion users, often down to the tiniest detail. Want to reach people who really like peanut butter? No problem.
Retargeting. Retargeting can be a powerful way to get back some of those lost leads. As the name implies, when you use most ad networks, they give you a way to “pixel” the people who visited your site from the ad, allowing you to show another, more relevant ad if they didn’t finish the desired outcome.
Cost. Depending on which platform you use, native ads can be cheaper than platforms like Google Adwords. Your cost of acquiring a lead can be much less than other ad platforms, especially when mixed with retargeting.
Getting Started With Native Ads
The first thing you have to wrap your head around when dealing with native ads is the different motivations of the people seeing your ad.
Let’s say you’re running a Google Adwords campaign for your guitar amp business. You create an ad for a Marshall amp you’ve got for sale, and the ad sends the visitor straight to the sales page for the amp. You'd pay a high amount of money for the keyword “Marshall amps for sale,” because you know the motivation of the searcher is probably to buy.
This approach doesn’t really work that well on native ad platforms like Facebook. Facebook (and other social networks) are about discovery. People typically like to peruse Facebook without much agenda, other than to see what’s interesting. They’re probably not in “research” or “buy” mode.
The two types of traffic are what’s known as cold and warm traffic. Cold traffic probably doesn’t know anything about you, your brand or your product. You’re trying to warm them up, so they trust you and become a customer. Warm traffic is traffic that knows about your brand or is already interested in the product you're selling.
Native ads are excellent for acquiring cold traffic. To constantly acquire new leads, you have to be able to convert cold traffic. These are people who aren’t looking for your company or product. They may or may not know anything about your brand. You can take this cold traffic, “pixel” them and show them an even more relevant ad based on their actions on your site.
So instead of creating an ad touting your amps for sale and sending people straight to a sales page, it would probably work better to show them a piece of content you’ve created, and within the content, have a call to action to your guitar amps for sale.
The Beauty of Retargeting
With the above example, you might be thinking, “how do I actually make money if I’m not sending traffic to a sales page?” The difference is in retargeting.
Let’s say I see your promoted story on Facebook, “10 of the Most Iconic Guitar Amps,” and I click the link over to your website. The article is great, but I didn’t click on your call to action to see some of your guitar amps for sale. Don’t worry! You’ve “pixeled” me, and now you can show me ads the next time I’m on Facebook. The next time I log in, I might see another ad from you about a sale you’re having and be inclined to check it out. (I’m no longer a cold prospect, because I know a little about your brand and what you're about from having read the other article.)
Pixeling visitors to your website is a way to essentially build a “list” without having the visitors do anything. You now have a segment of people who have: a) visited your site and know at least a little about your brand, and b) are interested in your subject matter. Now that you’ve built a little trust and brand recognition, you can send them more direct and targeted ads.
Native Ad Companies You Can Try
If you’re just getting started, I would recommend Facebook ads. They have one of the biggest platforms and can be affordable. Some other native ad companies you could try include:
The bottom line: if you’re not using native ads (and retargeting), you may be leaving potential money on the table.
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