Native advertising promised to be the saviour of online and mobile content monetisation and the natural evolution of digital advertising. But only if you did it right. So is it worth the risk to YOU? Only if you know what you’re doing. And we’re here to help you.

You may be cringing right now, and that’s fine. But with major publishers like BuzzFeed, the New York Times and the Washington Post monetising with native, it might be time for you to rethink your approach.

Slowly but surely, brands’ native advertising and content marketing budgets are growing to outpace display advertising budgets. So, if you’re not there yet, you may be missing the party.

Believe it or not, you don’t need to sell your creative soul to corporate demons to make native advertising work for you.

What is native advertising?

There is a surprisingly wide spectrum of definitions for the term, but we’ll skip that debate. The most basic definition is: Paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting audience expectations.

Is native advertising worth the risk and investment?

The answer to that question depends largely on your percentage of website visitors using ad blockers and the performance of display ads and other monetisation sources (such as affiliates).

How to monetise native ads effectively

If you don’t plan and execute your native advertising inclusion strategy correctly, it can kill your business. We’ve compiled tips and suggestions to help you evaluate your native advertising options and execute flawlessly.

Balancing the mix

The most common (and most obvious) advice you will get about native advertising is to find the right balance between native ads and “real content”. Too much native advertising will likely annoy your users and alienate your advertisers.

What you want is paid content that blends seamlessly with your publication, not only in appearance, but also in writing style and subject matter. If it doesn’t bring value to your readers, they will leave. And advertisers will go with them.

An important component in the native advertising mix are content promotion platforms such as MediaFem and Taboola. These can bring you traffic or they can drive it elsewhere, for a fee.

These content recommendation widgets pay, but they also send your hard-earned users to other blogs and publications that host the suggested content. This is especially true with mobile devices, where users do not open a new tab, but simply move on to the next page, wherever that may be.

Don’t be a Cheater: Comply with FTC Guidelines

We’ve already established those native ads attract more clicks than display ads. But the problem starts when people don’t know they’re clicking on an ad or can’t distinguish an ad from editorial content at all. This is not only frustrating for users, but also misleading and somewhat illegal.

If you run ads in the US OR your advertisers are US companies, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the FTC guidelines for native advertising.

Mark sponsored content as such, provide full disclosure and respect your audience.

Content recommendation networks

One of the main challenges in getting started with native advertising is setting an appropriate price. With sponsored content, it is difficult to put CPC or CPM in price quotes and most advertisers expect a flat rate.

In many cases, it is a good idea to package native ads with display ads, exclusive promotions and other tools, according to the marketer’s needs. Remember not to underestimate the price of your native ad space. With display ads, the copy and content creation are in the hands of the advertisers.

Here you have to work hard to create this content and sometimes promote it on multiple channels.

With advertising, it all comes down to ROI and, like display ad networks, we also have native ad networks or content recommendation networks. These are widgets you can place on your website that recommend content from other content creators. You get paid per click or 1,000 impressions in the same way as you do with display ads. The difference here is that advertisers are not advertising a product, they are advertising content to web visitors who are in the process of consuming content. Pretty clever, eh?

MediaFem, Taboola, Outbrain and others promote sponsored content articles on their site for a revenue sharing fee. As with display networks, you’ll have a lot of advertisers fighting for your native ad inventory and could garnish a pretty fat cheque at the end of the month.

Native with a soul

Don’t sell your soul to the natives. Develop partnerships with brands and agencies that reflect the views of your publications and the interests of your audience. If you have a blog about make-up, having an advertorial in a funeral home is not worth the money they would be willing to offer.

It’s just wrong. Make sure the brands you openly endorse as sponsors are the right fit for you and your audience.

These relationships will require investment on your part and ongoing cooperation. You want to understand the advertiser and you want advertisers to see value for their money. Ask lots of questions and keep them as involved as they want to be, as long as they don’t conflict with your editorial guidelines.

Also published on Medium.