Native advertising 101: Ultimate guide for native ads

Apr 05, 2024

Native advertising 101 is a new digital advertising method that converts paid ad content into the style and layout of your website. They appear to camouflage themselves like your regular website content, making ad positioning feel natural.

Unlike content marketing which can be paid or unpaid, native digital advertising is always paid and specially designed to blend into its native environment.

Native advertisements can be seen in digital publications, social media, streaming platforms, search engine result pages (SERPs), and more.

The main intention of native advertisements is to facilitate seamless user experiences without jarring and obvious paid ads reducing the chances of being ignored or worse, reported.

Native ads vs display ads - What are the key differences?

Ad layout

Traditional Ads can easily be identified as ads since they contradict the style of the website and stand out from the organic content clearly.

On the other hand, native advertisements are designed to blend in with the website’s editorial content and provide a seamless experience for the user.


Traditional display ads appear promotional and gimmicky, which is why they are viewed as banner ads and promptly ignored.

Since viewers are so used to seeing basic display ads, native advertisements can be a breath of fresh air for users and marketers alike and can be as easily consumed as the rest of the website content.


Native digital advertising is ideal for businesses and startups that aim to drive traffic to their own website. It is a preferred marketing strategy for new launches or first-time user/visitor generation.

Traditional display ads are best suited for remarketing campaigns for companies and brands that wish to reengage established users or audiences that visited the site but didn’t partake in a specific call to action.

Click-through rate (CTR)

Native digital advertising has proven to be a highly effective marketing strategy with a high CTR of 0.2%. On the other hand, traditional display ads have a staggeringly lower CTR of 0.05%, making native advertisements the go-to strategy for most companies and startups.

Types of native advertising formats

1. Paid posts or advertorial

Starting with one of the most obvious types of native advertising, “paid posts” refer to articles, blog posts, and opinion pieces that might resemble their editorial content but are paid for by brands.

They are ghostwritten by the company’s in-house marketing team to either promote the brand, their products, or services or create industry-related articles to elevate brand recognition among the target audience.

2. Promoted listings

These kinds of native advertisements are usually found on e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Etsy, and more.

These are powerful marketing strategies as it puts the promoted content on top of relevant searches, making it more likely for users to click and purchase your product over others.

With the recommendation widget native ads, users are more inclined to buy products and services promoted by trusted websites.

3. Paid-search ads

Paid search ads are a type of native advertising that appears on search engines like Google and Bing. Unlike traditional display ads, paid search ads appear like organic results at the top of the search engine result pages (SERPs).

While they mimic an organic result, they are always mentioned with a sponsored or ad icon.

4. In-ads units

Under this kind of native digital advertising, an ad unit is a placeholder on a website or app to display a variety of advertisements. Web developers can place as many ad units as required.

However, in native advertising, it is important not to litter the website with too many ads since it can act as a repellant.

Since native ads configure themselves to the style of a particular website, it prevents the ad from looking out of place and spammy.

Characteristics of native advertising

As a new and innovative form of advertising, native advertising has some key defining characteristics

1. Advertising without being obvious

Native advertising can be considered covert in the way it handles marketing and advertising and drastically differs from the traditional way of banner advertising.

Instead of standing out as an obvious ad, native advertisements are cohesively integrated with the rest of the website content in such a way that it perfectly balances promoting brands with disseminating information.

Native ads camouflage themselves by behaving like their non-advert counterparts and in doing so, provide the user with a seamless browsing experience.

2. Highly adaptable to various platforms

One of the highly sought-after benefits of native digital advertising is its ability to effortlessly adapt to its immediate surrounding content and embed itself within different kinds of websites.

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram, e-commerce websites such as Amazon, and online digital publications such as Forbes have all featured native advertisements successfully.

While native advertising can lend itself to be indistinguishable from the editorial content, even if they are obvious ads, they are not perceived as gimmicky by viewers.

3. Combats ad fatigue and ad blindness

Due to the immense saturation of traditional banner advertising in the online space, consumers have grown accustomed to the basic display ads, and have developed a blindspot for them.

This means that their eyes have grown habitual to ignore the obvious ad banners and consider it as an obstacle to their viewing experience. Native digital advertising takes predictability out of the equation and pleasantly surprises user behavior.

With a cohesive browsing experience, native advertisements break down the wall of resistance between the viewer and the ad and allow them to view the ad and subconsciously build brand recognition without any hindrance.

How to find the difference between native content and branded content?

Branded content and native advertising are terms that are very commonly heard in the marketing industry and loosely interchanged to define content written by a brand. However, there is a key difference between the two.

Branded content is created by the brand to be marketed through its own channels. On the contrary, native digital advertising refers to the type of paid content that is featured on third-party websites and apps for promotional purposes.

An example of branded content can be promoted posts on Instagram, whereas recommended content on third-party sites like Buzzfeed can be considered native advertisements.

There are also up-and-coming and established brand studios by popular websites that create content on behalf of a brand to promote on their site. These are classified as custom native ads.

To summarize, the key to differentiating native content from branded content is to analyze its placement.

With native advertising, the tone, content, and format of branded content may drastically change to blend itself with a particular website’s editorial content.

Branded content created for a specific brand’s communication channels can be repurposed into native advertisements, given that they adhere to a website’s style and design playbook.

How does native advertising work?

Before putting your native advertising into action, it is important to understand how it all works. Native advertisements are structured on three primary components.

1. Ad placements and publishers

More often than not, ad placements often rely on the sole discretion of the publisher/advertiser.

Some websites have a designated spot for native advertisements, such as the carousel news feed of their home page, categorically relevant pages, and more. Others may offer a more customizable placement feature.

This is more often offered on social media sites such as Facebook which allows brands to place native ads in the news feed, stories, or in their popular messaging platform Messenger.

The key characteristic of native advertisements is their ability to blend with the surrounding content. Therefore brands must ensure that their ads match the placement chosen for native digital advertising.

2. Technology

Technology has a huge role to play in the native advertising space. Unlike social media platforms that use their own native digital advertising technology, other leading publishers use third-party technology to support native advertising to brands.

This third-party technology either comes in the form of ad servers that allow publishers to work directly with advertisers or via ad networks that act as an exchange between the brand and the publisher.

There are also demand side platforms (DSP) technology systems that assist advertisers to purchase digital inventory and impressions to place their ads in front of their target audience when they are most likely to be active online.

3. Advertiser

Advertiser refers to the creative team or ad agency working on behalf of the team. It is their sole aim to produce messages, articles, videos, and ad creatives to promote the brand.

Publishers rely on a variety of ad networks simultaneously to ensure an effective native advertising 101 approach. But, getting a subject matter expert to efficiently utilize these technologies is time-consuming and an expensive process.

For this reason, many ad buyers and brands prefer a trading desk that helps advertisers manage multiple ad networks.

How to run profitable native ads?

To run effective and profitable native advertisements, the following five-step approach is required

1. Define target audience

Narrowing down your target audience is essential to running a successful native advertising campaign. More often than not, users ignore both display and native ads that are irrelevant to them.

These ads can quickly become frustrating when they keep following the target audience which has no use for them. If a dog food brand keeps targeting its native ads toward non-dog owners or those allergic to dogs, its entire strategy goes out for a toss.

Therefore, to understand your audience and refine your target demographics, brands must invest time and resources in conducting regular market research and data analysis.

2. Establish goals

Running ads without a goal is like running a marathon with no end in sight – it is a futile attempt that bears no result. Native advertising must run in accordance with a specific purpose for the brand.

Without that, the results will be clouded with anomalies and may not reap any return on investment made. If companies wish to introduce themselves to their audience, they run brand awareness native ads.

To keep yourself relevant to your audience, companies run a brand recall native advertising campaign. To increase traffic to your site, you may run lead generation ad campaigns.

To attract existing customers, businesses may deploy a remarketing native advertising campaign.

3. Choose the right channels

Choosing the right channel to target your ideal customers is the next step in creating an effective native ads strategy.

You can choose to target your audience through multiple channels or a single channel, depending on the type of goal you have set for your native advertisements campaign.

You can display it on social media platforms, or target search engine result pages (SERPs). You can distribute paid articles or in-ad units on multiple websites.

Brands can explore demand side platforms (DSP) to generate even more targeted engagement.

4. Content creation

The primary issue with content creation for native ads is that since these ads are curated for a particular channel with a specific aim in mind for a targeted audience, it ceases to be editorial content.

Native advertisements are sales oriented, therefore require expert copywriting skills that not only convey a message that spurs the viewer to make the necessary action but also create content that aligns with the style and language of the rest of the editorial content of a particular channel.

It is crucial to create content that camouflages itself within the normal content yet invokes a specific call to action within a consumer’s mind.

5. Manage budgets and track campaigns

Some might say the hard part is over, we believe the hard part begins here. Simply putting your native advertisements out there is not enough, one must diligently check the process of your native advertising 101 campaign to assess budgets and monitor results.

Trading desks are a great system to track your campaign across multiple ad networks and produce more insights than your regular KPIs like click-through rates (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC).

With a trading desk, brands can analyze engagement metrics such as insights and impressions, customer data, campaign data, and third-party activity data to effectively perform end-to-end campaign management.

By generating behavior-based data, brand scan then tweaks their campaign to drive engagement.

Related read: Best practices for effective marketing budget management

When should you use native advertising?

Native advertising 101 is highly specific in nature and is used if the brand’s goal is to make its audience perform a specific action – sign up, make a purchase, read an article, etc..

1. When you are on a tight budget

Native digital advertising is highly cost-effective when compared to traditional display ads. Native advertisements are purchased on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis, and the higher click-through rates can really drive down the cost-per-click.

2. When you desire more accountability

Native digital advertising is ideal for those brand marketing campaigns that require extensive performance tracking and accountability measures.

Native advertisements record conversions on a post-click basis, meaning that they are more likely to provide hard evidence for performance as compared to traditional display ads.

3. When you want to boost brand content

With the ever-changing search engine and social media algorithms, getting your display ads to have adequate viewership is becoming harder every year.

Native advertisements are a great alternative to traditional display ads since they seamlessly blend in with the platform’s content and can get more engagement than obvious sales-y ads.

4. When you want to surpass content marketing

Content marketing is an essential weapon in your arsenal, but it is a long-term, inbound marketing strategy.

Native advertising, while initially expensive, pays big dividends in the short term. Native ads also have a high engagement rate as compared to content marketing.

How to create content for native ads?

The primary goal of native advertising 101 is to catch and hold your consumer’s attention whilst enticing them to carry out a specific action.

To create eye-catching content for native ads, your writers and designers must center the ads around the consumer and take a deep dive into their psychology to understand what they might resonate with the most.

For a food delivery native ad, your language might be centered around the feeling of hunger, craving, and satisfaction achieved through food.

 Another thing to ensure is that with native ads, the content must align with the editorial content in terms of tone and layout.

However, to ensure that you still stand out from the rest of the content, a strong headline is vital to grab the viewer’s attention. Try to make it concise, clear, and with the ability to invoke curiosity.

Once you have piqued your reader’s interest with a strong hook, it is time to reel them in with influential copywriting.

Native ads have more restrictions in terms of ad length, and therefore you might only have a couple of sentences or a bunch of words to get your point across.

Therefore, be very strategic in your treatment of the ad copy. Address your target customer’s pain points in a simple, jargon-free language that’s easy to understand.

Always keep your customer at the focal point of your copywriting, and see the ad copy how the readers would perceive it. Customers, on a subconscious level, love to be at the center of attention.

Therefore creating content that shifts the focus from “what a brand can do for them” to “how they would feel upon using the brand” is a great tool for creating impactful native advertisements that convert.

It is also ideal to choose an image that has some form of the human element in it, as it’s proven to invoke more empathy and engagement as compared to traditional object-heavy display ads.

Once you have finalized your image, always end your copy with a strong and clear call to action. A clear and emphasized call to action that offers incentives has proven to increase CTR significantly. 

Native Advertising 101: How much does it cost?

Native advertising 101 is a cost-effective way to successfully market your products and create brand recognition. Like other advertising avenues, native digital advertising costs vary depending on the ad placement and target audience size.

Mid-size companies can be expected to shell out anywhere between USD 2,000 - USD 5,000 per month for native advertisement campaigns.

Prices may also vary depending on the type of publisher you’ve chosen to feature your native ads.

Most sought-after publishers such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal may charge a higher cost per thousand (CPM) prices than other average publishers.

With more and more premium publications offering native advertisement placements, Native advertising 101 is set to become mainstream.

Even with high native digital advertising costs, the significantly increased click-through rate results in a lower cost-per-click than traditional display advertising, making native ads a cost-effective option.

The Native advertising 101 spend is projected to touch USD 402 billion by the year 2025.

The Native advertising 101 space is overall an exciting opportunity for brands to drive traffic and increase revenue through the strategic placement of native advertisements.

By leveraging native digital advertising to give customers a smooth browsing experience and viewing ads as not an obstacle but added valuable information, companies can unlock a new advertising method with unbridled potential.

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