Should Native Ads Drive Off-Site or to Sponsored Content on the Publisher?
Let's start with some definitions:
- Content marketing - A type of marketing where advertisers create content that educates, entertains or otherwise engages a user, without the primary purpose being to sell. The goodwill generated by quality content is designed to build awareness and loyalty to a brand.
- Content - Can be anything that's consumed by users like videos, articles, or social media posts (status updates, tweets, vines, etc). For most publishers it will probably be articles or video. Content that is paid for by a brand and includes some hints to the brand name is called sponsored content.
- Native advertising - This is a format for ad units that allows them to look and feel like the other content on a page, blending in rather than disrupting the user. They should always have a disclaimer but the primary purpose is to be non-intrusive.
- Landing pages - Highly optimized pages designed to get a conversion (signup, purchase, etc). These are not considered content but rather pure sales messages. These are not recommended for use with native ads.
Now you can put pretty much anything into a native ad placement as many times it's just an image, headline and a short description. Let's walk through the options of what happens when a user clicks:
- Drive to a landing page - This is the worst option available. Landing pages are not content and users are just misled from thinking they're getting something of value to go straight to a hard selling page.
- Drive to sponsored content off-site - Much better than a landing page as the user is expecting content and that's what they receive. However there is still the interruption of going to a different site.
- Show the user sponsored content on the same site - This is the best option that allows for a seamless delivery of the advertiser's content without worry about deceiving the user's expectations or bounce rates involved in a jump to a new site. The user gets the content they asked for and aren't interrupted in anyway.
Instinctive syndicates sponsored content and runs both types of options. Our real results after billions of impressions show that keeping the sponsored content on the same site is twice as effective, with more clicks, less bounce rates, more time spent and more recall by users.
- Users do not like jumping to different sites, it breaks their current experience, increases loading time with a new site, surprises them with more ads, and generally annoys them as something unexpected. Having the sponsored content on the same site avoids any bounce issues as it's treated like just another page.
- Most advertisers don't have great "sites" to send users to. Again landing pages are not "content" and shouldn't be used, and sending people to a corporate blog can turn people away. Even good content with gentle branding can look bad or lose value when shown on a corporate portal or site that is full of other marketing messages.
- Publishers don't like losing traffic and if the destination isn't good, users will blame the original site as low quality for sending them to a bad location. Instead of just losing a pageview, publishers might lose the user completely by sending them to a page out of their control.
- Content on the same site will load faster and reduce visitor bounce rates while sharing in the reputation of the publisher. Most sites should be careful about what ads they're running but with good moderation, this can lead to more trust and engagement by users.
Overall, the data and campaign results have shown that sponsored content delivered to the user where they already are performs better in every way. Occasionally some advertisers just want traffic and clicks but more sophisticated marketers are learning that attention and engagement are what matter and will deliver far more ROI.
"Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad." - Howard Gossage