Last August 2015, PageFair and Adobe released their global report on ad blocking, revealing there are now 198 million active ad block users worldwide – which cost publishers nearly $22 billion in 2015.
Here at Search Engine Journal, we found 24 percent of our audience are using ad blocking software (gasp!). This shook us a bit since we used to rely heavily on Google AdSense and Ad Exchanges to generate profit. It was a dependable, passive form of income, albeit on the low side.
This prompted us to explore direct advertising sales and build out native advertising initiative, which is a win-win situation for both SEJ and our advertisers.
What is Native Advertising?
Aleh Barysevich of Link-Assistant defines native advertising as “paid media which feels like a natural extension of a publisher’s website.”
But for the ad content to blend well with the host website’s content, it should be well-thought out, well-written, and resonate with the audience. This results in the ad getting the page views it deserves.
So how can you use native advertising to boost your website’s revenue?
Don’t Disrupt the User Experience
The good thing about native advertising is that they match the form and function of their publisher. It allows brands to provide relevant and helpful content to the host website’s audience that ends with a distinct call-to-action.
At SEJ, we have a Takeover Package that takes over the skin of the entire site without disrupting readers from viewing our posts.
The good thing about this kind of native ad format is that it replaces leaderboard ads without taking much Above the Fold area. It doesn’t require the audience to scroll down just to see the site’s content and the ads don’t disrupt their reading experience. Otherwise, it will be against Google’s Top Heavy algorithm.
Offer Sponsored Content
Another good example of native advertising is sponsored content. While ads, in general, have heavy brand bias and are meant to persuade, sponsored content is created by brands to educate the audience.
Instead of writing a “Buy our awesome product!” kind of post, the content should answer a question, solve a problem, or clarify a misconception.
From the publisher’s point of view, this is less time-consuming than posting a review of a product or service. On the other hand, sponsored content allows brands to showcase their expertise on a particular subject to a new set of audience. This results in generating new leads (which is actually the reason a brand is advertising in the first place).
Build an Email Marketing Strategy
Email could be the most intimate kind of advertising you could do. After all, your list consists of people who’d want first dibs on exclusive information from you.
Instead of just sending a weekly or monthly roundup of posts from the web, leverage your email list by providing relevant content that would be helpful to your subscribers.
Just remember to clean your list once in a while so you only deliver your email to engaging users. You don’t want to show your clients a low unique open rate, do you?
Listen to Your Potential Clients
Here’s a confession: Some of SEJ’s advertising package—like sponsored webinars and weekly email blasts—were the result of light bulb moments while having a conversation with our potential advertisers.
Some of the brands think our Takeover Package is OK, but they want something interactive and supports cross-channel approach. Enter, sponsored webinar. Cha-ching!
Some brands want to get their message to a dedicated audience. Voila! Here’s a dedicated email blast for you.
Monetizing your website means knowing where your inflow of revenue will come from. And what better way to understand that than listening to your advertisers’ needs?
A Note of Warning
While native advertising can help you bypass ad blockers, take note that FTC has issues with “deceptively formatted advertising.” According to FTC’s new advertising rules published in December 2015, producing ad content that is less distinguishable from a regular content just to get attention and clicks might result in serious penalties.
Also, don’t forget to nofollow the links on your ad content. Search engines require disclosure of paid links, just like how your audience would want to know whether or not content is sponsored.
Want to learn more about native advertising?
You can read the recap of Loren Baker’s webinar on how native advertising grew SEJ’s revenue or watch the full presentation recording below: