Last week our team traveled to the Big Apple to attend Affiliate Summit East (ASE). This is the conference for affiliate marketers, bringing together industry experts, newcomers and everyone in-between to network and discuss all things affiliate marketing. One of the best parts of ASE are the intimate educational sessions that connect industry professionals with affiliates to share insights on the latest trends in the industry.
David Kelly, our VP of Business Development had the opportunity to lead a session on Leveraging Competitive Intelligence in Native Advertising. This is a growing trend in the affiliate world and for marketers looking for serious business growth. David had some valuable insights to share so we summarized the key learnings from his session below.
You may be familiar with Native Advertising from some of our previous posts, but here’s a quick primer.
Native Advertising is “a paid ad that is so cohesive with the pages content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that it belongs” (IAB Native Advertising Playbook).
This type of advertising is founded on three main principles:
Seamless ad integration: Where ads are effectively integrated into the very design of a page so that its form and function FITS the contextual content on a publisher
Aligned advertiser and publisher objectives: Where the goals of participating parties is to deliver high value, relevant, and often educational content to readers/consumers
Overt ad transparency: Wherein native ads are explicitly labeled as ads or sponsored content
For those of you that have been in print, native doesn’t seem all that new – its often otherwise known as editorial content that’s promoted by the publisher.
So in the digital world what does native advertising look like? (Get more details here.)
- Branded sponsored ads
- Promoted listings
- Custom native ads
- Recommendation widgets
Now that you know the basics you might be wondering what’s all the hype around native ads?
Native advertising is one of the fastest growing ad channels in digital media. In fact, native ad spend in 2015 alone is forecasted to reach $4.3 Billion and this is only growing – by 2018, this number will more than double to $9.4 Billion. Therefore an abundance of opportunities exist for advertisers and publishers alike.
But why is this type of ad garnering so much ad spend? Simple. Because it works. Check out these stats:
- 46% of total ad spend budgets were allocated to native advertising last year; 20% of this was assigned to mobile native ads (another platform that is experiencing explosive growth)
- 70% prefer to learn about products through content than traditional ads
- 32% would share Native Ad content with friends and family vs. 19% for banner ads
- Purchase intent is 53% higher with native ads.
The beautiful thing about native ads is that they benefit all parties involved, consumers can discover new brands with high value often educational or entertaining content, brands can reach their target audience, while publishers can monetize content. Everybody wins.
But I’m an Affiliate Marketer. Why is Native Advertising relevant to me?
Three Words: Content Discovery Networks (CDN)
Which are also known as Content Recommendation Engines or Widgets and one of the best ways to get your Native Ads in front of the right audience. These networks distribute ads by serving sponsored content in the recommendation section/widget of publishers as seen in the images below.
Example of CDN Taboola from NYFA
Example of CDN Outbrain from 9clouds
How can affiliate marketers combine the power of native advertising with competitive intelligence? VP of Business Development David Kelly gives away 4 key tips for major business growth with Native Ads:
1). Uncover and build upon the strategies & ad spend of successful brands
One popular strategy for using CDN’s is for content boosting. Huffingtonpost is an entertainment news site that is successfully employing a CDN to boost its own content within its website and other content from around the web.
What can you learn from them? Looking at their strategy you can see that Huffingtonpost serves nearly 34% of ads through Advertising.com Sponsored Listing and about 20.9% through Taboola; indicating that the majority of their ad spend is through CDNs.
Therefore, if you’re a publishing affiliate you should really be comparing Huffingtonposts’ CDN strategy with your own.
Another popular strategy in native advertising is called Ad Abitrage, which is when affiliates makes money through Cost Per Click and advertisers earn on each click (CPC). The arbitrage aspect is buying less expensive clicks (using CDNs) but maxing out the number of ads you can run (and ultimately clicks) on your site. The more ads visitors click, the more money you can make.
For example, it costs an average of $0.10 to get one person to your site. The reader might take a quiz, or click through some of your content including ads seen all around your page. You’ll make an average of $0.20 every time someone clicks an ad. You’ll therefore make $0.10 in profit which doesn’t seem like much. But if your content goes viral and you get millions of visitors, that chump change adds up.
Viralnova.com (pictured below) is a publisher that makes money through CPC ad arbitrage- mainly through advertising facilitated by CDNS. So what kind of content are publishers like Viralnova.com producing that’s going viral to make big bucks? Find out in the next section.
2). Discover specific types of ad content that are most likely to go viral
First, referring back to the success of Huffingtonpost, they monetize content with non-intrusive ads that fit in with the users experience. Below you can see a great example of a Huffingtonpost content boosting ad.
What can you learn from this successful ad?
It combines an intriguing caption “The Stunning Evolution of Millennials” with a simple (non-ad looking) image. Most importantly, it fits in with what Huffingtonpost readers expect to find when visiting the site. What does this translate to? Clicks. The clicks lead to a Huffingtonpost article which has another widget at the bottom which again promotes their content.
Using CDNs you’ll be able to boost your own content to readers of major news and entertainment publishers, and drive traffic towards your site. The clicks will start coming in.
Another example of ads that are most likely to go viral are those produced by Viralnova.com. Here are a few ads that we’ve seen them serve:
What can you learn from them?
These ads served by Viralnova.com all have high entertainment value making them socially shareable. The Result? high engagement and click rates. These ads play off the notions of the bizarre, strange, shocking, crazy, sexual and ridiculous to first grab the attention of viewers and then get click throughs.
Looking at Viralnova’s traffic sources below you’ll notice 96.2% of ad placements have been served through CDNs via Taboola. This suggests a very aggressive native ad strategy. Their whole website is filled to the max with native ads but none that really look like ads. The viewers see the ads as entertaining content enticing them to stay on the site to consume more content. With every click, money is made by the affiliate.
3). Analyze landing page copy and design strategy
In addition to content boosting, another popular use of CDN’s by advertisers is for direct response; that is CDN’s assisting in the promotion of products and services to readers in a non-disruptive yet engaging manner. In many cases the key to success in direct response is the landing pages that viewers are led to by clicking an ad.
For example, below are native ads from MegaBargains. They feature images of high profile, branded products like the iPhone and a simple but eye catching question or title that solicits a really good deal. The result? You guessed it clicks.
As mentioned the success of direct response native ads are they landing pages they lead to. So where do clicks on Megabargains’ native ads lead to? The pre-lander shown below which is an article featuring a happy Megabargains user.
What are elements of this landing page should you be analyzing and learning from?
First and foremost, we mentioned early on that 70% of people prefer to learn about products through content vs. tradtional ads. Megabargains pre-lander is an excellent example of content that is informing viewers about Megabargains versus a traditional ad.
Why is it effective?
The Heading: Highlights the fact that if you continue reading, you’ll find out how to seriously save – up to 95% – on a new iPhone.
The Lead: “You’ve probably noticed a new phenomenon spreading like wildfire across Europe and North America auction sites selling warehouse clearouts…” What you have here is an article lead informing you about a phenomenon that you are missing out on if you don’t continue reading to learn more.
The Body: The body of the pre-lander is a testimonial offered up by an ‘expert’. It goes in-depth into the product this ‘bargain hunter’ wanted and the problem they were facing – it was too expensive. But MadBid.com gave them a fantastic solution to getting deals. The article and personal review lends credibility to the service being recommended.
Once viewers click on the compelling pre-lander page, they end up on the Megabargains sign-up page which prompts them for a sign up. And there you have it an effective use of native ads through direct response.
4). Redefine your own strategies informed by current competitive intelligence data
In the digital world, strategies and campaigns are constantly changing and affiliate marketers are no exception. The key to success is staying informed and up to date with current data. Using our competitive intelligence tool you have access to fresh data daily. This allows you to fuel your strategy with fresh knowledge from top affiliates and publishers in the industry.
For example, looking at the top 20 publishers today on Taboola we can see that the majority are from the US and France.
Looking at most popular publisher categories you’ll see that Personal Pages & Blogs and Travel are most popular.
These are just two examples of current data that can help inform your strategy as an affiliate marketer. Knowing the location of top publishers can allow you to identify markets that you previously haven’t considered entering. Knowing categories of top publishers can tell you which ones are worthwhile investing in. Keep in mind this is only a fraction of the publishers on Taboola and only two elements of analysis. Furthermore, strategies are constantly changing so this could look completely different a day, a week and a month from now.
The most important part of this tip from David is that you are always keeping yourself informed in order to make better decisions for your strategy and business.
So there you have it, the top 4 ways affiliates can start leveraging competitive intelligence in native advertising. By implementing these tips you’ll start to understand the complete Native Advertising landscape across any niche in no time.
If you have any other questions on leveraging our tool in your native advertising strategy or didn’t have the chance to speak with us at ASE, drop us a line we’d love to chat!