Bing just announced native ads as a new beta offering in its Bing Ads platform. This brings native ads to the mainstream pay-per-click advertiser. In this post, I’ll address native ads, how they compare to traditional ads, and how you can benefit from this new format.
What Are Native Ads?
Native ads look like articles. The concept is not new. Newspapers and printed magazines have long published “advertorials,” whereby an advertiser pays for an article that promotes its product or service.
BuzzFeed largely pioneered the publishing of advertorials on a website to resemble the native articles. Now many publishers sell “native ads,” which are typically tagged with the terms “Sponsored” or just “Ad” so as not to confuse readers and to comply with U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules.
Which brings me to the second point: How do native ads compare to traditional PPC formats?
How Native Ads Compare
To be clear, Bing’s native ads do not appear on search result pages. Native ads appear on websites, similar to traditional display advertising.
Traditional display ads appear on websites as you read a blog post or news article. It could be a 728×90 banner along the top or a 300×250 rectangle in the sidebar.
Publishers can sell display ads directly or obtain them from an ad network, such as Google AdWords. Native advertising looks like articles; it blends in with the content of the site. For example, here is a native ad on the Yahoo home page.
Notice how the ad fits into the “All Stories” section, but has a slightly larger picture. The true giveaway is the “Sponsored $” tag that is meant to identify an ad. But how many users are going to see that? It’s light grey on a white background, next to a large full-color picture?
Succeeding with Native Ads
Success with any type of advertising, especially PPC, starts with targeting. You want to reach the right people, with the right offer, at the right time.
For search-based PPC, targeting is achieved via keywords. If, say, someone is searching on Google for “air conditioner repair,” she probably needs those services. If you were an air-conditioner-repair provider, you could target that user based on the keywords she is searching.
Native advertising is most often targeted in two ways: remarketing or contextual. Remarketing uses a cookie to identify someone who has visited a certain site. Then, when that person visits another site in an ad network, he is shown ads from the site he visited previously. Retargeting is a common practice.
The second method is contextual targeting. This uses the content of the page as a proxy for user intent. Say someone is reading a story about the best new air conditioners; she might be interested in the services of an air conditioner provider.
Bing’s Use of Native Ads
Bing Native Ads is attempting to mash these two targeting options together. Bing would allow an advertiser to target native ads to a user who has searched Bing for “new volkswagen cars” and is currently browsing the automobile section of MSN.com, for example.
There are a couple things advertisers should consider, to succeed.
- Content-caliber ad copy. Since native ads appear beside articles, your ad copy needs to resemble an article headline, versus a display ad with a call to action. Look at the example of the native ad on Yahoo, above. The ad feels like a news story. However, the ad includes a subtle call to action that says “Simply type in a name and select a state.” This tells the person what to do and then primes him for the landing page.
- Native ad landing pages. Below is the landing page for that Yahoo ad. Notice how it feels very much like a blog post or news article. There is a headline, a big image, lots of content, and even some featured posts in the right sidebar. But down at the very bottom is the conversion form. That’s where you type in a name, pick a state and search. Do that and the conversion funnel begins.
In short, if you’re going to use native ads, know what you’re getting into. Create ads with compelling content and back them up with hybrid-content landing pages. Doing that can help you succeed.