Banner ads. Pop-up ads. Google ads. We understand they help keep much of the Internet free, but ads are kind of the worst. Unless you’re brilliant like Post-It, ads are one-dimensional, not dynamic and almost exclusively used to sell us stuff, which nobody wants. The average click-through rate of display ads across all formats and placements is a shockingly low .06 percent.
So what are we as marketers supposed to do? If we want traffic, we need to pay for it. But these ads seem like a waste of money.
Content discovery platforms are a great solution. These are the recommendation widgets you see at the bottom of many publisher and media websites that provide a short headline and link to the website. These ads look like they belong on the website — they look native to the page, which is why they are considered a type of native advertising.
Here’s why content discovery platforms are a great paid media solution for reaching your audience.
[Related: Native Advertising vs. Sponsored Content: What’s the Difference?]
Discovery platforms like Outbrain and Taboola are designed specifically to drive traffic to your website and get eyeballs on your content. They usually show up either on the bottom or to the side of an article you’re currently reading, presented as a story you might also be interested in:
As I’m sure you’ve seen, they can get a little click-baity sometimes. But they have significant value as traffic drivers. In Taboola’s “2017 Year in Review,” the founder and CEO revealed that Taboola now reaches 1.4 billion people per month, which equates to around half of global internet users. “Over one billion times a month someone clicks on a Taboola recommendation,” he writes. “We are also fortunate to work with tens of thousands of publishers and marketers as well as dozens of agencies in 50 markets around the world.”
On top of that outstanding stat, Taboola reported that they project over $1 billion in revenue in 2018. The same report indicates a 17 percent expansion in its worldwide desktop reach — ranking it third behind Google and Microsoft.
Taboola has the most massive presence of all content discovery platforms, but the native advertising industry as a whole is expected to grow. In 2018, 58.3 percent of digital display spending will be for native placements, which is up from 54 percent in 2017.
Perfect for content
Ads are for stuff. Discovery platforms are for content. They’re particularly effective when it comes to getting new eyes on B2C content or expanding a niche B2B blog to reach new leads and prospects.
It’s true that this is a much less transactional form of advertising. But the most robust discovery platforms offer a wide range of optimization options including CPC adjustments, a variety of targeting parameters and different image and headline combinations to dial in the perfect places to promote your content.
Even though native advertising needs content to function, it’s not considered to be the same as content marketing. The terms are often used interchangeably, but native advertising is a pay-to-play tactic and is used as a tool to promote content.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, explains that, “content marketing is an ongoing process that is best integrated into an overall marketing strategy. It focuses on owning media, not renting it.”
Native advertising is an effective way to distribute content because of its strong user experience. The ads appear to look and feel like the rest of a publisher’s website so they do not disturb the rest of the content, like a pop-up ad might (8 in 10 consumers appreciate that they aren’t forced to view native ads). As native ad platforms have developed over the last few years, they serve more targeted, personalized content.
[Good to know: The FTC’s Native Advertising Guidelines at a Glance]
As we discussed earlier, ads are annoying. So much so that ad-blocker downloads have gone up significantly in the last several years. PageFair, a company that helps companies regain revenue lost from adblockers, released a report last year that showed that there was a 30 percent global growth year-over-year in AdBlock usage.
The stat most alarming to advertisers is that 74 percent of adblock users say they leave websites with adblock walls. There’s not even a chance for your ad to be viewed. However, 77 percent of adblock users are willing to view some ad formats.
Native advertising is a great solution. It allows you to naturally work around ad blockers and get your content in front of people who want to see it. It’s predicted that advertisers will be moving 25 percent of their marketing budgets from traditional advertising to native ads and content marketing. “This will represent the biggest structural shift since the emergence of TV advertising,” states Native Advertising Institute.
Transforms with consumers’ content needs
As consumer preferences change, native advertising is able to follow suit. For instance, as more people rely on their mobile devices to access information, mobile is driving significant growth in native ad spending with 77 percent of all mobile display dollars going toward native this year.
And social media, which accounted for 81 percent of all native display spending last year, is expected to comprise only 74 percent this year. This is due to nonsocial platforms like Amazon that continue to adopt native ads.
Videos are also rising as a native ad tactic. LinkedIn recently introduced video as an advertising option, and 78 percent of marketers plan to increase their production of digital video ads this year.
Influencer marketing/advertising is also a trendy tactic. Brands pay people who are considered to be online influencers (people who have large social media followings — and they don’t need to be Hollywood celebs) to endorse a product. An influencer may post about a product in his/her Instagram feed, which makes it feel natural (hence, the need for FTC’s native ad guidelines). This has caused Instagram to make platform updates specifically for its sponsored posts, such as offering a tagging option for influencers to include “Paid partnership with,” in posts.
A better ad experience
As content marketing becomes a bigger priority among companies of all shapes and sizes, discovery platforms provide a perfect solution to the ad problem. They provide a better ad experience for users, drive traffic like no other and give marketers control over the messaging, presentation and delivery of the content without feeling ultra-intrusive.
If you’re interested in learning more about content amplification through discovery platforms, check out what Brandpoint offers and see if it’s right for you or your clients.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published July 2016 and has been updated for relevancy and clarity.