Great native advertising pays off in more ways than one. It’s not only an innovative way to connect and engage with your target audience through social media, but it also puts the focus on great content, which can be valuable from an SEO standpoint. But it all depends on the execution.
Great Native Advertising Needs Great Content
What it comes to native advertising, the most important thing in encouraging engagement with an ad is a calculated content strategy. In fact, native advertising tends to blur the lines between editorial and ad content because of its ambiguous nature. Alluring content is important in any form of advertising, but the trick is integrating branding into ads that match its surroundings so as to avoid being overly promotional or structured. Essentially, great native advertising makes the audience want to engage, learn more, or even share with others.
The Anatomy of a Native Ad
Consider examples from sites like BuzzFeed and Wired that integrate native advertising with content designed to fit the experience.
Native Ad/Content Example: KFC on BuzzFeed.com
Ad looks like the articles – except the “Promoted by KFC” designation
The post features BuzzFeed-like content. In this case – 11 funny animated gifs that don’t have much to do with KFC.
And finally, the piece wraps up with a KFC commercial and a link to the product.
Native Ad/Content Example: Jaguar on Wired.com
Sponsored content featured alongside regular editorial content.
The story itself looks a lot like Wired.com’s typical content
The sponsored content is wrapped up with a link to Jaguar.com
You can see how these native ads rely on content that the publisher’s readers would find compelling.
Social: Real-Time Trends and Native Ads
Brands are catching on. Buzzfeed, in particular, sells native advertising space as their primary source of revenue. As real-time marketing becomes more prominent in the social media industry, native advertising has gained momentum. For example, take the latest internet craze otherwise known as #DressGate (I swear it’s white and gold!) where BuzzFeed generated more than 10 million views on the article in a short 12-hour period. The Buzzfeed post was not a native ad, but many brand jumped at the chance to integrate the hype into their own social strategy. Despite the fact that these brands were using “The Dress” trend to promote themselves through native advertising, Twitter users happily shared the content with their followers because it didn’t feel like an ad at all.
Can Native Ads Benefit SEO?
In a word – yes. I would argue that all advertising for your brand can and will have a positive impact on your SEO. More awareness tends to equal more authority (links, social signals), which tends to equal better rankings.
Facebook, in particular, drives anywhere from 1.8 to 3.6 billion referrals per day. And, since Google’s latest Hummingbird update, social signals have a greater impact on where your website ranks in search. There is still a common misconception that Google may see native advertising as a sort of black hat technique, but it’s not. Sure, it’s branded editorial content, but so are company blogs. And if you thought for a second that sites likes Buzzfeed don’t have a calculated search strategy, you’d be wrong (even if they won’t admit to it). When it comes down to it, good quality content and the links and social signals it creates, will only be rewarded by Google.
In short, native advertising can be a natural fit for SEO, so long as the execution supports SEO best practices AND your target audience finds the content compelling. Some best practices:
- Whenever practical – publish the content that the native ad is promoting directly on your own site.
- This won’t work for every format but let’s say your ad is based on an infographic. Even if the infographic is distributed/syndicated to other sites – it’s a good idea to make sure the content shows up on your site first on its own URL.
- Consider the examples above. One can envision how those ads could appear on the advertiser’s own site or blog.
- Spend time on content marketing to amplify your content and make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
- In some cases – this may mean marketing the content you’ve placed on your own site
- In others, it may mean promoting your native ad content on a 3rd party site as in the examples laid out above.
- Your native ads will naturally include to a call to action that links to your site. Don’t limit your SEO gains by linking to a separate domain or subdomain. Vanity URLs are fine, but redirect them to a URL on your primary domain.
That last point above deserves some clarification. Links are a big deal for SEO… and paid links are a big no no. You should not expect links in your native ads to generate link juice for organic rankings in the traditional sense. Matt Cutts at Google has addressed native ads / advertorials specifically. As he says in the video, the ads themselves “shouldn’t” (won’t) float pagerank.
The real benefit comes from the exposure that native ads can generate for your content and/or brand. This exposure can result in natural “organic” links, social shares, etc for the content itself. That’s why I advocate for hosting the pieces on your own site in an SEO-friendly manner and for marketing that content. This concept is explained on our Moz whiteboard Friday.
Bridging the Native, Social & SEO Gap
Social media and SEO have a lot more in common than meets the eye, and one powerful way to bridge the gap is generating great content through native ads. More than ever, digital marketing is becoming a space full of integrated teams that work together to build and grow brands, rather than segmented “departments”. For first movers who dare to take risks in the industry, native advertising has proven to valuable to advertisers, SEOs, and consumers alike.
Coming next in Part 3: The downsides (and future) of Native Advertising