Native advertising is still a relatively new arrow in the digital marketer's quiver, and you'll be hearing more about it in 2014 as even more editorial and social media sites offer paid opportunities. Although Instagram's recent foray into sponsored updates met with mixed-to-negative results, many other sites and brands are finding success with native ads.
One of our clients, Frontier Co-op, presented us with a challenge for Holiday 2013: Increase sales and website visits by making use of original recipes featuring its Frontier and Simply Organic premium spices, herbs, and extracts. In a very crowded holiday recipe market, the fast-growing recipe discovery website and mobile app Yummly offered a unique mix of native ads that contributed to the campaign's overall success.
Based on that campaign, here are five ways to get the best results from your native advertising efforts.
1. Borrow SEO value
Yummly first caught our eye in our own weekend recipe research: Recipes on Yummly consistently ranked highly in organic search results. Since our branded microsites were launching just in time for the holiday ramp-up, we knew that even the most aggressive SEO strategy wouldn't result in substantial organic search traffic. Instead, we capitalized on Yummly's high-ranking search results; once visitors landed on Yummly, our relevant recipes were front and center via promoted recipes.
When looking for a good native advertising partner, pick editorial sites that have strong SEO, giving your brand a chance to piggyback on that well-earned organic search value.
2. Harness social proof
Whether it's Facebook, Yummly, LinkedIn, or any other engagement-based native ad platform, social proof lends instant credibility to your brand among users and friends of users. In the case of Yummly, users "Yum" their favorite recipes to show their approval. Frontier and Simply Organic's promoted recipes gained thousands of Yums, giving them impressive organically driven social proof.
Today's savvy consumers are apt to trust fellow users' validation rather than take a brand's word, and effective native advertising leverages social proof, increasing viral impact and credibility.
3. Work with discerning editorial sites
Appearing among other high-quality recipes from respected editorial websites like The Kitchn, Smitten Kitchen, and Food Republic lent instant credibility to Frontier's promoted recipes. Also, working with a respected site means that referral traffic will be high-quality and relevant. Across the board, the native ads for this campaign drove visitors who were more engaged once they arrived on the site—outpacing standard display and other tactics.
Look for a site that works with great partners, and your native ads will borrow equity from the editorial content on the site while benefiting from premium paid visibility on high-traffic pages.
4. Optimize the branded experience
Yummly offers premium advertising partners a chance to create their own dynamic Brand Center page, much like brands can curate their own Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest pages. The Frontier and Simply Organic Brand Center pages offered an ownable presence on Yummly.com, where we uploaded campaign banners that drove traffic directly to the microsites.
Effective native advertising platforms give your brand the ability to customize how you're represented throughout the site.
5. Capture long tail traffic
Native ads provide another advantage over traditional display: long-tale organic traffic. Although Frontier's ad flight ended on Christmas Day, its recipes still live on the site and in Yummly members' recipe boxes, and they continue to drive impressive traffic via organic on-site search. This type of traffic should prove especially valuable during next year's holiday period, when these specific recipes are again top of mind for Yummly users. Since Yummly carefully tailors its on-site search results based on user affinity and dietary restrictions, these recipes will be discoverable long after the campaign flight—especially the recipes that cater to vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free cooks.
Once your native ad is part of a site's ecosystem—whether a recipe, sponsored blog post, or promoted tweet—it will generally live there indefinitely and continue to drive organic traffic at no incremental cost.
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"What we found most valuable about our Yummly holiday campaign partnership was the immediate SEO value and compelling social proof. We'll use the results of this campaign to further hone our recipe strategy, with everything from recipe naming to the photography we use," said Mariah Andrews, Frontier's digital marketing manager.
Native advertising continues to be a hot topic among digital marketers, and this Frontier campaign proved to us that Yummly is a great place to reach recipe-seeking users within an engaging and trusted environment.
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