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What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

Read Time 18 mins | Written by: Rebecca Gardom

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Though content marketing and native advertising are both popular forms of digital marketing, there are a number of key differences between the two, and they are ideally suited to different purposes.

As the world of online marketing evolves, it is important to understand what is the difference between native advertising and content marketing and how to best utilise each to its full potential. In this blog post, we define and explore the differences between each activity, the benefit of both, share how to write native ads and how to choose the right option for your business.

Table of contents

  1. What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?
    i. What is native advertising?
    ii. What is content marketing?
  2. Native advertising and content marketing – which is better?
    i. The benefits of native advertising
    ii. The benefits of content marketing
  3. How native advertising fits into content marketing
  4. How to choose between native advertising and content marketing
  5. Takeaway

What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

In recent years, internet marketing has drastically changed, as marketing professionals find new, innovative and more refined ways to generate leads online. Many established brands have long been using native advertising in order to promote their products more efficiently as these types of ads offer better visibility, reach and performance when compared with traditional forms of advertising such as banner ads or sidebar text links.

However, as consumers start to pay more attention to the brands they are purchasing from, and use search engines, reviews and online endorsements to make decisions, content marketing has started to play a much larger role. As content marketing continues to change the game, the value of high-quality, informative content will carry on rising.

To help us understand the differences between these two practices, let's define native advertising and content marketing separately:

What is native advertising?

What-is-the-difference-between-native-advertising-and-content-marketing-Copify-blog-3-740x493-2Native advertising is a form of online marketing that has been around for decades. In contrast to banner ads or pop-ups, it blends seamlessly into websites with valuable information and is designed to increase targeted reach.

Native ads are typically hosted on popular sites such as Buzzfeed, Slate and Refinery29 and can be easily recognised by the icon that appears in their upper right corner. These icons often feature a word or phrase that is the name of the advertiser’s product.

This form of digital advertising appears more like a traditional advertisement than content created by the website itself, sometimes with no disclosure that it was paid for by an advertiser (though this has recently changed, and transparency has become more important).

Native ads can be found in the sidebar or below articles on news sites, besides search results, at the top of mobile apps and as pop-up notifications or message alerts from social media platforms.

What is content marketing?

In contrast, content marketing is a long-term strategy, which relies on creating and sharing high-quality, search-optimised content for free. The aim of content marketing is to build trust with audiences, increase your brand awareness and therefore increase organic traffic to your site. This content can be in the form of videos, social media posts, infographics, blogs, newsletters, tutorials, syndicated content and more.

Content marketing also builds trust and brand authority – something that is crucial these days and establishes your brand as a leading authority on a subject that is relevant. For example, makeup tutorials on a beauty company’s blog using their own products would be a type of content marketing that fits seamlessly into a site, whilst generating interest and potential website conversions from those searching around that topic generally.

Native advertising and content marketing – which is better?


Because of the differences between native advertising and content marketing, it's helpful to understand how each approach can help a company when it comes to meeting a specific goal or campaign:

The benefits of native advertising

In general, native advertising is an excellent tool to gain visibility by placing ads on websites that have a much larger reach, whilst blending seamlessly into the site.

Native advertising often has a higher click-through rates (CTR) and provides greater reach than content marketing because it doesn’t require people to visit your website in order to know more about your brand.

They are also ad-block friendly and introduce your brand to wider audiences. A recent analysis of native advertising showed that they receive 8.8 times higher CTR than traditional display ads, and provide a greater reach because of their targeted placement.

If you have a new product launch or a larger advertising budget, then native advertising could be the best strategy for you.

The benefits of content marketing

Content marketing, on the other hand, is an inbound form of marketing that involves creating valuable content with the goal of generating traffic from users who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. This, in turn, contributes to long-term brand awareness and authority.

According to HubSpot, over 70% of companies are now prioritising content marketing and investing directly in content creation. With a good content marketing strategy, brands can expect increases in traffic, backlinks and social media sharing.

As such, Social Media Week found that 91% of consumers said they would be willing to reward a brand with purchase, investment, endorsement or similar action if they perceived it to be authentic. Content marketing is generally more cost effective than traditional forms of advertising such as TV commercials or print ads.

How native advertising fits into content marketing

Although there are differences, native advertising and content marketing can work symbiotically.

Native advertising can be a powerful tool in your content marketing strategy because it allows you to reach your target audience in a way that’s less disruptive and more engaging. By creating content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience, you can build trust and establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry.

One of the benefits of native advertising is that it can be used across a wide variety of platforms and formats, from social media to podcasts to video streaming services. This makes it a versatile tool in your content marketing arsenal.

To be successful with native advertising, you need to have a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs, as well as a clear understanding of the platform where your ad will appear. You also need to create high-quality content that provides value to the reader and aligns with your brand’s values and messaging.

Overall, native advertising can be an effective way to promote your brand and engage your target audience as part of a larger content marketing strategy.

How to choose between native advertising and content marketing


As we've seen, native advertising and content marketing are both effective strategies for promoting your brand and engaging your target audience so long as it uses high-quality content and effective well-placed ads. To make it easier to compare the merits of both strategies, here are some factors to consider when choosing between native advertising and content marketing at different stages of your marketing activity:

  1. Goals: Native advertising is typically used to drive immediate conversions or sales, while content marketing is focused on building long-term relationships with your audience and establishing your brand as a thought leader in your industry. If your goal is to generate leads or drive sales in the short term, native advertising may be the better choice. If you’re looking to build a strong brand and create lasting relationships with your audience, content marketing may be more effective.

  2. Budget: Native advertising is the more attractive option for brands that have a high budget and are looking to increase their CTR whilst content marketing is the better strategy for brands with lower budgets who want to generate organic traffic and build up their business over time.

  3. Audience: Native advertising is best suited for reaching new audiences and driving immediate conversions, while content marketing is more effective for building relationships with existing customers and engaging them over time. Consider who your target audience is and where they are in the customer journey when deciding which strategy to use.

  4. Platform: Native advertising is designed to look and feel like the editorial content on the platform where it appears, while content marketing can take many different forms across various platforms. Consider which platforms your target audience is using and where you can best reach them with your message.

Ultimately, the decision between when to use native advertising vs content marketing depends on your specific goals, audience and budget. In many cases, a combination of both strategies can be effective for building brand awareness and driving conversions. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each approach, you can create a marketing strategy that meets your unique needs and goals.

How to write native ads

Writing effective native ads involves creating content that seamlessly integrates with the platform or medium in which it appears, while still promoting your product or service. Here are some tips on how to write native ads:

  1. Understand your target audience: Before you start writing your native ad, it’s important to understand who your target audience is. What are their needs, interests and pain points? What kind of content do they engage with on the platform where the native ad will appear? This information will help you create an ad that resonates with your audience.

  2. Match the tone and style of the platform: Native ads should look and feel like the content surrounding them. This means using the same tone, style and format as other content on the platform. For example, if you’re creating a native ad for a social media platform, you should use the same language and visual style as other posts on that platform.

  3. Keep it short and simple: Native ads should be concise and easy to understand. Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms that your audience may not understand. Focus on the benefits of your product or service, and keep the ad short and to the point.

  4. Provide value: Your native ad should provide value to the reader, even if they don’t purchase your product or service. This could be in the form of educational content, entertainment, or information that’s relevant to your audience.

  5. Include a clear call to action: Your native ad should include a clear call to action that tells the reader what to do next. This could be visiting your website, signing up for a newsletter, or making a purchase. Make sure the call to action is prominent and easy to follow.

  6. Test and optimise: Like any marketing campaign, it’s important to test and optimise your native ads to improve their effectiveness. Monitor engagement metrics like click-through rates and conversion rates, and make changes to your ad as needed based on this data. 


In the current online environment, brands are constantly striving for new and better ways of reaching their target audiences whilst trying not to irritate them too much in the process.

This is a delicate balance and can be made even more difficult with increasingly widespread ad-blocking technology. Therefore it’s also important to tailor your marketing approach whilst considering what best suits your budget constraints, market objectives and target audience.

Native advertising and content marketing can both be effective strategies in this to raise brand awareness and grow your business.

✏️If you need help creating the content for your marketing strategy, or creating your native ad copy, a copywriting agency like Copify can help. 

Header image: Austin Distel

Embedded images: Maxim Ilyahov,, Adeolu Eletu

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Rebecca Gardom

I’m a creative copywriter based in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, with a varied portfolio, many years of experience and a passion for creating great content. I’ve held a variety of writing roles in a range of industries, including property, the arts, marketing and fashion. I also run a small business and have worked as a freelance writer and artist, before becoming a professional copywriter for Copify in 2020.