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What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

by Rebecca Gardom on

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.

What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

What is native advertising?

Someone sat at a laptop and with a smartphone reading contentNative advertising is a form of online marketing which 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, syndicate marketing 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.

The future of online marketing: Native advertising or content marketing?

Over the shoulder view of a woman reading on a smartphoneIn 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.

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.

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 click-through rates (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 is a more recent trend in online marketing, which focuses more on generating long-term brand awareness and authority. 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.

With a good content marketing strategy, brands can expect increases in traffic, backlinks and social media sharing. It is an inbound form of advertising which involves creating valuable content with the goal to generate interest from consumers who are then driven to your website or social media profiles for more information about your product or service.

The benefits of content marketing include increased traffic to your website, building trust and brand authority and it is generally more cost-effective than traditional forms of advertising such as TV commercials or print ads.

Native advertising and content marketing – which is better?

A man reclining looking at statisticsBecause of the differences between native advertising and content marketing, brands need to decide which one is best for their needs when it comes to a specific goal or campaign.

Native advertising often has a higher 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.

Content marketing, on the other hand, generates more traffic from users who are genuinely interested in your brand. According to HubSpot, over 70% of companies are now prioritising content marketing and investing directly in content creation. As a result of successful content marketing, people who are driven from your blog or social media profiles directly onto your site for more information are already interested in what you have to offer.

Tailoring your online marketing for better results

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. It is also important to bear in mind that you can use a strategy that includes both native advertising and content marketing so long as it uses high-quality content and effective well-placed ads.

How to choose between native advertising and content marketing

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.

Header image: Austin Distel on Unsplash

Embedded images: Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash, on Unsplash, Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

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.

Rebecca Gardom

Rebecca Gardom