Leveraging Links in Native Advertising

Jul 30, 2014

Article ImageA recent survey by HubShout, an online marketing firm based in Virginia, suggests that content marketers have some great opportunities to leverage links to boost awareness and drive traffic to their sites. In fact, 33.6% of those responding indicated that the type of native advertising most likely to generate response is links incorporated at the end of articles. These links outrank any other type of native advertising.

So, what does that mean to you and how can you add this tactic most effectively to your content marketing arsenal?

Chad Hill is cofounder and CEO at HubShout. Content marketing, says Hill, has proven to be a big driver of converting people not only on web sites, but through links. "We try to keep on the cutting edge, or at least the leading edge, of what's going on in advertising," he says. The study of 425 internet users in the United States explored experiences with native advertising.

Despite, he says, the commonly heard anecdotal comments of "I never click on paid ads," the survey indicated that those online do click, and they click most frequently on links to suggested content at the end of articles. It's really all about the content and, if users, view the content as valuable in terms of their needs or interests, they're going to explore further. "The focus is really on the headline and the content," says Hill. "The majority of people said that as long as the content is interesting, I'm going to go there."

In addition to the value of driving people to your content and your web site, Hill notes that there is added value in the prospect of social sharing of this content-the reach can grow exponentially driven, of course, by the quality and utility of the content.

While HubShout's research suggests that where the link goes is not as important to users as what the content conveys, the issue of whether/how to label content as "sponsored" is a key one for marketers. MJ Reale is president and founder of GirlZone.com, a community for teen girls that provides articles and advice about their lives, from fashion to fitness, cooking, body, health, sex, and relationships.  She says GirlZone.com, despite the fact that it's a small niche site receives weekly requests for sponsored links. They offer two options, she says: Fees vary based on whether the content will be provided or needs to be written. In either case, the post must be attributed.

"Some disappear when we tell them we require attribution on the post that it is sponsored, she says. "This is tough to take as a small organization but we are taking the high road on this." Recognizing that the word "sponsored" may cause some concerns, they include language on their ad info page that says:  "From time to time we work with companies who sponsor editorial content on our site. Those articles may be identified in a variety of ways including "sponsored by," "provided by," "in collaboration with," or "collaborative post."

Although marketers can reach out on their own to sites like GirlZone.com, services like Outbrain and Taboola have automated this process. HubShout has bundled this type of automated content discovery into their services, says Hill. "We know if we don't do that the client is not going to see the value. We're really trying to bundle this into more of the things we're doing to make it more useful for the end user client," he says.

Ryan Nathanson, senior director, operations and yield at Federated Media Publishing, with offices in San Francisco and New York, says that advertisers have two ways to integrate links into native ads-partnership with an ad network or "creating the content on their own and distributing that content within their own branded ad unit."

The benefit of the latter approach is control; the downside, says Nathanson, "is that not all brands have the capability to create strategy or content in-house.

Regardless of the approach used, though, it appears that leveraging inks to useful content can be a great way for content marketers to gain traction and drive traffic online. 

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)