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Author: Anete Jodzevica 20 minute read
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What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is a perfect strategy for publishers to maximize revenue while enhancing user experience. It’s less intrusive and yields significantly higher CTRs than traditional display ads. Additionally, with native ads, publishers can capture user attention and drive higher-quality traffic more effectively.

Are you wondering how?

In this article, you’ll learn what native advertising is, how it works, its main benefits, and how to incorporate it into your advertising strategy!

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is a form of paid advertising that matches the look, feel, and function of the media format where it appears. Unlike banner or display ads, native ads don’t really look like ads, so they don’t disrupt the user’s interaction with the page. 

These ads provide a pleasant web experience without disturbing the flow of the reader’s attention. Native ads can appear on websites, social media feeds, and as promoted ads on top of SERPs.

Evolution of native advertising in digital marketing

Native advertising, over time, has adapted to media consumption and technology changes. It began as advertorials and sponsored content in newspapers and magazines. These advertorials were designed to look like editorial content, allowing brands to align their marketing messages with the style and credibility of journalistic writing.

Later, native advertising expanded into digital platforms. Websites and online publications began incorporating sponsored posts and articles that mirrored the appearance and function of their regular content, blending ads more seamlessly with user experiences.

Once social media platforms boomed, brands started to create content similar to organic social media posts. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram developed specific formats for sponsored posts that appear directly in users’ feeds.

Further advancements in data analytics and targeting technologies have allowed advertisers to personalize native ads to individual user’s interests and browsing habits. Additionally, programmatic buying, where ads are automatically placed where they’re likely to perform best, has made native advertising more efficient and integrated.

Here’s a short timeline of native advertising’s evolution: 

  • 1930s–advertisers buy and control radio programs.
  • 1940s–manufacturers and film producers start to promote brands by placing products in storylines and scenes.
  • 1990s–advertisers started to pay search engines to have their website appear higher in the search results.
  • 2006–New algorithm-based technology that targets relevant content to specific audiences. 
  • 2011–the first mention of the concept of native advertising.

Programmatic native advertising

This involves automated buying and selling of native ad inventory through real-time bidding. Ads are dynamically placed into content that matches the advertiser’s target audience profile, optimizing relevance and engagement.

When applied to native advertising, your in-feed, paid search, or other native ads will be more able to reach specific audience segments. The programmatic algorithm will also help optimize native ad campaigns, doubling down on what works and pausing what doesn’t.

How Do You Spot Native Advertising?

Since native ads appear seamlessly within the content stream, publishers must be careful to maintain transparency and trust with their audiences and comply with legal standards. 

One of the first signs of native advertising is the presence of labels such as sponsored, promoted, recommended by, or similar terminology. 

These labels are typically found in the header, footer, or directly above or below the content. The FTC mandates these disclosures to ensure that users understand they view paid content.

  • Within social media, they might look just like another post in a feed but are tagged as sponsored or recommended
  • On websites, they can appear at the end of an article as recommended stories or sponsored content

Native ads often include subtle visual indicators beyond text labels. Look for small icons, such as a corporate logo or a stylized “AD” symbol, in the corner of the ad. 

Analyzing whether the content serves primarily to educate and inform or to promote a product or service can be a clue. Even if the content is informative, if its underlying aim is to sell something, it’s likely a native ad.

Familiarize yourself with the guidelines set by bodies like the FTC and IAB. These guidelines can provide additional specifics on what to look for and how to ensure compliance in presenting native ads.

Ensuring your audience is always aware that they view sponsored content is not just a legal obligation—it’s a cornerstone of ethical publishing.

Native Ad Formats

In-feed ad units

In-feed native ads seamlessly integrate into the content streams of websites and apps, particularly within social and news feeds. These ads mimic the look and feel of the organic content surrounding them, making them less intrusive and more engaging for users. 

They are typically marked with labels such as “sponsored” or “promoted” to indicate that they are paid content, even though they appear similar to natural posts. Formats for in-feed ads vary, including static images, videos, and interactive media, often accompanied by a CTA button to encourage user engagement. 

  • For example, platforms like Instagram show sponsored posts as in-feed ads. The placement of these ads is commonly managed through programmatic advertising, ensuring that they are shown to the most relevant audience based on their online behavior and preferences.
in-feed ads

In-content ad units

In-content native ads integrate within the body of digital content, such as articles on news sites or blog posts. These ads are strategically placed between paragraphs or at the end of an article, blending with the editorial content’s style and format. 

This integration allows the ads to appear as a natural part of the article, making them less intrusive and more engaging for readers. Like in-feed ads, in-content native ads match the look and feel of the surrounding content, often making it difficult to distinguish them from non-sponsored content at first glance. 

They are typically labeled with terms like sponsored or advertisement to provide transparency and indicate that they are paid placements. 

in-content ad units

Paid search units 

Paid search units, or search engine ads, are displayed alongside organic search engine results based on specific keywords. These ads are typically labeled with terms such as Ad or Sponsored to differentiate them from non-paid search results. 

When a user enters a query related to a keyword that advertisers have bid on, these paid search units may appear at the top, bottom, or side of the SERP, offering high visibility. This form of advertising operates on a PPC model, where advertisers only pay when a user clicks on their ad. 

paid search units

The placement and ranking of these ads depend on both the amount bid on the keywords and the quality score of the ads, which considers the ad’s relevance and expected CTR. Paid search ads can be a great way to target users actively searching for products or services related to your business.

Note: Opinions on whether paid search ad units qualify as native ads vary significantly. Some consider them native because they blend with search results and match the form and function of organic listings. In contrast, others argue they aren’t, as they are marked as ads and don’t offer the same content-driven experience typically associated with native ads.

Recommendation widgets

Recommendation widgets or content recommendation ads, often found at the bottom of news articles or content pages, enhance user engagement by suggesting related articles, products, or services. 

Commonly used disclosures for content recommendation widgets:

  • This text is typically found above the listings in bold–You might also like, or You might like, Elsewhere from around the web or From around the web, You may have missed, Recommended for you.
  • The sponsor’s name or the destination site is placed after the visual and/or the headline in the unit, noting that this format may contain both local and third-party content in the same overall unit.
  • It is often served through a third party, like Outbrain or Taboola, and the technology provider may include their company name or logo to further indicate to consumers that the content is not from the publisher.  

This integration helps the suggested content appear more natural and less intrusive, which tends to appeal more to consumers than traditional ads. These widgets aim to promote content or products from various brands, leading users to external sites when they click on the recommendations. 

sponsored content

Promoted listings

Promoted listings are commonly used on e-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay, where products are highlighted as sponsored to differentiate them from regular listings. These ads also blend with the platform’s native listings, making them visually coherent with the rest of the site’s content. 

Promoted listings appear directly within the e-commerce site’s search results or product categories, often prioritized to appear at the top or within the first few results. This positioning helps increase visibility and potentially boost sales for the advertised products. 

This type of advertising is considered a subset of native advertising due to its non-disruptive and contextually relevant nature, which aligns with the overarching goal of native advertising.

native promoted listings

Display ad with native elements 

Display ads with native elements represent a hybrid approach that blends the characteristics of traditional display advertising with the integrative and less obtrusive features of native advertising. 

These ads are visually structured like typical display ads (often appearing as banners, sidebars, or interstitials). Still, they are designed to align stylistically with the look and feel of the website or platform where they are placed.

The key element differentiating these ads from standard display ads is their design and contextual relevance. While they maintain the recognizable format of display advertising, they are crafted to echo the aesthetic and content themes of the host site. This might involve using similar fonts, colors, or imagery, which helps the ad to blend more naturally into the page.

This approach aims to capture users’ attention more subtly and effectively by reducing the likelihood of ad fatigue. It also seeks to improve user engagement rates by offering visual and thematic continuity to make the ad feel more relevant and less intrusive. 

native ad

Benefits of Native Advertising

Here are the 5 main benefits of native advertising:

  • Seamlessly blends in with the content.
  • Higher engagement and click-through rates.
  • Improved brand perception and recognition.
  • Helps fight ad fatigue.
  • Better ad placement. 

What are the main benefits for advertisers, publishers, and users? 

Who benefits?What are the benefits?
AdvertisersIncreased engagement due to content relevance.
 • Higher conversion rates as ads blend with the native content.
 • Improved brand perception by associating with trusted content.
PublishersEnhanced user experience and longer visit durations.
 • Potential for higher revenue through premium ad rates.
 • Maintains content quality and relevance.
UsersLess intrusive and more relevant ad experiences.
 • Improved trust and satisfaction with the content.

Native Advertising Platforms

As a publisher, you surely want to earn the most revenue while providing the best user experience to your visitors. And native advertising comes to help! However, leveraging the right ad network is one of the best ways to monetize your site, and choosing the right one can be difficult.

Here are some examples of native advertising platforms to help you out:

  • Social media platforms allow advertisers to create ads that mimic the format of regular posts, making them appear as part of a user’s feed. These platforms offer advanced targeting options based on user demographics, interests, and behavior to help advertisers reach their specific audience.

For example, LinkedIn marketing. It caters to the audience of the LinkedIn social network and includes supported segmentation features and sponsored updates. 

linkedin marketing platform
  • Content discovery networks recommend personalized content to users by placing sponsored content links on websites. These links typically appear at the end of articles, aiming to match the user’s interests and increase engagement through relevant recommendations.

For example, Taboola. This platform offers a large pool of premium publishers.

  • Advertising networks specialize in distributing ads across multiple platforms, including native formats that align with the existing content’s look and style, helping to achieve a non-intrusive presence. 

For example, Setupad. We provide publishers with native ads alongside other advanced ad formats

Note: Setupad encourages publishers to use all available opportunities to maximize their yield. Thus, a combination of display and native ads is the right solution. 

Try Setupad ad formats for your site by signing up!

Native Advertising Analytics Tools

Measuring the performance of native advertising campaigns can be challenging, especially when it comes to tracking the right metrics and understanding their impact on your target audience. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and platforms available that can help you with this!

Many platforms offer built-in analytics tools that can help you track and analyze your campaigns’ performance. These tools provide a range of metrics, including impressions, clicks, and conversions, and can help you optimize your campaigns for better results.

Social media analytics tools

If you’re running native ad campaigns on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook), you can use their built-in analytics tools to track your campaign performance. These tools also provide insights into engagement, clicks, and conversions and can help you optimize your campaigns for better results.

facebook ad analytics

Third-party analytics tools

Various third-party analytics tools are also available to help you measure the effectiveness of your native advertising campaigns. 

For example, Google Analytics is a powerful tool for tracking the performance of your ad campaigns and other marketing efforts. Setting up custom tracking codes and goals allows you to track campaign performance across various metrics, including traffic, engagement, and conversions.

GA4 interface

Additionally, the Semrush Advertising Research tool allows you to analyze competitors’ SERP ads. 

Most advertising tools can’t track native ad campaigns, but SERP ads can tell you more about the targeted keywords or highlighted products. You can get inspired by your competitors’ strategies or benchmark them to build your own campaigns. 

Semrush tool

Best Practices for Native Ad Campaigns

Choose the right partners

Collaborate with reputable native advertising networks or platforms that align with your site’s content and audience. High-quality ads are more likely to engage the audience effectively, preserving and enhancing the audience’s trust and loyalty toward the publisher’s brand. 

Furthermore, ads that align well with the site’s content are more likely to perform better, leading to higher CTRs and more revenue for the publisher. 

In short terms, partnering with the right networks supports a seamless user experience, drives financial success, and sustains the publisher’s brand integrity.

Understanding target audience

Using data analytics, publishers can understand their audience’s preferences, browsing habits, and content consumption patterns, enabling them to choose or curate ads that resonate with their interests. 

However, collaborating with advertisers or platforms that offer targeted capabilities ensures that only the most relevant ads are displayed. 

For instance, a tech site might feature ads for tech-related products, naturally attracting their readers. This strategic alignment enhances the user experience and increases ad interaction, boosting ad effectiveness and reinforcing trust between the publisher and its audience.

Optimizing for mobile devices

Optimizing content for mobile devices is crucial, given the substantial number of users accessing content on their smartphones and tablets. 

Ensure that your native ads and associated content are responsive. Meaning they adjust seamlessly to different screen sizes and orientations, making your content easily readable and engaging across all devices.

Worth mentioning that mobile users often have less patience for slow-loading content. Optimize images, videos, and other elements to load quickly to improve the user experience and engagement.

Additionally, design your ads with mobile interaction in mind. 

Elements like buttons and links should be easy to tap with a finger. Avoid designs that require precise clicking, which is more suitable for desktop advertising.

Transparency and ethical standards

Last but not least, transparency and honesty are crucial in native advertising. 

Avoid deceptive tactics that could mislead your audience. Maintaining ethical standards builds trust and fosters a positive long-term relationship with your audience, which is vital for sustained success.

Navigating Regulatory Compliance

Navigating regulatory compliance with native advertising requires adhering to the clear guidelines set by regulatory bodies such as the FTC.  

FTC guidelines for native advertising disclosure

The FTC mandates that disclosures in native advertising must be prominently placed, straightforward, and understandable to the average consumer. 

FTC guidelines highlight that advertisers must include disclaimer language on native ads to clearly state that it is paid content. The disclosure should be positioned close to the native ad, ensuring it is easily visible to the consumer before engaging with the content. It is crucial to maintain consistency in the language across various platforms where the ad appears

FTC recommends:

  • Using terms like Ad, Advertisement, Paid Advertisement, Sponsored Advertising Content, or other variations that are free of industry jargon and easily understood. 
  • Avoiding industry jargon and vague terms such as Promoted, which might imply publisher endorsement without clear context. 

Ensuring transparency and avoiding deceptive practices

Compliance is not just about avoiding legal repercussions, it’s about maintaining trust and transparency with users. Misleading headlines and deceptive practices, like using clickbait, should be avoided as they can erode consumer trust and harm the brand’s reputation. 

Thus, a balance must be struck between blending ads with content and ensuring they are sufficiently differentiated and transparent to the audience.

Measuring the Success of Native Advertising

Metrics for tracking the performance of native advertising

Clickthrough rate is the most valuable industry KPI to measure the success of a native advertising campaign. From this metric, advertisers and publishers can see the percentage of people who saw and clicked through to the landing page’s content. 

Click-through rates directly measure the effectiveness of an ad in capturing audience interest and driving interaction. A high CTR indicates an ad is engaging and compels viewers to click through to the landing page, providing insights into how well content resonates with audiences. 

Higher engagement typically translates to increased revenue opportunities, as advertisers are willing to pay more for placements that demonstrate effective engagement. Moreover, a low CTR can signal the need for optimization, such as adjusting the ad’s design, copy, or placement to capture attention better. 

CTRs also facilitate A/B testing by allowing publishers to compare the effectiveness of different ad versions, thus refining advertising strategies to maximize engagement. 

Additional metrics to consider include conversion rates, engagement rates, impressions, viewability, and bounce rate.

  • Conversion rate measures the number of clicks that result in a desired action, such as a purchase, sign-up, or download. It helps measure the ad’s effectiveness in driving business outcomes.
  • Engagement rate measures the interaction with an ad beyond clicks, such as likes, shares, and comments. It indicates the level of audience involvement and interest in the ad.
  • Viewability measures whether the audience actually saw an ad. It is important to ensure the target audience sees the ad to maximize its impact.

For native video ads, the view count is comparable to the clickthrough rate. 

Other success metrics include unique views, interaction time, the length of time viewers watch a campaign video, and replays. However, the total likes, reshares, and comments on social media can also measure the campaign’s success. 

Native Advertising vs. Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertisingNative advertising
DefinitionTraditional ads include formats like banners, display ads, pop-ups, and video ads that are clearly distinguishable from the surrounding content.Native ads match the platform’s content’s look, feel, and function. Unlike traditional ads, native ads don’t look like typical ads and are often found in social media feeds or as recommended content on web pages.
AppearanceIncludes eye-catching visuals. Stands out from the surrounding content of the platform, including other ads.Blends in with the style of the surrounding content. It’s crafted to be less intrusive and more inviting to read.
ContentUsually promotes a product or service.Often the main focus is to educate and entertain.
TransparencyGenerally pretty obvious about its intent.More subtle and can draw in consumers before they recognize it’s a form of marketing.
MeasurementMostly uses standard metrics (e.g., clicks and impressions). Involves more sophisticated analytics (e.g., brand perception, engagement, conversions) 
TargetingTargeted more broadlyCan be targeted to the behavior, lifestyle, and interests of an audience
Ad blockersTraditional and pop-up ads may be routinely blocked.Because of their integration with the platform, native ads are less susceptible to ad blockers

When to use each approach?

Native ads are less intrusive and tend to perform better than display ads. But display ads aren’t insignificant. For the best results, you should incorporate both since each serves a different purpose.

  • Display advertising is most effective when publishers aim to maximize visibility and reach for advertisers. This form of advertising is well-suited for campaigns focusing on brand awareness and broad messaging due to its prominent placement and ability to attract attention quickly. They are typically used when targeting is based more on the page’s content than the individual user’s interests.
  • Native advertising is ideal for publishers looking to offer less intrusive ads that are more aligned with the user’s experience. It’s particularly useful for campaigns aiming to engage users deeply or when the ad itself adds value to the audience’s experience, such as through informative or educational content. This approach is best suited for targeting specific audience segments based on their interests and behaviors.

How to Get Started with Native Advertising?

If you’re interested in native advertising as a publisher, you can start by following these steps:

  1. Identify what you aim to achieve through native advertising. This could be enhancing reader engagement, increasing page views, or generating direct revenue. Clear goals help to measure the success of your native ads.
  1. Thoroughly understand your readers. Use analytics tools to gather data on your audience’s demographics, interests, and behavior patterns. This information will guide you in creating or selecting ads that most likely resonate with them.
  1. Choose platforms or partners that align with your content’s tone and subject matter. Look for partners who maintain high-quality standards and have a track record of working successfully with similar websites.
  1. Develop native ads that match the look and feel of your existing content. Whether you’re crafting the ads yourself or selecting them from a third party, ensure they maintain the editorial standards of your website and provide value to your readers.
  1. Launch your native ads and closely monitor their performance. Use tools to track engagement, such as CTRs, time spent on the ad content, and social shares. Feedback and analytics will help you tweak and improve your strategy.

Focus on crafting compelling titles and using effective visuals that align with your brand and appeal to your audience. Nonetheless, keep in mind that you need to: 

  • Ensure that your ads are optimized for mobile devices.
  • Use analytics to track the performance of your ads.
  • Make it clear that your content is sponsored.

However, trusted third-party monetization platforms can significantly help publishers with native advertising by simplifying the integration and management of ads. Such platforms, like Setupad, typically help to handle the technical aspects of ad placement, ensuring that ads seamlessly blend into the publisher’s content in a non-disruptive manner. 

By using a trusted platform, publishers can also ensure transparency and adherence to advertising standards, which helps build credibility and trust with their audience. 

If you want to save yourself from the hassle and get high-quality support and effective results, don’t hesitate to sign up with us! 


Native advertising focuses on subtlety and user experience to effectively engage audiences. Native ads blend seamlessly with the publisher’s content, minimizing disruption and enhancing engagement. That’s why they’re considered vital for publishers looking to monetize their platforms while effectively maintaining user experience.

Finding a trusted advertising partner or platform cannot be overstated. It can simplify integrating and managing native ads by providing essential support in areas like optimization, analytics, and compliance with advertising standards. 

By delegating these complex tasks to a reliable partner, publishers can dedicate more time and resources to what they do best–creating high-quality content!

About Anete Jodzevica
Anete is a content marketing specialist at Setupad. In addition to writing articles, she works at gathering information, verifying data, and explaining complex concepts to others. Anete believes that simplicity is the key to brilliance.

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