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I’ve been in digital 20+ years (yes, I started in the days of dial-up!) and to be completely honest with you the first time I heard the term “Native Advertising” I had visions of plants growing on a website in the vein of “these plants are native just to ThisWebsite.com.”

Okay, I admit I didn’t have a stellar start in this particular web category!

Since then I’ve learned a lot and how it can help today’s businesses grow and thrive (no plant pun intended!)

Native Advertising is basically advertorial – and if you’re over the age of 40 (like me) you know what that is. We used to see it in print ads – it looked like a story in the newspaper or magazine we were reading but there was a disclaimer in small print that said “sponsored content” or “advertiser message” or something along those lines.

The reason, I now know, it’s called “native” is it looks like it’s native to the site it’s on – it looks like it’s part of the editorial content even though there is still the disclaimer of “sponsored content.”

Does it matter to the user? No, it doesn’t seem to.

In fact, with the native product we sell folks are really into it (notice I didn’t say “engaged” – I hate being all “webby” with my terminology).

However, “into it,” “engaged,” “paying attention” are all good ways to describe what folks are doing because via our statistics they stay on page 3-7 minutes and scroll about 70% down the content.

What does this do for you?

Let me put it in terms of advertising at an event like a trade show – or other similar public event because that’s really what it is. Any native company worth their salt will drive the folks to your page that would be most interested in the content (IE, Cleveland sports fans wouldn’t be getting native ads to buy Pittsburgh sports season tickets).

Just like in a trade show you are hoping people stop at your booth and talk to you – and they should at least be in the ballpark of what kind of customer you’re trying to attract – and when you interact you’re hoping to move them closer to a sale.

That’s what native can do for you.

Instead of you being present “working the booth” your native page will do the work for you because a good native page will contain written content about what you’re trying to sell/promote, videos, links back to your site, connections to your social media and more. This page can literally sell for you – as if it’s you because it is you – it’s communicating what you want to your target demographic.

As far as getting folks to show up to “your booth” (native page) the company should be adept at not only finding your best potential customers online but using a variety of means to get them interested to show up at your page and spend some time with it.

If you’re interested in Native Advertising here is how I would think about it:

*Will you own your page to use in other ways? Again, it’s a valuable selling tool.

*How will they drive traffic to it? What is their network like? Can they get your story and ads for the story on the most popular sites?

*Do you have the option of writing the content yourself or having it provided for you?

*Will the company provide you with metrics that not only detail how many people went to your page but how long they stayed, how deep they scrolled on the content and how many times they displayed your ads to get folks to your page?

*Do they have you pay for a certain number of interactions/engagements instead of how many times they displayed your ad? This is important. I would want a company to guarantee me that X number of people were going to stop by my booth as opposed to: “We played your ad for 2 weeks – sorry that you only had 4 people come and talk to you.”

Have you used Native Advertising or do you have other comments? I’d sure love to hear from you below!

Jeff Biletnikoff has been in media over 25 years and been involved in digital for 20+. He’s the Digital Sales Manager for WTAE (ABC) TV Pittsburgh & Google Analytics Certified. Jeff loves to hear comments either in the box below or via jbiletnikoff@hearst.com or 412-244-4485.

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