Native Advertising vs. Content Marketing: What’s the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Marketing professionals use an array of processes and techniques, such as content marketing and native advertising, to successfully perform their jobs. Both content marketing and native advertising can help companies generate new leads, build brand awareness, foster meaningful relationships with their customers and increase sales. Understanding both the similarities and differences between native advertising and content marketing can help you better optimize each process and effectively use them together.

In this article, we compare native advertising versus content marketing, offer tips on how to incorporate both into your operations and provide the answers to some frequently asked questions about these two marketing processes.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is the strategic process of designing and placing ads in a way where they fit into other digital content. The goal of native advertising is to provide users with a seamless experience of browsing a website while viewing ads that are incorporated into the rest of the website's layout. With native advertising, marketing departments or companies pay to receive placement for their ads on third-party sites.

Read more: What is Native Advertising? Types, Benefits and the User Experience

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a type of marketing that emphasizes marketing projects with in-depth information. This information may be about the company's products or services or provide details on related topics to help establish their brand's credibility. Content marketing may include formats such as long-form blog posts, video tutorials, case studies, podcasts or white pages.

Read more: Content Marketing Basics: What Is Content Marketing and How To Do It

Native advertising vs. content marketing

Following are the principal similarities and differences between native advertising versus content marketing:

Strategies

Both native advertising and content marketing can be part of a company's overall marketing plans and techniques, but differ in their strategic approaches. With native advertising, a business focuses on specific marketing campaigns or projects related to getting their content featured on an external website.

For example, a business might run a native advertising campaign by purchasing paid ads on a social media platform or a news outlet website. By contrast, content marketing is a long-term strategy incorporated into a business's operations rather than a specific campaign.

As an example, a pet food business might generate content marketing pieces over several years related to various facets of animal nutrition, dietary restrictions and portion control. Rather than achieving specific campaign metrics, their goals for these diverse content marketing efforts would likely be to improve conversion rates and build brand credibility over time.

Content focus

Marketing efforts related to native advertising may promote a company's products or services or highlight content from their online platforms. For example, a tech company might run some native ads for their new keyboards and other native ads to promote their in-depth case studies.

Content marketing projects, meanwhile, focus less on promoting a brand or its offerings. Instead, content marketing emphasizes offering users high-quality content related to a company that establishes brand credibility or trustworthiness.

Benefits

Although both native advertising and content marketing typically share similar overall goals, like increasing sales or leads, their purposes and advantages tend to differ. The primary advantage of native advertising is that it can minimize the distraction some users feel from other types of advertising, such as pop-up ads.

Since native ads blend into the rest of the site's design, they can give users a more positive and intuitive experience while navigating the website. Another benefit of native advertising is that it can help you reach new audience segments who encounter the brand through a third-party vendor's site.

By contrast, the fundamental benefit of content marketing is that it offers customers in-depth information that can educate them, help them solve a problem or provide entertainment. Content marketing offers users detailed facts or opinions related to a business with the goal of fostering trusting and loyal relationships with current or prospective customers.

Related: 26 Ways To Increase Awareness About Your Brand

Costs

Since native advertising is usually a paid media strategy, it often costs more than content marketing. Paid media refer to marketing efforts that occur on a third-party vendor's platform. In comparison, content marketing is an owned media strategy that you can conduct primarily from content that you already control, such as your website or social media channels.

Examples of content marketing vs. native advertising

Following are examples of the types of media you might create as part of your content marketing strategy:

  • White pages

  • Longer videos, such as testimonials, demonstrations or how-to guides

  • Podcasts

  • Articles

  • Email newsletters

  • Infographics

  • Lengthier social media posts

  • Quotes within an article on a third-party website

Native ads can appear in formats such as:

  • Video ads on a third-party website

  • Paid ads on a social media platform

  • Email ads

  • Search engine ads

  • Recommendations or suggestions on a third-party site

Related: SEO vs. SEA: What Are the Benefits and When To Use Each One

Tips for using both native advertising and content marketing

Following is some advice on how to successfully incorporate both content marketing and native advertising into business operations:

Consider your audience

Pick and develop content that's relevant to your target audience. Understanding your audience's traits, needs, preferences or wants can help you create content that they connect with and want to learn more about. If you're developing native advertising, be sure to consider both your target audience along with the type of audience most likely to be visiting that third-party site.

For example, if you're advertising your house cleaning services on a site that sells new furniture, you might consider developing native ads that highlight how a business can help clients keep their furniture items in good condition.

If you're creating content marketing projects, it can be helpful to think about the type of in-depth or practical content your users might benefit from knowing. As an example, a car dealership may generate content marketing projects related to washing a car's exterior or driving regulations within their region.

Use tags

Tag your content with relevant keywords. Using tags for both ads and marketing content can make it easier for users to find your content through relevant search results. You can use keyword search tools to help you find tags that users already search for that relate to your content.

Related: A Guide to Emotional Advertising: Types, Benefits and Tips

Set and track metrics

Establish and monitor metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) for to your various marketing campaigns and strategies. Settings specific measurable objectives can help you evaluate if you're achieving your goals.

If you learn from the metrics that your marketing efforts have some areas that you could improve, determine methods for optimizing your marketing initiatives. For example, if your native ads or content marketing pieces lead to fewer conversions than you'd like, you may want to strategize ways of establishing more brand trust with your leads.

Align efforts with departmental or business goals

Develop marketing tactics and projects that can bolster your overall departmental or company-wide ambitions. This can help you optimize your resources and improve operational efficiency. For example, if one of your current company goals is to expand your online presence, you might focus on placing native ads on sites with untapped markets or creating a series of informative blog posts on your own site.

Tell stories

Share unique stories with your audience about the company's history, mission, personnel or recent developments. Some prospective customers may feel more invested in a business when they understand not just what that company sells, but also how or why they sell it.

Telling these types of stories can foster an emotional connection between you and your audience. This emotional bond can lead to other benefits too, such as increased brand loyalty and improved public perception.

Related: Content Creation: Definition and Steps to Develop a Great Content Strategy

FAQs about content marketing vs. native advertising

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about native advertising versus content marketing:

Is native advertising or content marketing better for my business?

When developing long-term marketing strategies and initiatives, it can be beneficial for most companies to incorporate both native advertising and content marketing into their business plans. Both content marketing and native advertising can help organizations in a range of ways, such as gaining new leads, improving sales numbers, generating more revenue and scaling their business.

Some businesses may wonder whether it's best to prioritize content marketing or native advertising for their short-term plans. Here are some factors that may help you decide whether focusing on native advertising or content marketing on a short-term basis could offer a company the greatest benefit:

  • Cost: Businesses that have the capital for a long-term strategy may see greater results over time by investing in content marketing. New organizations, meanwhile, with the budget for more upfront costs or who want to generate income more rapidly, may prefer to purchase native ads.

  • Explanation of product or service: Products or services that require little explanation may do better with native ads. If your audience needs more persuasion before buying your products or services, such as if you're trying to make them aware of their pain points, then content marketing allows you more room and space to explore your topics.

  • Target audience characteristics: Think about the traits and behaviors of your target consumers, such as if they are more motivated by dynamic visual content or lengthier written pieces. It may also help to determine how much research your target audience conducts before they make a purchase.

Is native advertising controversial?

Some professionals may think that native advertising can be controversial. This might be because some native ads blend so well into the third-party vendor's website that consumers believe those ads are a part of that site.

The best way to minimize this potential controversy when developing your own ads is to make sure that all of your native ads contain clear branding for the organization. Incorporating distinctive branding into your native ads cannot only communicate to visitors that the ad can take them to a new website, but may provide you with other advantages too, like increasing brand awareness.

Related: Key Marketing Skills To List on a Resume (With Examples)

Are content marketing and content strategy the same?

Although content strategy and content marketing are not exactly the same, they do relate to one another. Content strategy refers to well-developed plans and tactics for your content marketing initiatives. Having a great content strategy can help your marketing team develop blogs, case studies, videos and other content that represents the brand in a distinct and cohesive way.

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