In a time when capturing and converting customers on the web is harder than ever, user experience is critical. Discover why native is a great option for user experience and what you should be doing to ensure the best results.
The effectiveness of any website can largely be determined by its ability to retain people's attention. Our online attention spans usually aren't very impressive to begin with, but by focusing on usability, user experience, and of course great content, a website can retain people's attention for a long time and secure their return.
This makes a website interesting to marketers as a means to reach an audience and get their products and services in front of the right people.
The user experience is vital to a website’s ability to retain visitors' attention. As such, anything that jeopardizes this experience potentially jeopardizes the website’s future.
Traditional ads cry out for attention
When you browse a website, you are often exposed to ads. They might be banners, large images or even auto-playing video with sound, but the common trait is that they all seek to gain your attention.
In fact, you could say that their entire purpose is to get you to notice them instead of the content on the actual site.
This makes traditional marketing efforts obtrusive and disruptive to the user experience.
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Native advertising blends in
The whole idea with native advertising is for the native content to blend in with the rest of the content on that particular platform. Native advertising is presented in the same style and format as the other content on the site.
Native ads are delivered inside the user's experience in a non-disruptive way. A visitor's attention flows seamlessly between editorial and native content, with a focus on the value they can gain from the content.
Unobtrusive advertising gets a brand's message out in front of people without sparking their resentment for it being there. When native advertising is done right, it doesn't interrupt the user's flow. In fact, it contributes to it.
When do native ads hurt the user experience?
Nobody’s perfect, and it is possible to break people's flow of content consumption with native advertising.
This happens when the native ads don’t line up with the style of the platform. It happens when the content fails to hit the same nerve as the rest of the content. It happens when the content isn’t relevant to the user.
In short, native content interrupts the user experience when it doesn't live up to the ideals of native advertising.
RELATED: Why Web Design Is Crucial To Deliver Good Customer Experience
Labels never hurt anyone
Most native content is clearly labelled as advertising to the user, but some companies and marketers are reluctant to put the label on their content out of concerns that it will hurt their CTR and overall engagement.
Anyone with these concerns should simply put themselves in the user's shoes. Imagine clicking on a piece of content that piqued your interest only to find out it is actually a piece of paid content – advertising in disguise. You feel hoodwinked, your user experience is disrupted and now it feels less safe to navigate the publishing website. At the same time, your regard for the advertising company has taken a hit.
Studies show that labels don’t hurt user experience; quite the contrary. That's because the user experience is guided by expectations. As long as the user gets what they expect, it doesn’t matter whether the content is editorial or paid.
When native content is clearly labelled, the user doesn't feel misled, their experience is improved and the credibility of the company behind the advertising increases.
The 5 best practices to improve user experience
To help you steer clear of interrupting the user experience, we have collected five best practices for your native advertising efforts. These practices are general in nature and will help you focus your content across in-feed, content recommendations and branded content.
- Improve relevancy with better targeting and by distributing the content in the right section of a website.
- Focus on the long run to build credibility. Don’t use clickbait to drive traffic now and risk decreasing people's trust in the company.
- Label everything and preferably add a byline to show that editorial staff has created the content.
- Be aware of the differences in what works on different platforms, with different formats and content types.
- Give people an opportunity to respond to your native ads. You can learn a lot about your audience’s intentions and preferences, which will help you optimize the content as well as adjust the relevancy.
With these five guidelines, you should be able to not only secure but improve the user experience and, through that, your results down the line.
Nudge, measure and analyze
Native advertising is in many ways a virtual gentle prod or nudge to get people to take a certain action – usually clicking on and reading a piece of content. So how many responded to that nudge? How many read the content? How long did they stay on the site?
If you can't answer these questions, you won’t be able to know whether your content and your distribution of it have been effective. Moreover, you won’t know how well your content fits into the user experience.
Measuring click-through rates, pageviews and time spent on site are important to determine the effectiveness of your native content. Low CTRs can mean anything from bad headlines, poor images, poor location on the site or low relevance to the users.
You might have to change several things to make the content work better, but the point is that all the aforementioned possibilities point to a poor user experience. Creating great content that blends into the user experience, sometimes even lifting it, is the ultimate nudge in native advertising.
Measuring, analyzing and then optimizing your native ads helps you give people just that: The right nudge.
Note: This article was originally published on 7 June 2019 and was updated on 22 June 2022
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