There has been explosive growth in native advertising in 2014. Native advertising is defined by the IAB as advertising that takes the form of the content around the ad.
While native ads have been in existence since the early 2000s (with many considering Google AdWords as the first serious play) it has gained new momentum this year as the SEO landscape has changed so significantly.
Native advertising offers an unparalleled user experience. An overwhelming majority of consumers say that sponsored content doesn't hinder their experience on a website. Consumers are also more likely to look at native ads and share them over display ads.
Content marketers are paying attention to the trend.
Native ads help circulate strong content, encourage sharing and earn unsolicited backlinks.
SEO in 2014 has been focused heavily on content marketing as Google has pushed the community to stop explicit link building. As small businesses create stronger content, they will also naturally start to think about how to more effectively grow their audiences.
Launching a native ad campaign is easy for a small business that is already engaged with SEO, social, and content marketing. Content marketing efforts have already created great content on the website and native advertising offers excellent click-through rates to bring more readers.
Having a blog with a consistent flow of content can grow a loyal reading audience, reinforce the brand, and gain backlinks the right way. Recommendation widgets, like Internal Discovery from Disqus, show suggested links to content already on websites and are easy to install. They allow users to navigate through more content, stay on the site longer, and encourage engagement.
Promoted social media posts provide the same benefits, and are also easy to execute. Mashable recently reported on a small business that promoted content on Facebook and saw a 19 percent increase in monthly guest volume and gross revenue as a result.
No other form of advertising in recent memory has been as well-received by consumers as native advertising. While native advertising is just an extension of content marketing, the data suggests it will be around for the long haul and should be seriously considered.
As SEO continues to move away from explicit link building and toward content marketing, it's easy to predict that native advertising will continue to grow. Using native ads as a content discovery mechanism is a smart move for small businesses trying to reinvent their SEO strategies and ride the latest trend in online marketing.