Affiliate Marketing: The Beginner’s Guide to Native Advertising
One of the most important decisions in affiliate marketing is choosing which traffic source to focus on.
There are a ton of places to choose from including adult, Facebook, display, Google, mobile, etc.
I wanna talk about a type of traffic that has been getting a ton of buzz the past few years.
It’s called Native Advertising (Most affiliates just call it native ads)
You might’ve seen them around when you’re browsing on different websites.
What’s weird is native advertising has been around forever. Native ads were my biggest traffic sources in 09/10 back when Pulse360 and Adsonar dominated.
And they’ve made a huge comeback in the past two years.
Native advertising is everywhere in 2017, and it’s only getting bigger.
Over $5 billion was spent on native ads in 2016 in the United States alone. This graph from Statista is one estimate of the growth.
There are other estimates that native ad spend will reach $21 billion by 2018.
I don’t know the exact number, but things like this KEEP happening in our industry.
Massive new trends come, affiliates enter the arena, and they make fortunes.
Affiliate marketing will never die, it just changes form.
I wanna introduce you guys to the world of native advertising.
Here’s what I’m going to cover in this post:
- Why Native Advertising?
- What Is Native Advertising?
- What Types of Websites Use Native Ads?
- How Do Native Ads Work?
- Pros and Cons of Native Ads (From an Affiliate’s Point of View)
- What Do Affiliates Run on Native Ads?
- What Makes A Good Native Advertising Campaign
Why Native Advertising?
Let’s take a look at this chart.
It says that consumers like native ads far more than other ads, and native ads are likely to outperform traditional banners.
There’s also research that shows native ads have a 53% higher view rate than traditional banner ads.
This is awesome for affiliates because we’re used to people HATING our ads.
What Is Native Advertising?
The “Native” in Native Advertising means:
“The advertisements on a web page appear to be part of the content on that site.”
The ads don’t look like ads, so they perform really well.
When you use native advertising for affiliate marketing, you’ll be making up normal display-style ads, but the content boxes they are in appear to be a part of the site they are on.
When you compare this to traditional online advertising such as display, search, etc. you can see how this is a good thing.
Here’s an example of native advertising on the website Cracked.com:
Notice how the ads look almost exactly the same as the website? (Except for the red box I drew around them)
It looks like you could be clicking to another page on the same website.
Also, see how the smaller red box says “Sponsored Link by Taboola”.
That shows you it’s a native ad that is placed by Taboola – one of the big native ad traffic sources (sidenote: Taboola don’t like affiliates…).
Here’s another example of some native ads:
Notice how the images are super emotional (except Matt Damon who is playing it cool).
The ads really make you want to click on them.
It’s basic human curiosity. You wanna know why they are crying/shouting etc. This is a strategy you’ll see a lot of affiliates use if you go further down the native ads rabbit hole.
Native advertisers run on sites that have great content and user engagement, so native ads have to be super compelling to pull people away from what they are reading.
What Type of Websites Use Native Ads?
Here are the main types of websites that native ads run on, with an example:
- Sports sites such as ESPN
- Outdoors / Survival like ActivistPost
- Technology like PCWorld
- Money Making / Finance sites like AffluentInvestor
- Niche Sites
- Streaming / Torrent sites such as PutLocker
- News such as NYT
- Gossip sites like VanityFair
- Gaming such as iDigitalTimes
- Entertainment such as BuzzFeed
You can do manual spying on sites like the ones above to see what sort of verticals/offers people are running in native.
How Do Native Ads Traffic Sources Work Compared to Mobile?
The native sources have a huge database of websites where they will display your ads. We call the owners of the websites where your ads appear “publishers”.
What Native Ad Traffic Sources Do I Recommend?
There are a ton of native ad networks, but here are the main ones:
Out of all of these, I recommend MGID the most.
Taboola + Outbrain are way too strict for most affiliate campaigns and you’ll get banned pretty easily. Revcontent is good as well, but I prefer MGID.
If you sign up with MGID, they’ll hook you up. I shot my rep an email and they’re going to hook up CharlesNgo.com readers with a bonus!
What does the process look like from an affiliate’s perspective?
I’ll show you some screenshots of MGID as an example here.
#Phase 1 – Signing Up + Add Funds
Sign up with the traffic source, and you’ll go into a waiting list to get your account approved.
You’ll see a page like this where you add funds to your account.
#Phase 2 – Setting up campaigns
Here’s a screenshot of how it looks inside the dashboard:
First name your campaign, and then choose the campaign type
Campaign type is broken down into two categories: Product or Content.
Product = linking to an offer, product, or service
Content = linking to a website
Next select your campaign category
Lastly, define your targeting
You can target by GEO, browser, language and device/OS on MGID.
#Phase 3 – Running your campaign
Once your ads are uploaded and your campaign is approved, you set the campaign live.
You use your affiliate tracker just the same as you would for any other campaign, and you optimize your campaign to profit.
How do you know which website your traffic comes from?
You only want to advertise on the most profitable sites, so how do you know which websites are the best performers?
Simple answer – you don’t know.
Unless you are super tight with your traffic source manager and they give you insider information, you won’t be able to find out.
Just like mobile campaigns, the native traffic source only lets you see a “widgetID”. This widget ID is a unique identifier for each widget on every website.
Here’s a screenshot of what your widgetIDs would look like: (the actual widgetIDs are blurred out)
For example, if your ad was on CNN, their widget ID might be something like wild99285503.
You’d never know that particular widget is CNN.
The native ad sources do this because they don’t want you to cut them out of the picture. The traffic source is the middle man, so they don’t want you knowing where your best performing ads are running.
The widget IDs are randomly assigned strings of numbers and letters, and you can only block or allow them. Just like mobile, you can bid different amounts per widget ID.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Native Ads?
I want to show you both sides of the equation, not just pump up the idea that native advertising is for everyone.
Some of you guys should be diving into native, and some of you should avoid it.
This will give you a clear picture of native advertising, and if it’ll suit you.
What are the pros of native?
#1 You can get your ads on some of the biggest websites in the world
This means that the traffic can be super high quality, and you get the chance to borrow authority from some of the biggest brands in the world. This means that you’re not just some random shady affiliate anymore – you can be “associated with” the biggest websites in the world.
#2 There are guys doing $50k + a day on native (there’s a LOT of volume)
This means that native is very competitive.
When there’s potential to make those sorts of numbers, competition will always be high. My thoughts on competition are that if people are making a lot of money in an industry, I want to be in it.
It’s not that I don’t care about competition, it’s just that this method proven to make money, otherwise nobody would be spending money.
It’s not like I have to become the #1 native affiliate in the world to make money. Native websites drive BILLIONS of clicks every month. You just have to get profitable on one traffic source, and one GEO to make it worth it.
For example you can see the daily reach of MGID here.
#3 It’s not difficult to learn the basics of a native advertising platform
This means that it’s easy for you to get started. This is a good thing, but it also means that your competition is high. It’s not like AdWords where the platform is a monster, or Facebook where you get banned for the smallest infraction. If you’ve run mobile campaigns before, native is going to be super similar. The blueprint is the same – placements, black/white lists, minimal targeting.
#4 There are options other than CPA affiliate marketing
A lot of guys think their only option is to send traffic to a CPA offer.
Here are some other ways that guys are making native work:
Building up other pages / lists
If you can get cheaper clicks than on Facebook or other platforms, native can be a way to build up your social pages. I know some of you guys are trying to build large, viral Facebook pages, so this could be a strategy to try. Native can also be a way of driving traffic to squeeze pages for building email lists.
Doing native arbitrage
Native arbitrage means you buy traffic cheaply, and sell it high.
How does this work?
You run images on a native ads traffic source that get a lot of clicks and drive them to a website that you own.
Then on your own website you also have native ads / AdSense etc. on your site that you place somewhere they will get clicked a lot.
The aim is to get paid more for a click on your own website, than what you pay to get the visitors to click through to your site.
It’s kinda confusing, but here’s a good explanation of how to do native arbitrage. Note: This is not something I do, but I know guys who have made money with this method.
The Cons of Native Ads
It’s not all profits and unicorns on native. There are downsides as well, but for me some of these are actually benefits.
#1 It’s more difficult to target than using a source like Facebook
This is a similar problem to mobile. You’ve never too sure about who your visitors are. There are some ways around this though. Here are some tips on how to know your visitor.
Affiliates normally run broad offers on native. That’s not to say you can’t go niche, because you control the ad image and the text, but you don’t have as much control over who you’re advertising to. This is similar to mobile where we normally promote offers that appeal to the general public.
#2 Native ad traffic sources are ultra competitive, which pushes up bid prices
This the just normal economics of internet marketing coming into play. Affiliates are not really used to “normal” profit margins in a traditional business sense. We talk about 200-300% ROI per day like it’s normal. When you’re on native advertising for affiliate marketing campaigns, you’ll find that the more you scale, the more your ROI goes down (but your overall profit goes up).
When there are massive profits being made, affiliates will bid higher to beat other affiliates. Higher bids reduce profit margins, but there are still huge opportunities in native.
Here’s something to remember:
The bids are high BECAUSE people are making a lot of money on there. If you can’t make it work, it’s your strategy that’s wrong – not the traffic source.
Also remember, you might be bidding against a media buyer for BuzzFeed who doesn’t give a damn about ROI, they just want eyeballs on their content. Their budget is enormous compared to the affiliate who tracks every click cost like Scrooge McDuck.
#3 The bigger sources are strict about what you are allowed to promote
CNN doesn’t want your ads with male pills on their site. This means that you have to go back to learning about marketing angles instead of pushing the boundaries.
#4 Normally only offers with higher payouts tend to get profitable
This is in direct relation to the higher bid prices. You’ll struggle to push SOI/DOI offers on native. Affiliates normally promote products that have payouts over $20.
Of course there are exceptions, but this is the norm.
#5 You can get a lot of fraud / bot traffic
The owners of native websites are incentivized to get as much traffic to their site as possible. They get paid for every click / impression, so they always want more.
This means that there’s bot / fraud traffic you have to watch out for. Make sure you watch the traffic coming in closely, and block the horrible Site placements.
(Hint: Watch the landing page click-through rate)
What Do Affiliate Marketers Run on Native Ads?
Anything that is shocking, eye-catching, and has a BIG promise.
You see crazy images + ridiculous headlines on native ads – so that’s your competition.
Because you normally need higher paying offers, most mobile offers like sweepstakes, games and utility apps won’t get profitable. There are exceptions because some of these offers have high payouts, but it’s not the standard.
Here are the most common native verticals:
Win a free iPhone. Works mainly with the trial model which charges the user $1.
Health & Beauty
This niche normally has higher payout offers, and everyone wants to be healthier and look better.
The broad appeal and high payout means these offers do very well on native.
Stock Trading/Biz Opp
Same idea as health and beauty – it appeals to everyone.
Casino / Gambling
Some offers in this niche do well on native. They have high payouts and have a mass appeal.
Adult Content / Dating
A good proportion of the internet is porn so it shouldn’t be a surprise that native affiliates run adult content a lot of the time.
High Payout Lead Gen
Do some testing on higher payout lead gen like insurance, finance etc.
Flashlights (like this one) have made more than a handful of affiliates their first million dollars this year. Who knows what the big one will be next year, but you can still make good money promoting these offers.
- Sports and fitness products (actual physical products)
- Tech gadgets
- Stock trading platforms (forex, CFDs, options etc.)
- Weight loss products
Should Newbies Get Into Native Advertising for Affiliate Marketing?
I don’t think native advertising is newbie friendly.
Firstly, high bid prices mean you need to promote high payout offers. This means you need a much bigger budget, and it takes a lot more money to learn affiliate marketing this way.
Next, you’re having to learn about ads, images, copywriting, landing pages and offers.
If it takes you $5k to get a native campaign profitable, you could’ve got a few mobile campaigns profitable and learned a lot more. You would actually become a decent affiliate marketer, instead of “that guy who got one campaign profitable on native”.
When that one campaign dies, you don’t have that much of a skillset to start the next one – you could end up being a one hit wonder.
If you’re a newbie, but you also have a big budget, native would be a good place to start, but I still recommend mobile marketing or Facebook over native to most newbies.
What Makes A Good Native Ad Campaign?
I’m going to give you some of my best tips to create a profitable campaign on native ads.
You need to use Photoshop tricks or images that grab reader’s attention. Here are some examples of good native ads. I think the first couple are good – the last image could be improved though.
You are fighting other affiliates to get clicks. Native ad text often plays purely on curiosity and emotion. The image above on the left uses great copywriting, it’s targeting the women by their location and showing that there are alternatives to botox.
The Tinnitus copywriting is good, plus the image is kinda weird and makes you want to click it.
A Big Budget
Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t do native on a shoestring budget. I recommend having at least $5k as a starting budget.
Also, some native sources have a minimum deposit of $1,000 USD, so it’s not for wantrepreneurs.
Native Advertising Is A Huge Opportunity Right Now
Native advertising has been a game changer for some affiliates over the past few years. A lot of guys have made millions from becoming native affiliates.
You can’t approach native with the thought that you’ll “give it a try”. It can take $5k+ to get a campaign profitable on one of the big sources, but the volume is so big that the upside is huge.
Scaling a winning campaign on a big source can get you into the high $xx,xxx per day range.
If you want to learn more about native ads, there’s a whole section dedicated to it on the STM forums.
I know there are a few guys who are doing massive numbers and they spend time commenting there, so it might be worth your time to get to know these guys.
Have you tried native?
Let me know how it went in the comments.
Also, if you like this post, gimme some love and share / comment, this post took forever to write!