5 Best Practices for Native Ad Networks

Native advertising is very different from traditional display ad advertising; Instead of trying to capture users’ attention by standing out as much as possible, native advertising tries to blend-in with the content. It strives to provide the same user experience as the content around it and optimizes for additional performance indicators such as user satisfaction, user retention, etc. This different approach poses new challenges for ad networks wishing to enter the native advertising market. In this article we have centralized some tips and best practices for these new native ad networks.

  1. Customize the widget/ad unit to blend with the publisher’s look and feel – The widget is the ad unit element on the publisher’s page that receives ads and displays them to the user. Usually these widgets can be customized in terms of their appearance and the functionality/behavior. The main theme here is “blend to get attention”. The following list of attributes are some of many that should be customized to match the page’s design and user experience:
    • Colors
    • Fonts
    • Widget title
    • Image sizes, aspect ratio, shape
    • Widget dimensions and responsive behavior for different screen sizes
    • Mouse roll-over behavior
    • Widget location in reference to the page content and layout
    • Mixing of organic and sponsored content (applicable in multi-item widgets)
    • and more…
  2. Place the ad units relatively high – the position of native ad units has an impact on its performance. Traditionally content recommendation widgets were usually placed at the end of the article (i.e. at the bottom of a page) as recommendations for additional content. However, native ads have since evolved into various additional ad formats, such as In-feed ads, In-ad, and more. These ad units have more freedom in terms of their position on the page. Placing them “above the fold” will most likely increase their performance. When placing the widget at the end of the article it should be placed as close to the article text as possible, before talkbacks and other navigation suggestions. In addition, try to place the ad units within a safe distance from other irrelevant elements, such as large images, other widgets, dense banners, promotion elements etc.
  3. Select the most appropriate ad unit format – as mentioned above, today native advertising includes many formats and new ones are gradually added. Each ad unit (widget) format has its own characteristic and advantages. The IAB has released a playbook for native ad units and another playbook that focuses on In-feed native ads.
  4. Less intervention is more – as opposed to the world of display advertising, native advertising platforms are equipped with advanced matching algorithms that decide in real time which ad / content to serve, based on a wide variety of factors. These decisions are based on a lot of data signals about the user, the publication and the content of the page. Many ad networks are very much accustomed to manual targeting or purchasing of an “audience”. However when a matching technology serves native advertising this type of control may be less effective in terms of its performance than the platform’s algorithms.
  5. Using iframe – in order to protect the page, some publishers require serving the ads inside an iframe (Inline Frame), an HTML document embedded inside another HTML document on a website. The challenge is that the iframe isolates the ad unit (widget) from the surrounding page and therefore it is not possible to match the ad to the context of the page. This of course derogates the performance of the ad as it may not be optimally targeted. If the publisher requires the use of iframes, it is recommended to use a “friendly iframe”, a commonly used iframe type which protects the page style and design yet provides the widget code with access to the page content