The Problem With Native Advertising for Hyperlocals

September 30, 2016

Jeff Jarvis recently posted about his concerns surrounding native advertising. He concludes that there is a problem with native advertising and that it is not the solution to the publisher revenue challenge. He proposes the following solution in his article:

We have to shift from reach to relevance, volume to value.

This advice is particularly beneficial for hyperlocal publishers, publishers that serve a local community. They already know that relevance and value are their top priorities. Do native ads contribute to their relevance and value? Let’s examine a few aspects that these publishers should consider, and why we agree with Jeff that native advertising is not the salvation for this segment of the publishing community:

  1. The shelf life of an article – You will find the majority of business owners are paying for a native ad because they want it to generate “clicks”. There are some local businesses that understand the value of branding themselves, which requires a consistent stream of related posts to build up local search authority. But everyone want clicks. On most hyperlocal sites, an article has a shelf life of 24-48 hours. So, without any additional advertising/push on the article, the clicks will stop coming within 2 days. Yes, it’s an article the business owner can refer to in their own marketing, and there is value to that. But in terms of any residual or prolonged value on the publisher’s site, there will be almost no value after 2 days. This leads to the lack of clear ROI issue that Jeff discusses.
  2. Competition – We mentioned in #1 that the true benefit of native ads is for those businesses that understand the value of branding. But the reality is that this is simply writing blog posts. There are hundreds of marketing agencies that offer this service to local businesses, so the competition is fierce. Most experts suggest that SEO doesn’t really work until a business writes blogs regularly for a period of time. As a result, you’ll have to convince a business owner that a single blog post on your site will be better than consistent blog posts on their own site that are written by a marketing “guru”.
  3. Lack of user generated content – When it comes to Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO), getting ranked within a community requires several tactics. The site that wins, however, is often the site that has the most user generated content. Search engines aren’t focused on the quality of local content compared to the quantity and authenticity. If a local review is authentic, the grammar is secondary. And there’s no way that a local publisher is keeping pace with the hundreds of “content contributors” to local directory sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Angie’s List. Your site is going to have a tough time outranking these other sites without user generated content as well. If you have that, you’ll crush these other sites, because they have no original content. Original content does not beat user generated content today. Know that this is true.

So, let’s go back to our relevance and value discussion. Here’s two suggestions of offering features in this realm that nobody is doing hyper-locally and can set you apart:

  1. Provide a page on your site for the business owner that is their very own. This is highly relevant. We have discussed before the explosion of “near me” searches, and top results are almost always a listing page for the matching businesses. Instead of giving a business a single native ad write up that has no more than 48 hours of value, why not give them their very own page, coded as a business listing to the search engines, that they can update as often as they wish?
  2. Provide the ability for businesses to proactively offer promotions and advertise events. Give readers the ability to search for local events, businesses and news all on your site, and make sure the results give them what they need. A publisher that can offer a comprehensive view of all things going on in their community and allow readers to easily discover what’s happening around them has huge value to the local businesses in that area.

In the startup world, it’s conventional wisdom that if you are going to offer a new product, it either has to be something new or it has to be 10X better than what is already out there. All ego aside, it’s awfully hard to justify that your native ad will be 10X better than other content a business will create, or 10X better than other forms of advertising. The best option is to offer something new and unique that they cannot get any place else.

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Author: Scott Barnett