Native Advertising Trend Has Some (Including Google) Concerned

    May 19, 2013
    Chris Crum

Native advertising spend is on the rise, and is expected to reach $4.57 billion in 2017. For comparison, last year it was at $1.63 billion, and is projected to hit $2.36 billion this year.

When we talk about native advertising, we’re talking about the kind of ads that take the form of content that users might expect to see on the site anyway. This can come in the form of videos, images, articles, tweets, status updates or other media, but all in all, it’s a trend that is rising quickly. Even as the trend is clearly pointing upward, some are concerned about what this means for the future of content and paid messaging, as a new eMarketer report indicates.

Do you think native advertising is a good direction for online ads to be trending in? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.

For a better understanding of native advertising, take a look at this infographic Solve Media put out a few months ago (via Mashable), attempting to explain it:

Native Advertising

Despite those trying to draw lines between adverotirals and native advertising, Google pretty much sees them as going hand in hand. This makes sense, because either way, it’s a message that is being paid for, and if it’s being paid for, and it’s passing PageRank, that is a violation of Google’s quality guidelines, and will get you penalized.

In fact, while this is already something Google has frowned upon, the company has recently indicated that it will be cracking down on this more, so beware of that.

We recently looked at a video from Google’s Matt Cutts in which he ran down a lot of the changes Google is planning on making in the coming months, and he specifically talked about advertorials and native advertising during part of it. Here’s the video again, in case you missed it:

“We’ve also been looking at advertorials,” he said. “That is sort of native advertising – and those sorts of things that violate our quality guidelines. So, again, if someone pays for coverage, or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank. We’ve seen a few sites in the U.S. and around the world that take money and do link to websites, and pass PageRank, so we’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines.”

“There’s nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow PageRank, and there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure, so that users realize that something is paid – not organic or editorial,” he added.

So, even as we see more and more of this kind of advertising saturating the web, webmasters better make sure they’re not also saturating Google’s index, because the search giant will not be shy about holding your site accountable, and that could have the opposite effect from the one you intended with the advertorial in the first place. Good luck finding advertisers when your site can’t be found in Google.

Beyond Google, as mentioned, others are also concerned about the native advertising trend.

“Although business prospects for native advertising are positive, the medium has its detractors,” says eMarketer. “Some media executives and marketers are wary of the blurring of lines between content and advertising that occurs with native ads, particularly in the context of news sites. Others question the return on investment of these ads, arguing that native ads cannot scale for multiple placements.”

They point to recent research from MediaBrix, which found that a high percentage of U.S. Internet users find ads that appear as content misleading:

Misleading ads

“Despite the potential backlash against misunderstood native ads, media sites under monetization pressure are turning to native advertising to drive digital revenue,” says eMarketer. “Notable examples include Forbes, The Atlantic and The Washington Post. Others such as CNN and Hearst have said they are considering it.”

You can find eMarketer’s report here.

Are you concerned about native ads, or is this the future of online marketing? Let us know in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.