Kelsey Libert recently wrote an awesome article in Harvard Business Review about a very important topic: Comparing the ROI of Content Marketing and Native Advertising.
“Native advertising” primarily refers to sponsored content, which seems to be the latest business model innovation for media companies such as Buzzfeed, as well as a big budget item for big brands. Basically, it offers brands placement with a top-tier publisher that may have large amounts of the brand’s target demographic as viewers. For example, a company like T-Mobile might sponsor a blog post on Buzzfeed so that they can reach millennials.
But is sponsored content really the right strategy? Or is content marketing, and guest blogging in particular, the better bang per buck?
Kelsey takes “a data-driven approach to compare the efficacy of native advertising versus content marketing.” I took away a few ideas from the article that I think are extremely important for marketers.
Holy cow, I had no idea how much brands were paying to sponsor articles!
“On average, the cost of a native advertising campaign for top-tier news publishers was $54,014.29” And can be up to $200,000 for a publisher like Time.
This puts sponsored content out of reach for most startups, small businesses, and solopreneurs.
Depending on how you produce content (through an agency, in house, or with freelancers), cost for producing and publishing (potentially on a top site) a high quality piece of content is probably about $500-$1,000.
That’s a tiny fraction of the cost of a sponsored blog post! And, as you will see later, the return can be equal or greater.
Metrics and KPIs
Content marketing, and sponsored content, are very hard to measure. Even in the article, $$ is not listed as a KPI. That being said, the metrics being used to measure success of sponsored content, seem much less relevant.
The metrics used to measure content marketing are much more relevant and informative to $$ than social shares. “Almost half of clients measure content marketing success by the number of leads (i.e., customer conversions based on campaigns), high-quality links (i.e., links from high-authority publishers), and total social media shares generated by each campaign.”
“Google considers native advertising to be paid links, which prevents campaigns from improving the company’s search engine rankings.”
I have been curious how Google might adapt their algorithm to this recent boom in sponsored content. It seems they are sticking to their principles with regards to paying for links.
This is a major downside to sponsored content. And a major benefit to content marketing.
“We reviewed 38 native advertising campaigns published on BuzzFeed, a leader for sponsored content, alongside 58 Fractl content marketing campaigns, to evaluate the reach (in terms of links) and engagement (social shares) of each.”
“While I may be biased, these data-driven findings suggest how companies might get a better bang for their buck with content marketing”
While the data is limited, and may be biased, it is still great to see data on this important consideration for brands and marketers.
This article itself was a great piece of content marketing! It was based primary research (a survey), which makes it the go-to source for the topic, and therefore more likely to be linked to. It was also summarized and divided into at least two blog posts, and published on HBR and Moz, two great sites that they may not have been able to guest blog on without having such valuable primary research.
I think a key to content marketing success going forward will be to produce truly unique and valuable content that is capable of being the go-to source for a given topic.
The image above does a great job describing the key differences between native advertising (sponsored content) and content marketing. While Kelsey works at a content marketing agency, so there may be bias, it was great to finally see some data behind ROI of content marketing. I’m now more confident that guest blogging and content marketing is a far more effective strategy than sponsored content.
While content marketing and guest blogging does require some upfront cost, it can save a lot of money down the road as compared to sponsored content, and can provide great ROI.