Native Advertising and Higher Education

By Susan Vanselow | @vanselow_writes

With so many higher education options available to students, you want your school to stand out. Native advertising can help.

Native ads are a form of paid media, where the advertisement follows the form, function and design of the environment where it is placed. It’s one of the most effective forms of advertising today: according to Business Insider, native ads are projected to drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021.

Colleges and universities are wise to incorporate these ads as part of their marketing outreach, because they can reach a far broader group of potential students, boost enrollment rates, and boost ROI.

Why native ads?

Traditionally, banner ads were used for the digital audience. Yet today’s tech-savvy users often develop “banner blindness” and ignore banner ads because they’re often non-interactive and static at best and appear jarring and intrusive at worst.

Native advertising avoids this trap because it mimics the look and the feel of the content the user is viewing. They ads offer information in a format similar to the other content on the site. Viewing the ad is not disruptive and because of this, users are less likely to dismiss it—and more likely to engage.

On average, users engage with native ads 20-60% more than with banner ads. In fact, according to Sharethrough and IPG, 32% would even share a native ad.

Research consistently shows the native advertising far outperforms banner ads:

  • Consumers look at native ads 52% more frequently than banner ads
  • Native ads generate 85-93% more clicks than banner ads
  • Purchase intent is 53% higher for native ads

Click-through rates on traditional digital advertising, like banner ads, have significantly decreased. By 2018, native advertising is expected to attract $21 billion in spending in the US market alone.

Partnering for performance

Native ads are so successful because they complement existing content. For example, if an online newspaper has an article about higher education, a college or university may create a native ad detailing their programs, to be placed next to the article. Through reading the article, the user understands the importance of continuing education and becomes interested in degree programs. After seeing the degree programs listed in the native ad, the user is more likely to click on it to learn more about the school or university.

Building trust, leveraging SEO

A key component to a successful native ad is placement. By partnering with established, credible and respected websites, you can build trust and awareness of your higher education brand. This helps place your school’s content in front of a larger audience next to desirable articles with a high readership potential. It’s also an opportunity to piggyback on another site’s high-ranking search results, offering immediate SEO benefits.

You can also implement more advanced targeting, including contextual and audience targeting, geographic targeting, language targeting, and more with native ads. This allows you the ability to promote your school or university’s content to your desired audience. And by using contextually relevant native ads, you increase the likelihood of engagement, conversions, and ROI.

It’s important to note that once the student has engaged with the native ad, you’ll want to continue that engagement—and convert leads—with a focused email marketing campaign.

Greater mobile reach

In addition to being more engaging and less disruptive, native ad performance far exceeds banner ad performance on tablets and phones. This is essential, since more and more people open email and do web searches on their mobile devices. (According to Digiday, mobile display revenue is expected to surpass desktop ad spending by 2018.)

Native ads are also superior to banner ads on mobile devices because they aren’t purchased in set configurations. This makes it much easier to adjust their appearance and positioning.

Lastly, native ads—whether on desktops or mobile devices—are simply more effective at grabbing users’ attention. Users prefer a seamless experience, whether they are reading for enjoyment or researching higher education and degree programs. Native advertising provides just that.

ROI and value for higher education

It’s clear that when choosing how to use your higher-education advertising dollars, native ads are a smart investment. By matching form and function, these ads look, feel and act like natural content, creating greater engagement. This in turn can help you reach a greater audience, target potential students, and increase conversions and, ultimately, your school’s ROI.


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