Bloggers: Don’t Bet on Display Ads

People become bloggers for all kinds of reasons. Some goals are altruistic, some provocative, yet others are artistic or informational. But however a blogger’s intent is defined, one thing is certain: Display advertising won’t enhance it.

There’s a simple truth about blogs–readers rarely, if ever, come to one to be marketed to. Advertising runs counter to the raison d’être of the blogosphere. Ads are an interruption, a betrayal of the natural purpose and flow individuals expect of a well-written, informative blog.

Yet blogging and revenue-generation don’t have to be at cross purposes. What many bloggers, online forums, product review sites, and other “independent” sources of online content haven’t yet embraced is that the very thing people come for—credibility—is a trait that has economic value.

Native monetization—the ability to create an income stream that integrates organically into the user experience—leverages that hard-won credibility without resorting to tacked on display advertising. Google’s paid search results are similar in effect. While they look and feel like organic search results, they come across as credible, familiar, and consistent. Moreover, Google relentlessly ties ad serving to ad quality, thereby making the ads they do serve both relevant and effective.

Bloggers translate their particular brand of credibility into opportunity when they establish themselves as the go-to expert in a particular niche. Their authenticity compels readers—those who are interested in the same industry or topic—to listen. In fact, a blog that documents a personal point of view, or expounds from a position of authority, is considered more trustworthy than almost any other form of web-based content.

According to our estimates, content-driven e-commerce—that is, purchases driven by content sites—is growing more quickly than overall e-commerce. It’s becoming easier than ever for those who generate content, including bloggers and other independents, to turn their pages into profit through native monetization.

Most bloggers have no idea how to incorporate native monetization into their sites. Yet every time they insert a link from their content to another site—especially a retail site—they establish an opportunity to produce revenue organically. Like a Google paid search result, these links meet stringent quality and relevancy criteria. They surpass the high bar of editorial integrity, while also feeling familiar and consistent with the site’s intent.

If properly handled, independent content publishers can realize the benefits of native monetization without betraying reader trust. Today’s Web user, of course, knows what “marketing” looks like—they’ve been targeted by ads for years. When they encounter a site that appears to exist solely for the purpose of making money, they flee. This was one of the reasons Facebook was able to steal MySpace’s thunder; when MySpace began to look like one giant advertising billboard due to ad clutter, Facebook benefited because its perceived intent was simply to help friends connect with one another.

When blogs are genuine about their purpose for being, and express a clear and well-reasoned point of view, visitors respond—including by clicking on text links. Moreover, the greater the perceived value of the content the more likely readers are to click through to the associated product or service.

Whenever new forms of economic value emerge, those who are inherently positioned to take advantage benefit the most. Independent bloggers are the fortunate ones in this new era of democratic social media. By maintaining authenticity while also exploiting new technologies like automated link monetization, private content publishers have the unique opportunity to turn native monetization to their long-term advantage.

Oliver Deighton is VP of marketing at VigLink.

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