Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Looking to rev up your marketing strategy? Consider a “content-first” approach and native advertising with this data-backed breakdown.

Breaking It Down: Native Advertising vs. Content First

There’s a bit of a confusion between native advertising, content marketing, and “content-first” (which is a content-first approach). Let’s break it down:

Native Advertising refers to creating ads that match the form, function, and feel of the content of the page in which they appear – so “native” to their environment (hence the name). Rather than a traditional “banner ad” that is a flat image with branding within, native ads often feature a headline, a description underneath, and an accompanying image.

A “content first” approach or content marketing is an umbrella term that Native advertising falls into. It promotes relevant, targeted content first as a gateway to a brand or product. But a “content first” also refers to a tactic of driving relevant content to targeted consumers over time, creating retention and loyalty. If you are a business owner, you can buy Instagram followers to improve your customer base, and slowly, create a loyal base for yourself. It is an ongoing process, rather than a one-off approach.

Content refers to media, graphics, video, audio, copy, social media communication, and anything else used to tell a story or communicate an idea. This content is created, published, and promoted to a target audience who would be interested in the content provided (an article, perhaps) or the product. This is the same thought process that goes behind a lot of the Link building tactics that companies may employ to ensure that their content is reaching the right audience, and providing value to them in the process. Also think of it as a way to educate potential customers about a product or service, informing them about its benefits in order to gain trust. The content also helps boost SEO, and you can approach any seo agency to learn the methodology behind it.

A Targeted Viewer is a Happier (Engaged) Viewer

Do not underestimate the power of relevant content reaching an interested viewer.

According to DemandMetric, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it and 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them. A whopping 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content (DemandMetric) which creates trust in the brand (Ion Interactive).

This all contributes to… you guessed it… higher engagement and greater sales.

It Helps the Bottom Line

According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing programs, and generates approximately three times the volume of leads…Wow. Ion Interactive reported the same thing.

Leaders are taking notice. 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing according to DemandMetric, and according to the 2018 State of Content report from Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2C and 91% of B2B marketers are now using content marketing (CMI B2C Research & B2B Research).

You Can Get Around the AdBlocker

Still not convinced a “content first” approach to marketing is for you? Consider the toughest audience to crack: the skeptical, independent internet user that prefers to ride under the advertising radar – with adblockers.

It’s a large audience: over 615 million devices use an adblocker of some sort, according to PageFair Adblock Report, and interestingly, American adblock users are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree. A HubSpot study reported that 64% of people use adblock services because they consider ads annoying and intrusive.

The good news? Since content is not just an “ad,” but a source of value, content marketing is an effective method to circumvent blockers.

Content Marketing Trends to Look Out For

In addition to affiliate programs (find the best recurring affiliate programs here), the content-first approach and native advertising, short videos, data-drive, artificial intelligence, context marketing, measurement and anti-fraud will likely be the focus of marketers in 2018 and beyond,

The other emerging trend is original content. Consumers are discerning; they want original, useful content that isn’t brand-heavy. Apple committed to spending $1 billion on original content for its streaming platform and PepsiCo opened a brand new content creation studio in downtown NYC with the aim of generating revenue and creating a vehicle for advertising their products.

Overall, listen to what the consumer is saying, indicates the AdMaster.

92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story (Ion Interactive).

According to Forbes, this is a positive: as the industry pivots away from branded content aimed at selling (even gently) to content as a vehicle, there are wide open opportunities for new brands to enter the market and grab the attention of consumers.

Read More: 5 Ways to Increase CTR
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Headline DOs: 5 Ways to Increase  CTR

Headline DOs: 5 Ways to Increase CTR

We told you what NOT to do…now here are some top tips for what you SHOULD do. [b]+studio is back with the top 5 tips for writing headlines for Native ads or “sponsored posts.” Read more! 

The number 1 tip to remember? The definition: Native ad placements should match the form, function, and feel of the content of the environment in which they appear… so “native” to the environment. Headlines are the gateway to the sponsored or provided content…which means the headline and image carry the weight of “the click”!  Let the consumer know that you are offering valuable, worthwhile content that they will want to engage with.

“Headlines are the ‘fish hook’ of Native Advertising. They should be able to stand on their own while offering value, emotion and intrigue to the consumer.”  - Missy Steiner, Sr. Director of Marketing

Think we’re exaggerating the importance of Native advertisements and the copy that goes with it? Check out these statistics:

  • US native digital display ad spending will rise 27.9% to $28.24 billion in 2018, according to Emarketer.
  • 58.3% of all US digital display ad spending will be for native placements (up from 54.0% in 2017), according to Emarketer.
  • In-feed and sponsored content will grow more aggressively in the next year and reach roughly $33 billion this year. (Emarketer)

1. DO Ask Questions 

Will a question entice the reader? Will they want to know the answer? YES… and CLICK to read more! 

“Can Fuller Lashes Make You Look Younger?” “Will The Price of Securities Finally Fall?” “Is Your Business Ready for the New Carbon Levy?”

These headlines spark interest and encourage the reader to click to learn more –  i.e. click and engage with the content!

Image result for question gif

2. DO Build Intrigue and Mystery

“Sleep is the Real Secret to Happiness” vs “Study Shows Sleep Makes You Happier.”

Check out these two examples. The second title gives you all the information you need, presumably, while the first is a little more intriguing; it makes you want to read more, right? Why would you need to read an article when you already know the outcome of the study? Give a reason to click… to learn more!

3. DO Bring Emotion To the Headline

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou famously wrote.

The same goes for Native headlines. Readers are more likely to click on a headline that stirs an emotional response, especially since the brain filters for information that fits previous emotional experiences. If you can tell a funny or exciting story through the headline – that works too!

And as we wrote in our previous post, choose an image to match: one that hits an emotional chord such as people (especially children) and/or animals.

Effective, emotive words that often do the trick? TERRIFIC, BEST, FIRST-CLASS, EXCLUSIVE, BREATHTAKING, TOP, and EXCELLENT

Image result for emotion gif

4. DO Set Up a Problem… With a Solution

This is not to say create a problem, but do present a common or relatable issue and present a call to action as a solution. Again, let the reader know that you have valuable content to offer! For instance, “Beat the Winter Blues: 40% Off Coats” and “Turn Up the Heat with Cool Summer Dresses” present solutions (sales, products) to seasonal temperatures – “problems” everyone can relate to.

“More and more clients are asking us to include a strong call-to-action which leads to higher CTRs.” – Yeni Gordillo, Sr. Creative Manager

5. DO Offer Something…Like a Promo Code

Sales are everywhere and consumers feel accosted by them all day long. But if you were offered something of value, such as personalized discount at your favorite clothing store or on a new item you need for your backyard because summer is coming, you’d click to find out more, right? 

Here’s an example of a promo code headline and long text for a popular organizational store: “20% Off OXO Open Stock Square POP Canisters” with the description or long text beneath it: “OXO square canisters create a completely customized and space-efficient solution for food storage in your pantry or kitchen cabinets. Shop today!”

It offers a promo code and valuable information for organizing your kitchen. Offering valuable information – tips, tricks, and more (bonus: this is especially effective in list form) always encourages clicks. For example, “Expecting Mothers: Here are 5 Running Tips Just for You” offers valuable information and even mentions the target audience (expecting mothers). Yes! 

Image result for save money gif


But remember… don’t “over target.”  There’s a sweet spot here… Don’t create text that is so broad that it could refer to anything, but don’t make it too targeted that you’re suddenly only piquing the interest of, let’s say, women over 75 who eat cereal for dinner. That’s why the example above works – expecting mothers could apply to women of varying ages who could be on their first of fifth child, but is also specific to a population subset.


Keep these 5 tips in mind and your CTRs will be through the roof!


[b]+studio is Bidtellect’s award-winning, in-house creative services team that creates eye-catching content with a data-driven approach and a deep understanding of best-performing images and copy. 


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