Sponsored Content

The Startup Marketer's Guide to Sponsored Online Content

The Startup Marketer's Guide to Sponsored Online Content
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Today’s startup marketer may be aware that while creating a blog is an important first step in finding an audience, placing sponsored content in online publications can be an unrivaled catalyst for growing readership and finding qualified customers.

Here's how to find the right publishers, craft targeted content and track results:

Related: Marketing Via Paid Online Influencers Sees Dramatic Growth in Survey  

1. Realize when native ads may bring a boost.  

Marketers today are moving further away from interruptive advertising channels, such as text, banner and popup ads, and toward more native, educational tactics. If you can deliver your message in the same format as the content someone is already consuming (blog posts, newsletters and podcasts), you will generate real engagement based upon natural interest.

Many times this can be done via paid-content placements with specific publishers. Not only is it a more targeted expenditure of the marketing budget but it can be a much classier way to reach an audience.  

Related: Marketers Must Ask These 7 Questions About Native Content

2. Find the right publishers.

Here’s how to hone in on publishers of sponsored content that reach your audience profile and marketing goals.

Topical match. Perform some keyword searches to see which publishers specialize in certain topics.

Traffic volume. Use Alexa to determine and compare overall traffic volume on different websites that offer native advertising. This will tell you if a publisher has the reach you need. Be careful with this metric, however. Purchasing sponsored content on a site that carries quality content might be more worthwhile than buying a native ad on a blog with huge traffic.

Content promotion. Does a given site promote its content -- even from sponsors? Does it have active social-media channels or an email newsletter? Some sites may offer to give a sponsored article an extra tweet or include it in the newsletter.

Decision-making audience. Be sure the publishers you’re evaluating reach decision-makers for your product or service. Many publishers have an ad-buying kit on their site describing their audience. 

Platform options. Working with a content marketplace like Contently, OneSpot or Syndicate (owned by my company, BuySellAds) saves time by letting you execute a curated multisite campaign through one contact rather than having to manage dozens of external relationships for a large purchase.

3. Craft content.

Before approaching any publisher of sponsored content, first fully understand the topics it focuses on and the voice. Publishers aren't likely to accept content if it's off topic or the tone doesn't match.

Adhering to these crucial steps will ensure that your content will be a perfect match:

Tap into the spirit of the audience. What do these consumers care about? What are their problems? What makes them take action?

Craft your content into a great story that educates people about what your company does, while developing loyal readers and converting them into customers.

Take cues from popular content. Most sponsored publishhing sites will list their most popular content. Scan this and look for common themes in titles and topics. 

Educate readers with value. Give the audience something of great value while simultaneously showcasing your company's product or service. Creating content that benefits the customer, the publisher and your business will ensure a mutually beneficial partnership. 

If your team is strapped for resources, understand that many publishers will even offer to write content for your company at an additional cost  Since they already know how to talk to their audience, this can be a big help.

4. Measure results.

Setting expectations for metrics of sponsored content is a tricky thing since it differs by industries and audiences. Advertisers should go into this with an open mind, ready to test and learn. Establish your own benchmark metrics after a few placements, and your gut instincts will often tell you if something is worth the investment.

Recurring sponsorships perform best, in giving a steady platform to tell your story in a compelling, educational manner while also bringing back interested visitors.  

Related: Save Native Ads From the Slippery Slope of Deception