Most marketers associate “sponsored content” with either native advertising or in-feed social ads. While those are certainly the most prevalent types of sponsored content, there is a new longform version often referred to as sponsored articles. If it sounds like old-fashioned advertorial you’d be largely correct, with a few important differences. Here’s how we describe it:

“Sponsored articles are articles written on a news website that are paid for by the advertiser to be a part of the editorial content of the site. The benefits are twofold – the advertiser benefits by having long-form content (think detailed product descriptions) accessible to consumers in a “neutral” environment. Consumers are able to learn more about the product from a third-party (often a blogger) in that same neutral/safe environment without feeling the ever-present sales pressure that exists on a typical brand’s ecommerce (or lead gen) site. We refer to this process as Guided Discovery™.

Essentially it mimics the way that people consume information and research products before they buy them. We’ve found that users who engage with a sponsored content funnel often convert sooner since they are guided through the buyer journey.

You’re probably asking yourself: why does adding a step in the customer journey increase conversion rate, instead of decreasing it? Conventional wisdom tells us: the more clicks, the higher the bounce rate. Based on my experience of building sponsored content I can tell you that the answer is that sponsored articles can increase conversion if the following applies:

  1. The content is engaging – timely, relevant, and visually interesting (images and video always do well in sponsored articles)
  2. It is authentic. Sponsored content written in an authentic voice, preferably by an experienced blogger, always outperforms content produced by marketers. 
  3. It comes from a trusted source. The publisher site must be credible and you must disclose that your article is advertorial (for guidelines see this article provided by the FTC):

Click-through rates (CTR) from sponsored articles to the brand’s landing page vary widely but can be as high as 25% or more if the advertiser is committed to testing. We’ve seen huge increases in CTR simply by changing our audience targeting (most of our traffic comes from paid social and native), and by testing various page elements – messages, images and CTAs in the sponsored article itself. The process can often seem overwhelming because there is a multitude of metrics to track, and various tests can be done to improve the overall effectiveness of the content. Additionally, continued testing on sponsored content still needs to be checked for congruency with pre-click assets. If these tasks seem overwhelming feel free to give us a shout – we’ll help if we can.

For more information on producing sponsored articles:

  1. Five things to do before starting your sponsored content campaign:
  2. The ultimate guide to sponsored content:
  3. For a little inspiration, read “The Top 10 Sponsored Content Campaigns of March (2019):”