Considering an offer to incorporate advertorial content into your website? Dollar signs can speak rather loudly, but it’s important to always fully analyze the short- and long-term effects of specific branded content. Through our full-service native commerce platform, StackCommerce has helped over 500 publisher partners best integrate commerce into their content, and we can tell you first-hand that not every opportunity is created equal.
Here are four questions publishers should consider when deciding whether or not to embrace advertorial content on their site:
Is the advertiser reputable and known for providing excellent products and customer service?
If you provide coverage for an advertiser’s product, even if you point your users in the direction to buy it without explicitly endorsing the product, you need to feel confident that the advertiser will deliver a quality product and meet generally accepted expectations for customer service. If the product ends up being shoddy or your users start tearing their hair out trying to get someone from customer service to help them out with a problem, you’ll bear some of the brunt of their dissatisfaction, and it might make them less likely to trust you again on a buying decision in the future.
Of course, this also works the other way — recommend a product or company that produces a great experience for your users and they’ll be even happier with you.
Is the product something that your core user base will want to buy?
This is a big one. The real estate on your site is limited, and you can’t try to just sell any product. It’s important to analyze whether the proposed product is a good fit for your audience.
At the highest level, this is an easy question to answer. If you run a blog about quantum physics, an advertorial campaign promoting WWE Wrestling is clearly not a good fit. However, there are several more layers you should examine, such as price point or even whether most of your users are already likely to have something like it (and therefore wouldn’t be likely to purchase a similar item).
Let’s take a deeper look at this approach: let’s say, for example, you run a community/content site for freelancers to network and exchange ideas on and are approached by a software company about running an advertorial campaign centered around their tax software product. On the surface, it’s a great fit — the product is good and freelancers are always on the lookout for something that can simplify their tax compliance. However, the product is also considered a “premium” option in the market, with a significantly higher price point than some of the other options available. Freelancers, whose income is more cyclical and unpredictable than people with “normal” jobs, are notoriously cost-conscious and may balk at shelling out extra the cash. The campaign may still succeed, but it’d be better to try and find an even better fit.
Does the product and supporting content fit in with your brand identity?
If you have a very modern, cutting-edge identity, would a product with more plain and conservative branding be a good fit with your brand? Of course not, and that goes for the content aspect as well. One key objective of implementing any type of advertorial content is to make it appear as organic as possible within the rest of the content on the site. In addition to the voice and style of the text content, images and videos should not stand out (in the wrong way) from the rest of your content.
Do you feel like the content is driving the commerce or the other way around?
This is a deep question, as it’s not just a matter of style and approach, but also integrity. A general rule of thumb to follow is to think about how likely you would be to write about this product if there was no financial incentive, and act accordingly. If you’d be completely comfortable covering, and even endorsing, the product, or if it’s something you enjoy and approve of, but just haven’t previously had a reason to feature in your content, then there should be no conflict. However, if the dollars on offer are the only reason this would ever get coverage or positive mentions on your site, then it might be best to pass on the opportunity.
From a style perspective, it’s also important to ensure that the advertiser is not given undue influence over the content in the campaign. Building on the points above regarding brand identity, always stand firm on the notion that the product is being discussed in the context of your brand and content, and keep the tone, voice and style consistent with the rest of your editorial content.
By no means should these be the only questions you ask, and no two situations are ever the exact same, but chances are that by the time you answer these questions, you’ll know what to do. If there’s anything else you think is essential, definitely let us know in the comments.