Sponsored content is among marketers’ most effective tools. Social media sites are putting the clamps on traditional and organic advertising, leading brands to go big on sponsored content.
While sponsored content can provide a solid return on investment, it still requires some skill and finesse to do well. Sponsored content is a form of native advertising, meaning it should look like it belongs where customers access it.
Traditional, in-your-face advertising tactics won’t work with sponsored content. Here’s how to create sponsored content without being spammy:
Put a Premium on Relevance
It sounds obvious, but it’s the single most important way to keep your sponsored content out of spam territory: Make sure your content is relevant to the people you’re targeting. Irrelevant content is spammy content.
Relevance is achievable in multiple ways. One is style: Don’t try to reach punk rockers with your academic whitepaper. Another is information: Plumbers don’t need to know how to clean a carburetor.
Think about what your audience has in common. If you run a small business, geography might be your best bet. Your diner could do a review of local restaurants, for example. Unless they’re from out of town, everyone you serve will see that as relevant.
Provide Value Upfront
Once you know what your audience cares about, give them what they want. Create sponsored content that demonstrates its value immediately. Your content’s title should pique their interest and deliver on its promise.
What do you want readers to take away from your sponsored content? If your company operates a skate rink, you might put together a guide to local recreation opportunities. A fishing supply store could help anglers choose the right reel and bait.
Check for Content Guidelines
Remember, sponsored content looks like it belongs. If yours doesn’t heed the guidelines of its publication, it’s going to seem out of place.
Think about the information as well as any visual assets. Pay attention not just to hard rules, but also norms.
For example, Facebook recently repealed its restriction on ads with images containing more than 20% text. Even if your text-heavy images are technically allowed, they’re still not the norm.
When in doubt, check out a few posts before developing yours. Reach out to a content manager or publication editor if you’re still not sure what the site wants.
Use Keywords Naturally
Keywords can be a marketer’s best friend or their biggest vice. Figuring out not just which keywords to use, but where and how frequently to use them, helps everyone.
Keyword-optimized content is easier for readers to find and publications to categorize. But going overboard can make content read unnaturally, which will only turn readers — not to mention Google’s algorithm — off.
Identify one or two target keywords, and use them organically throughout. Ideally, their density should be in the 0.5-1.5% range.
Slow it Down
Churning out content as quickly as you can might make your boss happy. Unfortunately, it isn’t going to impress your readers.
Quality over quantity is the best policy when creating sponsored content. Give yourself breathing room. If you can’t come up with a solid outline right after your brainstorming session, that’s OK. Draft and redraft until you’re happy. Then, ask an editor to give your work a polish.
This doesn’t just apply to written content, either. Say you’re sponsoring a YouTube documentary that’s relevant of your brand. Your goal should be to model the production quality of on-air, PBS-style documentaries.
Yes, that’s a high bar. But if you want your sponsored content to look like it belongs, it’s one you need to meet.
Creating sponsored content isn’t rocket science. But it does take strategy, time, and a nose for relevance. Anything less, and readers won’t give it the attention it deserves.