Content marketing and native marketing are both popular ways for brands to increase their online presence and establish their image and personality amongst target markets. Whilst they’re both forms of marketing, they employ very different types of content and are used in different ways for different purposes.

Content marketing is the practice of creating and curating content as a way of increasing search engine results, conversions, and brand engagement. Content is created by the brand, typically for use on the brand’s own website and social media channels, and the content is specifically designed to provide value to consumers in order to attract a specific kind of audience.

Native marketing, or native advertising, is a kind of paid advertising that disguises itself as web content. It’s designed to match up with the form and style of whatever website or platform it appears. For example, native advertising for a site such as BuzzFeed is likely to take the form of a blog, listicle, or video.

In order to protect the consumer from being deceived as to the nature of the content, native marketing content must be disclosed as such. Usually this means labelling the content as advertising, as promoted or sponsored, or as being provided by a “featured partner”.

Key Differences between Content and Native Marketing

The most obvious difference between these two kinds of marketing is that native marketing is paid for. You pay a high-traffic, well-recognised site to host your content, and get immediate access to that site’s large volume of readers. In contrast, content marketing requires that you build your own audience over time.

Both content marketing and native marketing focus on increasing brand awareness. However, while content marketing focuses on improving search engine rankings and conversions for a particular website, for native advertising the key secondary goal is to drive social engagement with the brand’s audience.

The Benefits of each Strategy

The primary benefits of content marketing revolve around the website that the content is intended to advertise. These include increased organic search engine rankings for the website and its individual pages, as well as increased site conversion and improved brand awareness. The main benefits of native advertising also include improved brand awareness, as well as a greater degree of brand engagement from consumers.

Key performance indicators

With different goals in mind for each kind of marketing, the KPIs for content and native marketing are also quite different. For content marketing, the most important KPIs are typically the number of leads, back-links, and social media shares a given piece of content generates. For native advertising it’s more about the volume of social engagement and website traffic, as well as the overall views of the entire advertising campaign.

That being said, both native and content marketing are intended to increase brand exposure so KPIs will overlap. Both should be highly targeted towards intended audiences. The difference being with native marketing you don’t own the asset and as such your content needs to be delivered in-stream, without disrupting the user experience.

Which is More Effective?

Because content marketing and native marketing are both used for different purposes, it’s tough to say conclusively which is the overall most effective kind of marketing.

According to one perspective, native marketing is particularly appealing because when you are paying to place content you know exactly what you’re getting. You get placement on a site that’s already got a large volume of readers, has significant brand awareness, and is regarded as an authority of its kind.

However, some experts say that although brand awareness and engagement are the primary benefits of native marketing, content marketing can often achieve these goals more effectively—simply because native marketing is more obviously branded as advertising.

According to marketing expert Kelsey Libert, for example, since native advertising doesn’t guarantee consumer engagement, the results of these campaigns are unlikely to justify the costs. What this means is, even though you’re paying for content to appear on a heavily-trafficked site—and are mimicking the site’s form and style—there’s still no hard guarantee that your content will get views.


Content marketing and native marketing can both be enormously powerful, provided they’re used in ways that play to their strengths. If you’re looking to score some instant results, native marketing is generally the way to go, because immediate placement on a high-traffic site is likely to generate a high rate of initial engagement. If you’re willing to be patient, however, and take some time to generate the results you want, content marketing almost always beats native marketing in terms of increased search engine rankings, site traffic, and brand awareness.

About the Author:  Evelyn Timson is Managing Director at UK based video marketing company Aspect Film and Video and has worked with well known brands like Coca Cola, Samsung, Microsoft and the British Library and National Trust in the UK. You can connect with Aspect via Facebook or Twitter. To see a selection of their award winning work check out their YouTube Channel.

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