Step By Step: From $0 to $5K Per Month with Native Ads

Native ads are the wild west of the advertising world right now.

As Facebook advertisers tire of constant bans and Google Ads starts taking control of ads, the allure of native advertising is undeniable.

Today I’m embarking on a journey to go from nothing to $5,000 per month in profit with native advertising.

But first, a little background…

What Are Native Ads

Even if you haven’t heard of native ads, chances are you’ve seen them. Native ads are image + headline combinations that look like recommended articles on sites and apps like Time, MSN, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post, the Weather app, and thousands of others.

Native ads on Time Magazine
An example of native ads on Time

Even though these ads say Sponsored, they are pseudo disguised as articles that the publisher endorses. Their subject matter runs the gamut. Some promote tinnitus cures. Others share the one secret to clearing your bowels every morning. Yet another set gives you a glimpse of favorite celebrities you haven’t seen in years.

Three Major Monetization Models

There are three different methods for monetizing these ads:

  1. Affiliate – Creators and companies pay advertisers a commission when they sell a product.
    • Examples you’ve seen may include WiFi extenders, budget-friendly smartwatches aimed at people who want to track falls, and the famous solution to tinnitus.
  2. Ad arbitrage – Not as common as affiliate because the margins are razor thin. .The basic idea is this: If have a website that makes $0.20 in ad revenue every single time someone visits, then I can theoretically make money as long as I can get people to click through to my site for less than $0.20 a pop.

    Native traffic is known for its ability to drive cheap traffic. In this case, the publisher is getting you to click so they can make a few pennies when you visit their site.
    • If you’ve ever left a site like CNN and found yourself reading a long drawn out story about how one woman sat on a rock two years earlier than another woman and then a day after the second woman visited, someone found her house key, then you stumbled onto one of these arbitrage situations.

      Other examples include the “You’ll never believe what Macaulay Culkin is doing now” clickbait. (Note: Sometimes this is just the publication you’re already visiting suggetting a story. If you want to tell them apart, just chat the ad for a “Sponsored” or “Promoted” badge.
  3. Ecommerce and other – From what I’ve seen, this is the least common type of ad spend on native. I’m seeing more direct sellers on native every day.
    • You’ve most likely to see these ads from ecommerce sites you’ve already visited. I’ll explain why this is later.

Pros and Cons of Native Ads

Native ads are awesome because:

  • They are young, new, and ripe for innovation.
  • Clicks are inexpensive, especially when you compare native to other advertising channels like Google or Facebook.
  • Your ad appears in the same context of real editorial content. As a result, people either
  • CNN (or other publication) –> Your offer = Increased trust.

Some of the shortcomings of native include:

  • Unless you’re using a list, targeting is difficult to impossible. As a result, you’re generally better off offering something with mass appeal.
  • Native ad platforms favor advertisers who spend more. In some cases, they offer ad space at 70 cents on the dollars. If you’re a small player, it’s difficult to compete.
  • There’s a ton of publisher fraud in this industry. I’ve seen cases where people were spending thousands of dollars on clicks from websites that didn’t even exist.

Now that I’ve provided a bit of context, let’s get back to the journey…

Back to the Native Ad Ride Along

Why I’m Doing This

I’m extremely lucky to have a solid career as a digital marketer. I’m putting money away every month but over time I’ve learned that savings accounts and IRAs don’t grow as quickly as other channels.

I have some money in crypto, I have some money in art, and I have some money in whisky. I’m proud of these investments, but I want to diversity further and lean into a what I truly understand.

I’ve spent some money on native ads for clients and I love the channel because it rewards one of my biggest passions: storytelling.

If I achieve with this mission, I’ll take this $5K and I will most likely put it toward one of my passion projects: opening a cocktail bar in NYC.

I believe people in the food and beverage industry are brilliant, sensitive, and athletic. They’re multi-skilled and massively undervalued. I want to pay employees more than other bars in NYC. I also want to work with a team to create one of the top 50 bars in the world.

Now that that’s out there, I’m laying out some milestones for the journey.

Goals For This Native Ad Journey

[  ] Launch first campaign

[ ] First $1 of Profit

[ ] $1,000 Per Month Profit

[  ] $2,500 Per Month Profit

[ ] $5,000 Per Month Profit

I have no idea if I will succeed, but I’m committed to investing up to $5,000 in ad spend to test my way into a profitable offer.

I’m not sure if I will be 100% transparent but if you have any questions or want to join this journey, feel free to drop a comment below. I would consider livestreaming some over the shoulder sessions if people are interested.

Next Steps

  1. Get an ad spy tool or two (probably two of thesefour: Anstrex, Adplexity, WhatRunsWhere, and AdBeat)
  2. Pick up a tracker (I’m leaning Voluum)
  3. Choose an offer
  4. Create some landing page variants
  5. Get those landing pages live
  6. Create my initial set of ads
  7. Decide on a native network and placements for where the ads will run
  8. Go live and start getting real life feedback on my campaigns

This is just a spare time side project so my goal is to start testing before I go to bed on Sunday April 11th. You can probably expect an update in the next week or so.

P.S. Temperature Check

Chris Montez’s 1962 version of “Let’s Dance.”

Excitement Level

10/10. This is that new project phase where it feels like anything as possible. My trick for this stage of a side project is to move faster than my doubts.

Grateful For

Spinach enchiladas and sunshine (aka what I’m having for lunch from Tajin today). To be clear, Tajin doesn’t serve sunshine (unless you get their mezcal margaritas.)

Something Not Work Related

Monday is fixing to be 66 degrees and sunny. Perfect skateboarding weather. Also, it’s almost time to start sailing again.

Stay Tuned

I’ll be back in a week or so with a progress report. I’ll add a link to the next post here when it goes live.

By Lauren Proctor

Entrepreneur with ten years of experience running a digital marketing agency out of New York City. I work with startups and brands such as Virgin Airlines, L2 Inc (Gartner), American Express, Fabletics, LOFT, and more. When I'm not helping companies increase their audience and revenues, I love to travel, sail, and read. I also moonlight as a bartender at a classic cocktail bar.