Native advertising is surfacing as a controversial internet marketing practice. Before moving forward, consider the costs and benefits.

Amid recent discussions about the ethics of native advertising, Tumblr announced it is bringing sponsored ads right into users’ Dashboards. Editorial news content is the meat and potatoes of brands’ websites, according to Google’s Search Engineer Matt Cutts, but some marketers are still buying advertorials to increase visibility online. The most important thing to remember about native ads is that transparency is essential.

On Tumblr, the ads clearly feature a dollar sign in the upper right corner, informing viewers they are seeing paid advertisements rather than original digital content. Tumblr says these advertorials have been popular with members, receiving more than 10 million likes and reblogs in the past year.

Not all advertorials are published with the same transparency. A recent study found that only 5 percent of surveyed Americans know what native ads look like. This suggests they would have a difficult time spotting paid ads from organic content.

Matt Cutts says be careful when using advertorials.

Cutts recently spoke out about native advertising in the latest Webmaster Help Channel video, stating that Google will uphold its values – credibility and transparency – and weed out sites that are publishing advertorials disguised as custom content. He says this is not just a priority within the WebSpam division, it’s permeated to the Web Search Results, Search Quality and News Teams.

The Google News Blog warns publishers that it “takes action against sites that violate our quality guidelines. Engagement in deceptive or promotional tactics,” adding that misleading practices could result in “the removal of articles, or even the entire publication, from Google News.”

Marketers must decide for themselves if the risks are worth the rewards. Brafton stands by the idea that organic online content is the best way to dominate search results, drive traffic and build loyal followings.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.