Do you want to get started with online advertising but are not sure where to start? Have you spent lots of money on advertising but have little to show for it? While online advertising can be a goldmine for businesses, it's easy to spend money on the wrong platform, targeting the wrong audience with the wrong message.
All advertising platforms are different. They all have different types of audiences with different intents and it's your job to understand this so you know the best approach to take with each platform. People performing a search on Google are much different (and in a different mindset) than someone casually watching videos on Youtube.
Some advertising platforms, like search advertising, target people close to making a purchasing decision, while others, like social media, are reaching people at the beginning of the buying cycle or they may not be thinking of buying at all. All of these require a different strategy and an understanding of who you are trying to reach and when.
Below are some of the most popular methods of online advertising, with a brief overview and suggestions on when you might use it. Each one of these platforms can be its own topic, so you should investigate each platform further before you decide where you want to spend your money.
Search Advertising (Pay Per Click)
Google Adwords and Bing Ads are the two biggest platform for search-based pay per click advertising and is what most businesses use. Pay Per Click advertising is when you pay only when someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. While Pay Per Click schemes are available on non-search platforms like Facebook, search advertising is where the bulk of it happens.
When people type in a query in the search engines, like “plumbers in Austin”, the search engines return a list of web page results. Some of these results are in the form of paying advertisers who bid to have their ad show when someone types in a query related the list of keywords they are targeting. So if you were a plumber in Austin, you would want your ad to show up when someone is searching for plumbers in Austin as well as related search terms.
Search advertising works best when there is demand for your product or service because your ad will only show when someone proactively types in a search query. Business to consumer products and services work best since there is a much higher volume of searches, but BtoB advertising can also work very well as long as there is search demand for it.
When running search advertising campaigns, you are not really concerned about the demographic profile of the person making the query, only what their intent it. The way you as the advertiser can define your audience is to set a geographical area where you want to target as well as when you want your ads to appear.
So when will you use search advertising?
You will use it when you have an idea of what search terms people will use when searching for a products or service like yours. Once you have your list of terms people will use, you can create ads targeting people that make these searches.
Since the search intent is very specific, the costs tend to be a bit higher than other forms of advertising, but you are paying for someone specifically searching for what you have to offer. For most businesses, I usually recommend running search ad campaigns as a starting point for online advertising as it is pretty cut and dry on how it works and tends to deliver higher quality leads than other advertising types.
Display advertising is when you show an image, video or other animated ads on a website in the form of a banner ad. Think of it like a tiny billboard, except with much better targeting options and a much lower price.
Display advertising lets you show your ad to people as they search the web. Thousands of websites participate with advertising platforms (Google Display Network being the biggest) to allow banner ads to be shown on their website.
Here's an example of how it works. The NY Times partners with Google to show banner ads on their website. You own an online cookie company and sing up with Google Adwords, using their Display Network to show your banner ads. You set the criteria that you want to show your ads on pages where people are reading about food, specifically using keywords for cookies. If someone reads a blog post about cookies on The NY Times website, your banner ad may show on that page because it matches the criteria you set and they are an advertising partner with Google. This is a simple example of how display advertising works, you can get pretty advanced on how and when your ads show.
So when will you use display advertising?
Display advertising is not as targeted as search advertising (people aren't specifically telling you why they are viewing a page) so the costs tend to be cheaper than search advertising. It is a great way to do some mass advertising on the web while still having control over how and when your ads get seen. If you are a new business or trying to promote an event, display advertising can be a very cost-effective way to get the word out compared to traditional advertising.
Display advertising is also good when you have a product or service that people don't necessarily search for or even know exists. We have a client that has a mobile trash bin sanitizing service, people love it, but it's kind of a new industry and people don't know to even search for it yet.
Remarketing is when people come to your website, you drop a tracking cookie on their device, and can advertise to them on 3rd party websites after they have left. You can usually set the duration on how long you want to remarket to them as well as how many times you want them to see your ad during that duration.
Ad type formats vary by platform, but you can usually have text, image, video or animated ads as part of your remarketing campaigns.
Remarketing is offered by numerous companies. Google Adwords and Facebook are the two largest platforms that offer remarketing but other smaller platforms like Twitter also have remarketing options. It is a great option for bringing back potential customers who were not ready to buy the first time around on your website and gives you the opportunity to stay top of mind (or offer a discount) while they are still trying to make a decision.
We often find that remarketing offers one of the highest ROI's compared to other advertising options since these people have already shown interest in your business, though the impact is usually smaller from a revenue standpoint since you are targeting a very small base of people.
So when will you use remarketing?
It is a great option when you are selling a product or service where people are doing comparison shopping as well as for businesses were you have an extended sales cycle. Remarketing will allow you to stay top of mind during this process, introduce additional opportunities to show the value of your offering as well as offering discounts to try and seal the deal. Between Google Adwords and Facebook, you can cover a big portion of the web with your remarketing ads.
Social Media Advertising
Social media as an advertising platform has come a long way over a short period of time, mainly thanks to Facebook. The beauty of social is that you usually have a treasure trove of information to use as targeting options since they know so much about their user base.
Facebook, the king of collecting personal data without you knowing, has a scary amount of data that advertisers can use for targeting purposes. I recently wrote an article on this, you can read it here. For Facebook, you can target by demographics (sex, age, location, relationship status), Interests (hobbies, music, movies, health, food, etc) as well as Behaviors (bought a car recently, donates to charities, buys high-end furniture, etc). Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest also offer interesting advertising options.
There are other social media platforms where advertising can work really well for you. If you have a business where you can showcase visuals, Pinterest and Instagram have thriving ad platforms. Twitter also has an ad platform if you know your audience is using Twitter.
One thing to note with social media advertising is that it tends to work best when you are not trying to make a sale from the platform, but rather to engage with them and maybe get them to take a first step. For example, getting an email address or downloading something.
So when will you use social media advertising?
It's a great platform to use if you know that your audience is using social media and you also have a plan to engage with them beyond just asking them to buy. Social media is a social gathering, bad etiquette “to hound” people to buy from you at a social gathering. It is better to drive interest and engagement first, just like you would with networking. Like I said earlier, email sign ups, free downloads or reports and stuff like that are great tools to engage potential new customers and bring them into your sales pipeline. Social media advertising can also work very well for driving interest/signups for events you may be running.
Influencer marketing is when you pay someone with influence to help promote your brand. Think of Nike and Michael Jordan and Beyonce and Pepsi, these corporations pay big bucks to have these stars associated with their brand.
The great thing for small business is that social media has created an entirely new crop of online stars who all have their own following. There are now everyday people who have amassed tens of thousands (sometimes millions) of followers in specific niches that are open to aligning themselves with certain brands.
These influencers are open to doing one-time shout-outs on social media, brand/product reviews, and even larger sponsorship deals. Normally you had to do individual outreach to each star and try and work out some sort, thankfully there are several services that help pair influencers with brands looking to use their celebrity to reach a new audience.
There are lots of different influencer marketing platforms out there with https://famebit.com/Famebit, Vidrocket and Grapevine being a few that don't require big bucks to participate. There are also platforms like Loot, that don't have influencers but can help you reach your audience in non-traditional advertising ways.
Of course, you can always go direct to the influencers who you think have the audience you want to reach, it's just more work.
So when will you use influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is fantastic if you are trying to build a brand and you want to make your advertising a little more natural than by just running traditional ads. Some audiences aren't persuaded by traditional ads (Especially Gen Z and Millenials) so this type of marketing may be more effective in reaching them. Finding the right influencers with the right audience can skyrocket your growth, though it can get expensive if they have a large audience (costs are typically related to the size of their reach) and you need to do your homework to make sure you are reaching the right audience.
Which platforms are right for you?
Hopefully, now you'll have a better idea on what online advertising platforms are available and when you would use them. Take some time to investigate each one and decide if it's a good choice for you and what strategy you will use to reach your potential customers. Online advertising is a big space and it's easy to get lost in it (and lose lots of money), so take your time and understand what you are getting into before you spend any money.
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