For businesses looking to reach more customers in less time, there can seem to be an overwhelming number of paid advertising channels to choose from.
Online paid advertising is a broad term that covers a variety of digital advertising options, including:
- Google Ads
- Facebook paid advertising, and
- pay per click (PPC) marketing.
To help you understand your options, we’ll cover what makes online paid advertising so unique, the different types of online ads to choose from, and the best way to get started with your first campaign.
Let’s get started!
The Advantages of Online Paid Advertising Over Print Advertising
While the cost of digital advertising can vary greatly, it does have the advantage of being much more flexible than traditional print ads.
A single print ad in a regional newspaper or magazine could cost hundreds of dollars!
With online paid advertising, you can launch your campaign for as little as a few dollars a day, and then scale up or down based on your results.
When you buy an expensive print ad, you’re paying to reach the entire reader base, most of whom may not be your target audience.
The best online ads reach only your most targeted prospects based on audience demographics and search intent.
Targeting options include:
- Keywords — the exact search terms being used
- Placement — placing your ads on specific websites or pages
- Interest — reaching audiences with a specific interest or hobby
- Topic — web pages with text and links related to a topic
- Demographics — location, age, gender, device type…
- Remarketing — serving ads to people who have already interacted with your ads, website, or app
- Similar audiences — people who share attributes in common with your ideal customers
- Behavioral targeting — targeting users based on past purchase activity
- Day parting — narrowing your digital advertising reach based on time or day
Print advertising either works or it doesn’t, and there’s really no way to tell why.
With online paid advertising, you can track and measure dozens of different metrics to home in on exactly what’s working and what isn’t.
This gives you nearly instant real-world feedback and insight into what your customers want, and the ability to quickly adjust your messaging and tactics to improve results.
Types of Paid Advertising Channels
Search Engine Advertising
When you search Google for “best pizza in my town,” the results will be a mix of both organic links and paid ads. While it makes a lot of sense for your local pizza place to focus on attracting free organic traffic, the hard truth is that search engine optimization (SEO) also takes a lot of time, work, and maintenance.
By incorporating paid search engine marketing (SEM), that same restaurant can immediately reach customers online by bidding on specific keywords like “order pizza.”
The cost of reaching these customers depends on:
- search volume,
- the competition for the same search terms, and
- the quality of each advertising campaign.
If you want to reach the largest number of targeted prospects, Google is the place to start.
In addition to reaching more online users than any other search engine, Google Ads offers multiple texts, display, and targeting options for advertisers of all sizes and budgets.
You can create campaigns tailored to your specific goals, such as:
- building website traffic,
- making the phone ring, and
- attracting more visits to your brick-and-mortar location.
Since Google owns YouTube, you can even use Google Ads to create highly targeted video ads to get your video content in front of exactly the right people.
Bing Ads is similar to Google Ads in functionality, targeting options, and ad types — but with just a small fraction of Google’s reach.
Coming in at third place, Yahoo Search is an option to consider if you’re looking to scale up your paid digital advertising traffic.
“Yahoo Search alone reaches over 117M unique searchers per month. So if you’re relying solely on Google ads — and ignoring Yahoo advertising altogether — you’re automatically missing out on over 30% of your potential market.”
Social Media Advertising
Instead of using search results and keywords, social media advertising targets users based on their preferences, demographics, and location. That same pizza restaurant can use Facebook to reach hungry customers between the ages of 18 and 35, who live within five miles, and who’s online reading interests include websites about junk food.
What Google Ads is to search, Facebook Ads is to social.
Facebook has over 2 billion active users — that’s around 24 percent of the world’s population! That makes Facebook paid advertising the most logical place to begin building your paid social media presence.
Instagram Business (also owned by Facebook) is a great channel for using photos and videos to reach your audience. Instagram’s ad platform is still relatively new, but the trend toward consumer interest in visual content means that there’s probably no limit to its potential.
Twitter is projected to reach 55.7 million monthly active users in the United States in 2019. Twitter Ads offers Promoted Tweets that help you reach more of your ideal audience, even if you don’t have a large Twitter following.
LinkedIn Marketing Solutions gives you access to over 560 million active professionals and helps you reach highly targeted B2B prospects through boosted content, personalized inbox ads, and lead generation campaigns.
Pinterest’s Promoted Pins lets you expand the reach of your best visual content. While not as robust and customizable as other social media ad platforms, Pinterest’s simple promotion system is a great option for creating targeted, trackable B2C ad campaigns.
Tumblr offers sponsored text and video post options to help brands expand their content’s reach and connect with a wider audience.
Text and Display Ads
So what do these search engine and social media ads typically look like?
Text ads are just, well…text. No pictures, no funny GIFs, no flashing lights. Just advertising copy written to persuade the right people to take a specific action.
Display ads (or banner ads) are image-based and therefore a good fit for promoting products.
If text ads are similar to classifieds, then display ads are more like the ad campaigns that we’re used to seeing in magazines and on billboards.
Looking to grab your audience’s attention with strong visuals? Then display ads may be the way to go.
Pay per click (PPC) is the most common method for purchasing many types of online ads. Rather than commit to a large ad spend up front, PPC allows you to decide how much each click is worth to you, and you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.
If a thousand people see your ad, but only ten people click on it, you just pay for those ten clicks.
So how do Google and Facebook determine what each click is worth?
With countless combinations of targeted audiences and promoted offers, there’s no way to set a market value for clicks up front.
Instead, the cost of each click is determined by an ad auction. This bidding system allows advertisers to place bids on keywords and other criteria.
The actual price of each click is then determined by a combination of:
- competition for clicks,
- the relevance of ads to the user experience,
- ad performance, and
- the quality of ads and landing pages.
In general, the better the mix of bid amount and ad relevance, the higher the ad’s placement.
Unlike PPC, cost per thousand (CPM) pricing models charge a flat rate based on the number of impressions, regardless of clicks. CPM methods are more commonly used for display ads and branding campaigns.
With cost per acquisition (CPA), you don’t pay for clicks or impressions, but only when someone takes a specific action like making a purchase or calling your company.
How to Get Started
Define Your Audience
The best online ads are highly targeted and relevant to a very specific niche audience.
Understand exactly who you want to reach before you even think about how to reach them. Once you lock in one niche, you can always expand to others.
Choose One Ad Network
Don’t make the mistake of trying to master every search and social media channel all at once!
Start with where you’re already comfortable, as long as your customers are there as well. If you’re always on Facebook, and you sell a B2C product or service, then focus first on building a Facebook campaign.
If you’re unsure of where to begin, we suggest starting with Google Ads to build your search engine marketing foundation, then expand to Facebook paid advertising.
Once you’ve optimized those platforms, you can then consider expanding to others.
Set Up Your Tracking
Without a way to track your advertising performance and conversions, you’ll be flying blind.
Before you spend a single dollar on ads, make sure that you have Google Analytics (or your preferred alternative) set up on your website. Then take the time to get to know each advertising platform’s unique analytics and reporting options.
Pick a Daily Budget
Even if you’re not working with digital advertising agencies, paid online advertising can get very expensive, very quickly.
Set a conservative daily spend cap while you build your first campaign.
At this stage, you’re not looking for maximum scale. You’re looking to establish a good foundation, gain experience, and learn. Once your campaigns are profitable, you can open the taps and expand your reach.
Once everything else is in place, you can launch your first campaign test. Let it run for a few days, then look at the numbers.
What’s working well? What’s not working at all?
Test one element at a time, pick a winner, then create a new experiment.
If headline B pulls twice the clicks as headline A, then create a new headline to test against headline B.
Marketing is all about experimentation, and online paid advertising gives you the opportunity to run your own highly profitable marketing laboratory.
Before you start building your first campaign, take the time to familiarize yourself with the specific advantages of online paid advertising, the different paid advertising channels available to you, and the unique costs related to different types of online ads.
Now it’s your turn.
Which of these online paid advertising options are you most interested in learning more about?
Share in the comments below!