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Guide to Online Advertising

Consumers are becoming more and more comfortable engaging with brands on their computers, phones, and other devices. With over 4 billion users on the internet, it’s imperative that businesses learn how to effectively call attention to their products and services online.

But as a marketer, it can be a challenge to navigate online advertising across all these digital channels and technologies.

In this online advertising guide, we’ll break down the different options and opportunities available to you as an online marketer, so you can develop a core understanding and optimize your online advertising more confidently.

In this online advertising guide, you’ll discover:

 

What is online advertising?

Online advertising, also known as digital marketing, is the use of internet technologies to promote a product or service to consumers.

For any type of online advertising to be successful, advertisers must understand who their target audience is, what their target audience is looking for, and how their product or service addresses the needs of that audience.

Marketers can then look at the best ways they can communicate their message across search engines, social media, display advertising, email, and other internet advertising channels.

Benefits of online advertising.

Online advertising has a lot of benefits in comparison to traditional offline advertising:

  • Easy global reach at your fingertips
  • Focused audience targeting
  • Easy to test and make changes in-flight
  • Comparatively lower cost vs traditional media
  • Easier to measure and analyze

 

Ongoing testing and optimization mindset.

One of the major benefits that online advertising has over offline is the ability to always be testing and optimizing your activity while it is running.

Regardless of whether you’re running Google Ads, banner ads, video ads, or a campaign across social media, it’s important to be split-testing different variants of advertisements.

Even when you have a good understanding of who your customers are and what they’re searching for, you still won’t really know which advertisements perform best until the campaign goes live, and you begin collecting data.

Running many different variations of the ad to gather engagement and conversion rates can indicate which are the most successful.

Define KPIs upfront so that you can quickly access, modify, and iterate on your ads.

 

Measuring the success of online advertising.

The native platforms will give you all the data you need to be able to test and optimize your activity within their ecosystem.

However, using the sales and revenue stats from the native platforms is not going to give you an accurate picture of the performance of each channel. This is because each channel claims ‘credit’ for any customer journey that they have been involved in.

So, if a single customer journey involves four different channels, you would most likely be counting that sale four times if you relied on the native platforms as the overall measure of success.

The Marketo Engage platform includes a multi-touch attribution solution that can provide marketers with a far more accurate overview of how each digital advertising channel is performing.

 

Paid search (PPC).

PPC is a form of online advertising where businesses pay to have their ads appear in the search results when somebody searches for a certain term or product on the internet.

The abbreviation PPC stands for ‘pay per click’ — advertisers are only actually charged once a customer has clicked on their ad.

Because paid search enables marketers to reach active consumers who are explicitly looking for products and services related to the content being advertised, it is possible to see significant conversion rates and ROI when implemented correctly. 

In addition to appearing for different user search queries, it is also possible for advertisers to upload their product feed, and have their products appear in ‘shopping listings’ when users are searching for products.

As paid search advertising evolves, it is becoming more automated. It is now encouraged that advertisers upload a selection of ad descriptions and headlines, and Google Ads AI will determine which is the best fit for a particular user query.

There are a lot of online tools such as Spyfu or AdThena that help you understand how your competitors are engaging in the paid search space, to help inform your strategy.

It’s often a good idea to think about your paid search campaigns alongside your organic search rankings. It may be possible that you choose not to bid on keywords that you already rank well for naturally.

What are the pros and cons?

✓ One of the things paid search is best at is enabling advertisers to show their ads for specific keywords or search queries when their customers have an intent to research or buy.

✓ PPC is easily measurable. It’s easy to see the return on your investment.

✓ There are also very few barriers to entry. Even small businesses can get involved with paid search on a modest budget.

x However, the costs for some of the higher-volume generic keywords can be high, and one of the common reported disadvantages is that costs can sometimes get high if you don’t manage the campaign properly.

 

Social media.

Paid social is another form of online advertising, where advertisements are placed within social media platforms.

While users are often a bit more passive than those using search (there isn’t that ‘intent’), the impressions are often less expensive than Google Ads and there are some tailored targeting options available to advertisers.

It’s estimated that nearly half of the world’s population is now on social media. These users are actively interacting with friends, followers, and brands. They are creating and exploring content.

This presents an amazing opportunity for brands. But the vast audience is the reason why careful targeting and segmentation is important before launching any social media campaign.

There are a variety of different social media platforms that allow advertisers to run online advertisements:

  • Facebook is the largest social media platform with 2.7 billion monthly users. It’s often the go-to for social media advertising due to its large and diverse customer base, along with powerful tools such as Lookalike Audiences, which can significantly improve ad performance.
  • Instagram also has a very large user base but skews a bit younger. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can take advantage of Facebook’s advertising and targeting tools for advertisements.
  • Snapchat provides a platform for video-based, casual content. Its users are primarily under the age of 24, so advertisers should use it for products and services that appeal to a younger demographic.
  • LinkedIn provides a platform primarily geared toward business and work-related content. This is particularly useful for B2B businesses. As part of the advertising tools, you can target specific businesses or job titles.
  • Other social networks that support different types of online advertising include Pinterest and TikTok, but the social media space is ever-evolving.

What are the pros and cons?

✓ The big positive for social media is the huge variety of different campaigns you can run. Whether you’re after an awareness campaign or a conversion-focused campaign, the options are there for you.

✓ The vast size of the addressable global audience is also a positive — social media can be a great place to find new customers.

x However, the vast size of the audience can be a brand’s downfall if they don’t manage their targeting correctly.

x It is also important to invest the time to make sure your ads stand out, to achieve cut-through in a busy space.

 

Email advertising.

Email can often be one of the most cost-effective and ROI-positive channels you run.

In addition to being used for newsletters, customer reviews, and automated abandoned basket programs, email can be used effectively for online advertising campaigns.

A typical promotional email would focus on a particular sale or short-term offer and have a clear time-limited call-to-action (CTA).

It’s important when crafting promotional emails that they can work without images, and most web-based email clients disable images on emails by default.

It’s also important to try to ensure that your emails don’t fall foul of anything that is likely to trigger spam filters, such as certain words in the subject line or writing in caps.

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of email marketing is to ensure you have the correct segmentation (and where relevant, personalization) for your audience. This is where a tool like Adobe’s Marketo Engage can help.

What are the pros and cons?

✓ Email is often a low-cost part of a marketing strategy and can deliver a great ROI.

x You’re limited by the size of your opted-in email list.

 

Display advertising.

Display and video advertising is a great way to reach a large number of people with your advertising message.

Typically, the best way to access a wide range of premium display inventory was to employ the services of an ad network on a CPM (Cost Per 1,000 Impressions) basis. However, many ad networks had minimum monthly spends for advertisers which could sometimes make premium display cost-prohibitive.

The Google Display network removes the barriers to entry for a lot of advertisers and allows brands to deliver targeted advertising via banner ads or in-stream video ads on a CPM, vCPM (viewable CPM), or even a CPC basis.

Display and video advertising is typically used to build brand awareness, or for retargeting.

Retargeting is a form of online advertising that helps you reach people who have previously visited your website but haven’t converted. It’s a great method of bringing people back to the site, in the hope that they convert. Retargeting often has a strong ROI in comparison to other ad campaigns in your online advertising strategy.

One of the things that advertisers want to try to avoid with display and video ads is ‘banner blindness’. Banner blindness is a term used to describe the phenomenon where users become so used to seeing banner ads that they simply ignore them. There are a few ways to try to combat this, such as making sure your ads are well-designed and stand out from the surrounding content.

What are the pros and cons?

✓ Display and video can be great, affordable ways to reach a wide audience at scale.

x From a prospecting perspective, it can be hard to measure clear ROI unless you have a multi-touch attribution solution similar to Adobe’s Marketo Engage.

x It’s also important that your ads are distinctive and engaging, to avoid banner blindness. And make sure your videos make sense without sound.

 

Mobile advertising.

A 2021 survey showed that almost half of Americans spend 5-6 hours per day on their phones.

Reaching your target customers on their mobile devices should clearly be an important part of your online advertising strategy.

Luckily, a lot of the major platforms, such as Google Ads, Bing Ads, and the various social media platforms, all deliver ads to mobile phones in addition to desktop and tablet. So, without any additional work, you can reach customers on their mobile devices.

However, it might be worth a test to see if users on mobile devices respond differently to different kinds of ads. Most platforms offer you the ability to target by mobile device. It goes back to one of the very first points in this online advertising guide — always be testing.

It might also be worth considering if a mobile-specific ad campaign is worth a trial.

For example, it’s possible to serve ads to people via ‘geofencing’ — when they are close to a certain place or within a defined perimeter of a destination.

Depending on the industry, SMS messages for opted-in subscribers can also be an effective form of mobile advertising.

What are the pros and cons?

✓ It’s relatively simple to trial adjusting your messaging for users on different mobile devices, and it’s good to always be testing.

x Mobile-specific advertising (geofencing, SMS) may also prove an interesting prospect depending on your industry.

x Notifications and alerts on phones can mean users are potentially more easily distracted from your message.

 

Native advertising.

You’ve probably seen native advertising without even realizing it.

One of the characteristics of native advertising is that it matches the look and feel of the content you’re consuming. Native advertising doesn’t typically look like ads.

A good example of native advertising might be some of the recommended articles that you see on some magazine sites or apps.

Native advertising can be a great way to promote valuable content marketing that answers the audience’s questions.

 

Affiliate advertising.

Affiliate marketing is when advertisers set up programs where third-party affiliates receive a commission on the sale of a product or service by promoting it.

Affiliate networks facilitate this process. This enables reputable publishers to sign up and begin promoting without the brand having to find and negotiate with every potential affiliate.

This is low risk for brands since it doesn’t typically require upfront cash or commitments.

 

Sponsored posts.

Sponsored posts are a form of influencer marketing. Advertisers engage with a personality that is seen as an expert in a particular niche to promote a product or service through an organic post on their social media channels or blogs.

In some instances, brands will utilize influencers with large followings for sponsored posts. This can ideally provide a more natural, less promotional feel that consumers can relate to.

However, it’s important to understand the audiences for whom these posts are intended, as advertisers have less control over the final audience.

 

Automating your online advertising campaigns.

With many different platforms and strategies involved in running an effective online advertising campaign, the overhead of maintaining and iterating on them can get cumbersome.

Therefore, it’s important to use marketing automation software to ensure quality and consistency of these campaigns in a cost-effective manner.

Marketo Engage provides all the tools necessary to automate these processes. View a product tour of Marketo Engage to see how you can better automate your online advertising.

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