Every day, millions of people are clicking online ads to find products and services. Probably many more than you imagine.
After all, you might be thinking, “who clicks those ads anyway”? It turns out, a lot of people.
Online advertising (also known as PPC advertising or pay-per-click advertising) is a major opportunity for business owners. It can bring hefty returns if done correctly. You can also waste a lot of money if you’re not careful and knowledgeable.
Below is a high-level view of the major advertising platforms and methods available to your business.
1. Social media advertising
Social media has our attention. With nearly 1.5 billion people on Facebook, and hundreds of millions on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more, it is no wonder people are advertising on these platforms.
As the television industry evolves into streaming services with less advertising, social media is becoming a new and better way to reach your target audience.
Social media platforms collect a lot of data about you. They know what you like, they know your demographics, they even know who your friends are and what they like.
As a result, advertisers (like me) can reach an audience on a micro level like never before. We can show ads that are relevant to an audience instead of blanketing the public with untargeted ads.
This means that you (the business owner) can also tap into this well of information and show ads to people who fit your ideal customer profile.
It is crazy how effective it can be. And each platform is a bit different. But it is worth investigating, especially if you are testing the viability of your business idea or playing with smaller budgets.
I’ll go into detail about social media advertising in a later post.
2. Search engine advertising
Ads on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
When you search on Google (or Bing, or Yahoo etc.), you will see text ads related to your search on the top and/or right-hand side of the search engine results page (SERP).
It is incredible how precise pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has become. You can target people as specific as by age, gender, postal code, interests, search keywords and more.
If the service you are looking for is location-centric, then you will usually only see local businesses in your search results. It doesn’t make sense for a Toronto barber shop to advertise in Texas.
If the product or service is not location-dependent, you may see ads from anywhere. This is most notable with products sold worldwide, or software companies, for example.
Google, Bing, Yahoo, and most other search engines all have similar advertising arrangements.
Google has the most advertisers among search engines. Therefore the competition is higher. Since cost per click is determined in an automated auction, the price you pay per click is higher than other search engine ads. However, you also get the most eyeballs (ad impressions).
In 2014, Google’s PPC advertising revenue was nearly $60 billion.
The interesting part is, once you have built out a successful advertising campaign in Google, you can export all the ad campaigns into the Bing and Yahoo advertising platforms.
At the time of this writing, Bing is the default search engine for Internet Explorer. This means a lot of new computers with Windows installed has Bing as the default search engine.
Due in part to this fact, Bing has a higher user base of the elder population (and those not savvy enough to switch it to Google). This brings about a unique market segment skew in your advertising. It’s especially useful to those targeting people ages 55-70.
Yahoo is now the default search engine for Firefox, meaning Yahoo is prime to take on more search traffic and be a greater contender in the advertisement space.
Most advertisers don’t use Yahoo since the search volume is low, but those with lower budgets can often find success, just like with Bing.
The key is to test everything. If you have built a campaign using Google AdWords, why not import the best campaigns into Yahoo as well?
3. Display advertising
What are display ads?
Many websites are monetized by advertisements. Display ads can either be text or a graphic. They are displayed on websites, as opposed to appearing on search engine results page. They are usually marked with a little blue icon in the upper right corner.
An example of a text display ad.
Anyone can have their ads placed on these (and over 2 million other) websites.
You can target specific websites, and/or let Google identify a match between your ad content, your targeted keywords, your website, the content on the page and a few other factors.
Google tries to make the ads beneficial to the person viewing the ad and deliver relevant ads to meet their expected needs.
The more relevant the ads, the more clicks they get, the happier everyone is. If the ads aren’t targeted or relevant to the visitor, then the ads won’t get clicked. If the ads don’t get clicked, nobody makes money and the visitor isn’t getting anything of value.
What is an ad network?
Display ads are typically bought, sold and managed through an ad network. The ad network manages clicks and payouts. They also have the relationship with the websites who display their ads. The bigger the ad network, the more websites you can advertise on.
The most popular network is the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network has over 2 million websites monetized by their display ads. Typically they are the number one place to start advertising on websites.
Google Display Network
Advertise directly with website owners
You can also use display ads directly with website owners if you have a relationship with them, or if they promote that option on their website. For example, you can advertise directly with high-traffic websites and pay per day, per page, per click, per impression, per unique visitor or various other metrics.
One of my clients, Momus, does this with their art criticism publication.
Typically they will track the stats for you and send you a report with the key performance indicators. You can (and should) also measure everything on your side using Google Analytics.
This is less common method of advertising because it involves direct reach-out to the website owners or advertising department. You can advertise with newspapers, such as The Globe and Mail in Canada. The sales page for these ads would look something like this, or niche publications like Momus.
Or you can reach out to anyone with a website if you felt they had the same target audience you are seeking.
Affiliate display ads
Some ads are affiliate links. You can engage influencers to show ads for your business or product on their website, and pay only when people click to make a purchase. This is more complicated as it requires an affiliate program on your website. I like software such as AffiliateWP.
4. Retargeting (aka, Remarketing)
Now that we have looked ad social and display advertising, it would be foolish to ignore a big part of what makes online advertising successful today: retargeting.
Retargeting is basically showing your ads to people who have already been to your website.
It works with a single line of code that places a “cookie” on your browser cache whenever they go to a specific page (or all pages).
Once the cookie is on the visitor’s computer, it saves the visitor as a member of a “custom audience” in your advertising dashboard. Once you have enough people in your audience, you can start showing display ads only to those people as they visit websites with Google display ads.
It also works the same way with Facebook and Twitter (and likely other social media platforms). When you place a code specific to those platforms on your website, you can target visitors on those platforms as well. In other words, your website visitors can see your ads when they visit those social sites.
A good rule of thumb is to have about 1,000 people in your audience list in order to generate meaningful impressions and clicks.
You can retarget your audience members for up to nearly 2 years, depending on the platform. If they clear their browser cache and all cookies, however, you lose that audience member. But most people don’t regularly do that.
Also, you can “turn off” the retargeting for visitors who convert (i.e. register or buy your services/products). You can change the frequency your ads are shown and a lot more. After all, you don’t want to freak people out or have them feel like your ads are following them everywhere they go on the internet.
I could write a whole article on this, and I will at some point, but suffice it to say that retargeting is a great way to re-engage people who have shown interest in your business. If you’re driving people to your website with good content, social media and inbound marketing, you might as well get a second chance to bring them back. Otherwise you risk losing them forever.
5. Maps advertising
Showing ads on Google or Bing maps is easy if you have an account already set up with them and are showing display ads.
It involves showing ads to the “partner network” which includes a multitude of other websites showing display ads. As long as your business is relevant to the searches and have the correct location settings in place, you can steal away clients from your competitors who may be searching for a nearby similar business.
To maximize visibility, you will also need to register your business to ensure it’s being listed in their local listings, such as with a Google My Business page.
This is a quick and easy win if you are already advertising on Google or Bing ad networks.
6. Directory advertising
There are many directories out there who would (or already are) begging for you to show your ads on their website.
A directory is any site that lists your business information along with that of other businesses in a geographic area.
There are also many industry-specific local directory listings, such as Plumbing.ca in Canada (to name one of many).
If you are thinking of advertising on these platforms, I would first ensure you are using the free version. If so, do you get traffic, phone calls or messages from the platform already? This is good indication that your page is either ranking in Google or your profile is being seen on the platform. If not, it’s possible there isn’t enough traffic on the website to warrant it.
To advertise in directory listings, there is usually a minimum spend of a few hundred dollars, depending on the platform. There is also a minimum commitment of a few months, so it is important to know if the platform can bring an ROI.
I like Yelp, for example, because it gets high traffic, which means your ads will be shown to more people. They also show ads for local businesses related to your searches and profile views. So, if you are looking at a roofing company profile, you will see ads that are complimentary (although not usually directly competing) to the service.
See below for an example of a directory advertisement on Yelp.ca.
With so many options, PPC advertising can be a tremendous way to boost sales and awareness for your business.
Hiring a professional is almost always better than doing it yourself. It can be expensive (and far less lucrative) to try doing it yourself while learning on your own dime.
It’s important to start small and test like crazy.
Once you have a profitable campaign set up, pump as much fuel (money) on the fire as you can until you see depreciating returns. Many businesses see profitable ROIs in multiples exceeding 10x. It just takes time, some expertise and lots of maintenance.
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At KVNW, we manage PPC campaigns for our clients. Every account has at least two dedicated PPC specialists reviewing and revising the account weekly. Talk to us to see if we can be a good fit for one another.