An incredible amount of money is spent on online advertising each year. In fact, about 90% of Google’s $89.5 billion revenue in 2016 was generated from advertising. That number baffles me. Companies are paying over $30 for a single click on their ad, with no guarantee that a new customer will result from that click.
I just can’t fathom spending that kind of money, and I think the popularity of online ads stems from its similarities to traditional advertising and marketing. Corporations don’t want to invest in a marketing channel with an elusive ROI (like social media), but they’re happy to drop millions on a channel that might have a low but easy-to-calculate ROI.
My personal opinion on online advertising aside, it can be an effective way of pushing people through your sales funnel — all the way from brand awareness to conversion. But let me be clear: If you want to get serious about online ads, hire a professional or a full-time staff. It’s incredibly easy to run through hundreds or even thousands of dollars without anything to show for it. There’s no set-it-and-forget-it system for advertising. It takes consistent monitoring and adjusting to be effective.
Perhaps the most well-known of the online advertising networks, Google AdWords allows you to target users searching for a particular keyword phrase. It sounds simple enough on the surface, but when done correctly, AdWords is intensely complicated.
You need to research the appropriate keywords that have the potential to drive traffic without breaking the bank, organize your ads into groups to help determine which types of keywords are most successful, build landing pages that focus on each keyword and track results. And that’s just an overview of the basic steps. There are dozens of options to be tweaked to improve your ROI.
Under the guidance of a highly skilled professional, AdWords can be a great opportunity to attract potential customers nearing the bottom of the sales funnel and preparing to make their purchase decision. People often turn to search when they are in immediate need of something, so keywords like “virus removal” and “emergency roof repair” can help bring in customers who are ready to put money on the table.
On the other hand, when executed poorly, AdWords brings in a lot of expensive traffic that does nothing to improve your business. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a trained AdWords Professional managing your campaigns.
Have you ever visited a website for a potential vendor and then, no matter what site you visit, ads for that vendor seem to appear all over the Web? That’s retargeting. It works by delivering a cookie to everyone that visits a site. When a visitor ends up on another site within the network, the ad service recognizes that cookie and displays a retargeting ad.
AdRoll controls one of the most popular retargeting networks. They allow you to segment your visitors into groups, so you can set different ads for first-time visitors, returning visitors, visitors who have completed an action on your site, etc.
This type of advertising is perfect for the middle of the sales funnel. You’ve drawn them into your site through an inbound source, and now you can keep them coming back for more. If your industry tends to have a long sales cycle, this can be a great way to stay at the forefront of your potential clients’ minds.
Remember, a retargeting campaign is built on the pre-existing group of visitors on your site, so the more visitors your site currently gets, the larger your potential audience will be. For many small businesses, there simply might not be a large-enough existing audience to make retargeting feasible.
Pro-tip: Retargeting is creepy. You’re basically stalking people around the Internet. Most tools allow you to set your ad frequency to help control how often visitors see your ads. Once every couple weeks should help keep the creepy factor down.
Facebook is arguably the most underrated and under-utilized major advertising network out there. If AdWords focuses on the bottom of your sales funnel and retargeting focuses on the middle, Facebook is all about the top of the funnel. It’s perfect for spreading brand awareness to those who have never heard of you.
You can target people by demographics, interests, location, behaviors, or even where they work. Having a solid understanding of your clients is essential for creating well-targeted ads in Facebook. Building a handful of personas can be very helpful. Have you noticed that your clients tend to enjoy reading TechCrunch? Target fans of TechCrunch in your state between the ages of 25-34 (if your state is California, there are 35,860 people who fit those criteria).
If you really want to try online advertising without the assistance of a professional consultant, Facebook is the place to go. The setup process is about as easy as it gets, and it’s still incredibly cheap. That said, Facebook often changes its ad rules, so don’t expect today’s campaign to have the same reach for the same budget next year! Play around and see what you can find. I just like seeing what sort of weird audiences I can come up with (FYI – 1,280 employees of Microsoft are interested in the iPhone, while only 400 employees of Apple are interested in the Windows Phone).
Pro-tip: Beware of ad fatigue. Since you’re targeting by demographic, the same group of people will be exposed to your ad multiple times, making the ad less effective as time goes on. The lifespan of a Facebook ad is only about a week, so have lots of ad copy variations and images prepared!
Your actions for this week:
- Play around with Facebook’s Ad Center. It’s fun and you might find a small and cheap audience to advertise to.
- Seek professional help. Either a professional ad consultant or a professional counselor because you’ll be throwing away money without an AdWords Pro on your side.
Next week, in the final installment of The Guide to Getting More Out of Pronto, we’ll be talking about the exact opposite of online advertising: inbound marketing.
If you missed Parts 1-2, don’t forget to go back and check them out:
SEO & Social Media Manager