Understanding Online Advertising: Thoughts From a Google Ads Expert
Since Results Communications and Research’s official launch in April 2014, the majority of advertising work with which clients and prospective clients have sought assistance has been online (digital). As you would expect, whether our client contacts are dedicated marketing individuals for their mid-to-large-sized organization or small business owners, all are greatly aware of the last decade’s shift in how target audiences want to communicate and obtain information.
While I still believe there will always be a need for and benefits associated with more traditional forms of advertising, such as billboards, transit, print, and broadcast (radio and TV), online advertising definitely rules the advertising roost right now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, if ever.
Given the above, as a Google AdWords-certified specialist (Google Adwords is now known as Google Ads), as well as someone who’s researched and been exposed to a large variety of other forms of online advertising, I’m sharing – in what I hope are layman’s terms (but know that you can always reach out for an explanation) – a list of important things to know when considering online advertising.
- Before you research and brainstorm any kind of online advertising campaign, define your campaign objectives. Are you trying to create awareness of your organization/brand/products? Or, are you trying to increase sales of your products, services, or programs? It’s imperative that you clearly define your objective before beginning to focus on an advertising campaign.
- Similar to defining objectives, determine upfront whether or not individuals are likely to be actively searching online for information on the product, service, or program which you plan to promote. If you are offering a product, service, or program that your target audience likely doesn’t know exists, implementing a search campaign using Google or Bing search engine advertising platforms is not going to help you achieve campaign objectives. Tools available in search engine advertising platforms can help you assess the volume of searches being undertaken in a particular geographic area that are relevant to your organization’s offerings.
- You’ve got options. Here’s a quick summary of what those are:
- search engine search advertising – gives you the opportunity to have a text ad presented to individuals entering search terms in search engines that are relevant to your product, service, or program.
- search engine display advertising – gives you the opportunity to have a text or image ad presented to individuals who meet certain targeting requirements, e.g., have particular interests, belong to certain demographic groups, visit Web sites focusing on topics relevant to your offerings, and/or who read online content pertinent to the aforementioned.
- other bulk display/banner advertising – gives you access to advertising on a variety of topic-relevant Web sites by providing options beyond search engines to purchase display/banner advertising on a collection of Web sites simultaneously. Google’s Display Network (known as AdSense) isn’t the only “bulk” display game in town.
- direct-purchase banner advertising – gives you the opportunity to have an image ad presented on relevant Web sites that will directly sell you advertising space.
- direct-purchase e-newsletter, e-blast, and Webinar advertising – relevant organizations may offer you the chance to advertise in their weekly or monthly e-newsletters or e-blasts, or to sponsor a Webinar they are hosting, so you can reach their members/customers/subscribers. And, opportunities may include the ability to push out your own content via e-blast or Webinar authorship/presentation.
- social media advertising – the majority, if not all, social media platforms offer advertising opportunities to reach a variety of target audiences. Think Twitter Web cards, and Pinterest and Facebook Pin and Post boosts, among others.
- All impressions are not created equal. I equate an impression to a set of eyeballs, i.e., each impression accrued for an advertisement means it was presented to one individual for viewing. Many online advertising opportunities require advertisers to pay for any and all impressions achieved; you may be okay with that, if creating awareness of your product, service, or program is a key objective of your campaign. However, if the focus of your campaign is to drive traffic to your Web site, and even further, cause visitors to take actions beneficial to your organization (known as conversions), such as completing an inquiry form or purchasing a product, then you’ll likely want to engage in advertising arrangements where you pay only for ad click-thrus to your Web sites (pay-per-click/PPC advertising), or where your advertising cost structure is related to visitor conversion behavior (advertising that offers cost-per-acquisition bidding).
- It’s possible to easily pilot, test, pause, and change course. Certain forms of online advertising, particularly search engine search and display advertising, only require a very small “entry cost” to use their platform. There’s really no true set-up fee you have to pay them, but you will have the human resource expense of using their tools to set up text ads and design image ads. You can launch a campaign where you’ve indicated you only want to spend $1 a day. Granted, depending on the competition from other advertisers to have their ads presented for search terms or to audiences similar to yours, the $1 may not be sufficient to have your ad presented; however, there are no required daily, weekly, or monthly advertising spends for search engine search and display advertising. And, unlike directly purchased banner advertising and some other online advertising opportunities, search engine advertising tools allow you to pause campaigns yourself 24/7 and to change campaign settings, ad content, targeting strategies, and search terms prompting ads at any moment of any day.
I and my team continue to educate ourselves on a daily basis about the pro’s and con’s of available online advertising opportunities, so that we can best serve our clients. We know that no one size of online advertising fits all. I am always available to brainstorm with you about your particular needs or to explain further any of the information outlined above. The online advertising portion of digital marketing will continue to evolve, and we’ll be here to guide you through that evolution.