My advertising guru, Chelsea, first dipped her toes into online advertising two years ago when she created our company's first 100 x 72 pixel right-hand-side Facebook ad (take a look at it below). We had just finished creating our first ShortStack eBook and we wanted to promote it outside our fanbase.
For a $276.91 advertising spend our eBook ad earned us 4,077 new Page Likes and was clicked a grand total of 2,664 times. Not too bad for our first ad, huh?
Since creating our first Facebook ad in 2012, we've been introduced, through research or testing, to several other types of online advertising. And guess what? Even after all that research, we still weren't completely sold on the value of online (especially banner) ads.
There are lots of small business owners and yes, even marketers, who believe online advertising is not worth the spend. For a long time, I was one of those business owners. Then I read Mark Schaefer's article, "Content Shock: Why Content Marketing Is Not a Sustainable Strategy," and my thinking about online ads started to change.
Here are two snippets from Mark's post that stood out for me:
"... in the world of content marketing, the prices cannot fall because the "price" of the content is already zero - we give it away for free. So, to get people to consume our content, we actually have to pay them to do it, and as the supply of content explodes, we will have to pay our customers increasing amounts to the point where it is not feasible any more."
"... our ability to consume that content (the demand) is finite. There are only so many hours in a day and even if we consume content while we eat, work and drive, there is a theoretical and inviolable limit to consumption, which we are now approaching."
After reading about Mark's Content Shock theory, my thoughts on advertising changed from, "advertising is like the cherry on top!" to "advertising is necessary." Today's online landscape is ultra competitive; every day new content is being created faster than people can consume it. For this reason, it's becoming increasingly more necessary for businesses to pay to have their content and/or marketing messages -- social campaigns included -- seen across the web.
If you've come to appreciate online advertising recently, like I have, or if you're curious to learn more about your options, here's a roundup of the many places you can spend your online advertising budget:
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Ads
SEM ads, also known as "paid search advertising," makes it so when a user searches for keywords and/or phrases in her internet browser, your brand's content is optimized and featured on their results pages. Here are the major services you can use to implement paid search ads:
• Bing Ads
If there's a website you want to advertise on, reach out directly to the site's owners about advertising. Most all websites have either an "advertise" or "contact" page to submit your request.
Neal Shaffer's blog, Maximize Social Business, for example, keeps his "advertise" tab in the top right of his site's header. When you click on the tab, he provides a lot of information regarding the types of advertising he offers, along with a contact form.
Most of all the web's display advertising is run by ad networks that aggregate advertising inventory across thousands of sites (blogs, community sites, etc.) and sell that space to advertisers, according to the book "Traction" written by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares.
Instead of striking advertising deals one-on-one with site owners, going through an ad network can save you time as you're able to buy many ads for multiple sites through a single service. Here is a list of the largest display ad networks available:
At ShortStack, we like to use BuySellAds, (BSA) a small niche ad network, for purchasing our display ads. Beyond banner ads, BSA also allows advertisers to buy space on mobile websites, Twitter accounts (you can pay an influencer to tweet about your brand!), email newsletters, and more.
If you want to show targeted ads to people who have recently been to your website, you can invest in what's called "retargeted advertising." Perfect Audience and Adroll are the two most popular retargeted advertising platforms.
Here is a list of the the most popular social networks that offer platform advertising:
Facebook: Use Facebook's Ads Manager and/or Power Editor to create several types of social ads that will display on their platform.
• News feed-only ads
• Right-hand bar ads
• Mobile ads
• Retargeted ads (which we covered in the section above) through their website custom audiences (WCA) feature
Twitter: Pay to create promoted tweets based on five types of objectives:
Youtube: Create ads that are displayed on popular Youtube videos.
LinkedIn: Reach millions of active business professionals with display ads and highly-targeted text ads on Linkedin's professional network.
StumbleUpon: Invest in "Paid Discovery" advertising to distribute your brand's content to targeted StumbleUpon users.
Reddit: Promote your brand's content to Reddit's engaged and passionate user base of 114 million.
Tumblr: Create non-disruptive ads that fit seamlessly into the blogging platform without interrupting the user experience. (This is a form of native advertising -- we cover this in the next section.)
Native advertising has been making a lot of headlines recently. And they're not all good. Because native ads don't look like your typical advertisements, they have a deceptive nature to them which have many people crying foul.
A company that's jumped on the native advertising bandwagon early on is Buzzfeed. A healthy percentage of their daily editorial content is actually sponsored by brands.
Tips for Choosing Where to Invest Your Online Ad Dollars
• Determine the audience you want to target first. Doing this will help you decide where to purchase your ads. For instance, if you know you want to target your current customers with messages about a new product and/or service, a form of retargeted advertising might be your best option.
• Use Alexa.com to do research and determine where on the web it'll be most effective to place your ads.
• Use tools like Adbeat to discover your competitor's ads and where's they're placing them.
• Run a handful of small tests on different ad networks and platforms to find out which place(s) perform best for you.
Readers and online advertising pros of the blogosphere: Did I leave anything out? Share with me your thoughts on online advertising in the comment section below!