Digital marketing and advertising can be confusing and frustrating for those without any experience in the field. From programmatic ads to PPC search terms to running a blog, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constantly changing options.
Failing to advertise your business correctly can lead to lackluster sales and end a business before it really gets started—or kill an existing business quickly. Understanding the basics of digital advertising can help you avoid this fate and plan an effective advertising strategy that will boost your revenue and keep the doors open.
Invest in Keywords
Standing out online is incredibly difficult. With so much competition and useless information vying for their attention, your customers need to be able to find you easily. But how can you make this happen?
Know What SEM Is
Basically, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of buying text ads on search engine results pages. You can purchase ads based on individual keywords, branded keywords, or even entire phrases. These ads then appear above, to the side, or below the results, depending on the type of ad you choose to buy.
For example, you bid on the keyword “orange.” You then find out that you are the top bid. Whenever someone searches for that term, your ads will now appear at the top of the results page.
Unfortunately, because SEM is constantly in motion, it can be difficult to stay on top of bids. As soon as someone outbids you, your ad moves down the list. The most desirable and common keywords can be extremely expensive. Even worse, every search engine has their own bidding process—for example, learning how to buy ads on Google may not translate to other companies.
Another thing to note: Search Engine Marketing is not the same as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which seeks to create content that will organically create better rankings on search result pages.
Dos and Don'ts
SEM is an extremely time-consuming process, and its landscape is constantly changing. If you can’t afford a dedicated marketing employee that has experience with SEM, it may even seem like a waste of time. However, it’s important to remember that your customers need to be able to find your store--getting buried on page 10 of the search results may kill your business.
Instead of skipping SEM entirely, figure out what keywords you can afford among options that are necessary or helpful. Then, figure out the prices of the various keywords and how they will affect your overall budget. Using this information, come up with a plan to allocate your funds in a way that maximizes your ROI.
Optimize for Your Customers
Consider your target audience. For example, if you know that your audience is tech-savvy, you’ll want to invest in the newest ways for people to search and find you. This could include voice search or connected device integrations. Think about where your customers are searching for your products and make a list of ways to reach them. Your short-term focus should be on goals that are easily implemented and are within your budget; keep the other goals handy for long-term planning.
Do Display and Video Well
Display and video ads are also necessary tools for most businesses; however, buying these ads can be extremely confusing, and your results may vary significantly.
Programmatic vs Traditional Advertising
Back in the dark ages (about 20 years ago), companies purchased advertising space directly from publishers like newspapers, magazines, and even billboard owners. Advertisers knew well in advance when and where their ads would run, and they had a general idea of the audience that would be viewing it. While some companies still buy digital advertising space directly from certain websites, programmatic advertising is far more common nowadays.
Smart Insights defines programmatic advertising as “automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time, for the opportunity to show an ad to a specific customer, in a specific context.” This process can be very confusing and lacks transparency. It also means a company has less control over where their ads are eventually placed. There is also a lot of opportunity for fraud.
Be Aware of Ad Fraud
Ad fraud is a multibillion-dollar problem that continues to grow, despite calls to address the problem from advertisers, companies, and politicians. In fact, purchasing digital advertisements can sometimes seem like a daunting and pointless task with fraud so prevalent in the industry. However, there are ways to fight bot traffic, reduce fraud, and ensure that your campaigns perform well.
Monitor and Optimize Your Campaigns
Reducing advertising fraud is an ongoing process. You will need to regularly update your fraud protections and check your campaign reports often. How those protections are set up will differ depending on whether you use an in-house team or outsource your marketing efforts.
If you run your own advertising campaigns, the first thing you’ll need to know is what your success metrics are. This could be conversions, revenue generated, sessions generated, or a variety of other data categories. Choose several that make sense for your company and set up custom reports that can be viewed easily. Check these metrics often and don’t be afraid to change or kill campaigns that are underperforming. Several tools are available that offer insight into the type of traffic that campaigns are generating as well as how different campaigns stack up on common performance indicators.
If you use an agency or another company to handle your digital advertising, remember to ask them about how they handle ad fraud. Push for information on why campaigns are underperforming or when the data doesn’t make sense. Get reports on where your advertisements are being displayed more often and the type of traffic on these sites. The more active you are in asking for transparency, the more likely you are to avoid wasting money on fraud.
Create Quality Content
With so many competing options out there, customers can afford to be picky about where they spend their time and money. Providing relevant, quality information increases trust and loyalty for customers. This should go beyond the standard display, video, and promoted advertisements you create, incorporating any content on your site that can be boosted or increase SEO.
Have Great Product Descriptions
This may seem obvious, but too many online companies fail to create informative and helpful product descriptions. This is a mistake. Product descriptions do more than explain what a product is—they also help with SEO, increase conversions, and give companies a competitive advantage over other sellers.
Some quick tips:
- Include clear, high-quality pictures.
- Provide information you might want to know about a product if you were going to purchase it.
- Go beyond just the specifications and general manufacturer’s information – but don’t forget to include those.
- Note anything that might be different or unique about your listing (exclusive colors, wider size range, etc.).
Provide Content Customers Need
Some companies write blogs, white papers, or proprietary research. Other companies provide buying guides and in-depth case studies. Still others focus on social media or long-form video tutorials providing useful information. There is no set way to provide content.
The key is to provide content that is relevant to your audience in a form that they will actually enjoy. If you know that your customers shop mostly from their cell phones, you’ll want content that is easy to digest on a mobile device. If your products appeal to a business crowd, you might want longer form content that provides more in-depth explanations optimized for a desktop or tablet landscape view.
If you don’t have the time or money to invest in creating content, consider what small pieces might be most helpful to your particular audience. This could include FAQs, product guides, customer testimonials, or expert tips. Choose pieces that are easy to put together and test them in different formats to see what resonates with your audience. A quick video testimonial on Facebook will likely get more interaction than the same video buried on the bottom of your product page. When you find content that works well, use it in multiple formats to reach the widest digital audience.
Plan Out Your Strategy
As with anything else, starting with an informed strategy and working toward well-defined goals will help keep your company moving on the right track.
Know Your Budget and Timeline
Budget is an essential consideration for digital advertising. Some forms of advertising are simply too expensive or won’t deliver the right results for your audience. Think about how much you are willing to spend both overall and on individual marketing initiatives. Set clear goals for when you want to see a return on investment and how you plan to measure that. By defining these details now, you can easily evaluate each campaigns success and determine where to make cuts later.
Try and Try Again
No one gets it exactly right the first time out… or possibly ever. Having a business is a constant game of trial and error, an advertising is the same way. Sometimes it works, and other times you’ll need to reconsider, adjust, and try again.
Instead of getting frustrated, take note of what did work or why a particular campaign or content piece failed. Sometimes, a simple tweak to a single keyword can make the difference between a rush of new customers and no response.
Running a business in the digital age can be a challenge, but advertising it correctly is a big part of being successful. Spending time and money on planning an effective strategy can help you build an active customer base. By setting up your campaigns correctly and monitoring them as you go, you can spend more time focusing on operations and making sure everything runs smoothly. That will keep your customers happy and coming back for more.