Media Buying & PPC Advertising

The world of advertising has transformed significantly since the days where drinking whiskey and smoking cigars were acceptable standards for a regular Monday in the office (note: an emphasis on Monday as we have 5@7’s regularly in the office after work hours). All Mad Men references aside, the new platforms within the digital environment have given small business a variety of tools at their disposal for reaching new users. Now, while traditional advertising remains a viable strategy to achieve your marketing objectives, the development of technology has led efficient cost-effective platforms giving users all over the world the ability to create campaigns in minutes. The costs associated with traditional advertising can be burdensome for small business: for example, buying print ads and a television spot may exhaust funds quickly for a business that is simply starting out, and if the execution isn’t perfect, the ROI can be pretty limited.

Enter the digital realm: advertising to your target market is well within reach for any kind of business. Want to start showing ads on Google? Open up an account, put down a credit card, and spend the exact amount you want. Need to increase your presence on Facebook? Promote your content and target the exact audience you want to. The ease and accessibility of media buying platforms make digital advertising a very appealing alternative to the world of traditional advertising, where impressions aren’t guaranteed and tracking is rather limited.

However, all that said, the world of digital media buying can be just as complicated and overwhelming as its traditional counterpart. For example, here is a list of platforms from which I have personally purchased media and/or planned strategies:

Google AdWords Bing Ads Facebook Ads Twitter Ads
LinkedIn Ads Instagram Snapchat Pinterest
Reddit StumbleUpon YouTube Criteo
Outbrain Taboola Doubleclick Gemini
Capterra Media Alpha Health Plans Trumblr
50onRed AdRoll SiteScout Traffic Vance
Clicksor 7search Infolinks Admob

This is only scratching the surface. Various advertising networks have gone done since I started buying media years ago, but in their place new ones emerged. In some cases, industry-specific media buying platforms have sprung up, such as Capterra, a software specific-website, and Media Alpha, a media buying network for insurance traffic.

I’m already ranking well. Why should I invest in advertising?

Organic reach can only go so far, especially with the amount of competition there is in the world wide web. Just think about your daily routine: how many websites do you visit, and more importantly, how many mobile applications do you use? In order to maximize your reach, you cannot solely rely on organic traffic, regardless of how much traffic you capture on a daily basis. Whether it’s within Google search results or news feeds on Facebook and Instagram, numerous businesses are all vying for your attention, sometimes desperately hoping to generate a couple of conversions to stay afloat. Hyperbole aside, the competition for impressions and reach is tremendous, especially if you’re business is within a highly competitive niche.

The battle for exposure is apparent on two different platforms: Google and Facebook. Let’s start with the search engine giant. Within the past year, Google has made a significant amount of updates to its Google AdWords platform, which means increased advertising capabilities for businesses. However, with regards to organic search, some of these updates have made it more difficult for businesses ranked on the first page to capture organic traffic. The first domino to fall was the removal of right-hand side ads, which was a seismic change in the search engine results interface. For the longest time, Google had placed up to three ads above organic results with a right-hand column for the lower positions. With mobile traffic continuing to increase, Google decided to replicate the mobile experience on desktop by removing ads from the right-hand column, and showing up to four ads above organic results. This is even more worrisome for local businesses, which now have to compete against four paid ads and Google’s local pack, which is also starting to designate a fourth spot for advertisements on mobile.

Within Facebook, organic reach for content is at an all-time low. While Facebook Ads may be quite a pain in the rear when uploading campaigns via excel into the power editor, the easy interface is rather user-friendly and makes campaign creation relatively simple for even the most uninitiated. If you’re perusing Facebook on a mobile device, you can even click the “boost post” button to show your content to more users in minutes. All of these tools have made it cost-effective for businesses all over the world to promote content to new audiences. In addition to the ever increasing amount of advertisements, videos are beginning to dominate everyone’s news feed, as they tend to yield the highest engagement rates. Facebook’s news feed algorithm tends to push content you interact with the most to the forefront, so if you’re likely to engage with video content, Facebook will begin showing you more videos at the top of your feed. This presents a challenge for businesses that want to build their reach organically within this social media vehicle. However, it may be nearly impossible to generate results without carving out a budge for Facebook.

If you’re not able to survive on organic traffic alone, you need to build out a media buying strategy….but that’s where it becomes tricky. Where do you start?

Main Media Buying Platforms

While I listed a myriad of platforms earlier in this article, I’ll provide a quick snippet of some of the major platforms below.

Google AdWords

This is the mother of all media buying platforms. As a marketing professional, I have been the architect of several programs that have allowed businesses to sustain themselves with Google AdWords alone. Whether you own an ecommerce business or sell business-to-business services, chances are you are an ideal candidate for spending marketing dollars with the almighty Google. Here are some of the campaigns that you can launch within Google:

  • Search Advertising: All-Features, Call-Only, and Remarketing (also known as RLSA – remarketing lists for search advertising).
  • Display Advertising: Straight up remarketing or campaigns based on targeting, which includes topics, placements, keywords, interests, and more.
  • Shopping Advertising: Using your own products as ads, Google Shopping campaigns allow you to capture more traffic for product-based searches.
  • Video Advertising: Utilizing YouTube and sites within Google’s exchange, you can use videos as an ad format for brand awareness and conversion-based campaigns.
  • Mobile App Advertising: whether it’s done via search, display, or video, you can increase mobile app installs and/or app engagement via a wide array of campaigns.

As you can see, the immense reach on Google and the flexibility in terms of campaign creation gives any type of business an opportunity to increase its reach via the AdWords platform.

Bing Ads

While Google dominates the market share for search engines all over the world, Bing has a respectable market share, particularly in North America. Of course, usage on the Bing platform is expected to decrease in the coming years, especially with mobile on the rise.

When it comes to the differences between Google AdWords and Bing Ads, there are very few. With regards to media buying campaigns, options are somewhat limited to Google AdWords, but you can still manage search and shopping campaigns.

Social Media Advertising

The realm of social media marketing provides busienesses ample opportunities to reach target audiences based on demographic, geographic, behavioral, and psychographic attributes. In some cases, platforms are far more sophisticated than others, but all of them give you an opportunity to reach viable audiences. These platforms include:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Pinterest
  • Instgram
  • Snapchat

What to consider with media buying

When it comes to digital advertising, you need to be conscious of your budget and how much you should invest to acquire a new customer or client. When gauging your effective cost per lead and cost per acquisition, be cognizant of your conversion rates and the customer lifetime value that can be generated from one client. Media buying doesn’t have to be a complicated process for your business. However, going into PPC advertising blindly will not produce great results and lead to a budget that is depleted quickly and rashly. Hours of research is needed to understand how your users behave online and which channels are best suited to utilize for advertising campaigns. Once you have all your research completed and are ready to launch a digital advertising strategy, be sure to have all types of tracking in place to setup data collection for optimization purposes.

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