A beginner’s guide to online advertising

6 min read
Elle Campbell

Want to do online advertising for your business but aren’t sure where to start?

You’ve come to the right place!

With the ever-increasing number of digital advertising options available to business owners, it can be hard to know where to begin — especially if you’ve got a limited budget!

To make it easy for you, we’ve curated a list of the top 5 ways to advertise online.

Your top 5 online advertising options

Most small business owners don’t have the money to advertise everywhere. Here are the best places to start.

  1. Google Ads.
  2. Social media ads.
  3. Mobile ads.
  4. Retargeted ads.
  5. Chatbot advertising.

Ready to go? Let’s walk through the 5 most popular ways to advertise online.

1. Google Ads

If you’ve ever searched for anything on Google, you understand the importance of having a website that appears on page 1 of the search results.

Online Advertising Google Ads

Google DOMINATES the search engine share worldwide, with over 92% of internet users favouring it over any other search engine. The term “google” has even entered our vocabulary, with dictionaries listing it as a verb.

With Google Ads, businesses can display their ads on Page 1 of search results.

Online Advertising Pay Per Click Spelled Out

Using this kind of PPC (pay-per-click) advertising will require you to be very specific about the search terms people will use to find you, as well as the action you want them to take. Make sure you’re clear about:

  • Your messaging
  • Your audience
  • That the landing page or phone number you direct them to is working

Once Google brings you traffic, it’s up to YOU to convert them to a sale. If your brand and/or messaging isn’t appealing, it simply won’t work.

2. Social media ads

You can pay to advertise on all of the major social media platforms:

  • Facebook and FB Stories
  • Instagram and IG Stories
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat

But not all are created equally. For example, the kind of people who use Snapchat are different than the average Pinterest user.

It’s critical to know which networks are most popular with your target market.

Not sure where to start? Facebook is popular across age and socioeconomic groups and offers detailed targeting options.

On most social networks, you’ll find that advertisements are sold in an auction format. Each advertiser sets a maximum bid for a desired result (like a click or even a phone call) OR a maximum daily budget.

Facebook makes it easier for advertisers. They will provide you with a recommended bid based on your goals, and will walk you through the process of creating your ad.

3. Mobile ads

How far does your smartphone ever get away from you? If you’re like the majority of the population with a phone, you’ll know it’s rarely even an arm’s length away — even while you’re sleeping.

By buying permission-based advertisements in the form of text (SMS) or photo/video via text (MMS), you can easily reach your audience with new product updates or information where they’re already looking.

Online Advertising Two People on Smartphones

In order for this to be effective, you’ll first have to build your database, though. To receive these texts, customers must opt in to your automated system by texting an initial shortcode. This step is very important — in fact, it’s required under Canada’s Anti Spam Law.

Geo-targeted advertising

Along with the demographic of your target audience (age, income, marital status, etc.), you’ll have to consider if the location of your prospective customer is relevant or not.

If you have a brick-and-mortar shop or office, check out geo-targeted advertising.

This option allows you to deliver ads to people who are physically within range of your location. If you’re hoping to bring more customers in the door, geo-targeting is the way to go. Otherwise, you’ll be paying for impressions and clicks with little to no return!

4. Retargeted ads

Have you ever looked at something on a website, and then noticed that it “followed you” as you continued to browse the internet? No, it’s not just a sign you should buy it!

Perhaps you were looking at a pair of shoes, only to find them popping up in discreetly placed ads on seemingly irrelevant sites. This is called retargeting.

The purpose of retargeting is to continually place a product (or brand) before a consumer, in hopes they will eventually buy. This is based on two proven assumptions:

  • It’s easier to make a sale when the consumer has already expressed interest, even if they only looked at the product.
  • By keeping the product top-of-mind, the chances of the user buying increases with every impression (in other words, every time it’s presented to them).

Most paid advertising platforms have a host of retargeting options (like Facebook with its Facebook Pixel). Focus on the platform where you’re already doing most of your paid marketing efforts for best results.

5. Chatbot advertising

If you really want to stay ahead of the digital curve, you may wish to try using chatbots.

Chatbots are an automated way to communicate with your prospective customers online.

Online Advertising Man Reading Tablet Outside

You can go the simple route of building Facebook click-to-messenger ads and ensuring that you have properly customized the auto-responder(s). This is a good way of starting a conversation, but then it’s up to you to keep the conversation going.

If you need a more sophisticated solution than what Facebook offers, you’ll need to consider installing a third-party chatbot app and then connecting it to your ad.

While this can be a bit more challenging for beginners, there are many benefits to using chatbots:

  • It’s fun and familiar to your customers, because it feels a lot like instant messaging
  • Your customer receives service right away

In a technology-driven landscape that waits for no one, both are majorly important!

Measure, measure, measure!

Regardless of which approach to online advertising you decide to try first, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing one thing consistently: measuring your results.

If you don’t strike success with your first ad, don’t despair.

It can take a few tries to nail down the right target audience, then make sure your ad is answering their questions, needs and wants. Humans are visual creatures, so make sure your graphics are as attractive as possible!

Go with the flow

Online advertising is a delicate balance of technology, science, design, and consumer psychology. So stay patient, keep measuring and making adjustments as you go.

Think of this an exciting experiment — stay curious, flexible and creative and you’re sure to nail it over time.

Which online advertising approach will YOU try first?