If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a) a marketer who’s struggling with the ever-changing world of display advertising or b) someone who works for a company that specializes in advertising and marketing.
No matter which camp you fall into, you’re most likely familiar with the many adjustments that Google, Facebook, and other major platforms have made to their display advertising products in recent years.
Odds are you’ve also seen the drastic changes that ad agencies and marketing teams have had to make to effectively engage with their audiences across all those platforms.
While it’s never easy making these kinds of adjustments when you’re already operating at top speed, change is inevitable. Better to embrace it and make the most of it.
That’s the central idea behind this article: how to leverage the ever-changing digital landscape to your advantage.
Display Advertising Basics
Before diving into the good news, let’s cover the basics. If you’re unfamiliar, display advertising is simply ads that appear alongside other content on a company’s website or social media platforms. You’ll typically find these ads in the “above the fold” area of a web page, the “body” area of a social media profile, or the “banner” or “header” area of a blog post.
Thanks to technologies like Remarketing and Google AdWords, companies can target their ads to a specific audience and see the results of their efforts in real time. This is huge for marketers who want to see how their campaigns are performing in the marketplace.
You’ll also often see “sponsored content” or “advertorials” adjacent to news articles or blog posts. These are often paid for ads that appear to be written by a human journalist, though algorithms can help with some of these too.
Why Is Display Advertising Still Popular?
It’s fair to say that display advertising is still popular because it’s effective.
First of all, people love shiny new devices and platforms. When those come along, people naturally flock to them. What’s more, many online shoppers have come to expect to see ads wherever they go online. Some 79% of American adults use ad blockers, effectively removing ads from websites they visit regularly, according to an August 2019 report from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) Center for Advertising Analytics.
Despite those blockers, companies continue to push ads into people’s faces because they work. The 4A’s report found that 88% of respondents would see more ads if they worked, and 72% would feel obliged to keep watching ads if they felt the content wasn’t worth it.
Last but not least, display ads offer a cost-effective way to reach an audience, both online and off.
Since the ad content isn’t as important as the reach, many marketers place more emphasis on the cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-acquisition (CPA) than they do on the ad itself.
In some instances, display ads can even be cheaper than traditional marketing methods, like TV or magazine ads. So even if you don’t see a lot of value in the advertisement itself, the cost-per-acquisition rarely is.
How Can Technology Help Marketers?
Now, let’s look at how technology can help marketers.
Thanks to tools like Remarketing and Google AdWords, marketers can get more out of their display advertising investments by taking advantage of the internet’s memory.
With Remarketing, you can target your ad to individuals who’ve visited your website or social media pages in the past. You can also use the tool to target people based on what items they’re looking for. For example, if you sell kitchen equipment, you can put together a list of popular kitchen appliances and use Remarketing to show those ads to people who’ve recently searched for or purchased a fridge or dishwasher.
Similarly, with Google AdWords, you can use relevant keywords and phrases to target your ads to users who’ve searched for or are interested in your products or services. What’s more, you can also target your ads to users based on their location, age, and interests. You can read more about keyword targeting with AdWords here.
Both of these tools are enormously valuable, but they have one major drawback: you’ll often need to have a minimum account balance to take advantage of them.
If you do have a significant advertising budget, these tools are well worth it. However, if you’re just getting started, another option is to use Google Digital Marketing Platforms.
Overview of Google’s Digital Marketing Platforms
If you’re unfamiliar, Google’s digital marketing platforms include Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager. Put them together and you have an incredibly powerful suite of tools for marketing.
Essentially, Google Ads is the general advertising platform. It’s what you’ll likely encounter if you’re searching for an online marketplace or looking at the home pages of different websites. Google Ads allows you to create ads that target individuals based on their interests and behavior. It also provides analytics so you can measure the success of your ad campaigns.
Similarly, Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that tracks and reports on website traffic. It also provides metrics that help you establish the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns. With Google Analytics, you can track visitors to your site as they navigate from page to page. This helps you see which elements of your website cause visitors to remain engaged and which ones cause them to leave.
Last, but not least, Google Tag Manager is a free website tag management tool that integrates with Google Analytics to make adding and customizing tags on your site a cinch. What’s more, Google Tag Manager allows you to create and test tags rapidly and easily.
While these tools are all incredibly valuable, they do require a bit of learning curve to reap their benefits.
Why Should Marketers Avoid Advertisers?
Now, let’s turn our attention to the bad news: not all advertisers are created equal. Some have more value than others. If you’re looking to save money, Google Ads is the wrong place to start.
First of all, we need to establish the difference between a good and bad advertiser. A good advertiser is going to be transparent about the value they provide and will be able to clearly articulate the ROI (return on investment) of their efforts. A bad advertiser will often hide that information or provide misleading data in an effort to up-sell you additional goods and services.
Second of all, Google Ads is a place where marketers must compete for attention with other advertisers, including chum-pool competitors who are more interested in profit than in engagement.
In other words, you’re competing for attention on a crowded marketplace. What’s more, since Google Ads is free, marketing to that audience is essentially free too. That’s great if you have a lot of money to spend, but if you’re looking to save money, it’s not the place to start.
Case Study: Better Than Advertisers
If you’re looking for a case study that proves the point above, check out HubSpot’s blog post from last year. In it, the company compares the effectiveness of their inbound marketing strategy to that of an advertising campaign, using Google Ads as a measurable point of comparison.
To follow up, HubSpot finds that their inbound marketing strategy gets nearly twice as much engagement as their ad campaign, leading to increased conversions and revenue ($2.21 vs. $1.12 per day, at a 16% discount).
This illustrates the difference between a good and bad advertiser. A good advertiser will tell you about the value they provide, while a bad advertiser will try to up-sell you.
With a little know-how, it’s possible to separate the wheat from the chaff. For example, if you run a flower delivery service, a good ad network will be able to show you relevant ads for wedding flowers, funerals, or any other type of floral arrangement.
Since we last spoke, Google, Facebook, and other platforms have made incredible strides in developing their advertising products. While adjusting to these new platforms is challenging, it’s also incredibly rewarding to effectively market to an audience on the internet.