The Dos and Don’ts of Digital Advertising: An Intro Guide

We’ve all been there.

You look up something you’re thinking about buying (say running shoes), shop for a few seconds and move on.

The next thing you know–ads for that exact pair of shoes are all over your Facebook feed, in your inbox and playing between episodes of your favorite show. Not to mention, there are also ads from competitors in all those places too.

Is this creepy or cool??

If you ask us, it’s more than cool. When businesses reach their audience with digital advertising, it’s impactful.

But how does it work? How can five seconds on a shoe image result in all those placements?

In this guide, we cover everything business owners and team members need to understand about digital advertising.

What Is Digital Advertising?

Digital advertising (or digital ads) refers to advertisements delivered through online channels such as social media, websites and search engines.

These ads can take various forms, such as:

  • Search ads
  • Display ads
  • Video ads
  • Sponsored content
  • and more that we’ll get into later.

How Do Digital Ads Really Work?

Digital ads target specific demographics based on online behavior, interests and preferences, and advertisers use software to create ads and place them on websites and apps.

When you click on an ad that takes you to that advertiser’s website, the advertiser pays for either the click or the impression, depending on how they set it up.*

Behind the scenes, data and complex algorithms do lots of work (that we won’t get into) to help advertisers target the right audience for their ads.

*The two types of paid search ads are pay-per-click (PPC) and cost per mille (CPM).

  • With pay-per-click—you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
  • With cost per mille—you pay based on the number of impressions or how many times your ad is seen.

The Five Most Common Types of Digital Ads & When To Use Them

We sat down with Kyle Weston, Estland’s Digital Director, to help us understand the different types of digital ads available to businesses and which are the most effective in different scenarios.

Google Search Ads:

  • What They Are:

Imagine again that you’re searching for the perfect pair of running shoes on Google. Search ads are those text ads at the top of your search results. Advertisers create these ads to match specific keywords. People often refer to them as paid search ads, and they represent a significant part of online marketing.

  • What They’re Good For:

Search ads help customers choose your company over your competitors when they’re already searching for your service or product (keyword). The customer is already towards the end of their purchasing journey, and search ads ensure your business rises to the top of the results page.

Google search ads are by far the most effective ad type for the vast majority of service-based businesses across most industries. Google has a monopoly on search engines, and when people need a service, they Google it, and you want your company to be at the top.

Kyle Weston, Digital Director, Estland

Google Display Ads:

  • What They Are:

Now, picture browsing your favorite blog, and suddenly, you see an eye-catching banner-style ad. These are display ads. They appear on websites within the Display Network, reaching a whopping 90% of internet users globally. Unlike search ads, they’re more visual, making them great for grabbing attention.

  • What They’re Good For:

Display ads are used for remarketing. For example, if someone searches for “roofing company” and clicks your search ad but doesn’t call or fill out a form (i.e., convert), Google will serve (show) a display ad to them about your roofing company in other places on the internet like Gmail, YouTube, etc. through their Display Network.

When used alongside search ads, they create a powerful advertising combination because you’re focusing your efforts (and budget) on people who have already shown interest in your company.

Shopping Ads:

  • What They Are:

Shopping ads are standard in business-to-consumer (B2C) product marketing. Advertisers connect a detailed product feed to Google, and their products show up when people search on Google or browse the Google Shopping tab. You can shop directly from these ads or click to learn more about the product.

  • What They’re Good For:

Shopping Ads are great for anyone who has an e-commerce website, with one of the more popular platforms being Shopify. You can upload a file of your site to a Google product listing, and it will display all your products for free. Then, you can run ads to have them show up at the top or within the search results.

YouTube Ads:

  • What They Are:

Since Google owns YouTube, you can use Google Ads to display ads that pop up before or during YouTube videos or even in YouTube search results. You can also develop in-feed or in-stream video ads. These display while scrolling on the sidebar or while watching a video, respectively.

  • What They’re Good For:

Many advertisers underestimate the power of YouTube—especially considering that people watch over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos a day, more than Netflix and Facebook videos combined. Video marketing increases reach and converts and is an engaging way for businesses to build trust with their target audience.

Social Media Ads:

  • What They Are:

Social media ads are served to customers while they’re experiencing their social media feed. Social ads allow you to target specific affinity audiences (interests, characteristics, behaviors, etc.) and demographics (location, age, income, etc.) to optimize your ad spend. They can take many forms depending on which platform you’re working on Meta (Facebook, Messenger & Instagram) LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.

  • What They’re Good For:

Social media ads are great for brand awareness, audience engagement and remarketing. More and more, social media is where companies place ads that don’t look or feel like traditional call-to-action ads because you don’t want to disrupt a person from their social media experience (i.e., people want to scroll for entertainment, not be sold to!). Yet, they are still effective.

In Meta and LinkedIn, you can set up ‘pixels’ that help you work smarter, not harder. Advertising companies can set up pixels with code running on every page on your website, then link it to the Ads platform on your social media accounts.

This way, if anyone lands on the ad landing page from social, it adds that potential customer to your audience list and remarkets to them through your Search and Display ads, too.

Within these networks are different campaign types, placements, formats, and more that can help hit different objectives. It’s a steep learning curve, so please reach out to set up a free consultation for digital advertising strategies that work.

3 Ways Digital Ads Are More Effective Than Traditional Methods.

Traditional advertising methods (think radio, TV, print, billboards, etc.) can be expensive and are not guaranteed to reach a specific audience.

In contrast, digital ads are designed with precise objectives and audiences, making them more effective in reaching a target audience.

Here are three advantages of digital advertising compared to traditional methods.

1. Digital Ads Target Specific Audiences—Leading To Real Results.

The most significant advantage of digital ads is their ability to target audiences with great precision.

Businesses can reach an audience and tailor their marketing efforts to the specific needs and interests of that audience, resulting in more effective and efficient marketing campaigns.

With traditional marketing, you have no control over who sees or hears your ads and never really know if you’re reaching the right people.

For example, if you own a roofing company and invest thousands of dollars on a billboard on the interstate running through your service area, you can’t control who drives by that billboard. And you certainly can’t control if they live nearby or even own a home.

In contrast, digital ads allow you to pinpoint demographics, interests and locations, using geotargeting, geofencing and affinity audiences, to put your ads in front of the people who are most likely to convert into actual customers.

2. Online Ads Are More Flexible & Cost-Effective Than Traditional Advertising.

Traditional advertising contracts typically lock you into a fixed term over a set period for a set price. Once you send the final files or artwork, you ‘set it and forget it’ and can’t change it (i.e., the billboard is up, the newspapers are printed, etc.), which is great—if they work perfectly.

But what if they don’t work? Let’s say you start a business and launch an ad campaign on local TV.

You sit back and wait for the phones to start ringing. But they don’t.

It’s so slow that you check if you forgot to plug the phones in. Do you wait three months until your TV contract runs out to try something new?

Or better yet, what if it’s working too well, and you’re overwhelmed with leads after the first week? You’re understaffed, can’t keep up and worried about things slipping through the cracks, but you’ve paid for three more months of your commercial.

Traditional ads create a Catch-22.

In contrast, you can adjust digital ads quickly and optimize them in real-time to improve their effectiveness.

You can also test different approaches and adapt your plan based on what’s working and what’s not, which reduces wasted ad spend and improves your overall return on investment.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Peter Druker, The Founder of Modern Management

3. Digital Ads Provide Precise Results That Maximize ROI.

Finally, business owners can view and track the results of digital ads on their own in the back end of Google, YouTube, Meta, etc.

The analytics and insights help refine overall marketing strategies in ways traditional advertising only dreams of.

Here’s how that could look in the real world:

  • Let’s say a business owner wants to invest $3,000 in a Meta ad campaign for a new product.
  • They create three unique ads and begin running them with a spending cap of $1,000 per ad.
  • After a few days, the business owner logs into Meta and sees that one ad’s click-through rate and conversions are through the roof, but the other two haven’t taken off.
  • So they adjust the spending, pause the two other ads and invest the remaining budget behind the highest-performing ad. Voilà.

This is why digital ads are bigger, faster and stronger than traditional ads.

They help optimize budgets and maximize return on investment, something every business owner is interested in.

Beware—Not all marketing companies track things the same way. Often, they spin them in ways that inflate the data to make them look good. (Keep an eye out for future articles on this topic.)

How To Put It All Together In A Strategy That Works.

A digital advertising strategy outlines how a business uses the ad types and platforms available to promote its products or services.

Making a plan isn’t as easy as a + b = c. It involves selecting appropriate ad formats, researching keywords, targeting specific audiences, setting budgets and analyzing data to optimize campaigns that aim to achieve specific marketing objectives and maximize return on investment.

We have a few exciting articles in the works to complete the final pieces of that puzzle, including common mistakes and how to reach the ideal customer—stay tuned!

Estland Creates Digital Advertising Strategies Backed By Real-World Data.

Estland is a full-service marketing agency that delivers real results. We tailor our services to your business and create digital advertising experiences that reach the right people at the right time with the right message. Reach out to set up a free consultation for digital advertising strategies that work.

Ready For Better Digital Advertising Results?