If you've been around business in the past 10 years, all you've heard from media companies and agencies is how great digital advertising is. And as a digital advertiser, I would tend to agree. However, having the wrong approach can lead to expensive mistakes and an unmeasurable missed opportunity. So, how do you know where to start?
On countless occasions, I've heard from business owners who run small to mid-sized companies, about the perils of SEO and the waste of Facebook Advertising. The conversation usually starts with, "we tried that, it just doesn't work for us." Then, come to find out that their campaign either targeted broad keywords or landed users on a broken landing page that wouldn't load.
The reality is, digital marketing is highly technical. There are hundreds of tools to make it simple, but they all require you to do the legwork to set things up properly. Before you get started, make sure you take these steps to get the most bang for your buck.
Get Your Analytics Right
Starting any marketing campaign without having analytics tools set up to track is much like getting a Ferrari to a racetrack without having any gas.
The basics of your analytics can start with Google Analytics, but you can't stop there. Whether it's Facebook/Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads, or Google Ads, there are additional tracking pixels that you need to install on your site in order to get accurate measurement
data from your campaigns.
But wait... there's more - Facebook does the best job of being as user friendly as possible out of the box. They have pre-built integrations with top web development platforms like Wordpress and can be set to automatically track events on your website. However, they may not be accurate. There are tons of YouTube Channels that have excellent tutorials on how to create conversion events within each of these pixels and analytics tools.
You’ll want to set up these conversions events prior to launching your campaign. These events are going to help us track and optimize your campaigns. Rather than measuring conversions for things like pageviews, which are automatically tracked in Google Analytics, set these conversions for middle and bottom of funnel events. These may include adding to cart for ecommerce, clicking a specific CTA, or submitting an online form.
Understand Your Audience
Many businesses have already gone through the exercise of creating a buyer persona. If you haven’t, this is a perfect excuse to start. There are plenty of tools available to help build your buyer personas. HubSpot offers a free persona creator that is really good for first-time users to make sure they are covering all the bases.
You can get information about your customers from things such as surveys, your web analytics, social media analytics, and Google Trends. For those that plan on starting by running campaigns on Facebook or other social media platforms, you will be using these demographic and interest characteristics to create ad groups. These ad groups will allow you to segment campaigns by buyer personas, which will lead to better-targeted ads.
If you are getting started with search engine marketing (SEM), the Google Ads Keyword Planner is a great place to start. Using a “head” keyword, which is a broad base for a long tail keyword (don’t worry we’ll explain those later) or website, Google will automatically generate keyword ideas for your campaign. The tool underwent an update in late 2019 that included keyword group ideation, which is a great way to get started with your ad groups.
There are other keyword ideation tools out there like Moz and SEMRush. These services cost money but provide highly effective longtail keyword strategies. Think of longtail keywords as phrases that narrow the search internet of users. For instance, if your head keyword is “online advertising” longtail keywords would include online advertising jobs, online advertising companies, online advertising businesses, and online advertising examples.
By understanding your audience, you can build your pay per click (PPC)/SEM campaigns that are targeted towards a high-interest audience. By failing to understand your audience, your targeting will likely be too broad or entirely off the mark, leading to an expensive lesson in online advertising.
Know You Ad Types
There are plenty of places to buy ads online, each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Display & Banner Ads
Display ads were one of the first online advertising mediums. They are common on most informational sites like blogs or news outlets. These ads have gotten a bad rap over the years because so many advertisers abused them in their campaigns.
The most effective use of these ads, in our experience, has been in regard to retargeting campaigns. Retargeting refers to using those tracking pixels we talked about earlier to place cookies on a user's browser and then serve them ads over a designated amount of time or until they take one of those conversion actions we previously identified.
Although you can target these ads based on interest or demographics, the targeting tends to be very broad and leads to a lot of wasted ad spend. Think of these as a billboard on the side of the road. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a billboard in the same county as your car dealership?
Display ads can be purchased via a Demand-Side Platform (DSP) like Google Ads (previously Google AdWords) or directly with websites. When you buy from a DSP, you will typically be charged on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC) model. Some websites let you do this as well. Most of the smaller sites out there will have you buy all of their display advertising inventory for a set amount of time.
You are probably most familiar with text ads on search engines such as Google and Bing. Those ads fall under the search engine marketing (SEM) category. This ad type is highly effective when coupled with solid keyword research and plenty of A/B ad copy testing.
Google Ads is the most popular search engine, which also makes it the most popular SEM platform. It’s easy to set up and there is plenty of audiences available for you. However, over the years Google Ads has gotten very competitive in a number of business categories, making it hard to get a good return on investment. The more competitive your industry, the better your longtail keywords will need to be.
Social Media Advertising
People like Gary Vaynerchuck have been screaming about the efficacy of social media advertising for the last 5 years and for good reason. Advertisers saw great returns from their SEM and Display campaigns of yesteryear. Similarly, social media advertising’s vast audience exemplifies the laws of supply and demand and continue to make it cost-effective for businesses.
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are going to be your most common forms of social media advertising. LinkedIn will make the most sense for those in a B2B setting. However, Twitter and Facebook can be wildcards in those areas as well. Each of these platforms has its merits in B2C industries and really comes down to which one of your audience is most engaged on.
Create Your Landing Page
We explain a website as being a “new location” for businesses. Businesses spend tens of thousands, if not millions of dollars to create the perfect experience when customers come to their location. Your website should be the same.
In regards to your digital ad campaigns, creating specific landing pages for your campaigns will allow you to control the messaging for your incoming visitors. Your landing page should mirror the look and feel of your existing website, but the messaging should speak specifically to the product or service a visitor was advertised before clicking on your ad.
For starters in the service industry, ClickFunnels is an effective tool with templates to create solid landing pages without too much technical skill needed.
Online retailers have it a little easier because their landing pages may already be created with their product pages. If your ad includes a special offer, be sure to include it somewhere on the landing page regardless of whether the offer is automatically added to the user's purchase.
If you created a custom landing page, be sure to block search engines from indexing your landing pages. You can do this by editing the robots.txt file on your site.
On Your Mark Get Set… Wait
Although it may sound counterintuitive, you do not want to make a habit of checking the results of your campaign every day. Take it from someone who has made it a 6 am ritual of checking dozens of campaigns, it’s going to lead to shoddy results and frustrating days.
The official term would be to generate enough statistically relevant data before making any major adjustments to your campaigns. For many, that means after about a month of running a campaign. After you’ve collected enough data, then it’s time to review its performance. We use a project management tool called Asana that simply creates a recurring task on the first Monday of the month to review a campaign’s performance and report it back to clients.
Especially for first-timers, it’s good practice to schedule a meeting to go over your campaigns. This forces you to prepare your data, conduct some type of analysis, and present a course of action on how to make improvements.
Be prepared to be very wrong about the assumptions you made about your campaign. Historical data is an indicator of future performance, but it’s not a guarantee. Just because what you thought was your best idea turned out to be your worst, doesn’t mean you can’t be too proud to pivot and capitalize on the underdog winner.
Going into a campaign, it’s best to have a budget and timeframe in mind and be ready to stick to it. You’re going to need to finesse your plan to get better results, but giving up entirely after a couple of weeks because signs are bad is a waste of the investment you’ve already made. An investment in a campaign is exactly the right framework to view your advertising budget. Yes, you are going to create profitable campaigns and laugh looking back at what your monthly revenue once was. To get there though, you’re going to need to see even your failed campaigns as an investment in the data that is going to make your future ones more profitable.
From someone who is supposed to be telling you that digital marketing will change your business (which it certainly will), online marketing is not a quick fix solution. There are hurdles, roadblocks, and plenty of growing competition. If you’re willing to invest the money to run a campaign, you need to be ready to invest considerable time in the time it will take to make it successful.