The benefits of online advertising can include jump-starting traffic to your website, and keeping you focused on the key terms you’ll need to emphasize on your web pages and in your ads so that you attract relevant visitors.
Different types of online ads that you can buy include:
- search ads that shows text-based ads to people who are searching for related terms online
- product listing ads that show very prominent product images and descriptions to people who are searching for items like yours
- content network ads that show text and graphical ads to people who visit other websites that might be relevant to your product, or to people who fit demographic or behavioral characteristics that you choose
Online ads use a bidding system that costs more when visitors click ads that appear for highly sought-after keywords. Your cost for a single click can range from a few pennies to many dollars.
This image shows examples of the ads that Google displayed when I searched for particular keywords. As you can see, the ads can really stand out compared to the unpaid (also called organic) results that Google also shows.
Focus on Advertising
The success of your online advertising will likely be critical to your business, and in the beginning you can expect to spend lots of time studying different techniques to improve the effectiveness of your ads.
Especially at first, you should keep a watchful eye on advertising effectiveness and spending, as small changes can have a big impact. We’ve heard stories of Google charging unwary advertisers huge sums of money in a matter of hours when improperly configured campaigns caused big expenses without the desired results.
It’s important to set realistic goals for the cost per conversion you’re willing to pay for each sale, and to constantly monitor your campaigns to meet your goals. In the case of our business, increasing online ad budgets to the point where we maximized profits – and avoiding the emotional decision of how much seemed “fair” to pay Google – had a positive impact on our bottom line.
Before you begin advertising online, you should paste small pieces of tracking code provided by Google and the others on each page of your website to help report how different types of visitors are using your website.
Start by visiting the Google Analytics page (and the analytics pages of other advertisers you will use) to sign up for a free account, and to find the instructions for adding the provided code to your web pages. You will also want to paste different code for conversion tracking on the page that customers will see after they complete a purchase; this helps you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising expenditures.
If your website uses a content management system (CMS), there will likely be a free module to do nearly all the work for you. In the case of WordPress you can choose one of several free plugins that handle the job.
Every product is different, and the nature of your business and competition will determine how easy it can be to create effective online ads. Special considerations can include:
- Selling a new type of solution whose category is known to few people can make it tough to create effective search ads. In the case of our products, it’s been necessary to aggressively bid for keywords that generally describe our solution, and to run print ads in magazines that prospective customers are likely to read.
- Products or services that target a limited geographic area can sometimes be easier to advertise online. I’ve found that it can be simpler to compete against other online businesses if your product is focused on a particular territory, since you can design ad campaigns and website pages that appeal to local customers.
- Competition from large, national companies can make it a real challenge to create cost-effective ads. Your careful planning of targeted online ads – and the quality of information and ease of navigation that people experience on your website – must be better than the competition for you to survive.
Online advertising drives a large percentage of our sales, and I feel we owe some of our success to a $49 eBook The Definitive Guide to Google AdWords (Basic Edition)* by Perry Marshall. While I personally have not liked any of the add-on modules or other products I’ve tried from this author and his affiliates, I think this basic $49 eBook is worth many times its cost.
Early on I was persuaded to pay $500 for a credible-sounding consulting company to study our Google AdWords campaigns and suggest some improvements. It quickly became clear that because I knew my customers and had studied that $49 eBook, my own planning and analysis was much better than what the consultants could provide.
Test Your Alternatives
In addition to online ads, there are lots of other advertising options that you can try. These include advertising in print publications, sponsoring publishers’ email newsletters, and even direct mail.
My advice is to try everything you reasonably can, and to always test your results. In the case of more traditional advertising like print ads, we found it necessary to publish different coupon codes that offer readers a discount so that we can track the effectiveness of those ads.
We did discover one iron-clad rule to save money on marketing. More about that next.
* This is not a paid endorsement.