Where To Begin With Digital Advertising?!

If you are not in the digital marketing industry, it must seem very daunting to look at digital marketing today and be able to understand what all the possibilities are! In large part that's because it has actually become very technical with literally thousands of companies spending tens of millions of dollars trying to build the smartest platform.

I was in that race and saw it all from the inside, as was Andrew, my partner here at FRESH Media Group. Between us we built 2 $100m+ advertising technology companies, and are going to help you get caught up on what you need to know today so you can make the right decisions for your business.

As recent as ten years ago most online marketing (particularly for small / medium sized business) ran through Google paid search (also known as SEM, Search Engine Marketing), and in the last five years, it has been a varying split between Google and Facebook. That is quite universal across North America and Europe.

During this same time frame, "banner ads" or "display ads" were used mainly by the larger brands, but represented a significant portion of total spend. Several companies sprung up to bring display ads to everyone, mostly for retargeting (which means showing ads to people who have visited your site before).

And then along came mobile. Today almost everyone has a phone on them all the time, and the majority of our screen time is now spent staring at them (instead of desktops and laptops). This shift has been so big that mobile advertising is far more important than desktop marketing.

So what should your digital marketing spend priorities be? Well, we are first going to look at this from a very broad perspective, and then break them down into an actionable plan.

  1. Paid search
  2. Retargeting
  3. Facebook
  4. Mobile
  5. Desktop ads

This top 5 is prioritized like this because we are trying to find the right intent each user has, and to give you the most economical way of engaging them. But where marketers commonly get it wrong is thinking that no matter what, Google search should always be #1. Let's look at that list again, but break each of the top 5 down into specific tactics:

1. Paid search - brand names and highly relevant terms.

If a user is searching for "Hotel Brandname in London", their intent is very clear and that property wants to bring them in direct, rather than lose them to a 3rd party booking site.

But someone searching for "london hotel" has too many possible intentions, and should not be considered at this stage.

2. Retargeting - shopping cart abandoners, product detail page viewers

If your business sells products online, and someone has visited multiple pages and read the product details page, then you should be retargeting them for a REASONABLE period of time - reasonable is typically 2 or 3 days for most brands, but of course could be a few weeks if the product is a car or mortgage. You should NOT prioritize single page visitors, or those who just visited your homepage.

(Learn more: "Video: The Dirty Truths About Retargeting")

3. Facebook - retargeting, and highly specific audience buying

There is some overlap here with #2. When you run retargeting you can do so using banner ads on desktops or mobiles or on Facebook. Start with Facebook for highly relevant people, and expand as needed. 

By 'highly specific audiences', I mean just that. I am a Brit living in Colorado and I get targeted with ads for tshirts that have both the English flag and the American flag on them - that's highly targeted. Highly targeted at this stage does NOT mean "moms", "professionals" "likers of brand A, B and C" etc.. They come later.

4. Local Mobile - people in your vicinity, people with relevant location patterns

Perhaps the holy grail of scaleable intent. Target users who's intent shows they are interested in what you have to offer, AND are in your actual vicinity.

Learn more "5 Creative Ways Marketers Are Using Mobile Location Data" and "Why Customer Behavior is Key for Location Based Advertising")

5. Local Mobile - conquesting from competitors

Using geo location data, identify users who are frequenting your competitor's locations. Particularly beneficial for businesses like auto dealers where we can track time on lot and number of visits.

6. Location specific mobile targeting

Identify individuals who are very likely to be interested based on where they are. An interesting example that is happening in Colorado following the legalization of recreational marijuana for instance is to show ads to people who are arriving at Denver airport for the first time and message them with offers to try their store.

Of course airport data is also very helpful to the tourist / hospitality industry, as well as local businesses.

And then we clean up the rest of the good tactics as follows:

6. Paid Search - broader terms (for example, "family hotels in london")

7. Retargeting - repeat visitors who haven't looked at specific items but have spent time on your site

8. Facebook - audience buying

What might surprise some of you is there are some things you should not be buying today:

9. Paid search - broad keywords such as "mortgage"

10. Retargeting - people who bounce from your homepage, people who are looking at careers rather than your products etc

11. Contextual desktop ads

This is all business specific of course.

If you are in the debt consolidation game, you might want to heavy up on the retargeting towards the end of each month more than running facebook ads, but cut way back just after pay day. if you are selling kids clothing, the back to school period may change your ratios dramtically for 60 days.

But in general, we have found this priority list has saved marketers considerably. Whereas they were spending 70% on paid search, 20% on Facebook and 10% on retargeting, they now spend around 50% on items 1,2 and 3 from our details list, 30-40% on items 4,5, and 6, and just 10-20% on 6, 7 and 8.

Additionally, the side effect of this is that the performance of all these tactics increases considerably because the wastage is being removed.

Dax HammanComment