Successful Internet Advertising in 4 Steps

Internet Advertising

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What is internet advertising exactly, and can it help your business? How? This is the guide you’ve been looking for. Even if you know nothing about internet advertising, after reading this guide you will be able to design and implement an actionable strategy to make your business betters with online advertisement.

We will structure this guide in two main parts. First, we give an overview of what Internet Advertising is, and how it differs from traditional advertising. Then, we will see how a business can implement an online marketing strategy and which online tools to select – because they are not all the same.

What is Internet Advertising?

Internet Marketing in a Nutshell

We can give you a simple definition of Internet Advertising:

Internet Advertising is all those activities where a brand spends money to promote itself through online media.

As you can see, our definition is vague, and this is because internet advertising can be so many things. But all those things have two things in common:

  1. A payment, we are talking about paying someone/something to give your brand more notoriety. This payment happens in the form of money transfer most of the times, but not all the times. It may happen through the form of free samples or product giveaways as well.
  2. Online media, or the Internet. Of course, we are talking about Internet advertising and so the media to make your brand known should be online. What is the actual media may vary: search engines, Instagram posts, videos on YouTube – but it has to be online.

With this in mind, we can dive deeper into the advantages of Internet marketing compared to the traditional way. Before we do that, remember that Internet marketing is not an alternative to offline marketing. They are simply used for different goals and tend to complement each other.

Advantages of Internet Marketing

If we try to keep things simple, internet marketing or internet advertising as only one main advantage compared to the way of doing things. Internet advertising can be precisely targeted. That is, you can show your ads – posts, video, whatever they are – to the exact people you want.

Internet Advertising uses digital media
Internet advertising uses digital media.

Traditionally, if you put up a billboard next to the highway, many people will see it, but you are not really sure who will see it. If you are selling a fertilizer for home use, you may want people who have a garden to see your ad. If someone doesn’t have a garden, it is unlikely he will buy your product. Yet, if you buy a traditional billboard, you pay for the space on the billboard and exposition to a generic audience. There are estimates about age groups, gender, income brackets of people passing through the highway, but these are loose estimates.

Internet advertising is a whole different game. Companies offers you to place ads collect data about their users, so they not precisely what they like, what they do not like, and all their demographic characteristics. As a result, you can decide to target a specific group of people, such as middle-aged men living in the suburbs and that have a garden.

Of course, this is a real benefit when you have a narrow audience you want to target. For a brand that is so generally appealing (e.g., Coca Cola, McDonald), putting up the billboard on the highway can be just fine – if not even better.

There are other benefits in online marketing too. You can do everything from your computer, and you can more easily measure things. As such, it is easier to understand how much marketing is costing you and how much revenue or new customers is generating. With the billboard, you will never be sure how many new customers were driven to make a purchase by the billboard. It’s the famous saying “I am wasting half of my marketing budget, the problem is I don’t know which half”.

Some people may mention technical benefits, such as you don’t have to manage all the logistics of designing, printing and installing the billboard. However, this is a false benefit: you can pay an ad agency to take care of all the logistics for you. As such, traditional marketing can be as seamless as internet advertising.

Limits of Internet Marketing

Internet marketing, or internet advertising specifically, is not the cure to all your problems. If you have a troubled traditional marketing campaign, switching it to internet advertising does not mean it will become better. Not necessarily at least.

Internet advertising is limited by the media itself: it is digital and mainly consumed through a screen (or audio, such as in a podcast). Customers are exposed to your ads only when they use their digital media – which is a lot of time, but still a limit. Most importantly, internet advertising is not experiential. You can’t give free samples, free rides, complimentary services, or any other experience to your customers. True, you can advertise for that online and then provide the experience offline, but the experience itself will not happen online.

To be fair, in rare cases the experience can happen online, but this is limited to some industry. For example, videogames, online courses, or anything else that is digital in nature can provide experiential marketing online. However, no matter the nature of your business, an experience online is never truly felt as “real life” experience.

Another important limit of Internet Marketing is that it does not reach everyone. Not everyone uses the same media and in the same way. Some people may use Instagram, other Facebook, and yet others may not use anything at all. Particularly if you target older people, internet advertising may be a non-starter. Some experts believe this is a problem that will solve itself, as digital-native age and eventually even older people will be accustomed to technology. However, technology seems to evolve faster than people can keep pace with, so we might still have some problem in one form or another indefinitely.

Craft Your Internet Advertising Strategy

1. Choose Your Strategy

There are mainly two things you can pursue with internet advertising. You can go with intent marketing or unsolicited ads.

Intent marketing means targeting people that have a specific intention with your ads. This is done with SEM, Search Engine Marketing. To do this, you will pay a search engine (most likely Google) to put your website at the top of the list of results, but only for specific keywords. Here, you want to target people with the intention that benefits your business.

Craft an Internet Advertising marketing strategy to be succesful online
The first step to internet advertising is to craft a marketing strategy.

An example will make things clearer. Imagine you sell landscaping services, and your goal is acquiring new customers. Is advertising for the keyword “landscaping” a good idea? Even if it might seem so, it is quite a bad idea. With this, you will show your website to people who maybe are looking for inspiration, who just like to watch at landscaping projects but don’t need to do one, or people who will want to do one do-it-yourself. It would be much better advertising for “landscaping quote”, because people who looks for a quote are interested in buying something.

You can go even more granular to serve the area you need, such as “landscaping quote Cincinnati”. However, this might backfire, and it is best to do both. In fact, people in Cincinnati are likely to search only for “landscaping quote” and assume any result they get will actually serve the Cincinnati area. In other words, not everyone will write “Cincinnati” in their search.

Instead, unsolicited ads are shown to people who have not demonstrated a specific intention. Those are the video ads you see on YouTube, sponsored Instagram stories, Facebook posts and the like. In this case, the user is going through a feed or consuming some content in general, and you sneak in with your ads. Here, the ads need to be visual and compelling, because they compete note with other ads, but with content the user is actually interested in (e.g., the video he was watching).

Unsolicited ads tend to have a granular demographic targeting. You can decide to which people you want to show your ads, such as age groups, interests, job, and so on. This is true for all internet advertising, including intent marketing, but it is much more granular with unsolicited ads, because this is what makes them effective.

Unsolicited ads are a form of internet advertising
Unsolicited ads are common on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

In fact, unsolicited ads are exactly like a billboard next to a highway, but an highway where only a specific group of people passes.

With this in mind, we can start with the first guiding rule to internet advertising:

If your (potential) customers have a clear intention they search for, use intent marketing. If they are unaware of their need, use unsolicited ads.

Being unaware of a need is common for hedonic brands, such as gyms, hairdressers, restaurants. People don’t actively search for the new Thai-Japanese-Moroccan fusion restaurant, but they will be eager to try if they realize it exists (and thus become aware of it).

2. Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is important, no matter which approach you use for internet advertising. It means giving your ads provider (Google, Facebook etc.) a way to realize when the customer performs the action you are interested in.

If you are a lawyer and have an intent marketing campaign running to acquire new customers, you want Google to know when you have acquired a new customer. If you do this by having a clear conversion action on your website. For example, potential customers may leave their contact information in a form to be recalled by your office. After entering the information, you direct them to a “Thank You” page. All the people who reached that page have converted, and you want Google to optimize for people who are similar and are likely to do the same.

This is done by defining a “goal” in Google Analytics (to monitor your performance) and then importing it into Google Ads (the platform managing your ads). Installing Google Analytics tracking on your website is generally done through Google Tag Manager, a small code snippet you insert in your website code. Then, this gives you the possibility to configure inside Google Tag Manager complex actions, such as “when a user reaches this page, we have an objective”. And you can even export it to Facebook by connecting GTM to Facebook Pixel, the Facebook tracker.

Tracking conversions is crucial because it will ensure ads will be shown only to the most interest people, lowering your overall costs.

In general, you pay per click on your ads. Each click will cost a variable amount, depending on how much other advertisers are willing to pay for a similar click of a similar audience. Thus, you want to get as much customers as possible from as few customers as possible. This is done with conversion tracking.

3. Craft your Funnel

Customers will go through a journey from the time they are completely unaware of your brand to the time they passionately advocate for it, and always buy the next product. We call this customers journey, and we visualize it as a funnel: there are a lot of people at the start, but as they go through all uninterested people get filtered out.

Of course, the customer journey is not really linear, and customers will go through stages, move back and forth, and be generally messy. Still, we can imagine it as linear to simplify things. Normally, it will go like this: people start to gather information about something, then they will actively evaluate options (e.g., ask for quotes) and then make a purchasing decision. You can decide at which point to enter in the funnel. With intent marketing, you can enter at the end, with people who are already deciding.

Understanding the funnel is important for any Internet Advertising strategy
A funnel tends to start with awareness and ends with a purchase. However, you can extend it to include retention and advocacy, post-purchase processes.

You may also want to start to talk (digitally) to people who are gathering information. This will build trust in your brand, so that when they make a decision you are in a privileged position. The earlier in the funnel you want to work, the more you will use unsolicited ads. Furthermore, you can use a combination of intent marketing and unsolicited ads to strengthen your relationship with customers. This is retargeting: you keep track of who visited your website, and show unsolicited ads to them.

In general, my advice to newbies in internet advertising is use intent marketing first. This is because it is much easier to measure its results. Then, as you gain experience (and if you have a larger budget) you can craft a more holistic strategy.

4. Keep Experimenting

This is probably the most important takeaway from this guide. With internet advertising, you are never done experimenting. People can call this A/B testing because you test “A versus B”. Since everything can be easily measured with internet advertising, you can gauge performance of an ad versus another.

Of course, you always want the best performance, which translates to the ads that gives you the most results for the lowest price. That is, the result you need for your business, such as new customers, not more clicks. To do this, you will need to optimize for various metrics: the number of clicks you get, the number of customers you get out of clicks, and so on. To optimize, you create two version of an ad, run it in parallel, and then keep only the one that improved the metric you wanted. You repeat this over and over, and never stop.

Experiment with internet advertising
Measure everything, and experiment to find what works better.

Other than improving ads, online ad platforms tend to privilege people who keep their ads fresh by constantly changing them.

Internet Advertising in Summary

Internet advertising is not rocket science. It is complex, but to get decent results for a small business you don’t need to envision a super-complex campaign. Keep things simple, decide if you need to go for intent marketing or unsolicited ads, implement conversion tracking, and keep improving your ads.

Note that in this guide we didn’t cover all the technicalities such as CPA (Cost per Action), CPC (Cost per Click) and so on. Instead, we were more focused on the strategy to craft. Once your strategy is clear, you can implement it by simply looking at tutorials. However, if you want to know more about those things, just let me know and we will do another article about this.

Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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