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Small Business Nation. A Project of The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Online Advertising

The beauty of advertising online is threefold:

  1. It’s inexpensive compared to more traditional mediums like print, TV, and radio;
  2. it’s far more targeted;
  3. and it’s easier to measure success.

That said, it’s not an easy slam dunk. Great online ad campaigns usually share simple best practices.

The ad should be an “easy” get. That is, the target should understand the message at first glance, not after reading pages of copy or waiting for a Flash animation to load.

Is there a clear sense of urgency or some incentive included in the ad—something that makes the target want to click through and play along? If there is a call to action, is it easy to understand and enact?

If targets are sent from the ad to a landing page, is the landing page clear and easily navigable? Consumers don’t have the patience for multiple online forms and complicated directions: if it isn’t easy, they won’t do it.

If the ad is meant to result in a sale, is it easy to “seal the deal?”  Remember: consumers are impatient. Track the process and make sure you’re not losing prospects you should be closing. See which ads perform best and figure out why. Then adjust accordingly.

Among the more common forms of online advertising, you should explore a few that are cost-effective and beginner friendly.

Google AdWords
With about 85 percent of the market-share among search engines, Google is by the far Internet’s leading search site. AdWords allow users to create their own simple ads and choose important “keywords” related to their business. When web-surfers search Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results, allowing you to better target your advertising to users who are already interested in your business.  Plus, with its pay-per-click pricing model, you are only charged when a person clicks on your ad.  Most banner ad campaigns, on the other hand, are charged by impression or each time the ad is shown.

Facebook Ads
Like the AdWords offered by Google, Facebook allows you to easily create ad content for your business and target your campaign to people of certain key demographics and with specific user interests. The most effective Facebook ads are generally the simplest to create: Don’t over-think it. Use simple, direct copy with a headline designed to grab the reader’s attention. And use eye-catching creative that’s connected to the ad’s content. Your ads can only contain 25 characters for the title and 135 characters for the body content, so don’t cram every service or product you offer into the ad. Make it simple, use a compelling graphic and leave some content to be explained on your landing page.

Blog Advertising
As blogs fill more and more niches online, advertising on these content-driven sites allows you to “fish where the fish are.” A cursory search of Google’s blog database or a visit to Blogads.com will reveal dozens of blogs that relate to your business. Make sure that the blogs you consider for advertising are updated regularly, have reasonable traffic levels, and have devoted readers. If the blog looks like a ghost town, it’s not worth your resources. A good way to find blogs that will help you drive revenue is to ask your customers what blogs they read regularly, or ask around on Twitter and Facebook about people’s favorite blogs related to your product.

Banner Ads
Banner ads are exactly what they sounds like. They’re ads that market your company in banner-sized graphics displayed in targeted locations on relevant websites. Banner ads work well because viewers can easily “click through” directly to your website or to other forms of marketing information that have been created for you and your company.

When using a banner advertising campaign, it’s important to have a targeted audience. And, again, interesting, relevant content is key. Viewers become more engaged when they spot your banner ads in multiple locations on relevant sites and if your banner complements the balance of your marketing in creative ways.

Selecting the venues on which to host your banner ads is also important.  Your banner ads should appear on websites that complement your brand.  Usually these are some of the larger sites you visit yourself.  Most big sites have an “Advertising” link in their footer where you can get more information.

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