Digital advertising is an umbrella term for promoting products and services on the Internet. While there is a nigh-infinite number of ways to do so – from extremely inefficient and ill-advised practices like spamming 11-year-old forum posts with links to your product to tried-and-true methods – most digital advertising can be boiled down into paid advertising, content marketing, search engine optimization, and paid social media marketing.
Some of these categories and campaigns feed into each other, but for the most part, we’re here to talk about the simplest and quickest way to get the word out on your product or service: paid digital advertising.
Digital Advertising 101
Paid digital advertising is all about getting people to look at or click on your product in a relevant context on the Internet.
What does a “relevant context” mean in this instance? It means that most digital ads people see today are targeted based either on their browsing and shopping history or the part of the Internet they’re visiting.
People browsing a fishing blog are likely to see banner ads for fishing gear and accessories. People on Facebook who tend to purchase or look at men’s shoes and fashion are more likely to see ads from men’s boutiques and shoe stores.
Advertising networks nowadays utilize an unfathomable amount of user data – collected through activity online, whether it’s a person’s browsing history, the YouTube videos they watch, the Amazon products they click on, or the Facebook pages they follow – to funnel users to ads that appear the most relevant to what they are likely to be interested in, or what they are doing right now.
Algorithms do all of this in the background – well-oiled, extremely efficient algorithms designed by tech giants like Google (Alphabet) and Meta. In fact, advertising is the number one source of revenue for both, and it’s a major reason why both companies are worth billions.
PPC vs. PPM
For the most part, digital ads today are sold to advertisers in one of two ways: pay-per-click (PPC) or pay-per-impression (PPM). The difference is straightforward.
PPC campaigns set a price tag for every person who clicks on one of your ads when recommended. Because the “barrier of entry” is higher, so to speak, they’re more expensive per engagement than the alternative. PPM is cheap, but an “impression” means the ad was shown to a user. There is no guarantee that they even acknowledged it, let alone actively clicked on it.
Most businesses opt for PPC campaigns, especially if they have an established brand and a larger digital advertising budget.
But it isn’t quite as easy as throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Digital advertising requires carefully-planned and developed ad campaigns that use specific keywords, visual assets, and tricks to increase the rate at which potential viewers (especially potential leads) engage with and click on an ad. Otherwise, you’d be putting out a large budget and seeing very little in return.
The Dominance of Google Ads
While there are many different ad networks that you can invest in as a business, the largest and most efficient network to start with is the ubiquitous Google Ad Network. The main reason is market dominance. People use different social media platforms. People spend time on different streaming platforms. They shop on different e-commerce websites. But almost everyone uses Google.
And when you’re using Google, Google will take the opportunity to show you ads. The most common type of Google ad is a promoted result. When you’re looking to book a flight, for example, the first four or five results are probably going to be ads from ticket booking services before you get to the so-called “organic search results,” which reach their ranking through search optimization (SEO).
The value of a Google ad is immediately noticeable – the potential to skip to the top of the results on the world’s most heavily utilized search engine.
In addition to search ads, Google also offers shopping ads, video ads (on YouTube), and display ads (on other websites through the Google Ad Network).
Understanding the Future of Digital Advertising
A few key issues will come to define the future of digital advertising over the coming years: user privacy, ad blockers, and overcrowded networks.
Ad networks will be able to continue to dole out ads that are relatively interesting to users, but it’s important to note that ad networks will only be able to generalize a user’s interest based on certain vague markers that define their consumer characteristics, without specifically tracking their activity across the web via third-party cookies (information that website plant on users, and other websites use for data analysis).
While this is a small win for user privacy, it’s also going to spell a lot of changes for online advertisers. If you want to make the most of digital advertising in the near future, you will want to focus on organic growth in addition to new and upcoming PPC systems.
Next, ad blockers. More and more users are using them. These block out ad networks, so that a website that’s showing ads from the Facebook ad network, for example, will have an empty space where a banner should be. Users looking something up on Google with an ad blocker will not see promoted results. While ad blockers aren’t allowed on Google Play Store, users can find plenty of .apk files that allow them to install and manage ad blocking at their own discretion, provided they trust the source they’re downloading the app from.
Users are becoming more and more ad-hostile – and for good reason. Anyone who has been around long enough will remember intrusive video ads, unwanted pop-ups, and other black hat methods that stopped a user’s browsing experience in their tracks. Some websites and landing pages continue to use these tactics, often to their detriment.
But that doesn’t mean digital advertising is dying. While paid advertising might see a decline as users continue to pick up ad blockers, SEO and content marketing will continue to play a huge role. Ad blockers can’t block a podcaster from doing an ad read for a sponsor. Influencers doing product reviews are going to slip through the filter. And solid SEO can replace a promoted Google ad, putting you in the top results for a given keyword or key phrase through a long-term content creation program.
Finally, the digital ad market is continuing to saturate. More and more key players will dominate major search keywords and products. It’ll be hard to outbid Amazon or other large e-commerce platforms for general ads.
The opportunity herein lies in niches. Specializing your business and catering towards a specific kind of customer who isn’t being serviced by major brands allows you to carve out a piece of the market for yourself. You don’t have to get hyper-specific – you may dominate a generally popular product or service on a regional level, for example, if you have a local storefront or place of business that people can visit.
When you goal is success in digital marketing, it pays to look ahead – and it pays to work with people who specialize in preparing for the future. Give us a call today to get started on improving and optimizing your content creation and digital advertising plans for 2023 and onward.