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An Introduction to Paid Advertising


paid advertising

You’ve probably heard tales that the most effective form of marketing is paid advertising.

There are people that firmly believe that there’s no such thing as free traffic and ultimately the only way to reach the right people is with paid advertising.

I’m personally not that black and white about advertising. While it’s definitely a great shortcut to established audiences, it can at times be expensive.

As I know a lot of card and gift companies are small businesses and one man bands, expensive stuff makes me a little cautious. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t do it, I think you should; but before you do, you need to know what you’re doing.

If you’re going to put money into advertising you need the right systems to have the best chances of getting your money back in sales. You also need to start small, and keep your eyes on it all the time.

It’s very easy to spend a lot of money on advertising and without doing it right, you may not ever see that money again. I don’t want to see that happen to card and gift folks.

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What is Paid Advertising?

Ok, so paid advertisements are quite simply paying money to place an advertisement. The advertisement could be in a social media feed, on a search results page or on any number of websites from private blogs to global companies.

You may have heard of paid advertising labelled as search engine marketing. Also known as SEM, search engine marketing is when a company pays to increase its visibility in search engine results. This specific type of advertising is also known as Pay-Per-Click or PPC.

I’ve decided to make this intro on paid advertising rather than SEM because as the online world has developed advertising has grown. Today SEM or PPC is just one type of paid advertising.

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Who is Advertising for?

Any business can benefit from advertising their products and services.

Social advertising on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest is relatively cheap in comparison to buying an advert space in a glossy magazine; opening up the advertising world to companies big and small. 

As I mentioned above, my only hint of caution is that you need to understand how advertising works and have the necessary systems in place to get the best return on your investment. This means that advertising is really for those who are willing to do their homework. 

Why is Paid Advertising Important?

We’ve sort of touched on this already, but let’s just quickly go over why paid advertisements are an important marketing strategy to consider.

If we think about promoting and selling online in very broad steps, it looks a little like this:

  1. You promote your business to as many as people as possible, aiming to get those people to visit your website.
  2. When those people visit your website you get as many as possible to buy something
  3. If people don’t buy something you instead try and get them to sign up to your mailing list, in the hope of selling them something later.

There we have generating traffic (the visitors to your website) and then conversion (the visitors taking action).

In order to get an many people to visit your site as possible, your website needs reach an audience of as many people as possible. And if we then want those people to buy something we need that audience to be made up of people most likely to buy.

Over time with SEO, social media updates, blog posts and PR you will naturally build an audience, but with paid advertising you get a shortcut.

Advertising gives you access to an existing audience so you don’t have to wait months and years before you’re reaching a big group of people. The type of advertising you choose also gives you options to target different audiences.

  • Search ads will produce an audience looking for a particular keyword phrase.
  • Display ads on industry websites will give you an audience focused a particular niche.
  • Banner ads on a magazine website will give you a particular kind of customer.

By using adverts and taking a shortcut you can start making money straight away and save yourself time and effort; boosting your reach automatically.

Types of Advertising

If we keep it general, I think advertising online really falls into 4 categories:

Search Advertising

These are the adverts that appear at the top and to the right of search results. These ads can be text ads, product ads, or even video ads. Search adverts target keywords or keyword groups that people search for online. They are controlled via the search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is advertising on websites. It comes in many formats, text, banners, buttons, video, audio and flash. These usually operate via Search engines or Display Ad Networks.

Social Advertising

The rise of social media has generated a new form of paid ads, social advertisements. Many of the social media platforms offer paid advertising, where your advert can be shown on the site, in results, or in the feed of content. These platforms let you target key demographics, to ensure your ads are only shown to your ideal person.

Private Advertising

Another form of display advertising, by private advertising I’m thinking of individual private websites that aren’t part of a formal network but offer their own advertising programmes. This could be anything from a blog that offers sponsorship buttons or sponsored content; an industry website where you can buy a banner ad; or even this sites like From Britain with Love or the Good Web Guide where you pay for a profile or article.

A Quick Word About Retargeting

In case you were wondering, there is another type of advertising, known as retargeting.

I’ve not included it as a 5th category in this version of the article because I see retargeting as a sub-category of display advertising.

Retargeting or behavioural retargeting to be formal is a type of advertisement that shows display ads when certain “behaviours” occur.

For example, if you were to google “Fuzzy Rabbit Slippers”, go to a website selling these slippers from the search results, then get distracted and then leave the site without purchasing you may trigger a retargeting advertisement. When you next go to a website with ad space, you will find ads for the Fuzzy Rabbit Slippers you had been viewing earlier. That is retargeting in action.

What Do You Need?

On a very basic level you only need a few things to get started with paid advertisements:

  • Ad content (text/graphic)
  • A landing page or destination to direct the ad towards
  • Money

But because paid advertising can get expensive I think you also need training and testing. Advertising, especially social advertising such as taking ads on Facebook has so much potential and so many intricacies that I would definitely suggest reading up on them before you start spending your hard earned cash.

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Ads and the Card and Gift Industry

If you Google any major keyword phrase relating to greetings cards or gifts you’ll find plenty of adverts. This tells us that companies in the industry are definitely spending money on paid advertisements.

Similarly, if you research the ad costs for industry-themed keywords you’ll find people are bidding high in an attempt to win that ad space. This suggests that the investment is worthwhile.

This popularity, however, isn’t universal.

In my own research, I found only 11% of 642 companies reviewed had spent money on PPC advertising in the last year. This doesn’t mean of course that they’re not advertising elsewhere, but I think it does hint at a divide in the industry.

Perhaps some types of advertising such as magazine ads and PPC are dominated by bigger companies?

From my own personal experience, I know many smaller companies that don’t advertise online. They may be put off by the budget required or the complexity of the subject. It’s hard to say, but something I will be looking at in future research.

My Experience with Ads

One significant experience I’ve had with advertisements comes from the Christmas Gift Guide I’ve compiled annually for the last 3 years. 

In that time I’ve included hundreds of adverts and monitored how festive shoppers react to each one.

This has shown me that advertising is not something you should rush. An advert has to show value, tempt buyers and have a distinct offer and call-to-action.

The businesses that rushed through a generic advert that pointed to their website’s homepage generally did not do well. 

Every advert needs to have a specific goal. It needs to direct traffic to a specific offer that follows on from the advert with consistency.

With advertisements you can’t leave the purchasing path to chance, you have to have an end goal in mind.


Getting Started with Adverts

We’ll be looking at advertising in more detail in later training and resources.

If, however, you want a quick idea of the process, it looks something like this:

  • Decide on your goal.
  • Create 1 offer that fulfils that goal.
  • Build an advertising funnel to that 1 offer.
  • Test the funnel with a small ad budget.
  • Use A/B testing to refine the advert’s funnel and offer to improve the performance of the advert.

Hands up if you want help using advertising for your business?

Don’t want to go it alone? You don’t have to!

Get your advertising questions answered in our Facebook group.


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