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  • Conor Mc Niffe

A Comprehensive Guide to Paid Advertising Channels

With a myriad of platforms each offering unique features and audiences, finding the right mix for your business is paramount but equally daunting. Let's dive into the top online advertising channels, explore their distinct advantages, and discuss strategies to utilize them effectively. By the end of the blog, I hope that you will have a stronger understanding of what channels may be worth testing for your business.


Search Ads

Search ads are one of the most utilized categories of advertising or more specifically Google Search Ads are one of the most utilized forms of digital advertising, alongside Meta Advertising (Facebook and Instagram), Display Advertising, and Video Advertising (namely YouTube). Rather than segmenting Search Ads into Google Search Ads and Microsoft Search Ads, we will discuss the process of Search Ads as it is mimicked on both search engines. Search ads allow businesses to showcase ads in response to users' searches, alongside organic search results, typically at the top of the search results page. Search ads facilitate businesses to reach users with high purchase intent. For example, you are a car dealership stocking pre-owned inventory. Search Ads would allow you to show up at the top of Google or Microsoft for relevant searches - i.e. you have a 2015 Corolla, show up for local searches for "2015 Toyota Corolla for sale" and similar.


Most businesses that are advertising online should experiment with Search Ads. And most should prioritize Google given its huge share of market versus Microsoft (Google typically garners 90-95% of search traffic in Canada).  Although it has a much smaller market share, lower competition on Microsoft can translate into cost-effective campaigns. To capitalize on Search Ads, small business owners and marketing teams should refine their keyword strategy, optimize campaigns for quality score, and constantly analyze and adjust bids for the best return on investment (ROI). With Search Ads, you always pay per click rather than for ads that showed up. This differs to most online advertising models where you pay for ads that served in front of a user.



Meta Ads

Meta Ads, an integrated advertising system across the Facebook and Instagram platforms, provides a huge network for businesses to deliver strikingly targeted content to an engaged audience. Harnessing vast data on users, Meta Ads allows for intricate targeting based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. Furthermore, Meta Ads offer businesses excellent opportunity to continue to nurture their remarketing audiences in a much more pronounced manner than Search Ads allow. Meta Ads also offer a wide array of campaign types (Video, Lead Ads, Dynamic Ads, Collection Ads, Static Image, etc.) and campaign objectives. In our experience, if you are B2C, Meta Ads should have some level of evergreen investment.


YouTube Advertising

The behemoth of online video, YouTube, presents an advertising playground with formats like skippable and non-skippable video ads, and bumper ads. YouTube's advanced targeting includes options based on viewing history and interests. Branding ads work well to increase awareness and visibility; informative ads are persuasive for shoppers considering your product/service; and conversion-focused ads, e.g. promotional offers, can drive the low funnel shopper to a sale. Brands running video advertising, regardless of video length, should focus on attention-grabbing content in the first few seconds of their ads, considering the prevalence of the 'skip' button on videos.



Display Advertising

Display Advertising, such as Google Display Network, serve ads across various websites. Keep in mind, thus far, we have discussed Search Ads which only serve on search engines, i.e. Google or Microsoft, and Meta Ads, which only serve across Facebook and Instagram. With Display Ads, the landscape is much more diverse, available to place ads across most of the Internet's websites. Display Ads can be highly targeted and are typically used to increase brand awareness or keep in frequent contact with remarketing audiences.


Programmatic Advertising is a more reputable form of Display Advertising which leverages technology to automatically buy and optimize Display campaigns across multiple networks. Real-time bidding (RTB) and private marketplaces (PMPs) offer efficiency and precision in reaching audiences. Crucial to this process are Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and Data Management Platforms (DMPs), which assist in buying automated ad inventory and managing data respectively. To make the most of Programmatic Display, it is imperative that advertisers cultivate a thorough comprehension of their customer demographics and utilize analytics for real-time campaign alterations.



Intermission

Thus far, we have reviewed four types of digital advertising: Search Ads; Meta Ads; YouTube Ads; and Display Ads. For most businesses, their objectives can be met with tailored strategies across these channels. Given the user base associated with each channel and the granularity of targeting and media options, your digital marketing strategy will likely be surfaced across these platforms. If you are e-commerce brand, it is very likely Shopping and Amazon Ads will feature high in your marketing channel selection also. If you are a B2B brand, LinkedIn Ads will surely feature. Thereafter, the other channels we will discuss may have merit for SMB marketing but mostly are avenues utilized by major global brands to maximize their omni-channel exposure. As such, it is not as critical to have a firm understanding of the platform specificity.


Shopping Ads


Shopping Ads provide an effective way for e-commerce businesses to visually display their products to potential customers on search engines. They are a campaign type available on Google, and Microsoft, and include relevant product information such as images, prices, and landing pages to purchase. The visual representation of the product, in comparison to Search Ads cited above, gives customers a glimpse of the product even before they click on the ad, contributing to a higher likelihood of conversion. Shopping Ads have been known to significantly enhance click-through rates and conversions, making them an indispensable tool in the digital marketing arsenal of e-commerce businesses.



Amazon Advertising

For e-commerce ventures, Amazon Advertising is a goldmine, placing products directly in front of consumers with transactional intent. Sponsored products can drive considerable traffic and conversions on the largest online marketplace. The platform offers various types of ads - Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Sponsored Display Ads, each designed to help businesses achieve their unique marketing goals. Expert Amazon sellers leverage keyword research and competitive bidding strategies to ensure their products remain visible at crucial decision-making moments. Just like Shopping Ads, Amazon Ads are only advisable for ecommerce brands.


LinkedIn Advertising

For B2B businesses, LinkedIn Advertising is the holy grail, offering access to professionals and decision-makers. LinkedIn recently surpassed 1 billion global users, increasing its stature for advertising to professional audiences. Ads, with different media options available similar to Meta Ads, can be targeted based on job title, industry, company size, and more.


Performance Max

Performance Max is a campaign type available under Google Ads, designed to harness the power of Google's machine learning capabilities. These campaigns span across seven Google channels, some of which we have already discussed as they are also available standalone - Google Search, Display, YouTube, Discover, Gmail, Maps, and Google Local Search Results. The goal of Performance Max is to drive conversions, which could be online sales, leads, or store visits, by reaching potential customers at all stages of their purchase journey. In our experience, advertisers are better served controlling their budgets across relevant Google Ad channels independently. This may change if Performance Max opens up more data and optimizations for advertisers. Read more about the limitations of Performance Max.


TikTok Ads

TikTok's skyrocketing popularity has turned it into an advertising hotbed. The platform's short-form videos offer native, in-feed ads, hashtag challenges, and branded effects that encourage user participation. Culture-driven and tailored to the platform's unique style, TikTok ads require businesses to embrace creativity and stay atop current trends to capture the audience's imagination. Still in its infancy as an advertising channel, Seamount Marketing has found TikTok Ads to be highly underperforming versus channels like YouTube and Meta.



X Ads

X, formerly Twitter, Ads thrive on real-time engagement and trend-centric content. The platform provides promoted tweets, accounts, and trends that can swiftly propel your message in front of an engaged audience. Success on Twitter relies on leveraging trending topics and hashtags. It’s crucial for advertisers to blend in with the platform's conversational nature while providing clear calls to action.


Snapchat Ads

Snapchat Ads resonate with a younger demographic, offering creative formats like snap ads, filters, and lenses. The immersive, full-screen experience demands content that is engaging and interactive. Businesses targeting Gen Z or Millennials may find particularly high engagement rates on Snapchat, provided the content is entertaining and aligns with the playful nature of the app.


Native Advertising

Native Advertising integrates with the look and feel of the platform it appears on, providing a non-disruptive user experience. These ads match the native content format and are often found in news feeds or as recommended content. Creating engaging, informative, and subtly persuasive native ads can enhance user interest and drive better campaign performance.



Programmatic Audio

Programmatic Audio Ads are an innovative approach to digital advertising, allowing advertisers to purchase digital audio placements across various platforms, namely Spotify and Podcast Networks. This type of ad gives marketers a unique opportunity to reach audiences while they're engaged in activities where visual media is not suitable, like driving or working out, and compares very positively with traditional radio for both cost-efficiency and targeting capability.



Over-The-Top (OTT) Advertising

OTT Advertising targets viewers streaming video content over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or broadcast television. With the growing popularity of streaming services, OTT offers precise audience targeting and un-skippable ad formats. Advertisers can reach cord-cutters with tailored content, matching viewers' interests and viewing habits for maximum impact. Expect to see more OTT Advertising in market with the emergence of Netflix ad-supported subscription plans. Read more about Video Advertising in 2024.

Geofencing

Geofencing advertising is an innovative approach that uses location-based technology to send relevant messages to smartphone users within a specific geographic area. This proximity-based marketing strategy allows businesses to target potential customers based on their real-time location, delivering personalized ads or promotional offers just when they're most likely to engage. In our experience, geofencing fails on its promise of hyper-targeting by GPS coordinates (e.g. targeting footfall in your competitor's store) but makes sense for brands if targeting foot traffic at a large event.



Waze Ads

Waze Ads allows businesses to use location-based marketing to reach potential customers who are physically nearby or on a specific route. Waze Ads come in three formats: Branded Pins, which are like digital billboards; Promoted Search, which highlights businesses in the Waze search results; and Zero-Speed Takeover, which displays an ad when a user's vehicle comes to a complete stop. There are hard-to-ignore reasons why Waze Ads should struggle to perform in comparison to aforementioned channels (namely usage time and user focus - the app is used while driving!) however niche opportunities may exist for promotional advertising for hospitality or automotive services on well-trafficked routes.


Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing leverages individuals with significant online followings to promote products or services. It's intimate, personal, and often yields high levels of engagement and trust. Successful influencer marketing campaigns hinge on partnering with personalities who align with the brand's values and aesthetic, creating campaigns that appear authentic and genuine. Most influencer ad placements will occur on Meta, YouTube or TikTok.


Reddit Advertising

Reddit offers a variety of ad formats - sponsored posts and display ads - within a network of niche communities. Reddit's engaged users respond well to authenticity, making it critical for ads to match the platform's tone and ethos. When advertising on Reddit, transparency and genuine community interaction can foster significant brand loyalty. Reddit may offer the potential for user-generated content to enhance your marketing campaigns.


Quora Ads

Quora, the Q&A platform, allows for targeting based on users' explicit interests and questions they are seeking answers to. Promoted answers and display ads can attract a high-intent audience researching specific topics. For businesses with expertise, providing valuable content on Quora can boost credibility and attract potential customers seeking reliable information.


Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is a go-to for brands with lifestyle-related products or services. Promoted pins, buyable pins, and carousel ads cater to users who are often planning future purchases. With its visual search technology, Pinterest is ideal for product discovery. Ads that blend seamlessly with organic pins can drive both brand awareness and sales.


Conclusion

In the vast world of digital advertising, there are numerous platforms that offer opportunities for brand visibility and customer engagement. However, it is important to note that most businesses will have their advertising objectives fulfilled with visibility across 2-3 channels. Meta Ads, given their user base and performance metrics for most verticals, should be an ever-present. Search Ads should be tested but you may see better success with Meta Ads, or if an ecommerce brand, testing Search Ads versus Shopping Ads and Amazon Ads is imperative. Display Ads and Video Ads are great auxiliaries to more conversion-based advertising on Search/Meta/Shopping/Amazon. TikTok will continue to grow as an advertising channel but likely isn't worth exploring right now. All other channels cited above have their unique value offering if you see potential additive to your current digital marketing strategy.



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