Digital Advertising Tips for Small Businesses
Updated: Nov 14
So you want to dip your toes into paid ads. Amazing! Paid advertising is a great way to reach new potential customers, and digital advertising options make it easier than ever to get started. We've come a long way since the days of radio spots and newspaper features (though don't discount the tried and true options!), and worldwide digital ad spend is projected to reach a massive $626 billion in 2023. But just because there are a lot more accessible options now doesn't necessarily mean they aren't overwhelming for small businesses to break into.
Here at AWM, we're firm believers in rooting all things in strategy. Paid ads are no different. Before you launch that Google Ad or boost that Facebook post, here a few things we recommend considering.
Target customers: Not everyone on the internet is going to be your customer - and that's ok! But most digital ads these days operate on a PPC (pay-per-click) system, and paying to have people who are never going to buy from you click over to your website and immediately leave is NOT where you want to see your ad dollars go. Having a firm handle on who your ideal clients are means you can meet them where they are and target your ads TO THEM. If you're not 100% sure of who your ideal clients are and even what they ate for breakfast this morning, it's a great time to flesh that out.
Budget: Paid ads are never a "one and done" thing (despite what Meta might have you think as they push boosted posting on you). It might shock you to learn that the average budget for a PPC campaign for small to medium businesses is $9,000 to $10,000 per month. You certainly don't need to spend that to see substantial results - in fact ad budgets can vary greatly and generally, small local businesses can see ROI starting with just a few hundred dollars per month. But look at your business, your sales and your goals and map out what feels like a comfortable monthly budget for you - for 3, 6, 9, even 12 months. What can you comfortably dedicate to acquire customers for an extended period of time? The key is to set a budget that aligns with your business objectives and financial capabilities while ensuring that your campaigns are effectively reaching your target audience.
Ideal outcomes: Paying for ads without a set goal might sound silly, but happens often. Sure, you can throw some money at some platforms and run some ads and hope to get more sales. But for how long? Set some clear goals for what success looks like to you. Is it a number of leads per month? A percentage increase in sales? Increased brand awareness? In order to measure whether your investments are truly worth it, you need to define the goal posts.
Now that we've talked through what you should be thinking about before starting an ad campaign, let's chat about your digital advertising options.
What are PPC ads?
As already mentioned, the majority of digital advertising is PPC ads. PPC stands for "pay-per-click" and involves paying each time a user clicks on your ads.
You see them every day, at the top of your search results and labeled as "Ad."
What Types Of PPC Ads Are There?
We could dedicate an entire blog post to all the terms and strategies involved in PPC ads (and maybe we will!) but for the sake of simplicity, let's talk a few of the main types you are likely to use for advertising your small business.
Search ads are the most common type of PPC ads, making up 42% of all digital marketing spending, with an overwhelming majority of that happening with Google Ads. With search ads, advertisers identify well-performing keywords that they would like to have their ads show on, and then set a budget in order to "bid" on those keyword searches (if you're so inclined, you can learn a whole lot more about keywords here). The ads then potentially show up in front of users who are searching for those terms. One main reason that search ads hold such a large market share of ad spend is the ability to customize and target ads to particular consumers.
Common Platforms for Search Ads: Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising
Instead of showing up on search engine result pages (SERPs), display ads appear on third-party websites and apps, using interactive video, image or text elements to market products/services and make it easy for users to make a purchase. With display advertising, ads are shown to users who have shown an indication that they may be interested in said product or service.
Common Platforms for Search Ads: Google Ads and AdRoll
Social media ads
Paid social media advertising utilizes social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., to deliver ads to your target audience based on their interests, demographics and behaviors. As social media use continues to rise and expand, social media advertising offers a quick and cost-effective way to connect with potential and return customers. Available data and analytics are not quite the same caliber as what advertisers see from search and display ads, but when done efficiently, these ads can produce great ROI.
Common Platforms for Search Ads: Meta, LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), Pinterest
Similar to a search ad campaign, shopping campaigns are displayed on search engines. However, unlike a search ads, shopping ads feature a picture of the product being sold along with price, details, and link directly to the product itself. These PPC as can be exceptionally beneficial for retail businesses, typically providing one of the highest conversion rates of any PPC advertising option.
Common Platforms for Search Ads: Google Ads, Meta and Microsoft Advertising
What are the main benefits of PPC ads?
The benefits of PPC ads, especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets, are truly remarkable. They allow you to increase awareness of your brand with specific audiences, direct them to your website, fill your lead funnel, and support your business goals. Here are just a few specific benefits of PPC marketing.
Effective targeting (and retargeting)
PPC ads allow advertisers to hyper-specify their target audiences, based on very specific criteria. These targeting options mean ads are reaching the right people and ad spends are more efficient. Most PPC ads also allow for retargeting, showing ads to users who have previously visited your website or engaged with your brand. This is exceptionally effective if you are also routinely investing in SEO.
While paid advertising is a long game, PPC ads can deliver quick results. SEO is a great compliment for paid advertising, as it helps teach search engines who to show your content to, but SEO results can take months. PPC ads, on the other hand, can produce results quickly when optimized.
Easy to measure and track
Platforms like Google Ads and Google Analytics make tracking and measuring success for your ads easier than ever. Data tracking user acquisition, impressions, behavior and more mean you can make informed decisions about how to optimize your ads to reach optimum efficiency.
Easy to change
Speaking of making informed decisions, making changes to digital ads is also easier. Making changes to a tv ad or billboard is hardly something you can log in and do in a few minutes. By continually monitoring analytics and performance, you can continually adjust your ads to meet your current needs and audiences.
Other options to keep in mind
We certainly live in a digital world, and the idea of seeing ads for your business featured on search engines and social media platforms certainly carries some exciting appeal. But digital ads are hardly the only opportunities for small, local businesses to reach new potential customers.
Going back to our initial checklist for setting your advertising up for success, consider your budget, targets and goals and then think about these other potential options for using your marketing dollars.
Sponsorships: If you primarily serve a local customer-base, sponsorships are an amazing opportunity to reach potential new customers. Targeting area moms? The little league teams may have jersey sponsorship opportunities. B2B business? Consider being a sponsor for your local chamber of commerce. Sponsorships also have the potential to help improve your SEO through backlinks, increased website visibility, improved online authority and potential referral traffic from the sponsoring entity's audience (bonus!!). And one of the best benefits of sponsorships - in my opinion - is they help keep funds in your local community and boost your local economy.
Local print ads: Similar to sponsorships, local print ads are a great way to reach local customers. There are still a wide array of opportunities to show up in printed collateral - from community magazines, to local supermarkets. Print advertising is great for developing tangibility, trust and credibility for small businesses. And as more people turn to digital advertising options, competition is decreasing and the potential for larger market share is there. While more difficult to measure and track than digital ads, these can be great options if you're not quite ready to manage ads or outsource them yet.
Local SEO: It's true that PPC ads do offer higher ROI than SEO. But Local SEO is literally everything you didn't know your small business needed. Investing in Local SEO is an unrivaled way to both show up online more, reach the people you want to reach, and increase your brand awareness. SEO is crucial for small businesses because it significantly boosts online visibility, helping your business appear higher in search engine results. This cost-effective marketing strategy targets specific keywords and demographics, drawing highly relevant traffic that is actively searching for products or services. It builds trust and credibility, levels the competition field against larger companies, offers long-term results, and focuses on local search optimization for businesses with physical locations. Additionally, SEO provides valuable data-driven insights, adaptability to changing markets, and a superior user experience through website optimization, making it an indispensable investment for small businesses seeking growth and success in the digital realm.
At the end of the day, your paid advertising - like all of your marketing - should serve a purpose. It should be rooted in helping you reach your business goals, and it should be targeted to your ideal customers. Figuring out your budget, goals and targets first and foremost will lay a solid foundation for a successful advertising campaign.
If you think you would like to get started with paid digital ads but feel overwhelmed, Anchor Watch Marketing can help! Reach out or schedule a free consult today!