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Create a Quick Small Business Online Advertising Plan

A comprehensive small business marketing strategy in 2013 should involve a multi-pronged approach, targeting multiple channels for maximum returns.

It is crucial that small businesses spread their marketing budgets across three channels: search, display, and social. This will allow the business to establish a large online footprint and reach the widest possible audience.

Let's take a look at these three elements in detail:

1. Search

Search refers to the paid advertisements you see on top of search results in Google and Bing/Yahoo. These are PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads—that is, each click to the outgoing link costs the advertiser money. PPC ads make up a lion's share of all online ad spend—up to $17.5 billion in 2012 in the U.S. alone.

By placing ads on Google or Bing for carefully selected search terms ("plumbers in New York," "Chicago dental services," etc.), it is possible to drive a large number of visitors to a website in a very short time. Since PPC ads can be laser-targeted by keyword, the resulting traffic usually converts very well. Furthermore, PPC is heavily data-oriented, allowing advertisers to fine-tune their advertising campaigns for maximum efficiency with analytics and optimization software.

As a downside, intense competition can make PPC ads very expensive, especially in lucrative niches. It is possible to overspend marketing dollars on an advertising campaign without seeing any favorable returns. PPC ads also perform poorly when it comes to building brand awareness. Maximize your return by targeting a narrow, well-defined niche and having a specific goal.

While search engine marketing is a vital component of any small business marketing strategy, it is only one channel to drive traffic to your website. Eventually, display and social advertising campaigns should become part of the mix.

2. Display

Display advertising refers to the banner ads you see on sites across the web. It can also refer to video ads you see on YouTube. Basically, if it has an image or other media, it can be classified as a display ad.

Display advertising has grown phenomenally over the last few years and is now set to surpass spend on search advertising by year 2015. This growth has been facilitated by the development of new analytics and filtering technologies that enable businesses to better target and track audiences.

These technologies include re-targeting and data harvested from social sources that turns display advertising into a hyper-targeted sniping weapon, instead of a scattered shotgun blast.

Display advertising fulfills another crucial role for small businesses: increasing brand awareness. When audiences see your logo emblazoned all across the internet, they will be much more likely to remember your brand. As per one study, brand recall jumped by as much as 26% among a test audience after viewing a display ad.

Brand awareness is all the more important for small businesses that can't afford to blow millions of dollars on TV spots. Display advertising can help these businesses not just spread the word about their brand, but also get targeted traffic to their offers.

Basic platforms and marketplaces are perfect for dipping your feet into the display advertising pool. Alternatively, you can get in touch with individual site owners to place banner ads on their websites or blogs.

3. Social

No business, regardless of its size, can afford to miss the phenomenon that is social media advertising. Twitter and Facebook have entered our cultural idiom and boast enormous audiences numbering into billions.

Small businesses can benefit greatly from advertising on social channels as they can facilitate organic growth while also increasing brand recognition. A well-planned social advertising campaign can yield exponential rewards—a single share can generate thousands of views.

Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the largest and most important social platforms online. With Facebook ads, small businesses have the added advantage of laser-targeting ads to carefully selected audiences ("likes ice-cream, is between 18-24, lives in Boston and is college-educated").

Furthermore, by setting up fan pages, small businesses can establish an identity in the local community and encourage repeat visits while also reinforcing brand identity by sharing appropriate content.

Twitter ads are more conducive to spreading 'viral' content (i.e. content designed to be consumed and shared quickly—the "Gangnam Style" phenomenon is a good example). Small businesses with a robust content marketing strategy in place can make especially good use of Twitter ads to make their content go viral. 

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