Paid marketing: The beginner’s guide to understanding and setting up a paid marketing strategy

Paid marketing: The beginner’s guide to understanding and setting up a paid marketing strategy


To grow your brand, you need to get noticed. Organic marketing campaigns can be effective at driving traffic to your website, but they take time to mature. A paid marketing strategy can help your brand get faster results while you build your reputation with customers.

What is paid marketing?

Paid marketing, also known as digital advertising, refers to any strategy in which a brand targets potential customers based on their interests, intent or previous interactions with the brand.

Paid campaigns can utilize one or more digital channels, including search engine results pages (SERPs), social media platforms and websites. In addition to the display advertisements you’ve likely seen in SERPs and web pages, paid marketing can also take the shape of sponsored social posts and guest blogs.

Benefits of paid marketing

Today, it’s highly likely that new customers will first encounter your brand online. In fact, 87% of retail shoppers begin their searches on digital channels, regardless of whether they ultimately make a purchase online or in a brick-and-mortar store.

Meanwhile, research from Google indicates that 67% of B2B purchases are influenced by digital content and advertisements.

Paid marketing can help companies: - Build brand awareness. - Encourange customer engagement. - Target specific audience segments. - Optimize and measure their campaigns.

Without a digital presence, your potential customers may never find your brand. Paid marketing can benefit your growth strategy by:

  • Building brand awareness.
  • Encouraging customer engagement.
  • Allowing you to target specific audience segments.
  • Giving you the ability to measure and optimize your campaigns.

Compared with organic marketing, paid marketing offers faster results and more granular targeting capabilities. For example, you can target a blog to a specific audience through a keyword strategy, but you may still reach people who aren’t interested in your offerings. Meanwhile, paid strategies empower you to target your messages based on user signals like search queries and previous interactions with your brand.

Types of paid marketing

There are four basic forms of paid marketing, each with its own benefits:

  • Paid search marketing: Also known as search engine marketing (SEM), this strategy serves text and image ads to users searching on platforms like Google and Bing.
  • Paid social media marketing: This strategy allows brands to target social media users with ads based on their interests and interactions.
  • Display marketing: Similar to SEM, display networks serve ads to site visitors. Retargeting technology can hyper-target users based on their browsing history.
  • Influencer marketing: B2B and B2C marketers can work with influencers – people with large social followings – to strategically promote their offerings in a more personal manner.

Each type of paid marketing strategy serves a unique purpose at various stages of the buyer’s journey. Not every brand uses every form of paid marketing, but it’s considered a best practice to use more than one type. Doing so ensures users in various channels see your messages.

Paid search marketing: The basics

Paid search, or SEM, earns web traffic though pay-per-click ads that appear within SERPs. When you type a keyword or phrase into Google, you’ll see both paid and organic results appear. Paid ads are the listings you see on the side of the page, as well as the first links on the page. You’ll know which results are paid by the “Ad” tag next to them.

Everything else on the page is organic. Those links earn their position on the page through search engine optimization (SEO). That’s a whole topic on its own, which we cover in a comprehensive SEO guide.

Ultimately, SEM strategies support brand growth by placing links to your site in front of relevant search users. They tend to use a pay-per-click (PPC) model in which brands bid for top positions on SERPs for a given keyword.

For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase “goat hats,” you could create a search marketing campaign with a maximum bid of $1 per click. The ad network will use your bid as well as several quality signals to determine when and where to place your ads when people search for related terms.

Recommended tools: Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising.

Google Ads example: best dog toys for teeth health

Paid search marketing: Pro tips

It only takes a matter of seconds to get a paid search campaign up and running. By following a few prompts, your search ads will be ready to reach thousands of search users across the web. However, optimizing your search campaigns takes a little more time, care and finesse.

Since it’s the most popular platform, let’s assume you plan to use Google Ads – formerly known as AdWords – to run your paid search strategy. Here are a few steps you can take to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns:

Improve your quality score

Only Google knows the secret sauce that is the algorithm determining an ad’s quality score. However, Google has provided a few hints. To lower your average bid cost and improve your ad rankings, try A/B testing your ad copy and stick with whichever gets the highest click-through rates. Grouping keywords into separate ad groups may also improve your score. Finally, creating relevant landing pages for your ads encourages longer site visits, which is a signal of high quality.

Use location-based bidding

After you’ve run a campaign for a period of time, check out your geographic metrics. These will tell you where your visitors live, broken down country, region and city. Use this information to modify your bids to more heavily target areas that have already shown higher conversion rates.

Supplement lagging organic efforts

Tools like Google Analytics make it easy to measure your site traffic and visualize how users interact with your content and product pages. Look for pages to which your organic marketing efforts aren’t driving much traffic. While you adjust and test a new organic marketing approach, use PPC campaigns to supplement traffic to those pages.

Paid social media marketing: The basics

These days, running one or more social media pages for your brand is not only good marketing, it’s a customer expectation. In fact, brands with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for brands with poor omnichannel strategies.

Having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an Instagram profile, a YouTube channel and a Pinterest board helps your customers find you wherever they happen to be online. Paid social media campaigns augment that benefit by enabling you to reach other social media users who may have not yet heard of your company.

Like SEM PPC ads, paid social campaigns use a bidding model to serve ads to people who have either shown interest in your offerings or who exhibit online behaviors similar to your current customers.

Recommended tools: Facebook for Business, Pinterest Ads, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

Paid social media post example

Paid social media marketing: Pro tips

First of all, if your brand isn’t on every social media platform under the sun, don’t panic. Maintaining multiple social media pages can be very time consuming, especially when you have a limited amount of resources.

Consistency is the name of the game. Maintaining a steady stream of high-quality posts is one of the best things you can do on social media. Therefore, you may want to focus on just one or two platforms.

Focus on conversations

As with SEM, the positioning of your social ads is determined by an algorithm. Each platform has its own algorithm and they are not made public. However, one thing they all value is audience engagement. Posts that spark conversations among real people are the most valuable.

With every paid social ad you produce, your goal should be to start a conversation. Pose an interesting question or make a statement that begs users to add their own opinion. Bear in mind you may want to moderate these conversations, which can be resource intensive, but can also encourage further engagement.

Display marketing: The basics

Display ads are like digital billboards. They take the shape of graphical banners that appear on web pages, text boxes with clickable headlines and rich-media ads that play videos or .GIFs.

Display ad networks sprawl across the internet, making them ideal for reaching users as they move from one site to another. An effective display ad campaign has clearly defined goals, a target audience, compelling copy and, when applicable, stunning visuals.

In addition to capturing the attention of new customers, display ads are great for retargeting people who already know about your brand. For instance, if someone visits your site but doesn’t convert, you can reach them again through a display ad served on another website.

Recommended tools: Google AdSense, Adroll, Adsterra.

Display marketing example

Display marketing: Pro tips

Display networks and paid search use many of the same technologies, so the same advice applies to both strategies.

If you want to retarget your site visitors as they browse the web, keep your main objective in mind: bringing those people back to your site. You can encourage that behavior in several ways:

  • Optimize your ads with negative keywords. Ad networks allow you specify the keywords for which you don’t want your ads to appear. For example, specifying “free” as a negative keyword will prevent your ads from appearing on web pages listing free versions of your products.
  • Remind visitors of your value proposition. You have limited space for copy, so make sure it counts. Reminding visitors of your value proposition can encourage them to return to your site.
  • Use a call to action. Using action verbs and phrases can increase engagement with your ads. “Click to learn more,” is an example of a simple phrase that can lead to great results.

Influencer marketing: The basics

An influencer is someone with a high volume of social media followers who represent your target marketing. Influencer marketing leverages these people to reach customers who trust and enjoy the content put out by influencers.

Although commonly seen as a B2C tactic, B2B brands have seen success with influencer campaigns. Typically, B2B influencers are industry experts who have earned the respect and admiration of their followers over years.

Influencer marketing can take the shape of sponsored Instagram posts, guest blogs, Twitter shoutouts and YouTube mentions.

Recommended tools: BuzzSumo, FameBit, BuzzStream, Upfluence.

Influencer marketing: Pro tips

If there’s one thing you take away from this section, it’s that you should always research your influencers. There are plenty of fake influencers online who claim to have a long reach but actually inflate their follower counts. Use the tools listed above to look up influencers you’re thinking about working with.

Once you choose a legitimate influencer, don’t try to direct every aspect of the relationship. After all, they know their followers best, and they’ll know what type of content is most appealing. Listen to their ideas and keep them in the loop about your campaign goals.

Influencer marketing may not produce immediate results. It’s important to build a relationship with influencers and give them some time to find the best way to collaborate with your brand.

Balancing paid and inbound marketing strategies

Organic and paid marketing strategies don’t necessarily need to compete with each other. In fact, most brands use a mix of both strategies to draw customers to their sites.

Paid strategies are usually recommended for driving traffic to high-value, commercial-intent keywords. Especially during peak seasons, paid traffic can help your brand stand out in a sea of competing messages. Paid marketing can also serve to draw traffic to your web pages while you’re waiting for your organic strategy to mature.

Essentially, if you have a short timeline with specific goals, a paid strategy is probably your best option. However, if your goal is sustained traffic over a long period of time, an organic, inbound strategy is the better choice. Ultimately, your brand will likely use a fluctuating mix of paid and organic marketing throughout the year as your growth goals change and evolve.

In today’s ultra-competitive marketing environment, paid strategies can help your brand stand out and get noticed. However, this level of competition means you can’t let your campaigns run on autopilot. You need to be able to adapt your tactics to the moment. Check out our guide on PPC management to learn more.





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