When It Comes to Online Ads, Things Are Getting Personal

When It Comes to Online Ads, Things Are Getting Personal

Online Advertising

Let’s say, on a typical day, you wake up at 6 AM and go to bed at 10 PM. That gives you 16 hours during the day to live life. But check this out. During that time, the average American spends 10.5 hours in front of a screen, which is more than half of the day! That includes a smartphone, tablet, computer and/or TV.

Because of this trend, it’s becoming more and more impossible for brands to find success with traditional ad spends – billboards, street signage, terrestrial radio, etc. Instead, advertisers are spending those dollars more wisely on ads within social media, audio streaming services, streaming TV networks, websites, etc. And they should!

If you still aren’t advertising online, I’d say you’re not too far behind the times. Maybe only by about 20 years. But the good news is that, of about 15 of those years, most brands weren’t (or still aren’t) doing a good job with targeting. So there’s still time for you to catch up and find success. Remember, not every product or service is appropriate for all web users. In fact, there’s 286 million internet users in America. Even with a very popular product or service, your brand is probably still only applicable to 10 to 20%.

You can’t just blanket your ads on any ‘ol website. Especially the local news station or newspaper (gross!). Instead, you need to be smarter. You need to use technology that’s become available to take targeting to the next level and get your ads onto the screens of only those who may find interest, take notice, and take action.

When it comes to ads, artwork and messaging are extremely important (whether static or video). Let’s focus today though on placement. Here’s four emerging ways that you can do a better job at targeting with online ads.

Tailored Locations

Not all, but many businesses sell in certain geographical areas. Whether you’re a restaurant that typically sees customers come from within 10 miles, or a forklift distributor who reaches buyers across a three-county region, geographical targeting is critical to online advertising success. You can run location-based ads by zip code, DMA, or through geo-fencing.

Geo-fencing allows advertisers to place ads within a specific radius of a selected location (which is most often the storefront). You can do 10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, whatever distance you want. You can do multiple fences too. What makes this great is that it’s targeting IP addresses across devices. Here’s two options.

When someone on a device enters the geo-fence (desktops are stationary but mobile moves across points), they will see the ad. Alternatively, you can set up a program where it builds a list of all those who enter the geo-fence. It will recall their IP and allow ads to be served to them later, even if they have left the fence. Now you know you’re only exposing your ads to people who are in arm’s reach of your location (or who may be returning to arm’s reach). You can even have different ads that are served to different locations, called geo-aware ads, that are more impactful since the messaging can be more appropriate.

Contextual Targeting

This type of targeting focuses on the content that exists on a website – rather than the website itself. It looks for keywords found within the text of articles and places your ads on top, beside, or beneath. The hope is that the readers of the article will find relevancy in ads that relate to the topic of the article. This can be overlaid with geo-targeting and can run across multiple devices.

Let’s say you sell lawn care equipment: weed wackers, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, etc. Instead of your ads appearing randomly across usatoday.com, you would only appear alongside usatoday.com articles that relate to the keywords you specify. I’d probably choose keywords like: do-it-yourself, home improvement, real estate, landscaping, lawn care, lawn care equipment, etc. Now, when someone is reading a relevant, related story (i.e. “5 Ways to Improve Your Landscaping this Summer Season”), your ads will appear alongside and seem much more appropriate to the reader. Remember, your audience will be much smaller than normal if you were to advertise natively on usatoday.com, but the quality of your impressions and clicks will be greater.

Competitor Targeting

Geo-targeting to the Nth degree, this type of targeting looks at consumers who visit other businesses that you specify. It’s hyper-local. These can be businesses that pose as competitors, who are nearby, or those who complement your brand. Ads can be tailored to visitors who have shopped at one of the locations you indicate, or those who enter the geo-fence and are currently in those stores.

Let’s say you’re a restaurant in the same plaza as Macy’s. Consider the impact of running ads for people who are shopping inside of that store at 12 noon. They’re going to need to get something to eat for lunch when they’re done shopping, and now, your restaurant next door is top of mind through the ads that appear on websites or mobile apps. For related businesses, consider running ads for your landscaping company among those who shopped at Home Depot. The data can be stored to recall audience members who met the criteria in the past 30, 60, or 90 days, or even the past full year (for those who have longer sales cycles).

I would suggest building your list out of all the businesses within a mile or two radius, then adding in all of your competitors (radius will vary depending on your service area), and finally filling out your list with complementary businesses or services. You should have a minimum of 40-60 businesses listed, even for small companies. Overlay this targeting with geography and/or contextual targeting, and you can get even more specific customers. It’s a great model and has proven to be more successful than standard display advertising.


Remarketing, or retargeting, are ads that appear on a user’s device (on websites, apps, or social media) based on past browser history. Typically, if you’ve been on a website looking to buy a product or service, you’ll see ads from that company later as your move about the web. Remarketing reinforces messaging around recent interests and hopes to push you closer towards a sale.

If a business is good at it, the ads should be highly specific to the pages a user has been on. So instead of ads that are just about the brand (that send you to the homepage), they should instead be tailored to the actual product or service of interest. This is great if you have a funnel-based website and you have remarketing setup on your product pages or on abandoned shopping cart pages. Remarketing increases frequency, leading to higher recall, and drives people to your site to finish where they left off – with a purchase!


Remember that messaging within ads should be tailored to each of the audiences above since you have a bit more insight into where they are located and/or what interests them. Consider static ads as well as video ads. Make them highly attractive and very to-the-point. Pricing for these types of online ads is a CPM (cost per thousand impression) model. The greater the budget, the more impressions your ads will earn, which in turn, will lead to a greater number of clicks and conversions. Overall, it’s a great way to get onto the screens, during the 10.5 hours per day, of your most coveted consumers.

This article was original published for Site-Seeker. You can find it by clicking here.

Which Digital Advertising Program is Right for Me?

Which Digital Advertising Program is Right for Me?

Online Advertising, PPC

Which digital advertising program is right for me- (3)

The advent of the Internet has opened up so many digital doors to marketers today. And at the same time, many of these opportunities are available to small business owners at affordable rates. From big sites like Amazon to your local newspaper’s website, you just need to know what’s available and what you’re doing.

I’ll admit it. It can be a little intimidating to read the many blog posts out there on online advertising, leading you to become quickly overwhelmed. So I’m here to help you figure out which advertising platforms might work best for you based on your specific situation.

You goal and target audience, working in unison, will be the driving force behind the decisions you make in the advertising world. The platform. The filters. The spend. The design. The ad copy. Everything. So let’s tackle things this way. I’ll suggest a goal and then present you with the potential solution that may fit your needs.

First, let’s look at your options. When we talk about digital or online advertising, there are so many today. Some have their own platforms where you would create an account, sets up payment details and manages ads within. For others, you may use a third party tool or work through an ad representative. Though there are hundreds (if not hundreds of thousands if you count individual websites) of different advertising opportunities, here are the main options that most marketers might suggest today:

  • Google Adwords
  • Yahoo/Bing Ads
  • YouTube Ads
  • Amazon Ads
  • Mobile App Ads
  • Social Media Ads
  • Game Platform and In-Game Mobile Ads
  • Remarketing Ads
  • Audio Streaming Ads
  • Video Streaming Ads
  • Email Content Ads/Gmail Ads
  • Website Banners
  • Native Advertising/Sponsored Content

Now let’s look at instances where some of the above might come into play…

Goal: I have a B2B product or service and a very niche clientele. I want to drive them to my website so they can learn more and hopefully convert. A conversion to me would be a phone call, an email link click, or a request for more information through a form.

You Might Want to Consider: Google AdWords, Yahoo/Bing Ads

AdWords AdsI recommend Google AdWords to most clients, only because so many audiences use Google, it is extremely flexible, has any type of budget options, and you can be as niche as you want. For B2B companies, this is often the best place to start. Because when seeking a vendor, product or service, the first phase of research almost always starts with a Google search. AdWords is a great way to beat the organic results to the punch and appear higher and with more options (call extension, site links, ratings, etc).

Consider different dynamics to make sure you are reaching that specific audience like time of day, desktop vs mobile, location, and search vs display. Although it takes some set-up, once you’ve found your footing and have identified the best keywords for an ideal budget, AdWords can be a nice way to consistently bring in qualified visitors, unaffected by the other marketing activities taking place within your mix.

Goal: I’m looking to target young teens. And want to raise awareness for my product. It’s a relatively new product so I just want to introduce it to them right now. They likely can’t buy it themselves but having them know it (and eventually recognize it), will lead to having a parent purchase later on.

You Might Want to Consider: Audio Ads, YouTube Ads, In-Game Ads

14908Today’s teens (the plural generation) use the Internet very differently than others. Even different than their older siblings who are often Milliennials (which there is tons of research out there on!). These youngsters are addicted to their smartphones and tablets (88% have them), do not use email or Facebook, and are very comfortable with any and all new technology that comes out. SnapChat and Instagram are king and some of the most popular activities include music streaming and gaming. Because of this, you might want to consider audio ads on platforms like Spotify or Pandora. Make sure you target by location or music genres to get in front of the right teen listeners. Consider today’s popular musicians.

Also, don’t pass on YouTube ads, with placement before today’s popular music tracks. It might be disruptive to the listener but, over time, the brand/product becomes recognizable. And don’t forget about platforms like Xbox, PS4 and games on mobile devices. Each of these offer advertising options to have ads play during breaks or right within the games themselves. Gaming is the single most popular activity for teens, shared by both males and females. And gaming ads is very hot right now. In fact, last year, Zynga (FarmVille, Words with Friends, Draw Something) generated more than $153 million in revenue!

Goal: You are a local business owner. You’ve had it with TV and radio ads, they just aren’t working for you and they are expensive. You want to remind your local consumers who you are, what you do, and get them to come in for a visit to eventually drive in-store sales.

You Might Want to Consider: Local Mobile App Ads

Mobile AdsOf all time spent on a mobile devices, 89% of it is spent in a mobile app (the remaining 11% is on the mobile web). This has continued to increase each year. First, you need to identify your audience and understand what type of apps they use. Bleacher Report? Hulu Plus? Yelp? Knowing the most popular apps among your target audience is a great starting point. By using a major ad platform like InMobi or AdMob, you can set-ups ads, select your targeting features (age, demographics, location, apps) and manage ads from one interface. These can be run similar to Google AdWords and are based on a pay-per-click (PPC) model.

Don’t forgot about local apps or apps that offer reviews like Yelp or UrbanSpoon (depending on your industry). These focus strongly on local web searches and can be a great avenue to get in front of people that are just about ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Mobile apps are used by a lot of people, so without filtering the right audience, you will end up spending a lot of time and money with no results. Target like crazy.

Goal: You only care about one thing: leads. You get a substantial amount of people to your website but feel that your return-visitor numbers are low. You are a B2B company but the buying cycle is relatively short, they often purchase on the second visit. You need to get them to come back and move beyond the research phase to the consideration phase, and help get them to pull the trigger.

You Might Want to Consider: Remarketing Ads

bruno-img-nlHave you ever shopped for a product on Amazon. Then, like two days later, you saw the same product being featured in an ad on Facebook? Remarketing uses cookies to track you and recalls different web pages that you’ve visited in the past. By doing so, advertisers can serve up extremely targeted ads to you. By using remarketing for your website, you can catch the attention of people who have already visited your site.

Use a platform like Google AdWords, AdRoll or Multiview and manage your ads for an audience that’s already beyond the awareness phase and in the midst of decision-making. Be strategic with your visuals and ad copy and consider an offer or key selling point to drive them back to your site for a purchase. Remarketing generally sees high click thru rates at an affordable cost, since you are only advertising to folks who already know who you are. You can even track on a page-by-page level so your ads can be specific to the products/services they are genuinely interested in.

Goal: I blog for my company and want my content to be viewed by more qualified people. I put a lot of time into writing and the purpose is to help with my SEO efforts, appear in more search results, and generate more traffic. I’m consistent but I’m not seeing the results I want. I want more views.

You Might Want to Consider: Social Media Ads, Sponsored Content, Email Content Ads


Let me guess. You blog like crazy. Pour hours of blood, sweat and tears into your posts. You then check your Google Analytics and your post gets viewed by like 25 people. Been there, done that. It can be very hard to develop a strong blog following. Of course, great content, published on a consistent basis is the first step. And don’t forget about working it into other marketing activities like email marketing or lead nurturing. But sometimes you can use a little advertising to give you an extra boost. Set-up social media ads to promote the posts that feature your blog content. Make sure you apply the right filters so you are getting those posts in front of the right people (consider influencer lists!). Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can all be used to target qualified people –  consider industry, group, professional status, age, geography, etc.

Secondly, think of trade publications that your target audience reads often. Ask if they have sponsored content opportunities. Supply them with your blog post and for a fee they will run it on their site, getting much more shares and views and engagements than it would on your own company website. Or, see if you can agree to a deal where they feature your blog post in their next email campaign. It will lead to more views by the right people.

Google AdWords: What Is It and Where Do I Begin?

Google AdWords: What Is It and Where Do I Begin?

Online Advertising


Google AdWords is the most popular pay-per-click (PPC) program in the world today and the biggest revenue driver for the technology/media giant. The easiest way to describe Google AdWords is that you are buying traffic to your website. This is directly compared to the organic search results, which are free. However, much work goes into trying to boost organic rankings, and it is even more challenging now with Google’s Hummingbird update which focuses on high quality content more so than links and other outdated factors. AdWords is a bit more efficient from a timing standpoint since you can appear high in rankings much faster. Utilizing an AdWords program simultaneously with SEO efforts though is the most efficient approach since they can both help each other out (for example, pages on-site that are optimized will reflect better in AdWords). Additionally, having more real estate on Google’s first results page (in both organic and in paid sections) means you have more exposure and are also pushing competitors down the list or onto lower pages, which is always beneficial for your business.

Importance of Testing

Running a successful campaign(s) in AdWords takes both time and effort. It’s impossible to know before testing how much budget is necessary for rewarding results. Although Google does provide some tools that give you a general idea, the only way to really test is through trial and error. Although it varies by industry, we usually recommend starting between $750 and $1000 per month. From there, you can see if you are using your whole budget or if there is room for additional spending. If the budget is lower, or if the budget is higher, naturally your strategy will change a bit. Additionally, different companies have different goals. Do you want as many clicks (visitors) as possible? Do you want less traffic in exchange for more qualified visitors? Do you have a limit as to how much you want to spend per click, even if the visitors are qualified? Questions like this help to determine the strategy.

Cost and Placement

There are a number of factors that determine the cost and placement of ads. First of course is the bid. You must be bidding at a reasonable level for the ads to be shown. A bid of $0.05/click, for example, will not have a chance to be shown. Whereas a bid of $100.00/click might be too much. In the case of the latter, it will purchase the click for the maximum amount needed. Which segues nicely into the second factor – competition. The average bid levels are determined by the popularity of the word and the number of other people bidding on it. If the word is extremely niche and no one is bidding, you might get away with a cost of, say $0.20-$0.60/click. But if it’s a more popular word or phrase, like “baseball bats,” you’ll likely be paying several dollars, or tens of dollars, per click. Remember, if you overbid, it won’t charge you for the actual max bid but for whatever price is necessary to land that first place ranking. Mid-level bids will likely drop your ads down to rankings 2-5. Lower bids will be at the bottom of the list or will not be shown at all. Here’s an example of where your ads will be shown and why placement matters.

AdWords Example 3

Quality Score and Keywords

Another factor for the ranking of the ads is quality score. Google likes to “reward” good ads. Good ads are ones that do not confuse the visitor. So if the ad has good written copy and the page that the ad brings you to has good content and is likely to be helpful to the visitor, it will have a higher quality score. Quality scores range between 1-10. Scores of 7-10 will help ads rank higher, even if bid levels aren’t as strong. Mid-level quality scores will help slightly. Low quality scores between 0-2 will likely prevent your ad from being shown at all. Finally, keywords are very important. You want to associate targeted keywords with the ad since these are the “triggers” in search that will determine when the ad will appear. You want to be specific with your words so you attract the right audience. Negative keywords are words that prevent the ad from appearing. So if I sell baseball equipment but I do not happen to sell baseball uniforms, I might add “uniform” as a negative keyword so my ads will not appear for those type of searches since it won’t bring in potential customers. Managing all these processes above is very important because it will not only raise the rankings of your ads (which usually leads to more clicks) but will hopefully drive down your costs to obtain more clicks, and bring in more qualified visitors.

AdWords Backend

Determining Your Audience

What’s great about AdWords is, much like many paid online services, you can try to control who is viewing the ad. You always want to be conscious of the visitor because you are paying with each click. So if you are attracting visitors who are not likely to be interested in your business or its offerings, you are wasting money. Here are some things to think about:

  • First is the keywords. You want to monitor the success of different keywords, while also monitoring new keywords from your Google Analytics that potential customers are using. Negative keywords are equally as important.
  • Secondly, monitor your web traffic for the most popular times/days. If you aren’t getting any visitors on the weekend because most of your customers order while they are at work, then just run ads during the business week. You can also get more granular into only running ads during certain times of the day too.
  • Additionally, you can use other filters like geographic regions to make sure we are only tapping into audiences that you serve (if, for instance, the company was not national). We tend to give highest priority to attracting the best visitors we can that could potentially turn into customers.
  • Don’t forget about extensions. This is a feature that allows you to add more actionable options in your ads (rather than just being able to click on the URL). Extensions usually only appear if you are placed in the top three spots. Some examples include sitelinks, call to click phone number (if it’s a mobile ad, and e-newsletter sign up. They give you more real estate in the ad space while also looking more attractive and being more useful to your audience.

Budget is Key

Budget is naturally one of the most important things to think about with AdWords. It’s important to understand that there are only so many people searching for your products. Let’s say, hypothetically, you budgeted $100,000 per month to your campaign. Remember, you are only paying for those who clicks, not by impression. Since there might not be 30-60,000 people searching for your keywords on a monthly basis, you won’t reach your budget. So that money will sit pretty in your account and not be used. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your budget is too low, once the budget is reached, your ads won’t appear anymore. If you have a monthly budget, the ads will just stop, even if it’s in the first few days of the month. You might want to manage this better by spreading the budget out evenly over the course of the month and setting daily budgets. This makes sure you can carry the budget through the month and not deplete the funds in the first few days. Finding that plateau is important with AdWords because then you know you are not missing out on any potential customers possibly looking for your products. For some companies, it’s not possible to pay for that “plateaued budget” because there might be enough clicks to drive a budget up to thousands, if not millions, of dollars each month. But for more niche businesses, reaching that plateau is more doable.

Hopefully this gives you a broad understanding of Google AdWords and clarifies not only what your dollars are being put towards, but the maintenance requires to produce results. If you’ve had experience with Google AdWords and want to chime in with some helpful pointers, feel free to comment below!

Storytelling and Subliminal Advertising

Storytelling and Subliminal Advertising

Online Advertising

I read BuzzFeed every day. I don’t care for all the political banter, but I do enjoy the funny material about pop culture and advertising. One article caught my eye from this past Wednesday.


The headline reads: Do You Know How to Kiss a Girl? Then Learn! In step-by-step fashion, the copywriter goes into detail about the anxious yet glorious moment before a first kiss with a girl. The simple images on the left column help the reader visualize the advice being given in the text. It’s not until the last paragraph that the copyrighter slips in a hit about the product. “BUT WAIT,” the ad says. “Do not kiss her until you know that she uses Listerated Pepsin Gum…” And then you realize it…Dang. They got me!

It’s an extremely clever approach. No logo. No indication that it was an ad. It looks and feels like a piece of editorial content. “Oh cool, an article to help me in that could-be awkward moment when I’m about to make my move,” you think. Then the copywriter subtlety bops you on the head with the ad impression. You’ve already read the whole thing. Might as well finish reading. “If she is a Listerated Pepsin Gum girl, kiss her!” the article concludes.

It’s genius.

The ad is from 1911. It’s more than one hundred years old ad and it’s using a tactic that marketers today *still* haven’t begun to adopt. And that tactic is the art of storytelling.

We are seeing the need, now more than ever, to break through the clutter of today’s noisy world with more creative advertisements. There are ads everywhere we look. With the heavy use of social media and mobile technologies, we are exposed to more than we can even recall. Think about your typical day:

  • Wake up and grab smartphone to scroll Facebook. See ads.
  • Open the news app on your tablet to see the latest headlines. See ads.
  • Take a shower and turn on the radio. Hear ads.
  • Make breakfast. See ads on cereal box.
  • Eat cereal while watching TV. See ads.
  • Drive to work. See billboards.

I’m only at 7:30 am, friends! Statistics vary but it’s safe to say that a typical American adult is probably exposed to a good 1,500 ads or so each day.

Today, it’s vital that we are using alternative techniques to nab consumers’ attentions, other than blasting them with traditional commercials or banner ads. In the “Kiss a Girl” article from 1911, they provided value and entertainment in their commentary. This storytelling approach has seen successes with other companies over the years too, and is becoming a very popular method today. Why? Because we automatically tune out when it comes to advertisements. I’ve been watching YouTube today and can’t tell you one ad that I’ve been forced to watch so far! So when you rope in readers with something more clever, you can find a subliminal way in.

Content marketing focuses a lot of this method. Give users content. Let them find value. Let them be amused. Let them enjoy what it is they are reading/watching/participating in. Then impress them in a more subtle way. Don’t let your logo and your messages be at the forefront. Instead, let it take the backseat. If delivered properly, it will have just as much, if not more of an impact as it would if it were the central theme of the ad.

Here’s a great modern day example. In this ad from Nike, teens plug sneakers into their DJ equipment. By bouncing and twisting the shoes, they are able to create a really neat song. Nike relies on the sneakers and the sneaker boxes (which prop up the speakers) for the impressions. But the focus isn’t on the product. Not many are going to try to hook up their sneakers to make music. Instead, it’s pure entertainment and Nike looks to be associated with a cool, hip music style.

Likewise, Listerated Pepsin Gum didn’t make a big to-do about its product in the “Kiss the Girl” ad. However, once we finished reading the article, we associated the brand with fresh breath and one that makes kissing more enjoyable (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want that!). Boom. Right in line with their messaging and it certainly was more effective than a generic, forgettable branded billboard ad. Listerated Pepsin – for the win!