Friendly Advice on How to Begin Advertising Your Business Online

Some time ago I received an email from a friend. He was running a business in the UK, and, at a time, wanted to begin an online advertising campaign. He had some ideas and wanted to know what I thought about them. So here’re some things I mentioned in my answer – my friendly advice and ideas on creating an internet marketing plan.

Reality check

First and foremost, advertising on the internet is a lot harder than it seems. At least if you’re hoping for some good results. There are several things you need to think through:

1. What is the goal of your campaign?

There may be many of those but what it usually comes down to are two things: you either want to create some brand awareness or sell your stuff directly. So much for online business ideas…

2. What is the target audience of your campaign?

When creating an internet marketing plan one of the most important questions is: Who is your ideal prospective customer and why should they care?

3. Where should you place your ads?

What would be the perfect place for your ads to display? If you want to answer this question you need to look at the demographics of your target group.

For example, if you want to reach people interested in gardening then the best places will be sites like gardening forums or blogs of people sharing their experiences with gardening. You can also check out the websites of some magazines you can usually buy at a press stand.

4. Ad format

There are basically only two possible formats: text ads and banner ads.

When it comes to text ads you have to hire a good copywriter or try to learn how to write this stuff yourself. If you have some spare money don’t hesitate – just hire someone, it’ll turn out to be a good investment. That’s because better ads get more clicks and usually convert better.

Banner ads are a different story. There are many techniques of creating them and it’s difficult to point out the best one. What I like to do is to go with two different approaches:

I either try to blend in with the design of the website where I will be advertising or stand out so much that it’s physically impossible to overlook the banner.

Using the first approach I create a banner that doesn’t really look like a banner but more like a part of the website, so there’s a better chance it’ll actually get clicked because banner blindness doesn’t affect it.

Using the second approach I create a banner in a “purple cow” style. Something that looks nothing like the website it sits on. I want the banner to be the most visible element of the website. This is a more brute-force-like style of fighting banner blindness.

What’s interesting I find the second approach to work better. (What’s your experience? What formats do you use in your internet marketing plan?)

Banner sizes

billboard

If you google a phrase like “adsense banner size” you will see how many different formats there are. The sizes that I’ve found to work the best are the rectangular ones, with the 336×280 banner on the top of my list.

Standard banner shapes like skyscrapers and long horizontal blocks are highly susceptible to banner blindness – something you don’t want to experience.

The best place to display a banner is somewhere above the fold among the site’s content (neither in the header, nor in the sidebar, nor in the footer).

5. Tracking conversions and efficiency

You have to have some sort of a system for tracking the efficiency of your ads. The most important parameters when it comes to online advertising are: conversion rate, EPC, and click through rate. If you’re using AdWords than you don’t really have to worry about it because AdWords provides you with all this stuff. However, if you’re buying media from a specific website directly then it can be a little more hustle to set this up.

This point is crucial! Without any type of a system you know nothing about your campaign and you have no internet marketing plan. You don’t know which ads are making money and which are not, and you don’t know whether or not it’s worth to continue advertising on a specific website.

Things you should consider (some online business ideas)

If you want to sell something (not just to do some branding), giving away a coupon or a discount directly from the banner’s copy might be a good idea. This should arouse interest in your banner and give it a better chance of being clicked.

Sending traffic to the homepage directly rarely brings any good results. That’s why the banner should send traffic to a specific landing page. A landing page that’s congruent with the banner. For example, if the banner says something like “free cars for everyone” your landing page needs to fulfill this promise and give away some free cars.

Over time you will probably want to improve your campaign and make more money on it. However, you won’t be able to do it, if you don’t split test from the very first day. The easiest way of split testing is to create two different ads that will be displayed simultaneously. After receiving a number of impressions and clicks you will be able to decide which one was better. Remember, the test must be statistically significant before you make any decision.

How to create the actual ads?

There are a couple of different approaches. The best one is to do some market research first. You need time if you want to create a good performing ad. Here’s how it’s done.

You keep monitoring and noting everything that happens in your market when it comes to advertising. What I mean by that is that you take careful notes of every ad that your competition uses to market their businesses. You have to continue doing this for at least 4 weeks.

If you notice that someone is using the same ad for more than 4-8 weeks then they’re probably making money with it. All you have to do is copy them. Not literally (obviously) but you can draw some inspiration from them. The way they’re approaching the audience and the techniques they’re using to get the clicks.

In my opinion a craftsman will always do a better job when it comes to creating ads than an artist. So the approach described here is the craftsman’s way of things.

One final advice

Just use AdWords. The system has its little learning-curve but it’s still worth the effort. There’s not one quicker or more effective way of advertising your business on the internet. AdWords still is the go-to-place if you want to attract some quality traffic that converts. Sometimes it takes less than 10 minutes to start a campaign and receive first visitors.

What would you add to this post? I know I didn’t mention a lot of things – I didn’t want to make this post even longer, so what’s your opinion? What’s your friendly advice on creating an internet marketing plan and advertising online?

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