Is Online Advertising Still Worth It in 2020?

Table of Contents

    In a recent article, I described how rich content in marketing can be quite effective when you’re trying to connect with your audience. But it has certain limitations.

    For one, it’s only going to be effective if your brand understands their buying persona and what they’re looking for.

    Second, content marketing is generally a rather long-term approach; regardless of how powerful your content is, it will take time for Google to pick it up and reflect it in the rankings.

    In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some short-term strategies that can work for you in the meantime. And, similar to the previous post, I’ll share some of the insights we’ve gained as we experimented with a variety of digital marketing tactics.

    “Short-term advertising” usually refers to online advertising and a little bit of budget. Over the past few years, we’ve tried all sorts of advertising formats mainly across the following channels: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and several partner websites such as Butleranalytics.

    Marketing Common Sense and Best Practices

    Before I dive into the implementation specifics and share some results, here are a few tips that we’ve shared within the discussion of best practices of content marketing. Think of them as good marketing common sense:

    1. Landing page quality

    It’s tempting to focus the bulk of creative energy on the ad itself, but it’s simply not enough to get the job done.

    You might have done a wonderful job analyzing what makes your target tick and drafting convincing key messages using relevant keywords. You might even have seen your website traffic from Google Adwords increase as a result. But that’s only Step 1.

    In fact, that success might become irrelevant if your new customers don’t believe in your promise once they reach your website or your landing page.

    The same is true of SEO; What’s the point of attracting some good organic traffic if you are not converting them with your landing page?

    • Provide only one way out. If you offer too many options, it can create confusion and hinder responsiveness. The user might not be sure which Call To Action (CTA) is relevant to them and opt not to take any action at all
    • Convey a single message. For the best results, your landing page should be focused on one single message. Whether it’s a discount or a campaign, don’t try to accomplish too many objectives with one single page.
    • Make a relevant promise. Your target needs to immediately understand that you are talking to them or they will leave, regardless of how convincing or well-written the ad is. Always be relevant to your target.
    • Create a sense of urgency. Create an urgency to convince your audience, an enticing reason to click on the CTA right this minute. If they bookmark it or otherwise save it for later, there is a good chance they won’t come back at all.
    • Make your CTA stand out Your CTA should not only be the relevant and logical next step for your website visitors once they have read your page, they simply shouldn’t have to look for it! Make sure that your CTA stands out visually and graphically. Putting it in a different color is a place to start.
    Example Marketing Landing Page

    2. Relevant tracking

    Just as we did with content marketing and SEO, we took some time to experiment with our advertising.

    I believe that every brand needs to find its sweet spot and try different messages, different visuals, and different channels to determine the most successful way to reach the right audience.

    And by the “right audience,” I mean the audience that will ultimately want to purchase your product or service and that the product or service is right for them.

    Experimenting requires a lot of measuring and tracking so that it eventually points to the optimal decision-making for the business. It’s lucky that we are a BI shop!

    To obtain the insights we were looking for, each step of our process needed to be associated with an objective—and from that, we formulated a KPI.

    For example, the quality of an ad can be evaluated by the number of impressions that match our keywords with our audience and the number of clicks that indicate that the audience liked what they saw in the ad. That gives us our first KPI: the conversion rate.

    Now, if the audience clicked on the ad, it means that the visitors landed on the website or landing page.

    So, the effectiveness of the landing page can be measured with a second conversion rate: the total number of visitors who clicked on the CTA as compared to the total number of people who reached the page.

    Another way to find your sweet spot is to perform A/B testing on your ads.

    To do this, release two ads at the same time that are alike in every way—messages, creatives, the audience—with just one variable that you want to test.

    It can be anything. For example, maybe you want to compare the response to two images you’re considering using in your ad. After a little while of tracking the performance of both ads, you’ll know which image gets a better response.

    3. Continuous positioning adjustments

    It’s important to keep in mind that your audience is not static.

    A promise that you made and that worked for you in 2019 might not work anymore in 2020 simply because the market has changed, your competitors are saying something new, or your targeted segment simply starts looking for what you do with different words.

    To update your ads and key messages, keep monitoring the market for updates, and keep tracking your competitors’ communications for new promises that might make yours look quite outdated.

    All of the above is relevant to most of your digital promotional activities. Note that your landing page quality is one of the criteria which Google keeps in mind when ranking ads and websites, so it’s definitely worth spending the time!

    Let’s see what else Google is looking for.

    How Does Google Decide to Promote One Ad Over Another?

    Since, as a rule, we pay a lot of attention to our SEO activities, especially Google, the ruler of organic traffic, we naturally turned to Google when we decided to give advertising a go.

    Created in the early 2000s, Google’s advertising network, formerly known as Google AdWords, has established itself as the undisputed leader in ad and banner advertising campaigns on search engines and websites. Although it was underestimated in its early days, it has become the de-facto reference in web marketing.

    Think about Google’s 3 stakeholders

    To get started, Google identifies three stakeholders in advertising:

    1. The Internet user (the target) who is looking for answers and information
    2. Google, which creates a space in its (or its partners’) search results
    3. Then the advertiser wishing to provide an offer related to the user’s request

    The advantage of this approach is that you can capture the attention of a user right when they are looking for something or want to buy something. By showing an ad directly related to a search query, you can redirect the internet user directly to what you have to offer.

    Increase your Ad Score before your Bids

    How does Google decide to place your ad rather than another’s? It arbitrates the competition between you and other advertisers by establishing a system for auctioning keywords.

    For each of your ads, you select one or more keywords for it and choose a maximum value that you are willing to pay to see it working. When the user types their request, you are put in competition with the other advertisers.

    It is not enough to win the auction to win your rank. Google also considers three other factors.

    1. The quality of the ad
    2. The impacts of the ad format.

    Altogether, these give an overall score, or ad rank, which is used to determine how your ad is ranked.

    Ad Rank = Bid x Quality Score x Format

    It’s important to notice that it’s not necessarily the highest bidder that wins; an advertiser with a fairly low bid could potentially compensate with a very high-quality score and format impact and thereby earn the top display position.

    In other words, if you are working with a limited marketing budget, it’s to your advantage to focus on improving your quality score.

    Don’t trust blindly

    It sounds like advice your wise grandmother might have given you, but it applies here as well.

    1. Keep challenging your agency or SEA specialist

    They might be phenomenal experts in their field and have an extensive track record of successful campaigns, but keep in mind that you know your product best, and they don’t necessarily know your customers’ mindset.

    So, keep asking questions, but, more importantly, keep tracking results so that you have tangible data to discuss, rather than trying to work with imprecise information like, “We like this,” or “One customer did not like that.”

    2. Choose your advertising partners carefully

    We found that advertising on a partner website has brought us some great traffic—one that is active and one that converts.

    The key is to choose the right partner website.

    To identify it, look at where else your best audience is browsing on the internet and where else is your competitors’ audience browsing, too. Partner websites should always make sense to your current brand audience since the channels that you select will impact your image and reputation.

    3. What works in one country does not work in the other

    Last but not least, if you decide to go international or if you are global already, don’t assume that what works in one market will easily be implementable in the next region.

    Make sure to work with your local team and customers to fully adjust the ad, the landing pages, and your ad partners to the local expectations.

    Related to the topic