When you hear the words “online advertising,” which thought comes to mind: “Ooh, here comes new business” or “Ouch, that’s a big expense”?
We’ve been in the “ouch” camp before ourselves and can’t say we’d blame you for feeling that way. After all, ads can be expensive and ad networks can feel overwhelming.
But once you see results, it’s easy to get excited about new business—an “ooh” moment for sure.
And once you do a little testing and get experience in an ad network (or work with a consultant 😉), you can bring your ad costs down—another “ooh” moment!
So what does it take to get to the good part? A willingness to spend some time and money testing ads for the best results.
Not so easy, we know, so we’re putting together a series of posts on online advertising for small business. In this first one, we’ll show you the overall landscape of online ad networks for small business. In future posts, we’ll dig deeper into each one.
Who are you trying to reach?
When we’re asked for the best place to advertise a small business, we unfortunately have to answer with “it depends.”
Yes, it depends on your goals, your budget, your product/service, and – very importantly – your audience.
It only makes sense that a store selling the latest sneakers to Generation Z will advertise differently than a kitchen remodeling business targeting older homeowners.
You have to know your customer in order to figure out where to reach them online.
Once you know who you’re reaching with your ads, it’s easier to find the best places to reach them.
Top ad networks for small business
Here are the networks we recommend for small business ads online. Be ready for some testing and trial-and-error to get the best results for your budget.
The big gorilla in the market, Google gets the biggest share of ad dollars online. This amounted to 36.3% of the market in 2020, according to eMarketer.com vs. 19.3% for Facebook. Google ads include text ads that appear on search pages and display ads (ads with photos or videos) on websites within their network.
The level of competition here matters because of the way these networks run. Google’s is based on an auction process for keywords. The “cost per click” of a keyword phrase, like “wood kitchen cabinets” for example, is based on how many advertisers are competing for it, the number of people searching for it and other factors.
Cost per click means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to visit your site. There are no “standard” costs, but there are charts with average cost-per-click rates for different industries to give you an idea.
We’ll dive deeper into how their ads work soon in this series. Just know that we recommend Google Ads for small businesses that want to get leads and send more traffic to their websites. One of the biggest advantages is that you can reach almost any type of consumer in the search engine and while the budget may need to a be a little higher, Google Ads generally deliver a good return on investment.
Facebook is a great choice if you know your audience and have a niche product or service. It’s less expensive than Google, but not as cheap as it used to be.
Facebook’s superpower is its ability to target down to a very narrow subset of customers based on their interests and even recent behaviors. For example, you reach women in Austin, Texas who are under 35 years old, pregnant and shopping for furniture.
Like Google, Facebook’s ad pricing is based on an auction system. Unlike Google, the system is not based on keywords, but on your bid and on the ad itself—how relevant it is to your audience. Also, you’re bidding not for the top ad spot, but for your ad to appear to more people who fit your criteria and who are likely to convert.
In essence, you need the best bid and an ad that your audience reacts to. This is the magic formula for Facebook, because the more people who engage with your ad and take action, the better your ad campaign will do.
Overall, there are very good reasons to advertise on Facebook. You’ll have lower costs in general and an amazing degree of targeting customization. And let’s not forget that almost 80% of Americans use Facebook, so your ideal customer is likely to be active here.
While Instagram’s fan base is smaller than Facebook’s, it’s one that’s highly desired by many advertisers: Millennials and Generation Z.
But there’s a catch-22 at play here. Millennials and Gen Z are the least trusting of traditional ads, unless the ads are from brands they already like or use. This is one reason why sponsored posts and endorsements by influencers have taken off on Instagram.
It’s also a highly visual network, featuring photos or videos. It makes sense then that an ad here will need to be visually appealing and engaging as well.
Overall, you should consider Instagram if your audience is in their 30s or younger. (Keep in mind, the oldest Millennials are now 40 years old). We recommend it because you can get a good return, as long as you know how to promote to this audience and are familiar with the platform’s culture.
These are the top 3 ad networks we recommend to businesses that want to advertise online. Of course, there are many others we would suggest for different cases, like LinkedIn for business-to-business or YouTube for those who are good at video marketing. But the three above cover a broad range and deliver the best results if you’re targeting consumers in today’s market.
Let us know if you need help getting started with online ads or want to discuss the best options for your business.