With so much of our lives now taking place online, advertisers must think beyond TV jingles and magazine placements to court potential customers in digital spaces. A brand has to stand out on the typical user’s doomscroll, maybe even bring some levity and joy to those bloodshot eyes.
Almost any company can pay its way to the top of a Google search or inject an ad right into the middle of a YouTube video, and the beauty of digital advertising is that it allows nimble small business owners to compete with the global corporate heavyweights in the same ad space.
What is digital advertising?
Digital advertising is a marketing tool that allows brands to utilize images, video, text, and other mediums to maximize audience outreach across an assortment of online ad platforms. Digital advertising campaigns are also much easier to implement than more traditional ad formats and give you the agility to tweak ad campaigns as needed based on performance metrics and other data.
What is a digital advertising platform?
A digital advertising platform is any online space where advertisers can monetize visitor traffic through the products or services they offer. There are many digital ad platforms you can choose from, and each offers its own unique features to help you target your ideal customer through data-driven ad customization.
The top 6 digital advertising platforms
As the world’s preferred search engine, Google offers advertisers one of the most effective platforms for reaching not just an enormous audience but the right audience. With Google Ads, advertisers can pitch to their audience via display ads, search ads, or a combination of both. Most Google searches include a series of keyword-targeted Google Ads at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) as well as the bottom, with organic search results sandwiched between the two. Display ads can run on web pages and include remarketing ads that specifically target repeat visitors, along with banner ads, TrueView in-stream ads which run on YouTube, and other ad formats. Advertisers can also opt for Google Ad’s recently launched Performance Max which optimizes automated campaigns across both display and search.
- Pros of Google Ads. Google’s targeted campaigns make it easy for businesses of all sizes to connect with potential customers who are already actively searching online for the goods or services your business provides. Google’s straightforward approach to data and analytics makes it easy to measure the success of your campaigns and adjust your focus accordingly.
- Cons of Google Ads. Costs can be sky-high depending on how competitive the market is for your particular set of keywords. Advertisers should also bear in mind that Google Ads isn’t entirely foolproof. Yes, Google Ads does most of the heavy lifting, but it’s up to advertisers to maintain best SEO practices and create an enticing user experience that helps convert users into customers.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is neck and neck with Google Ads in terms of scope. Its 1.6 billion users make it one of the most attractive advertising platforms out there. Facebook Ads gives you access to the full suite of Meta’s products, not just Facebook. That includes enormous markets like Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger. Meta’s available ad formats include Video, Photo, Stories, Messenger, Carousels of both videos and images, Slideshows, Collections, and Playables. Meta users receive targeted campaigns based on profile specifics such as age, location, and content interactions, (plus some other factors Meta does not disclose).
- Pros of Facebook Ads. Because Meta (FKA Facebook) collects so much data on its users, you’re able to target your audience down to the finest details.
- Cons of Facebook Ads. While Facebook’s market share is massive, it by no means constitutes the entire internet. Focus your ad efforts exclusively on Facebook, and you risk missing out on your target audience elsewhere online.
While Instagram technically falls under the Meta umbrella of Facebook Ads, it does have its own unique advantages for advertisers, especially those with an existing presence on Instagram. Besides the usual Facebook Photo, Video, Carousel, and Stories ads, any post you’ve shared on Instagram can be promoted and tracked as an ad that appears in feeds or on Instagram’s Explore feature. Merchants can also take advantage of Instagram Shopping by creating a mobile storefront and tagging items to purchase directly from posted images.
- Pros of Instagram Ads. If you’re already in the habit of keeping up a profile for your brand through posts and stories, Instagram Ads is an easy way to share your work with a like-minded audience on one of the most visited social platforms out there.
- Cons of Instagram Ads. Sure, Instagram’s audience of one billion users offers a lot of marketing potential, but an image-based app may not be the best fit for all businesses. You may find it takes a little extra creativity to promote, say, your podcast or new book versus a Netflix series or the latest Nikes.
Bing Ads, now rebranded as Microsoft Advertising, gives advertisers access to users at MSN, Yahoo, and AOL as well as Bing by way of search engine marketing and native advertising. Microsoft’s partner audiences may not have the same range as Google or Facebook, but they do collectively reach 7.3 billion desktop users, and that’s 44 million more than Google. Bing Ads also has another edge over the competition with a user demographic that skews older, and older users are assumed to have more disposable income.
- Pros of Bing Ads. Besides its unique demographic, Bing advertisers face less keyword competition and lower costs. Bing also allows for more customization in ad scheduling which can be a valuable tool for campaigns launched across multiple time zones.
- Cons of Bing Ads. There’s a reason why Bing costs advertisers less, and that’s because they are at a disadvantage in terms of audience size. Bing also presents a minor challenge for copywriters with ad descriptions capped at 80 characters as opposed to Google’s 90. Ad headlines are also limited to two versions versus Google’s three.
The world’s largest e-commerce retailer boasts a customer base of over 300 million worldwide and knows a thing or two about online consumer behaviors. Amazon’s range of online advertising products includes audio ads, video ads, sponsored products, sponsored brands, sponsored display, stores, Amazon attribution, Amazon demand-side platform (DSP), and custom advertising.
- Pros of Amazon Ads. Presumably, Amazon’s audience is there because they’re ready to shop, and that’s a significant advantage for sellers. Another perk, ads can re-target shoppers who have already viewed your ad.
- Cons of Amazon Ads. Unless you’re automating your campaigns, optimizing your Amazon ads can take a lot of time and know-how. Price can also be a deterrent if you’re advertising in a highly competitive area.
This top social network attracts a daily average of 206 million monetizable users. That’s a big audience, and Twitter has several ad formats to help you tap into them. You can choose from Text, Image, Video, Carousel, and Moment ads. Brands on Twitter can also promote engagement and attract new users through Follower ads, Twitter-specific features like shareable polls, branded hashtags, and conversation buttons, as well as Amplify Pre-roll Video ads, Amplify sponsorships, Twitter Live events, and Timeline Takeovers.
- Pros of Twitter Ads. If you’re hoping to target a younger demographic, Twitter could provide an upper hand. According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of U.S. adults use Twitter, and 42% of those users are between the ages of 18 and 29. Despite Twitter’s popularity as a social network, its audience is still dwarfed by heavyweights like Google and Facebook. On the upside, that also means it will cost you less.
- Cons of Twitter Ads. Twitter’s reporting interface may not feel as intuitive as Google or Facebook ads, and reporting is nowhere near as granular. For play-by-play reporting down to the hour, you may have to rely on an external program.
Must-haves for every digital advertising platform
The digital advertising platform you choose should be suitably equipped to lead potential customers to your products or services. At a minimum, the most effective platforms will be able to provide you with the following:
- A range of potential ad placements. Diversify your campaign by running ads in a variety of formats, such as display or search ads. This ensures you’re broadening your reach. Just remember, not every ad format will be a match for your product, so don’t force it.
- Access to the global market. You want your campaign in front of as many eyeballs as possible, in as many places as possible, and that means working with a widely-used advertising platform that builds your brand’s presence worldwide.
- Advanced analytics tools. Possibly the most critical trait of an effective digital ad platform, the platform you choose will provide you with the insights you need to determine the success of your campaign. Without proper campaign analytics and tracking, you’ll never know if your ads are resonating with your audience and, if not, what to do to correct the situation.
- Ad options that suit your budget. A lot goes into determining the cost of a digital ad campaign, and it often depends on how competitive your industry is. However, it doesn’t have to cost a lot, and there should be at least a few available formats you can afford to test on a small scale before committing.