7 Online Advertising Tips for Startups and Small Businesses

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If you run a startup or a small business, you probably know that effective online advertising can be crucial for your growth strategy. But in the midst of handling everything else to keep your business running, it can be very challenging to make your ads profitable. The numbers don’t lie: a study last year showed that small businesses waste an average of 25% of their online advertising budget because they aren’t effectively managing their campaigns.

Let’s be honest—there’s a science behind what makes pay per click (PPC) advertising work, and learning it all by yourself might not be your biggest priority or interest. But there are some basics that will help you get a competitive and even profitable ad campaign running. Here are 7 of our favorites:

Learn the Key Advertising Metrics
You can’t keep score at a baseball game if you don’t know what a “run” is, and with PPC advertising, you’ll need a similar base of knowledge to keep score of your campaigns. Make sure you understand advertising terminology and metrics like cost per click (CPC), cost per thousand (CPM), cost per action/acquisition (CPA), click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rate. Getting a handle on these metrics will help you to not only speak the language—you’ll need them to improve your overall ROI by interpreting reports, identifying weaknesses and opportunities in your ad strategy, and giving more specific direction to your campaign manager.

Set Up Conversion Pixels
Do not, we repeat, do NOT skip this step! Setting up conversion pixels is critical to tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns, as well as the user actions that lead to conversions. Many small businesses implement this functionality well after the campaign has started—or worse, do it incorrectly—resulting in virtually no useful data to learn from. If you’re unsure how to set up your conversion pixels, contact your ad network’s technical support before starting any advertising campaigns. That way, from day one you’ll begin getting valuable insight from every ad dollar you spend.

Start Small
Don’t feel like you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars every month to get good results from your online advertising. One of the principle rules to building a successful ad campaign is to start small; optimize your campaigns until achieve profitability; and then increase your spend to get more traffic. Another potential pitfall for startups and small businesses is, at the very beginning, trying to simultaneously manage too many ad groups, variations, and campaigns. This can spread your interested clicks so thin that it’s impossible to tell what’s working and what’s not on a limited budget. Start with one or two campaigns, and just a few ad groups and ad variations. That way, you can start generate enough clicks and conversions to draw reliable insights before you start to…

Test, Test, Test
You’ll never know if your existing advertising strategies are the most effective until you try something else. Testing is critical to figuring out the most effective return on your ad spend. As long as you’ve set up conversion pixels to determine effectiveness of your current strategies, you can begin testing everything: keywords and their respective bids, ad headlines, images on display campaigns, offer and call-to-action language, etc

Remember that testing in a targeted fashion can be more productive (and is always cheaper) than testing en masse. If you make various changes, you’ll want to pinpoint which change led to which result through analysis of the performance data. With any size PPC budget, keep a close eye on your cost per action (CPA) and try to identify that “tipping point” where your CPA gets closer to your revenue/profitability goals. And don’t forget to test your landing pages as well. You could write the best ads in your industry, but still have poor ROI if your landers aren’t designed for optimal user experience and conversion.

Retarget and Remarket
If you’ve done any sort of online advertising, you may have heard of the terms “retargeting” and “remarketing” thrown around. Remarketing is a fantastic way to continuously engage users who have already expressed interest in your business—by displaying your ads to them as they browse all sorts of other websites . It is useful both for visitors who didn’t convert originally (maybe it wasn’t the right time or the offer wasn’t ideal) and for existing customers who can offer additional lifetime value through repeat conversions and ongoing brand building. Most importantly, remarketing can offer one of the most profitable forms of online advertising, because retargeted visitors have a higher propensity to convert than do users clicking on your ad for the first time.

Get Professional Design
Too many startups and small businesses cut corners on design, either by hiring the cheapest designer they can find or by attempting to do it themselves. But similar to the science of online advertising, the art of effective digital design requires talent, experience, finesse, and a knack for turning ideas into stunning collateral. Plus, the look and feel of your collateral will have a huge impact on your brand’s performance, so this is definitely an area to invest in smartly.

If you don’t have a rockstar designer in house, we suggest hiring a freelance designer to produce high quality display ads and website landing pages (if you’re an Advertise.com customer we offer it as a complimentary service). That way, when you’re spending money to attract visitors to your site, they’ll be experiencing your brand at its most impressive look and feel. This establishes both credibility and brand trust from your audience, which is critical for turning them into customers. When hiring a designer, provide all the relevant info about your brand’s goals, values, and aesthetic, as well as details on all the possible versions of collateral you might need (sizes, layouts, interactive vs. static ads, etc.). The more your professional designer knows about your business, the higher quality and more effective designs you’ll get in return.

Ask for Help
For any size business advertising on the Internet, having specialized online account managers can be the difference between an unprofitable campaign and one that pays back its value over and over again. In our experience, the best online advertising programs occur when business owners do what they do best—managing the core functions of their business—while getting the tailored support they need from advertising professionals who do it all day, every day. Remember, a solid ad network or consultant shouldn’t just sell you traffic. They should be able to help you manage your campaigns to reach the highest level of profitability for your business.

As a top-ranked ad network, Advertise.com provides market-leading online advertising and web monetizing solutions for companies around the world. Contact us to learn more or get started with your advertising campaigns.