Online ads for small business: a guide for beginners

Rita Amaral
October 27, 2021

As digital life continues to grow in multiple sectors, businesses are under pressure to secure an online presence to connect to their audience, work on their brand awareness and increase sales.

A great online presence starts with a clear strategy to set your brand apart from others. This usually means creating content in multiple channels.

Through content marketing and social media, you can position yourself and be seen by multiple audiences with different interests. An organic strategy may prove to be effective in the long run, but businesses can improve that strategy through online ads, especially small and local businesses.

This is our beginner’s guide on online ads for small businesses.

What is online advertising?

Online advertising is a form of marketing and advertising that is done on the internet.

Advertising has been around for decades, but the online environment provides new opportunities to talk directly to users. Businesses can now use different materials to promote their products and services to consumers. Other expressions referring to online advertising are digital advertising or web advertising.

What’s the difference between online advertising and traditional advertising?

There is some debate about the difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing.

In theory, there’s only one type of marketing, and it refers to the strategy that companies implement to get their consumers to see their products. This can be multichannel and in the form of text, audio, video, and image.

Traditional advertising accounts for “physical” advertising in magazines, billboards, newspapers and flyers. Sometimes TV is considered traditional marketing because it reaches different people at the same time.

Online advertising is a medium through which an audience encounters a marketing message. Digital marketing uses digital media, websites, blogs and social media. However, it has the power to target people individually and craft personal messages. You can use both in your advertising strategy. The main advantage is that because people spend a lot of time online consuming content on their mobile phones, it is wise for companies to be present in the digital arena.

Online advertising types

To advertise on digital media, you can use multiple channels and tools. Google Ads and Facebook Ads are the most common platforms among small and large businesses.

You can also use ads from different networks like Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and Amazon, for example.

With these, you can reach customers according to what they are doing online:

  1. Display advertising: display your ads when people are visiting a webpage;
  2. Mobile advertising: show your mobile-customised ads;
  3. Social ads: use ads on social media platform newsfeeds;
  4. Search Engine Marketing: show your ads when people are searching for topics related to your business;
  5. Retargeting and remarketing: show your ads to users who already interacted with your brand to increase conversions.

You can include all these tactics in your online ad strategy, but you don’t need to. Once you write down your goals, you can start with the 2–3 networks that will most benefit you.

How does online advertising work?

Every type of ad behaves with the goal of reaching customers in the best way possible.

In terms of Facebook ads, people scroll through their newsfeed and find content images and videos from pages and people alike. Some of that content can be an ad, a paid image to catch your attention and make you click on it.

For Google Search ads, these ads appear as users are looking for information. For example, imagine you want to buy a wooden watch for a friend. You search for “wooden watch”, and a company that is advertising that product appears. As you click on their ad, you see their online store and eventually buy a watch. If not you, someone else will probably buy it.

Online ads need to position themselves with unique copywriting and a clear offer to make prospects interested in knowing and buying from the advertisers.

There are two concepts you must be aware of: target and bidding.

Targeting is about how you will target your audience when using multiple networks.

To consider the target, think about how people search and find the content they need: it’s all about keywords. Targeting is, therefore, to be aware of the multiple ways people express themselves and which keywords they use to get the information they need.

If you write your ads with this logic in mind, your ad will appear to the targeted audience and increase your chances of getting a click and a sale.

Knowing the different keywords to use can help you draft call-to-actions and exclusive offers, matching the user’s intent with your content.

Bidding shows how networks choose which ads to show.

You and other companies compete for the same keywords, but there are only a few spots to fill. Most ad platforms use an auction bidding system to decide which ads to run.

In a bidding system, networks will only charge the lowest amount needed to win the bid. For example, imagine you bid 5 dollars for a click on your ad — if the next highest bid is 3 dollars, as you are interested in paying more, you win the bid. However, you will only pay 3.01 dollars for each click instead of your maximum price.

In the bidding systems, winning the bid is not the only factor. You win the top spot if your ads are relevant to the audience, your page rank is credible, and your ads match the search intent.

The benefits of online advertising

The Internet is still evolving when it comes to advertising potential. It’s a never-ending cycle: people spend more time online, businesses spend more money on ads, people click and buy more through these ads, they spend more time online researching, and so on and so on.

Being present is crucial to keeping sustainable results. Online ads can help you decrease the costs of your marketing efforts and drive you to profitability.

Here are some of the benefits of paying attention to your online strategy.

With online ads, you can measure and track. This is the real advantage most experts refer to when comparing traditional ads to online ads. When you print a magazine ad, you know how many magazines were sold. Still, you don’t know how many people saw it, how many ignored it and how many researched your service or product after they saw it.

With online ads, you can track that journey. The existing tools help you with your business metrics, and the stats the platforms show are accurate. This information is crucial for your marketing efforts.

You also have more options between different networks and places and engaging with diverse audiences and demographics (Google Display, Shopping Ads, Instagram story ads, etc.).

Another significant advantage is the lower cost and higher efficiency. If you know your audience, you can use relevant metrics and use that data to improve your ads, resulting in a better ROI for your marketing costs. The cost per ad is lower when compared to radio, for example. Therefore it is easier to start, even for a small business.

Lastly, in online advertising, it is easier to advertise and contact your potential customer. You can send messages, receive comments, get likes, answer questions. Communication is simpler, faster and more effective. Yes, you need to pay more attention to anything that mentions your brand, but it all amounts to significant data about the audience’s interests, dislikes, trends, etc.

In summary, online ads have some advantages, such as:

  • Measuring and tracking
  • More options
  • Lower costs
  • Higher efficiency
  • Interaction with users

How to start with online ads

Online advertising is like any other strategy: it needs to be aligned with your business goals. It is not just about pouring money into networks and hoping the systems will bring you a fortune. If you analyse and strategise key business points, your tactics will have the desired outcome.

Follow these 6 principles:

Know your product and audience

This is an internal and external exercise.

The internal aspect relates to the product: what makes it different? What does it deliver to the customer? What other similar products exist in the market? This knowledge gives you a better understanding of how to position your product in the market.

You can use a simple SWOT analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to identify key aspects of the product.

For the audience, find out where your ideal target lives in the digital world. Apart from demographic aspects, you can research other characteristics in Forums, Facebook groups, Reddit, and other social media platforms.

Build digital assets: website and social media

To get started in the digital world, you need a home, like a website.

This is your own digital tool, where you share information about yourself, your products or services, and contact info. By having a site, you will be able to track visitors and conversions and also drive traffic to it. Social media profiles help you increase traffic to your website. Start with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Start a content marketing strategy

Long-term content may be a nightmare for some, but starting with an organic strategy is essential — it’s the best way to start bringing traffic to your website and potential customers.

When you start advertising online, your organic results will increase also. It is a win-win using both to increase conversions. Starting with only ads will make you waste more money without positive results.

Create online ads goals

For your campaigns, do you want likes, followers, leads, purchases? By clarifying your goals, it will be easier to create content, text copy and imagery for it.

You will need different images to raise brand awareness and others to increase conversions. With everything working together, you maximise your efforts.

Invest in design and copy

Yes, colours, images and text can make a difference. A little bit of research will make this issue easier to understand.

People consume thousands of online messages through content, video, images and forms, but only a few are worthy of their attention. Therefore, you must aim for eye-catching copy and images to make the user stop scrolling and look at you.

It is also important to stay harmonious, to communicate a professional and cohesive brand. For this brand study, consider the fonts, text, colours and pictures that best translate your business values.

In terms of copy, comply with network rules, such as limits to the number of characters and image size. This will significantly improve your materials. Also, focus on an accessible language. Your brand can communicate online with fun, exciting, creative and assuring words. Finally, for conversions, focus on call-to-actions with clear offers and consistently deliver what users expect.

Optimise along the way

To see if a strategy is working, you must accumulate some data and then analyse it. If you keep changing your ads after a few days, you are not letting networks optimise your efforts.

However, you shouldn’t wait too long (like a month) to check for results. Track your work weekly, look at what’s not doing so well, ponder the reasons before making any decisions.

Let’s start?

Online advertisement has become an integral part of marketing plans and cannot be ignored for too long.

With the advertio app, you can create better ads that optimise your marketing efforts. Start with a careful strategy, follow this guide with simple tools and grow your business.

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