How to Leverage Paid Ad Platforms

The days of organic-only social traffic are dying. These days, traffic results are largely a pay-to-play game. But, doesn’t mean that you can’t get tons of organic traffic, it just means that, without ads, your competitors are going to have a distinct advantage over you.

If you really want to kill your metrics, you need to be buying paid ads and aligning them with your buyer’s journey. Ultimately, you should be focused on increasing traffic across verticals (organic & paid) within your budget.

But, before you start throwing money at an ad platform, you need to know the ins and outs of paid advertising. More specifically, which ad platforms should you use? What are the pros and cons of each? When should you use one platform over another?

Well, that’s what today’s post is all about. We’re going to break down the basics of ad platforms so you have a better idea of which one will work for YOU in YOUR specific situation.

Let’s do it!

Facebook

With 2 billion global monthly active users, Facebook is definitely one of the densest, most productive marketing tools on the planet — especially when you figure in that the average American spends over 35 minutes per day on Facebook.

So, let’s dive into some pros and cons and see why so many marketers are budgeting for Facebook.

Pros

Lookalike and Custom Audiences Lets You Get Granular

Facebook’s lookalike audiences let you get super-specific and really play around with consumer analytics. Do you want to target consumers who purchased your competitor’s products? No problem! Are you trying to target an audience that likes your videos and has consumed at least 10 seconds of one? Go for it!

There is a ton of data to leverage when you’re using Facebook, and you can set up some pretty complex and wild targeting strategies based on lookalike audiences.

Here’s the kicker, you can start eliminating groups from your ad targeting once you see some results. Are women between the ages of 20 and 30 showing lower engagement than the rest of your core audience? Stop targeting them!

The ability to constantly improve upon your marketing strategy with custom and lookalike audiences is huge. If your budget is tight, you can figure out what kinds of people are engaging (top 2 – 3%) the most with your latest ads and then create a new lookalike audience based on those people. By narrowing your scope, you can save a ton of money and pull in hyper-relevant prospects.

Is your latest ad run getting massive engagement from people who lean a certain political direction? Create a lookalike audience that includes political lean! You can get as granular as finding people who searched for specific phrases in the past, and there are tons of resources out there that will show you how to do some interesting and unique targeting strategies.

Note: You can set up custom audiences with your existing email and contact info (from forms, etc.) So, you don’t have to start fresh. You can even export your files into Facebook’s lookalike audience to have it garner a similar audience.

It’s Cheap!

Compared to other ad platforms, Facebook is dirt cheap. You can go wild with your campaigns. Want to randomly test a new market? Feel free! You can allocate small budgets towards A/B testing ad batches and still walk out with a return.

Not only is Facebook cheap, but you can also literally start out with any budget. If you’re a brand-spanking-new eCommerce store that sells fancy pants, you can go onto Facebook with that $100 you’ve been saving and try to convert some prospects with high-quality images of your shiny pants. Of course, you can also utilize the Facebook carousel, which is showing heavy returns for tons of eCommerce players.

In this same vein of thought, Dynamic Facebook ads are cheap, and they’re a great way to reduce your cart abandonment rates. You can upload your entire catalog of products and redisplay ads to users who recently visited your website.

Note: You can set up Facebook ads by either “lifetime” or “daily.” Daily budgets are how much you want to spend in a day, and Facebook’s algorithm will try to find the most cost-effective way for you to use up that money (important: Facebook can go up to 25% over your daily budget.) Lifetime value will try to set up long-term campaigns based on how much you want to spend over a lifetime. That being said, if that numbers low (think $100,) Facebook’s algorithm may burn through it all in a day.

A Million Options

The question isn’t whether or not Facebook ads work; it’s which kinds of Facebook ads work. Seriously. There are tons of different types of ads, and Facebook seems to roll a new one out every few months.

So far, we have:

  • Domain Ads
  • Carousel Ads
  • Video Ads
  • Text Ads
  • Photo Ads
  • Collection Ads
  • Offer Ads 
  • Canvas
  • Boosted Page Posts
  • Lead Ads
  • Sponsored Mentions
  • Dynamic Ads
  • and a few more!

*we went ahead and highlighted the ads that work best for eCommerce brands.

Really, you should be using a combination of these ad types. We aren’t going to dive deep on these ad types in this post (coming soon!), but we will say that blending ads is by far the best approach. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket kind of thing.

With the insane amount of data that Facebook has combined with all of these ad types, Facebook is a great way to get scrappy and put out some great, original ads or try out some crazy strategies — especially since you can do it for so cheap!

Do you want to target the news feed, messenger, or Instagram? Do you want to use video, text, or images? Who do you want to target? Facebook lets you get granular with all of those questions.

Facebook Ads Naturally Boost Your Page Likes

Of course, ads are great at converting customers, but there’s another really great thing that they do — get you LIKES. Paid ads give you more organic reach and paid reach. Since all of those soon-to-be customers are visiting your Facebook page and checking out your fancy pants, they may also drop a like (or two,) which will expand your organic strategy as well!

Cons

Time Consuming

Running a business Facebook page is insanely time-consuming. Not only are you going to be hustling through A/B tests, microtargeting, segmenting, and strategy stress-tests with your paid ads, you have to spend time creating organic Facebook content as well as connecting with your users and keeping them up-to-date.

Winning the Facebook game takes a ton of patience and effort, especially since it’s such a heavily saturated platform. Typically, eCommerce (and other B2C) brands hire an agency to handle their Facebook strategy.

Competition-heavy

Trying to compete on Facebook isn’t for the faint of heart. Over 86% of marketers in the US utilize Facebook, which means that using paid ads on Facebook is akin to walking into a battleground.

Depending on your vertical, you could be battling against multi-million dollar Facebook campaigns. You have to be ready to get in the ring! 🥊

Usually, this means getting really creative with your ads. Of course, that can be difficult — especially for those who are trying to scrap it out without an agency.

You can certainly go and read “the best Facebook strategy ever!” posts that saturate marketing blogs across the internet, but, the truth is, if a strategy is posted, there are probably TONS of people already using that strategy.

Negative Publicity

#DeleteFacebook is trending. Look, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. But, the negative publicity circling recent moves by both Zuckerberg and Sandberg is undoubtedly having an impact.

Really, this isn’t so much of a con. It’s more of a “keep your eye on this.” For now, Facebook numbers are still strong, but their competitors are keeping a careful eye on the current political and social economy of Facebook — you should be as well.

Facebook is Best For:

Everyone. Seriously. Whether your an eCommerce B2C that’s just starting out or you’re a B2C SaaS company that’s already established, Facebook is a great marketing vertical.

That being said, Facebook is stronger in some areas than other ad platforms, and these are the areas that you should be hyper-focusing on.

Strong for: eCommerce, non-profits, social shopping, hyper-targeted campaigns, budget warriors, and creatives.

Weaker for: Firmographics (more on this in the LinkedIn section,) cultural creatives (more on this in the YouTube section,) and organic traffic.

Google Ads

Did you know that the average business that puts $1 into Ads gets a $2 return? Google Ads is a little “old-school” at this point. It still uses the same concept that it’s been using for years. You can bid on keywords in an attempt to have clickable ads show up when people search for those keywords (a.k.a the sponsored results you see when you make a Google search.)

Pros

Easy-and-Quick

Modern Google Ads has certainly remained fluid in the ever-changing world of advertising. Features like Dynamic Search Ads let marketers autopilot a good portion of their Ads work by only targeting users based on website content, landing pages, and existing content keywords. Of course, you still have the option to granularize your targeting.

But, in general, Google Ads is much easier to run campaigns on. You don’t have to worry about ad-specific video creatives. Really, you just have to nail your descriptions.

Quick Traffic

Google Ads will give you quick traffic. Period. That being said, the traffic can be expensive, and you’re not guaranteed any conversions (unless you’re paying top dollar for them.) But, if you’re impatient, Google Ads can give you some rapid traffic. SEO takes a while; Google Ads does not.

Cons

Can Be Expensive

Expensive can be an understatement. Competitive industries can cost upwards of $100 per click. Really, Google Ads is probably the least bang-for-your-buck paid ad service on this list. If you want results with Google Ads, it’s going to cost you. Sure, some keywords are cheap, but they are low-volume keywords that only work with hyper-niche industries. But, if you have some competitors, there’s a good chance that they’re using Google Ads and driving up the price on your niche’s keywords.

If you want Google Ads to work for you, have a nearby ATM ready.

You Have Carefully Target Users

Running a campaign requires that you have a good eye for keywords. Not only do you have to figure out which keywords will give you the lowest cost-per-click while still driving in traffic, but you also have to add enough negative keywords to ensure that you’re not paying for clicks that you don’t want. Again, Dynamic Ads helps in this regard, but it doesn’t fix the issue.

Google Ads is Best For:

Google Ads isn’t going to work for everyone. Honestly, it’s pretty expensive. So, some newer (or smaller) businesses may want to try other avenues. You don’t want to blow your whole marketing budget on blue links.

Strong for: Google Ads is great for major players or small businesses that are targeting hyper-niche keywords. It can super-boost your traffic — for a price. It’s also a necessity for major players.

Weak for: Low budgets and super competitive keywords.

LinkedIn

When it comes to B2B marketing, LinkedIn is king. Like Facebook, LinkedIn lets you play with segmented populations, complex targeting mechanisms, and unique filters. But, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn enables you to play around with firmographics. This means you can go after specific business members in an organization or even specific business roles.

Pros

Crazy Good B2B

Again, LinkedIn has good B2B. Like, crazy good. Do you want to target business execs that actually have the power to make purchasing decisions? LinkedIn can do that. Do you want to target businesses with organic content and send them one-on-one messages? You can do that too!

While we’re focusing on paid-only marketing in this article, it’s important to keep in mind that LinkedIn is also great for simply spreading organic content to businesses.

Paid advertising on LinkedIn is really safe. Since everyone on the platform is generally interested in business news, topics, and stories (or finding jobs!) you run less of a risk of being associated with negative stories, making advertising mistakes that impact culture, and accidentally making mishaps like putting out controversial ads due to recent events.

Tons of Options

Like Facebook, LinkedIn has a ton of advertising options. You have:

  • Text ads
  • Display ads
  • Dynamic ads
  • Video ads (new and amazing!)
  • Lead gen ads
  • InMail ads

Of course, within each of these ad types, there are a ton of segmentation options, dynamic attributes, and personalization options. Like all of the options on this list, you compete on a bidding-based system for ads, and you can set them up per impression, click, conversion, etc.

You can also do retarget users by installing a tracking pixel (like Facebook) and use targeting methods that let you target businesses, business members, and specific business niches.

InMail

Being able to use InMail advertising sets LinkedIn apart from Facebook and similar competitors in the paid advertising space. You can send ads directly to users’ inboxes and then communicate with them one-on-one for a more human-to-human experience. It’s similar to email advertising, except it goes directly to exactly who you want, and LinkedIn makes the transition from ad to conversation simple.

Cons

Expensive

LinkedIn is more expensive than Facebook — by a long shot. Given that LinkedIn is saturated with business professionals, it makes sense. But, if you’re a B2C eCommerce business, LinkedIn may make less sense long-term than Facebook. If you’re B2B, the cost probably makes sense, especially since you can target decision-makers directly — which will save you money and headaches.

InMail

How is InMail both a pro and a con? Well, lately, InMail advertising has gone berserk on LinkedIn. It’s starting to feel spammy for many users, and your advertising may get largely ignored. What started off as a fantastic way to communicate with users one-on-one has become akin to Gmail ads. It’s not as strong as it used to be, but it’s definitely not worthless.

Not as Rich for B2C

Again, LinkedIn ads appeal to B2B needs, but they may not be the best choice for B2C businesses. Since you’re paying more and most of the targeting features leverage corporate structure, you may find that your KPIs are lower with LinkedIn than with other options if you’re trying to sell those fancy pants.

LinkedIn is Best For:

B2B! This is by far the best B2B marketing platform on the planet.

Strong for: B2B businesses or anyone that wants to play with firmographics.

Weak for: B2C businesses that want to work on a budget.

Display Ads

We’ve all seen display ads before. Back before ad blockers, these were hot real estate; display ads were everywhere. If you went to a website in 2013, there’s a 99.9% chance that you would see display ads. Nowadays, display ads are a little old-school. But, that doesn’t mean that display ads aren’t around anymore. In fact, there are over 2 million websites that still utilize display ads, and they reach a whopping 90% of the internet (well, as long as they don’t have an adblocker!)

Pros

Flexible

The only limiting factor of display ads is space. You can make them text-based, image-based, and even video-based. Do you want explosive, sparkling ads that scream “click me!”? Or, do you want a serious ad that appeals to the business professional? With display ads, you can have all of the above.

Tons of Reach

No other ad type gives you the reach of display ads. Period. That being said, adblocker is the elephant-in-the-room, and the number of people that display ads reach is shrinking daily. We would also venture to guess that display ads aren’t reaching as many younger people as they are older since adblocker is native to many young internet users.

Cons

Ad-blocker

Of course, the biggest con is adblocker. Display ads reach is simply declining. Adblockers are the norm.

Reputation

Let’s all be honest; display ads have a bad reputation. Would you click a display ad? That’s the central question. Display ads can seem spammy, especially given their usage in blackhat circles. This doesn’t mean that people will automatically assume that your display ads are spam, but some will.

Ignored

Finally, display ads have become second nature to many. If you aren’t an adblocker user, you’re probably so used to display ads that you don’t even notice them anymore. They’ve been around for what seems like a lifetime, and they haven’t changed too terribly during those years. This lack of progression is a major drawback.

Strong for: Getting significant reach! Great for starting marketing campaigns.

Weak for: Everything else. Honestly, display ads are probably the weakest link on this list. Adblockers and past spam-filled drama has significantly impacted the usability of display ads.

Youtube

Running ads on YouTube is a whole different ballgame than any of the other options on this list. It’s all about videos, culture, and, well, engagement.

YouTube has positioned itself as one of the single best outlets for marketers, and it’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool for video creatives.

Pros

King of Video

Obviously, YouTube is the preferred platform for video advertising. Not only does YouTube have over 1.9 billion users, but it’s also the single most popular social media website for teens and seniors.

For advertisers, the ability to tap into this massive bank of users is obviously great, but it’s also a little tricky. Being the king of video content comes with a price — meme culture, explosive trends, and a rapidly evolving user base.

To make things better, the average mobile session time on YouTube is over 40 minutes! Which is absolutely insane.

Emotion and Targeting

If there’s one thing that YouTube is great for, it’s sparking emotion. Videos are a great way to pull at people’s heartstrings, rile them up, and make them passionate about your products. By leveraging heavy emotions, YouTube can give you some spectacular results. Now, it’s important to note that emotion is hit-or-miss. Because of the way that YouTube’s pricing structure works, you may not want to invest in your emotional branding until AFTER 5 seconds goes by (more on that below.)

Viral

You can go viral on YouTube. The viral sensation isn’t limited to videos — ads can gain the same attention. We saw that with the Samsung India example, but there are plenty of others. Of course, there’s also the ability to enter the ever-fickle meme culture, as Tai Lopez did with his Here In My Garage ad.

Cons

You Have to Understand YouTube

To really leverage YouTube, you have to understand YouTube. The current trends, video types, and pop-culture phenomenon are all critical towards building a successful ad. YouTube is a constantly changing market, and being able to use its current ups and downs is a great way to make your ads stick. But, if you don’t have time to pay attention to trends, your ad may fall flat.

Time Consuming

Simply put, YouTube ads are time-consuming to make. You have to create entire videos (usually multiple,) and they may have a short shelf life. Fortunately, YouTube doesn’t make you pay for ads that are skipped before the 5 seconds are up. If users stay past 5 minutes, you’re going to pay money — sometimes, a lot of money.

Because of this, we recommend branding in the first 5 seconds and trying to eliminate as many people as possible during those first few seconds. Make sure that only people who are interested in what you’re offering are sticking around — because you’re paying for anyone who watches your ad past those 5 seconds.

Expensive

Not only is YouTube advertising generally more expensive than all other Google ad platforms, but it’s also a little tricky. Since users can upload videos and tag them as, well, whatever they want, your ads may not always reach the audience that you want them to reach. Luckily, you can set up more advanced parameters to mitigate some of that risk.

YouTube is Best For:

Really, YouTube is best for almost any business that has video creatives.

Strong for: Video creatives, viral content, and emotional marketing.

Weak for: Marketers with basic videos (Facebook is cheaper!) and those who don’t have a deep understanding of YouTube marketing.

Final Thoughts

By leveraging paid ads, you can explode your reach and growth. But, make sure that you’re using the right platform for your business and your ad type. Every ad platform has its own unique pros and cons, and the ad platform that you decide to use is going to massively impact your end results. While Facebook is the go-to for many marketers, YouTube and LinkedIn can absolutely dominate for certain companies if they use them right. Of course, Google Ads can help businesses draw in massive amounts of traffic, and display ads can give you tons of reach.

Let’s wrap this up with a quick summary.

Facebook

  • You can work on a budget.
  • Tons of ad options!
  • You can get granular and segment populations in a really smart way
  • There’s lots of competition
  • Negative press is putting the company in the limelight
  • Creating an ad campaign on Facebook is time-consuming

Google Ads

  • Quick-and-easy to set up.
  • Can generate LOTS of quick traffic.
  • Keywords can be insanely expensive.
  • You don’t have to create complex creatives, which is a double-edged sword.

LinkedIn

  • Great for B2B
  • Not so great for B2C
  • Can play with firmographics
  • More expensive than Facebook
  • Unique ad options (like InMail)

Display Ads

  • Tons of reach
  • Cheap
  • Ad blockers make display ads much less impactful
  • Easy to assume as spam

YouTube

  • You can go viral!
  • Tons of exposure
  • You can play with emotions
  • Lots and lots of users
  • Costly
  • Heavily culture-based (you need to know the ins-and-outs of YouTube)

If you’re looking for an agency that thoroughly understands the pros and cons of each platform and how to use each one to its maximum potential, contact us. We get it! You’re busy running a business and offering great products/services. Hand us the marketing keys, and we’ll make sure that people can find all of those amazing things that you’re selling.

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