Getting The Most Out of Display Advertising

This is a guest post by Caroline Watts, Marketing Manager at ReTargeter.


Display advertising is an established digital marketing tactic, but lately it’s gotten a bit of a bad rap. But display doesn’t have to be ineffective. Like with most marketing channels, display campaigns are only as effective as they are well-run. Ignore best practices and you aren’t likely to be successful, but run a well-managed campaign and you can see impressive results.

 

Though there are many factors that go into a making display work, the following aspects of your campaigns are likely to have the most significant effect on your success: who you’re reaching, what your ads look like, and how well display is integrated with your other marketing channels.

 

Reaching the Right People


With display, as with most forms of advertising, it’s all about audience. If your ads aren’t getting in front of the right people, nothing else matters. Fortunately, this part is easy to get right. One of the primary benefits of display advertising is the robust and precise targeting available to advertisers. Here are a few different types of targeting you can employ to make sure your campaigns don’t miss their marks:

 

  • Site Retargeting: Retargeting, the practice of serving ads to people who have previously visited your website, is one of the most effective forms of display advertising because it focuses on the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service right now. Retargeting can work well for virtually any business, as there isn’t a marketer out there for whom conversion rates are 100%.
  • Advanced Retargeting: There are many more complex forms of retargeting, which allow you to target ads based on other activities like opening an email or searching for relevant keywords. Depending on your business, it probably makes sense to start with site retargeting and incorporate more advanced targeting techniques as you become more experienced.
  • Demographic and Geographic Targeting: If you have a good idea of what your ideal customer looks like, demographic information like age, gender, income, or occupation can help focus a campaign on the people most likely to be interested in your messages. Targeting your ads by geography is also a particularly effective way to keep costs low and relevancy high.

 

Creative Matters


One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make with display is under-investing in creative. Banner ads are not all ineffective—but bad banner ads are. Make sure your in-house designer or contracted design service has experience with banners and is well-versed in the best practices of banner design. Regardless of campaign type, banner ads should always be memorable, aesthetically pleasing, representative of your brand, and should stand out from the page. 

 

It’s definitely possible to run effective display campaigns with well-designed static ads, but it’s also a good idea to test rich media like Flash and video to see if you can get even more out of your campaigns.

 

If you’re designing banners in-house, make sure you have a good sense of how others in your space are using display. Using MixRank, you can actually check out all your competitors’ display ads and use their design choices to inform how your campaigns.

 

No Campaign Exists in a Vacuum


Display is an incredibly powerful marketing channel, but it’s most effective when it’s one campaign of many. Display can complement paid search, social media, and email marketing (just to name a few), but it’s important that all your campaigns are well-integrated. Make sure that your various campaigns are truly supporting each other. Though each campaign should be tailored to its respective medium, the messaging you use to reach the same audiences across different forms of media should always be consistent.

 

About the Author

Caroline Watts is a Marketing Manager at ReTargeter, a full-service display provider specializing in retargeting and audience targeting. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

 

Which Super Hero Would Your Online Marketing Strategy Be? The Display Advertising Edition

Successful online advertising professionals possess extreme optimization knowledge and strategies that we can easily associate with super heroic powers. In this new blog series, we’ll take a look at various online marketing strategies, and how they emulate the extraordinary powers of your favorite super heroes.

 

The Display Advertising Edition

The display advertising strategies edition are just a few to kick off the series.  Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve had the most success with for your display campaigns and how you were able to own them.

 

Professor X: Audience Targeting

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Photo Credit

 

The Super Power: Professor X is an incredibly powerful telepath capable of astral projection, mind control, illusion casting, memory manipulation, and psychic blasts.  If you’re participating in audience targeting, your strategy is comparable to the world’s most powerful telepath.  As Professor X listens to people’s thoughts and impacts their decisions with his powers, audience targeting similarly allows you to serve ad impressions to specific individuals from your target audience, giving your messaging the power of astral projection, psychic blasts and mind control.

 

How To Own It:  If you’re not currently honing Professor X’s powers of audience targeting, you can look into audience measurement tools like Quantcast or Core Audience that can help you understand what type of audience segments you can divide your visitors into.  Once you have full knowledge of these segments, create custom messaging for the various audiences that will be sure to persuade decisions and viewpoints.  This will help your campaigns and give you the optimal edge that salutes you into the same super hero class as Professor X.

 

Cyclops: Retargeting

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The Super Power:  Cyclops projects a concentrated beam of ruby-colored concussive force from his eyes and can project his power onto those he sees.  As it turns out, Cyclops and retargeting are two peas in a pod.  Just like Cyclops can project his forces onto those he can see, retargeting allows you to serve ad impressions to people who have visited your site.  These ad impressions are very pinpointed and focused towards individuals who you “see” on your site.

 

How To Own It:  To spark your inner Cyclops, set up your retargeting campaign with some easy-to-use tools like AdWords remarketing, AdRoll, Bizo, ReTargeter, TellApart or Criteo.  TellApart and Criteo technologies actually create dynamic campaigns generated by the product page the visitor was last browsing (suitable for big retailers or travel sites with multiple products).  Alternatively, I’ve had positive experiences with AdWords and AdRoll, which are pay-as-you-go tools.  So, grab some dark shades like Cyclops and start projecting your own concentrated beam of retargeted ads by adding your choice platform’s tracking code to your site.  This equips you with abilities to track your visitors, conversions, and target those visitors who dropped off in the conversion funnel.

 

Rogue: Competitive Intelligence for Display Ads

 

Rogue

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The Super Power: Rogue’s competencies make her very strong as she absorbs powers, memories, and personalities through skin-to-skin contact.  Prolonged contact with others can cause her to permanently absorb their traits and potentially kill them.  Many have described her strengths as the ability to steal the enemy’s powers and use these forces against them.  This is exactly what competitive intelligence for display ads can do for your marketing campaigns.

 

How To Own It:  If you’re like Rogue, you’re already using MixRank to spy on your competitors’ display ads, placements, and landing pages.  Now all you need to do is absorb this powerful data to your advantage.  Similar to Rogue’s prolonged contact capabilities, MixRank provides powerful insights that you can use over long periods of time for display advertising, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, and much more.  So whether you want to create more compelling ad copy, scale out on keywords, optimize for winning landing pages or generate new traffic through link building, MixRank’s competitive intelligence data will certainly gear you up to exert Rogue’s wondrous abilities of absorbing your competitors’ skills, powers and traits.

 

Have any online marketing strategies that are related to these super powers? Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve used in the past, and how you were able to own it.

 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post and want to read more posts from this series, follow me on Twitter or add me to your G+ circles for updates.

Startup Marketing Lessons Learned Part 2: AdWords is Only the Beginning

I recently had the pleasure of assisting over 150 Hacker News members with marketing their startups. I was surprised to learn that I was giving the same advice over and over again. I’m collecting the most specific, actionable and useful marketing advice for startups in a 3 part series. This is part 2.Last time, we discussed marketing fundamentals you needed to get right before beginning to drive traffic to your project. I hope you’ve implemented some of those suggestions into your product marketing.I don’t want this blog to consist solely of vague textbook marketing advice. This week, we’re going deeper and diving right into specific methods you can use right now to generate a stream of interested customers for your startup. Let’s get started.

Test and Track Everything

…advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness. One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one percent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best.

Can you guess which AdWords guru wrote the words above?That quote is from the seminal work Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, written in the 1920s. You would think that, 80 years later, people would realize the importance of tracking, especially with how easy modern analytics software makes it.And yet, startup after startup is creating ads that link to their homepage, without any tracking variables appended. They can only guess if their ads are effective, and they’re collecting exactly zero data.Any ad campaign, even if it’s set up by an expert, will probably start out losing money. When you launch an ad campaign, you’re not just paying for customers, you’re paying for data about what works and what doesn’t, tested in the marketplace.As you collect data and optimize, the campaign will eventually pull into the black. But if you’re not collecting click and conversion data, you’ll never know what you need to optimize, and you’ll continue bleeding money forever.Don’t just track based on which campaign gets the highest CTR. You need to drill down to the individual ad and keyword level, and track both CTR and conversion rate for each ad. This is done by appending a unique id to the URL of each ad variation. If you can’t tell me exactly which headline is bringing you the most loyal customers, you’re doing it wrong. If you track everything down to the ad level, you’ll be able to know exactly where your most profitable customers are coming from. This is especially critical for recurring billing/subscription services, which many startups are. Again, optimize for CLV.Setting up tracking is super easy. Google Analytics has a simple URL Builder you can use to append tracking variables to any link. You’ll want to focus on the utm_term and utm_campaign variables.If you want even better, more customizable, real-time data, my friends at MixPanel are happy to help.If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this:Track Everything Now. Every second you’re not tracking, you’re losing money.

Search Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

Here’s an example of what the typical startup founder told me about their marketing campaign:

Out startup sells time tracking software for dog walkers. We’re already advertising online. We’re bidding on “dog walker time tracking” on Google Search and getting 3 clicks and 0 conversions a day. How do we get more traffic?

It’s not surprising that you’re not getting lots of traffic, because you’re stuck in a search-only mindset. You can thank Google’s excellent branding for that, because they would love to have you believe that the only way to get customers online is through buying search keywords.Here’s the truth about advertising online: most of your traffic and customers will not come from search. They will come from social networks(more on that soon) and other sites- and I don’t mean just the Google Content Network. Want to know a cheap, high volume traffic source your competitors aren’t using? Two words: media buys. Yes, I’m talking about banner ads and yes, they still work.You don’t have to have a big budget to start buying banner ad space. Start approaching smaller blogs in your niche, and offer to pay them a fixed amount to paste your ad code into their site for a month. Again, track everything.When you do a simple media buy, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a high CTR or relevance between ads and landing pages, you just need to get enough clicks and conversions to stay profitable.I’ll have a post exclusively about media buying coming soon, but for now, start looking around and negotiating. You’ll be amazed at the great deals and cheap traffic you can find.

Competitor Bidding Works, Take it To The Next Level

Bidding on the names of competitors on search is an effective tactic. You’re reaching customers who are at a later stage of the buying cycle. They already know they need your product or service, and now they’re just comparing the alternatives and reading reviews before committing to a purchase. Let your competitors spend money educating the market and finding qualified prospects, then snatch the customer from their grasp when he’s about to buy.[pullshow]Competitor bidding is a good start, but it’s only a start. Here’s how you can easily and inexpensively outfox your competitors on most traffic sources:[pullthis]Don’t stop at search. Follow competitors’ ads around the web.[/pullthis] Search for competitor names, features, products, etc, or get their keywords from a keyword research tool. Look at the search results for their name and main keywords. Are there any sites there that have AdSense? Any blogs that have written reviews of a competitor’s product? Those are all prime advertising opportunities.Approach them directly and offer to buy banner space, either on the whole blog or just on that specific post. Prospective customers searching for information about competitors will instead come across ads for your product, and some will inevitably convert. If you see a competitor’s ads on an AdSense block on a page, you’ve found a fantastic traffic source. Approach the webmaster and offer to buy a banner ad to replace the AdSense. You’ll be able to pay the webmaster more for the space because Google isn’t taking their 30% cut, so it should be a no brainer for them to accept your offer. Now not only have you cut off a competitor from a lucrative traffic source, but you’ve also uncovered a proven source of converting traffic. Repeat this enough, and you’ll be able to completely dominate your competitors outside of search while spending less than them.

Start Retargeting Right Away

Retargeting is the practice of showing ads to people who have already visited your site(but probably didn’t convert). Retargeting is very cost effective, and delivers incredibly high-converting traffic, because you’re only paying for impressions shown to people who have expressed an interest in your product. When building a retargeting campaign, create banners that prominently feature your name, logo, and color scheme. People who have seen that design before will notice and click. There are two easy ways you can use retargeting right away:AdWords has a retargeting option you can turn on for a campaign. Or, for greater reach, AdRoll has an easy self-serve retargeting system that ties into major ad networks. You just add their pixel to your site, they leave a cookie, and show banner ads that follow your visitors around the web, g
ently yet firmly reminding them to sign up for your site.There is so much involved in getting traffic online. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. If nothing else, I hope this post has inspired you to explore other traffic sources with tracked, tested, creative campaigns. Next week: I show you how to easily increase your current traffic tenfold, discuss advanced optimization tactics to squeeze more out of your current campaigns, and finish with a little-known traffic tip I’ve never told anyone before.