Shelley Polansky BBB

Shelley Polansky, BBB President/CEO

To find customers, small businesses have to go where people spend their time – and that’s online.

Americans dedicate 24 hours a week to the internet to work, shop and play, and according to Google, users conduct 3.5 billion searches daily. Reaching those users, though, isn’t as simple as old-school popup ads, but requires a more comprehensive digital advertising strategy.

Digital advertising, also referred to as online advertising and paid media, is an affordable, easy-to-use placement of promotional material on platforms such as social media, search engines, websites and even in email inboxes. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Yelp and Google Search, in turn, sell ad space on their websites and search engines to be able to deliver services to their own customers.

The ads help build brand awareness, drive traffic, increase leads, start conversions (such as getting users to sign up for an email list or newsletter) and make a sale. They’re now considered a necessity for reaching customers – in fact, by 2024, average annual global digital ad spending is expected to reach $646 billion – but it can be difficult to know how and where to begin. Businesses want to create the right ad that gets people to stop scrolling because their interest is sparked or they found just what they need.

For a successful digital campaign, businesses can invest in three key digital advertising strategies that turn clicks into leads and sales.

Start with PPC (pay per click)

Advertisers pay a small fee for a PPC each time one of their ads is clicked by a user. It’s a way of buying visits to a website rather than waiting for them to happen organically. It also avoids having to pay based on the number of viewers, listeners or readers a program, station or magazine has and instead is based on those interested in the business’s offerings.

One form of PPC is search engine advertising, where advertisers pay for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links from a keyword search. To build a successful PPC campaign, businesses need to research and select the right keywords and phrases the target audience most likely will use in their searches and set up PPC landing pages optimized for conversions. They will want to test different messages and landing pages to see which ones result in website traffic, email subscriptions and, ultimately, sales.

Businesses will be paying for PPCs based on their success. The cost per click, or CPC, is tallied from an automated bidding system and is less for ads and landing pages with calls to action relevant to users and optimized for conversions. The CTAs should align with individual search queries with traffic being sent to several pages, not just one.

Engage in social media advertising

One of the best digital advertising platforms for small businesses is social media, since that’s where people spend an average of 2.5 hours a day to connect, discover new brands, shop and pass the time.

The best advice is to start with two platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and build from there, using a combination of paid ads and organic posts. Both are ways to increase brand engagement and share company news, events, sales and promotions.

Most paid ads are based on targeted data collected by search engines, such as demographics, location, interests and behavioral patterns, so that the ads get in front of those most likely to want what the business has to offer.

Implement email marketing

Email marketing through creating a mailing list is another effective digital advertising strategy, particularly since 72% of the general public say they prefer businesses to communicate with them through email messages, including those containing ads. The ads can be created with personalized recommendations for subscribers based on their previous purchases.

The key to successful advertising and a high ROI is getting those subscribers interested in the business’s offerings and engaging and retaining them. Segmentation software allows businesses to send certain content to a select number of subscribers most likely to be interested in it. Sending irrelevant content can reduce click-through rate or result in unsubscribing. Another software tool, automation, is a way to send email at the optimal time, such as after someone leaves their cart or signs up for something, offering them a welcome or special discount.

Businesses should avoid purchasing an email list, but instead build a list organically by offering something of value in return for signing up, such as a free trial, a discount or an ebook. They also should create content that’s engaging and isn’t solely focused on selling.

Additional tips

Another thing for businesses to consider is adding a presence on third-party platforms and sites, like Quora, Reddit, Spotify and Pandora, an avenue of advertising not traditionally considered by small businesses.

Businesses also can think about influencer marketing as a way to increase their brand awareness. This involves paying or compensating a professional influencer to promote a brand or specific product or service in their social media accounts and other online content. It targets an already built audience that likely will become customers, having an affinity for what’s being offered.

One final tip is to get BBB accredited to boost a business’s digital advertising strategy. This increases visibility among consumers, as well as boosting brand awareness. It’s also a way to build trust, one more reason for consumers to become customers.

Shelley Polansky is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.

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