If you’re considering advertising your business online, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of opportunities available.

From PPC to CTR, the acronyms and options can be baffling. So we've summed up the five top ways top promote your business online below.

Don't forget the two golden rules of online advertising: be where your audience is, and plan what you want to achieve.

1. Social media advertising

Advertising on social media can be affordable and targeted, making it a popular choice for smaller businesses.

Ever noticed how the ads in your Facebook feed can be really relevant to your interests? That’s because FB allow advertisers to target people with specific interests, based on what you like, share and browse. Scary but effective!

Thanks to their sophisticated systems for serving up relevant adverts, social media ads are more likely to be clicked on than other types of digital advertising.

How to choose which social network to advertise on

Facebook is the leader in this, simply because of the size of their audience. But you can also advertise on other platforms like LinkedIn, Instragram, Tik Tok etc. You need to think about where your audience is most likely to be.

  • Younger audience: Tik Tok, YouTube, or whatever the kids are using these days
  • Visually appealing product or service: Instagram or Pinterest
  • Business-to-business sales: LinkedIn

Create a sales funnel from your social media advertising

If you want to get the best out of social media advertising, make sure you think through the ‘funnel’ you’re going to lead your customer through.

For a lower-cost product sale, this might be as simple as:

  1. Click on advert
  2. Taken to product page
  3. Invited to make purchase

But for a more expensive product, or a service-based business, you might need to play a longer game. For example:

  1. Click on advert
  2. Taken to short article that evidences the benefits of your offer
  3. Invited to download a lead magnet (such as an ebook)
  4. Gets added to mailing list
  5. Email process triggered to guide them towards purchase over next month

Don't forget the importance of just having social media channels and planning and publishing regular content. This, alone, can help you gain an audience and brand recognition. You'll just need to create great social media content (see content marketing below).

2. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

PPC adverts appear alongside search results in a search engine, like Google or Bing. GoogleAdWords is a leading PPC provider.

When a user conducts a search, your advert will be displayed in – or alongside – the search results. It is called pay-per-click because you only pay when someone clicks on your advert.

Pros and cons of PPC advertising

PPC can be an attractive option, because you only pay when someone shows an interest in your product.

However, it isn’t as straightforward as just buying advertising space. You’ll need to bid on search terms (also known as keywords) that you’d like to trigger your advert.

Popular keywords can be extremely expensive, so it is important to think about keywords that will be both relevant AND affordable.

The wrong words will attract visitors to your site who have no interest in your product or service. This is doubly annoying because you won’t sell anything AND you're paying for each visit.

How to pick good PPC keywords

Check out these keyword options for our dog food manufacturer. Which is a good choice?

  • Dog food - targeted
  • Organic wheat-free dog food - targeted
  • Organic wheat-free food - targeted... but at the wrong audience!

Take people to the right place with PPC

You also need to focus on taking your visitors to the right page of your website. If our manufacturer takes visitors to their homepage, they may get confused and lose interest.

Be sure to take clickers directly to the page that's most relevant to the keyword they searched for and include a clear call-to-action (such as a BUY NOW button).

3. Display advertising

Display advertising on a third-party website is your traditional form of online advert. It might be a banner ad along the top or bottom of a website, a boxed advert in the sidebar, or even a pop-up that appears whilst you’re browsing.

Pros and cons of display advertising online

These are a great way to reach a specialist market. For example, if you make and sell premium dog food, you could explore opportunities to advertise on websites targeting the same market as you, pet owners.

Some good options might be veterinarian websites or sites offered complementary (but not competitor) pet products, such as dog carriers or leads.

However, people are increasingly immune to these sort of adverts, using pop-up blockers to stop them appearing, or just glazing over them. You have to be quite creative to get noticed.

Getting started with display advertising online

To get started, think about where your ideal customer might be online. (Not sure who your ideal customer is? Read about creating a customer persona before going any further!)

Take a look at those websites and see if they feature display adverts. If so, get in touch and ask for their advertising rates card.

You’ll want to check how much traffic their website gets and the click-through-rate for adverts, if they have it. By comparing the cost and clicks for different websites, you can decide the best advertising option for you.

4. Online directories

Even though printed ‘phone books’ are a thing of the past, their legacy lives on in online business directories like Yell.com and ThomsonLocal.com.

Your details will come up if your sector, location or company name is searched for. The price of the ad varies according to its position on the search results and its size, but prices start at around under £100 per year.

There are also specialist directories for specific trades or services, such as CheckATrade.com

5. Content marketing

As website visitors get more savvy and selective about online advertising, content marketing is growing in popularity. Content marketing is the opposite of advertising, as it doesn't seek to sell directly, it doesn't interrupt users online and you don't have to pay for it!

How does content marketing work?

Content marketing works by providing people with information they WANT to read, watch and share. In doing so, it raises brand awareness and trust, meaning you're front of mind when people are looking to make a purchase.

Content marketing also helps you appear in search engine results organically, by answering commonly searched questions. And it doesn’t cost you anything beyond the cost of producing the content.

Content marketing example

Our dog food manufacturer, for example, might add a section to their website about dog care.

They could include articles, videos or downloads on:

  • nutrition for dog health
  • the best feeding plan for a glossy coat
  • how much food dogs of different sizes require
  • fun ways to provide exercise for overwight pups

When dog owners search for this information on Google, they’ll visit the company’s site and become aware of the product. They'll recognise that the company is an expert in dog care and respect their authority. When they next decide to change their pet's food, guess who's website they'll visit?

Getting started with content marketing

To implement content marketing effectively, you’ll need to commit to the process. It is estimated that content marketing can take 12-24 months to deliver increased website traffic. But it is considered one of the most effective ways to promote your business.

You'll need to plan a regular calendar of what you're going to publish and make sure you produce content that is high quality and highly relevant. Hiring a content writer can make the process easier.

Measuring success

There are a few ways to measure the cost and return-on-investment (ROI) of your online advertising efforts. Three of the most common are:

  • Cost per thousand ad impressions (CPM) – how much it cost to get your advert in front of one thousand pairs of eyes
  • Cost-per-click – how much it cost each time someone clicks on your advert
  • Cost-of-acquisition – how much it cost to gain a customer through all of your marketing efforts. This is the most effective way to measure ROI for your advertising.

Whichever method you choose, it is really important you measure the success / ROI of your advertising efforts. By understanding what works and what doesn't, you'll be able to improve your adverts each time. This will reduce your cost-of-acquisition by serving up adverts that work and get more traction.

Your advertising efforts should form part of your marketing strategy, which should be part of your business plan, to ensure they help you achieve your business goals. Read our article on getting started with marketing for some big-picture pointers.

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