The Basics of Paid Advertising

I once watched a senior executive of a top FMCG company in an emerging economy talk about advertising and the media used to advertise. His brand was focused on print, TV, outdoor and traditional advertising while digital advertising was growing. His company sold products to every person in society, and his choice of media was simple. He had to use the media that reached the maximum number of households, and TV allowed him to do that. The reach of his brand packaging was higher than that of digital advertising.

In the growing hype on digital advertising, this was a sobering thought. I have a small business that includes a hotel and an online handicraft store. My only focus is online advertising as I do not have the capital to put into traditional advertising. These modes were expensive, and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to continue investing in them even for a month. Since my market is small, anything I do expands the market. In such a scenario, online advertising helped me reach people for less cost.

The point is, you can decide which stage your business is in and the mix that you need. For small businesses, online advertising marries right into their other guerilla marketing tactics. For larger companies, online advertising is used for specific campaigns that they may want to execute.

What are paid ads?

In the current digital environment, paid ads are a synonym for digital ads that companies publish. These include the advertisements that you regularly see on Google, Facebook and Instagram. They are called so, to differentiate them from most of the SEO strategies that are generally free. Anyone or any company can start paid ads. Different ads are shown to different users based on relevance. As a result, social media platforms and search engines can have different ads in the same slot for different users.

The key outcome of this is that the cost per click or cost per 1000 impressions makes advertising affordable. Cost per click (CPC) is the cost incurred every time a user clicks on the ad. On the other hand, the cost per 1000 impressions is the cost incurred every 1000 times the ad is displayed. This makes the ad effective as well. As advertisers, you are not paying for space (such is the case in traditional paid ads) but the interaction.

The Largest Online Advertising Platforms

You know the names already. Let’s go into the differences between the three platforms:


The first to provide paid ads of this nature, Google is now an extensive platform for text, dynamic and display ads. Along with YouTube, it provides an excellent platform for video ads as well. The universe is vast. So I’ll pick up some of the key aspects:

  • Search: These are the ads you see on top when you search for a term. In the AdWords manager tool, companies would have to bid for it. Their ads would then show when a targeted user searches the term.
  • Display: On some news websites, you will see graphic ads. These ads have cool images or graphics added, and since pictures attract more attention, these ads are more attractive. In the AdWords manager tool, the respective company will mention which platforms display ads need to be shown.
  • Remarketing: Do you sometimes get the feeling that you are seeing a lot more ads of an organisation after you have visited its website? Remarketing tools deliver ads to previous visitors as that suggests that there was an intent to buy.


Notice your online behaviour for a day. You visit Google only when you have to search for something. You visit Facebook all the time. You might want to update some information. You might want to check how many likes you got on your last post. You might want to check what’s happening in your friend circle, or your interest group, or may want to check some random videos for entertainment. A user spends time on Facebook, even when there is no explicit intent. This makes Facebook a powerful platform.

However, when you’re on Facebook, do remember that your ad is not just competing with your competitor’s. It is competing with everything else in the person’s Facebook feed – including other ads, the user’s friends’ pictures, page updates from a page the user likes, and a lot more.


Think of advertising on Instagram as advertising on Facebook, but for a younger audience. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, now you can publish the same ad for Instagram and Facebook. Instagram also has a more minimalistic layout. As a result, the competition for the screen space isn’t as high as on Facebook. Due to its minimalist and simplistic layout, Instagram also demands simple CsTA (Calls-to-Action). The best calls to action direct to the messenger or the product page if Instagram shopping is enabled.

Optimising Costs

One of the best parts about paid ads is that you can make a target audience as large or small as you like. You can cater to the whole world or just within a 5km radius of your shop. It is essential to use these provided facilities to ensure that you are not spending on an audience that you do not want to cater to. This is useful for all budgets small or large and ensures that advertising isn’t eating into a significant portion of your earnings.

Look for blue oceans

Don’t go into where the competition is already high. Go where the competition is low. Then your cost and ROI will also be optimised.

  • Use Google’s keyword planner tool to decide your keywords. This is as relevant for SEO as it is for AdWords. Don’t blindly use the most popular keywords. Check the competition on those keywords and bid for those keywords that balance both.
  • Once your ads are running, check for the Quality Score of each keyword. Remove those that scored low. Quality score is an indicator of how relevant your site’s content is to the keyword, so a high Quality Score indicates that a user is more likely to find your site relevant to his needs.

Narrow down your customer

This is where your consumer persona exercises yield results. You do not have to bid for everyone. Everyone won’t buy from you. Bid on those who fit your customer persona. Narrow down by age, by location, by interests and a lot more. Cater to a small set of highly relevant target customers rather than a large group of irrelevant customers. You can also use this technique to geotarget your markets.

Use remarketing

You do not need to gain new users all the time. Sometimes old users are also highly effective. There may be many users who keep visiting your website or use your mobile app. Target them. They will help generate much higher ROI as the intent is already there. Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels can easily help create a remarketing audience for you, and the costs associated with this more targeted group is significantly lower since the group is smaller.


If you have found traditional advertising as prohibitively expensive, digital advertising is a great way to raise the number of interactions you have quickly. If you are already involved in traditional marketing, you can use digital ads to run targeted campaigns that help you achieve a significantly higher ROI. The world of online advertising has become increasingly powerful, and you can use this power to tailor a campaign to your exact needs. Ensure that you have optimised your costs as the platforms provide a lot of tools to streamline your total expense.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *