Nowadays, if you want to reach anyone really, you need to be present online. We could throw in some stats now, quote one of those typical studies around how much % of all people worldwide are using the internet on a daily basis, bla bla – but we’re going to spare you the unnecessary numbers-bombing. The point is: everybody is on the internet today, so businesses need to be there too, if they want to reach their audiences. You know this already, and we know that you know it.
Great. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s cut straight to the chase. In this guide, we will give a short overview of digital advertising campaigns, what the main channels and platforms are, and get into some best practices around timeframe and budget planning.
If you’re new to this whole digital advertising thing and not sure what channels to start with, or how much budget to plan for your first campaigns, then this is the perfect article for you. But if you’re an experienced digital marketer and just need a refresher, this article is helpful too.
What is a digital advertising campaign?
A digital advertising campaign is a marketing campaign run through online channels. Unlike traditional offline marketing, digital ads can only be found on the internet, that is when navigating various websites, apps and social media platforms. These ads can appear in the form of text ads, video ads, image ads, and more.
Different types of digital advertising campaigns
There are various types of digital advertising campaigns that serve different purposes. For example, some ads may be part of a branding campaign, with the goal of increasing the brand awareness of a business among its target market. Other ad campaigns aim to achieve specific results, commonly referred to as conversions, such as a purchase or signups for a newsletter.
Typical digital advertising channels
There are multiple channels you can use for digital advertising, so it’s easy to get confused about their distinctions and the most suitable purposes for each. Here is an overview to give you a better idea.
Paid Search. When users are searching for a term on a search engine like Google or Bing, the search results page will show them two different types of search results: the paid ones (typically appearing on the top of the page, marked with the label “Sponsored”) and the organic ones (typically appearing below the paid ones). The paid search results are ads, and the most popular Paid Search platforms are Google Ads and Microsoft Ads (formerly known as Bing Ads).
Paid Social. You've likely noticed that while browsing any social network, ads are there too. They can appear in your feed, on the right-hand side, and in various other placements. The term Paid Social refers to all of those ads that appear in social media. The most popular platforms for running Paid Social ads include Meta Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and TikTok Ads.
Display. Chances are high that you have encountered banners like the one shown while navigating through various websites, such as blogs or your email provider:
These are display ads. They exist in the form of images, videos or graphics, and therefore tend to be more visually engaging compared to text ads. One of the most popular platforms through which advertisers launch display ad campaigns is the Google Display Network (GDN), a vast network of different websites and apps.
Additionally, there is programmatic display advertising, an automated method that involves an auction-based buying process for ad placements. This means they are purchased in real-time through auctions.
Best practices for setting up a successful ad campaign
Now you might be wondering, how do I set up an ad campaign to make sure it’s successful? Something important to keep in mind for any of the best practices mentioned below is that it’s impossible to formulate a general recommendation that applies to all businesses and all situations. The choice of platform, campaign type, and duration depends on a lot of different factors, such as your industry, markets/countries, your goal, who your audience is, and more.
Nonetheless, we’ve compiled a few best practices that you can use as a rough orientation. However, at the end of the day, you need to assess what applies to your specific situation. Consider your audience, understand your business objectives, and make decisions based on those factors.
What platforms should I use?
There is no one-size-fits-all recipe in terms of what platforms you should use. For some companies, Meta Ads work the best, while for some others it’s YouTube Ads or LinkedIn Ads, so you need to try out several of them and see what works best for you.
Having said that, it does make sense to make sure you have the ‘bottom of the funnel’ covered, before you move to ‘top of the funnel’ channels. In other words, before running awareness campaigns, trying to generate demand for your product/service, make sure you capture the existing demand. For example, make sure you are present through Google Ads for when people are searching for your product/service and drive traffic to your website this way.
Running Google Ads is a low-hanging fruit, because users are already far along the buyer journey. You know they already have an interest in your product or service, so now it’s just about signaling to them that they can get it from you.
Microsoft Ads can be an alternative search engine for running search ads; however, Google Ads remains the primary platform, securing the overwhelming majority of traffic. Research has shown that Google overwhelmingly dominates the landscape, capturing 93% of the traffic, whereas Bing only accounts for 3%.
Paid Social ads can make sense for you, if your goal is to generate demand for your product/service or create awareness for it among your target audience. Thanks to their extensive targeting options, you can define what kind of user you want to show your ads to, which makes things easier if you have an idea of your ideal buyer persona.
If you want to launch Paid Social campaigns, you could start with Meta Ads or LinkedIn Ads, depending on your budget, your product and who your audience is. Generally, on LinkedIn Ads, the cost per click is higher, so expect to pay more for a conversion there than on Meta. Do some research to understand what your target audience’s preferred channels are, how they consume their content, and consider these factors when selecting the Paid Social channel for your ads.
YouTube Ads is a widely-used platform for video ads. If you have the resources or capability to produce video content, it may be worth exploring. It's important to note, though, that creating video ads typically requires more time compared to platforms like Meta or Google, where you can probably get started more quickly.
Display ads are mainly used for brand awareness goals and are not necessarily the most conversion-oriented ad type. We recommend you make Google Ads and Paid Social work for you first before starting to experiment with display Ads.
In general, there is no universal recommendation for how long an ad campaign should run, because this will depend heavily on your goals, budget, market, and target audience. It is recommended though to let it run for at least several weeks to give the algorithm of the respective ad platform enough time to gather learnings (e.g. what times work best for your ads, which types of users respond the most to them, …) and optimize the way it shows your ads. You can use a minimum of 4 weeks as an orientation, but 6-8 weeks would probably be better. Again, it depends on your case.
You can use the following as a rough guide, taking into consideration your particular context:
Paid Search: ideally, should be running permanently, at least Google Ads
Paid Social: 12-16 weeks
(If you have the budget for a longer campaign, then let it run longer and experiment a bit, e.g. exchanging the creatives after a few weeks to see if other creatives work better)
YouTube Ads: 8-10 weeks
After you covered the bottom and middle of the funnel, for instance through Google Ads and Meta Ads, and feel like trying out display, you could start with a campaign of 4-8 weeks. We don’t recommend starting your advertising activities with Display if your priority is generating conversions and getting some ROI from your ad spend.
Again, how much budget to put behind each channel depends strongly on your goals, audience size, market, industry, and the other factors mentioned above. However, If you are not sure where to start and need a few directional orientation points, the following might serve you as some guidance:
Google Ads: $1-10K per month if you're a small to medium sized business. This range is in line with what businesses spend on Google Ads on average, according to this article. If you're a larger company, $10-50K per month could make sense.
Generally, we recommend starting with fewer campaigns, but making sure those campaigns include the most important keywords and are well-structured in terms of ad groups. Later you can always expand and add more campaigns, but at the beginning – especially if you’re only getting started with Google Ads – focus on a few campaigns that are set up well rather than launching a lot of campaigns.
Meta Ads: $1-5K per month can be a good starting point.
For Meta Ads, it might help for you to plan first how many ad sets you will set up. Then calculate how many conversions you need in each ad set per day to get the campaign out of the learning phase, how much you need to pay for one conversion, and then multiply this number by 30. This could give you a good idea of how high your monthly budget should be.
For LinkedIn Ads, you might want to plan with a higher budget because of the mentioned higher CPCs, for example starting with $5K. LinkedIn expert AJ Wilcox recommends a minimum of $25-50 of daily budget per campaign. You can read his recommendations and more details on what to consider in your LinkedIn Ads budget planning in this article.
YouTube Ads: On average, businesses set a daily budget of $10-50 for YouTube Ads (as indicated here by LocaliQ), which would mean a monthly budget of $300-1,5K.
Display: As with all the channels above, with Display too the ad spend you invest depends heavily on the goal you’re trying to achieve. In the case of Display this would mean, how many impressions you’re trying to get. As per recommendation by Fluidads, you can roughly calculate $115-220 per day for 50K-100K impressions, meaning approx. $3K minimum as a monthly budget.
Something that might help you in your budget considerations are calculator tools like this one by HubSpot. They offer you the possibility to simulate different scenarios taking various factors into consideration, such as expected cost-per-click, lead to customer rate and more.
If you want your business to grow and reach your target audience effectively, avoiding digital advertising is not an option anymore. Make an analysis of what media your prospects are consuming and what channels they are using the most. Also do some research around where other players from your industry are running their digital marketing campaigns.
Ultimately, it’s a question of trying out different platforms and seeing which ones work best for your business and objectives. There is no magic formula with regards to ideal campaign length, budget or combination of channels, but the sooner you start experimenting, the sooner you will have solid learnings to improve your campaigns with. At the end of the day, digital advertising campaigns are not a one-off initiative, but rather a cycle of try, learn, improve, repeat.