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Different Web Marketing Tools Have Different Strengths and Weaknesses—Know How to Use Them

digital marketing

Banner ads, PPC, behavioural retargeting, social media advertising and native ads—what do these all have in common? They’re all tools and channels for web marketing. But while each one uses the internet the way its forebears used television, radio, and magazines, not all avenues of online advertising are made equal, and not all audiences can be reached the same way. Here’s our rundown of the most popular digital marketing mediums, and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Banner Ads

This is the OG of online ads, first appearing in 1993. Banner ads include graphics, popups, popunders, buttons, and every annoying flash element on a page ever.

The Good: Banner ads are inexpensive, their performance is easy to measure, and they show off your brand’s identity.

The Bad: No one using the web actually likes them. In fact, they find banner ads either annoying, disruptive, or worst of all, ignorable—leading to what is known in digital marketing as “banner blindness.” They have poor click-through rates, poor engagement, and they are the main target of ad-blocking programs.

PPC

PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, is one of the biggest mediums for online ads today. Through platforms like Google AdWords, you can bid on search keywords, having your ads appear alongside organic search results.

The Good: Because of the pricing model, you only pay for the ads that people actually click on. If you’re setting up an SEO campaign and waiting for the organic traffic to come in, PPC is a great way to get traffic in the meantime. You can easily track impressions, clicks, and conversions. They can be customized to only display in certain locations or at certain times of day, and you can set your budget. And oh yeah, AdWords is not affected by most popular ad-blocking software!

The Bad: A click paid for does not a conversion make, unfortunately, and that doesn’t even touch on click fraud—when competitors or web trolls will click repeatedly on your ads to waste your ad budget. And, of course, PPC ads are occasionally subject to the same blindness as banner ads, though they still outperform them by miles.

Retargeted Ads

These work like PPC, but they fill web marketing space with ads that remind users to complete a conversion they have left undone, e.g. a full shopping cart that never made it to checkout.

The Good: They can bring potential customers back after they’ve left you, increasing your odds of converting them. You can customize the ads for different points in the sales funnel, and direct them at specific audiences.

The Bad: Most people don’t understand how this web marketing technique works, and consequently, think it can be a bit creepy. Retargeted ads also need tremendous care and constant monitoring—lest you overload a potential customer, or continue serving them ads after they’ve already converted.

Social Media

If you’re not using social media in your digital marketing strategy, ads or none, then you’re seriously missing out on countless opportunities to connect with your audience.

The Good: Facebook alone has over a billion active users—that is the kind of reach you can’t overlook. Social media ads allow you to go where your audience is, and you can target your campaigns based on user preferences, pages or profiles they like, and more.

The Bad: Some users like to keep social media for, well, being social, leading to ad blindness (and ad-blocking). Those who don’t mind the ads are often in the early stages of the buying process—if at all.

Native Advertising

Native ads are a fairly new web marketing tool. These advertisements are contextual—whether they appear on a social network, in a mobile app, or on websites like Buzzfeed. They take on the look and feel of the platform they appear in for a more immersive touch.

The Good: Like I said, they are much more immersive—and they tend to get similar engagement to actual editorial or user-curated content, as well as being more relevant. They don’t disrupt the browsing experience so much as they use it to their advantage, and aren’t affected by ad-blocking on desktop or in mobile apps.

The Bad: Some people see native ads—particularly ones they’ve clicked on, not realizing it was sponsored content—as either confusing or deceptive, which can generate some ill will.

The Bottom Line

Is there a clear, definite winner for best or worst web marketing technique? Not even remotely. When you’re marketing your brand online, your best bet is to use different channels and methods in concert with each other. You might use AdWords and Facebook both as retargeting platforms, or do an A/B test to see whether native ads or banner ads bring you more traffic. Or you can reach out to the digital marketing experts for their input—these are the people who eat, breathe, and sleep this stuff. They can help you determine which type of advertising is right for you, and make adjustments as necessary.