Digital Advertising Basics for Small- to Mid-sized Businesses (SMBs)

Digital advertising is no longer a luxury for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs). It has become a necessity. More potential customers and clients buy products and select service providers based on information they found via online advertising and this is only likely to increase in the future.

Even for businesses that depend on local foot traffic, online marketing is critical.

  • Over 70% of consumers performing local searches visited nearby stores
  • Nearly 80% of local-mobile searches resulted in offline purchases.

Not convinced? Consider the success of SunButter, a great case study about how online ads can help a SMB. The company ran a highly successful Facebook ad campaign in the fall of 2017. As a result, they experienced a 41% increase in product sales per physical store, per week.

Understanding Digital Advertising Basics

The primary focus of digital advertising campaigns is to increase brand awareness/exposure and generate leads.  A successful campaign should fine-tune the traffic to your website and attract potential customers who are actively interested in your products or services. Over time, these leads can be carefully nurtured and converted into sales.

You should familiarize yourself with several types of online ads:


Display ADs

Untitled design (2)

Display ads refer to online ads placed on websites, such as the common 468 x 60 banner ad that was once the mainstay of online advertising.


  • Effective for building brand awareness
  • Attracts notice through a powerful combination of text, audio, images and/or videos


  • Easy to ignore – Lower average click-through-rate (CTR) than search ads
  • Can be costly for smaller businesses
  • Ads can appear alongside controversial content

Social Media ADs

FB-display-Coffee 07-31-17

Social ads are placed on various social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and others. These ads usually appear in a person’s newsfeed in the form of promoted or sponsored posts.


  • Low price tags
  • The potential for viral social media sharing if the audience enjoys the content.


  • Easy to ignore on a crowded newsfeed
  • Difficult for brand ads to engage the audience that generally prefers content from friends and family.

Search ADs


Search ads are text-based ads that appear when someone searches for a related term or keyword.

Companies pay for their ads to appear at the top of the page, while “organic” search results are determined by the search engine’s algorithm.

Paid search ads can offer a great return on investment for SMBs, which is why they remain one of the most popular forms of online advertising, representing about 50% of the digital advertising market.


  • Targets people when they are actively searching for your product or service
  • Good for generating leads


  • Can be highly competitive

Native ADs

Native Ad - example blog

Native ads are placed on specific websites or social platforms and are intended to mirror the content of the site where they are posted. These ads imitate the look and feel of a website’s content, leading many readers to believe these ads are editorial content.


  • Appears to be part of editorial content, giving ad more legitimacy
  • People may read the ad under the assumption it is editorial content


  • Critics say these ads are misleading
  • Can annoy customers when they realize they are reading an ad

Video ADs


Video ads remain one of the most engaging and popular forms of online, especially among younger audiences. 60% of millennials prefer watching a video over reading a newsletter.



  • Can be more expensive to create

Choosing the Right Ad Platform

There are hundreds of digital advertising services out there, but not all of them are right for your business. In fact, some platforms are so complicated that they are only accessible for marketing professionals.

Fortunately, two of the most common and user-friendly advertising networks are also the simplest for business owners to navigate.


Google AdWords

With Google AdWords, you can set up ad campaigns for display ads, search ads, video ads or product listings on Google’s search network and/or display network. Most commonly, these ads appear at the top of Google’s search result pages.

Ad placements involve a bidding process for the top spots.  Google will determine how, when and where to place your ads based on your bid amount and the overall quality of your ad.


  • Effective way to build brand awareness across many channels
  • Can use spending caps to stay within budget


  • Keyword strategy can be complex
  • Requires constant monitoring in order to optimize campaigns


Facebook is the second powerhouse in digital advertising services. These advertisements appear in people’s Facebook News Feeds alongside content from friends and family.

In January 2018, Facebook announced a major change to its algorithm, which prioritized content from friends, family and groups over that of brands.  Businesses will most likely see a huge decrease in organic reach as a result.  However, if your business produces quality content that generates engagement, you can still get through to your desired audience.


  • Billions of active users across the world
  • Owns Instagram, so you can set up one campaign to appear on both platforms at the same time


  • Newsfeed favors non-paid content over advertisers

The Future is Digital

Digital ads are one of the most powerful and effective means of reaching a broad audience these days. According to one research firm, companies will spend $151.2 billion on local ads in 2018, which is a 5.2% increase from the $140.9 billion spent in 2017.

While traditional media, like television and newspapers, currently account for just under 65% of ad spending, digital ads now make up more than a third of domestic local ad spending. This market share will likely only continue to increase as our economy becomes more and more digital.

Now it’s the time for you to think about utilizing Digital Marketing for your business!

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