Digital Ads Quick Guide: 6 Ad Types & Channels You Need To Know

There is no question that a well-executed digital advertising campaign can do wonders for building a brand online — improving search engine results, driving targeted website traffic, and increasing leads and sales among lots else.

(We see it in the campaigns we run for our clients, and the global brands who spent $208.82-billion on digital ads in 2017 obviously see it too.)

Online advertising is great because it allows business owners to get their brand (message, product or service) out in front of their target customers and clients in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

[bctt tweet=”There are so many options (ad channels, ad types and ad targeting, for example) it can be easy for a digital ad campaign to go off the rails.”]

Keeping a campaign (and campaign budget) on track involves the following:

  • An understanding of the options (channels, types and targeting)
  • Target audience and keyword research
  • A solid strategic digital advertising plan
  • Great ad creative
  • Careful campaign monitoring
  • Detailed ongoing analytics and reporting

Today we’ll look at digital ad channels and types — the first step in ensuring your business hits that sweet spot (right person, right place, right time) with your next digital ad campaign.

Digital Ad Channels and Types: An Overview

  1. Paid Search (or: Search Engine Marketing (SEM))

You’ve likely heard of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, and know at least a little about how they work. But “PPC” is just part of the bigger picture — a type of paid search ad (or search engine marketing (SEM)) centred around keywords.

This medium is imperative during the engagement and purchasing stage because search ads are text-based ads that appear in search engine results based on the keywords a searcher is using (and are therefore highly targeted). Ad campaign managers “bid” on keywords (as do other businesses), competing for those top spots.

They look different (ie: “Sponsored”) from the organically-achieved search results placements we get via search engine optimization (SEO). Paid search ads appear at the top or side of the search results page. The primary channels for search ad campaigns are Google Adwords and the Bing Network (Bing Ads).

  1. Native Ads

Native ads (sometimes called “Sponsored Stories” or “Recommended Content”) are image-based ads that aim to look natural (native) to the place where they appear — on websites, blog posts, and social networks (like Facebook’s News Feed). Native ads are important for brand building/recognition and can can help drive targeted traffic to your website.

Below is a great graphic c/o showing some of the native ad placement options:

Native Advertising

Display ads are one of the most popular digital ad types (ie: “the original digital ad”). They are visual (as opposed to text-based search ads) and reside on third-party websites as banner ads, static, flash, pop-up, video (and other) styles. So while native ads are meant to look like they belong, display ads aim to draw people away from that third-party site to your own content.

Ads built on Google’s Display Network (GDN) or smart display ads bring in a lot of inexpensive impressions and help to generate brand awareness so that potential visitors can learn about your brand, products and services for when it’s time to buy. A display ad campaign can be enhanced using Programmatic advertising —  is a system of buying ads using software-driven technology combined with large sets of data.

Today, the best display ads are responsive ads (ie: mobile and device friendly).

From Google, the below graphics show some of the placement and formatting options for display ads:

  1. Remarketing/Retargeting

Remarketing (or retargeting) is a type of digital advertising that focuses not on new views, impressions and clicks, but rather on reconnecting with people who already know your brand — reminding them who you are to increase conversions.

To reach those people, Google Remarketing takes into account their web history. Have they visited your site before but not made a purchase? Then they’ll see your remarketing ad (usually as a display or native ad) and (ideally) return and convert. If done right, remarketing ads can be effective and inexpensive. Primary channels for remarketing/retargeting are:

  • Google Remarketing
  • Facebook Remarketing

Remarketing/retargeting ads are that strange phenomenon we’ve all experienced when, for example, we searched for “dog food” one day and then — miraculously! — every site on the internet seems to know we love dogs and shows us ads related to dog ownership, dog health, dog walking and more. Only it’s not miraculous — it’s carefully and purposefully executed and can be very effective.

  1. Social Media Ads

Social media ads (ads displayed to users on social networks) have been proven to receive fantastic results for non-monetary goals. And they produce quick results (compared to, for example, SEO campaigns that can take time to build your brand and drive traffic). Social ads bring high-quality traffic to your website, and these visitors will spend time exploring and/or sharing their discoveries on social media.

There are countless options ( ad type and channel/network) so that it’s possible for almost every business/organization (no matter their industry, size, or location) to reach their precise target market.  All of the top social networks offer paid ad options, and the ability to combine your brand’s unique ad content with the social networks’ laser-focussed ad targeting means that ads on social can be extremely effective.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • YouTube (Note: YouTube isn’t the only place for video ads. There are many more options and platforms for video ads.)
  • Pinterest
  • Vine
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr, and many more.
  1. Other important ad types
  • Google Shopping Ads: Part of Adwords and managed via Google’s Merchant Center, these ads include product info, photo, and price (for example) and appear for potential shoppers searching for related product keywords.
  • Google InBox Ads: Google Adwords campaigns can now include a Gmail ad component, where Sponsored (ad) Content appears at the top of the user’s email in-box.
  • Mobile Ads: This category includes ads designed for and presented to mobile devices specifically. Most ad platforms/channels offer the option to add a mobile ad component to a campaign (like Adwords’ Enhanced Campaigns).
  • In-Game Ads: These are ads that appear in computer and video games. For a specific type of target audience, these can be very effective.
  • Email Ads: Email advertising represents a unique opportunity for the right kind of ad campaign. We’ll dig into this broad category soon!

Mix it up.

Because you likely have a mix of target clients, and they have a mix of online behaviors, preferences, devices etc., the best digital ad campaigns combine a mix of several of the above ad types and ad channels, spreading available budget over several channels (so as not to put all the eggs in one basket) and using A/B testing methods to discover the best type for the right audience.

Further, as with all digital marketing tactics, digital ads work best when we carefully monitor campaign performance via regular (even daily) analytics and reports, and are prepared to change things up as we learn what’s working and what’s not.

Get help.

Still unsure? Seek the help of an experienced digital ad agency who can help to guide you through your first digital ad campaign, or review the results of a previous campaign to highlight areas for improvement.

Call Stir.

Stir’s digital ad campaign clients receive campaigns that are thoroughly researched, meticulously planned, properly built, expertly managed, and regularly monitored. We’ve helped countless clients find success through digital ads. Don’t wait! Get in touch today. (Want to learn more about Digital Advertising in general? Check out our March 2020 round-up of free online digital ad courses, including Google courses through Google Skillshop.)