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Remember the days when your marketing team would find the names of potential buyers and pass them over to the sales team who would then educate and nurture them through the sales funnel? Today, savvy consumers do their own research online through search engines, social media, and other digital channels long before ever talking with a salesperson. In a digital-first world, a robust online presence is a necessity. Without it, your business doesn’t stand a chance.

Yet, while most companies have a website, and maybe even a great blog, most simply don’t have enough organic reach to achieve their goals without incorporating some form of digital advertising into the mix.

Which online advertising channels provide the best value? With so many to choose from – each with their own tools and metrics for measuring success – designing the right strategy to achieve the best results can be tricky.

Digital advertising is one of the easiest ways to capture traffic that engages online. But channels aren’t created equally and building interest in your products or services requires a comprehensive, strategic effort. The digital channels you choose and how you execute your campaigns both play vital roles in how effective your lead-generation process will be. Here’s a look at three high-value digital channels and a few things to consider with each.

Search Advertising

Search advertising — also called paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) — is a proven way to drive highly targeted leads digitally. In 2016, Google owned over 75 percent of the search market. Today, the search engine “processes over 40,000 search queries every second.” Advertising on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! is more than just a good idea — it’s a must for digital success.

Paid advertisements on search engines are highly targeted, meaning your products and services are placed directly in front of an audience who is actively looking for them. Along with organic search and search engine optimization (SEO), paid search creates a comprehensive lead-building strategy. And with search advertising software (like Google AdWords, among others) to automate the process, optimizing return on investment (ROI) is easier than ever before.

Things to Consider:

Artificial intelligence drives PPC automation. AI-powered tools can automate PPC account management while providing deeper insight into account performance. Machine learning increases targeting capabilities, improves ad relevance, and helps account managers make better, quicker decisions regarding messaging, targeting, and bidding.

Voice search is exploding. Gartner predicts that “by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” Voice is gaining momentum, thanks to the ease and convenience of getting information quickly and on the go. Andrew Dubatowka, Vice President, Performance and Marketing at AdColony, believes, “Not only will voice control point-of-sale, customer service, call-to-actions, and more; voice will be a key area for branded content, quick ads, and advertising experiences.”

Google’s answer box is optimizable. Get in front of voice search by adding long-tailed keywords into your paid search account and optimizing for the answer box that appears above organic search results. Focus on landing a featured snippet by identifying an industry query and creating content that directly answers it.

Social Advertising

Placing ads on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may still be relatively new, but it’s a technique that’s growing quickly. In fact, global advertising spend on social media is expected to make up 20 percent of all internet advertising in 2019, according to advertising agency Zenith Optimedia.

With access to audiences of every shape and size, social advertising extends organic reach, increases brand awareness, and if done well, can quickly boost your bottom line. Social advertising software such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, and others can help you automate the ad buying process, reducing time and streamlining the activity.

Things to Consider:

Diversification is key. Facebook may dominate the social advertising landscape now, but smart companies spread their social budgets to include new, fast-growing social sites. If your brand is visual, for example, Pinterest can give you access to a completely new and engaged audience.

Ephemeral content is huge. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook have all made ephemeral content (content that’s shared for 24 hours and then disappears) trendy. Forward-thinking brands are considering new ways to use this type of content, with some even developing separate strategies just to manage it.

Video content is a must. According to Adobe, Facebook posts receive 25 percent more engagement when they contain video, and Instagram videos receive twice the engagement of posts containing only photos. And on mobile, video is even more impressive. According to Facebook Business, “100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every day.”

Display Advertising

Few advertising channels, online or off, have the reach that display advertising offers. Display ads can fit into just about any space on any website in the form of banners, images, or text ads. Easy to access for businesses of every size, display ads grow brand awareness, drive more traffic to company websites, and boost sales. By 2019, display ad spending is expected to reach $250 billion.

The difference between display and search advertising has to do with the push-pull approach. Search ads use the pull technique and are served to people who are already looking for your product. Display ads push, targeting people based on previous behaviors.

Things to consider:

Programmatic dominates display-media buying. A recent report from eMarketer estimates that “by 2020, 86.2 percent of all digital display ads will be bought via automated channels.” Driven by artificial intelligence-enabled, real-time bidding (RTB), programmatic is taking mainstream AdTech by storm.

Audience-based advertising takes the lead. Ad targeting by age or gender is passé. With more in-depth user data available, businesses can be more effective at reaching highly targeted, specific groups.

Demand for native advertising grows. In direct response to ad blockers, native advertising — ad content that mimics publisher’s content — is a fast-growing trend. In fact, native ads are expected to drive 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021, according to Business Insider. The best success with native advertising comes from lean, inexpensive ads.

Cross-Channel Advertising

With more people moving between online devices than ever before, advertisers hoping to meet them with personalized, delightful experiences must make connections between channels. Cross-channel advertising is how that’s done.

The path toward a comprehensive and cohesive advertising strategy is rarely a straight one. And that means, in order to connect with the right audience when they’re most likely to engage, you need to be able to reach them anytime, anywhere.

Things to Consider:

Message consistency is vital. When advertising across multiple channels, a unified message is critical. Not only does it make it easier for consumers to recognize your brand, but also improves the likelihood that they’ll engage with it.

Consider a data-management platform. With data coming from everywhere, keeping it organized in a single, centralized location can be challenging. Data management platforms (DMPs) can help by creating an integrated database, putting all customer touchpoint data in one place.

Retargeting is more important than ever before. Prospects rarely convert on the first page they arrive at. Retargeting across multiple channels leads potential buyers on a journey through your advertising campaign. With buyer journeys lasting longer, “It’s critical to lead capture andlead nurture to stay with clients throughout their sales cycles,” says Joshua Feinberg, President of the Data Center Sales & Marketing Institute.

In Sum

With new technologies emerging every day and more customer data available than ever before, how do you craft an award-winning digital advertising strategy? Through which channels do ads perform the best in terms of capturing attention, driving leads to a website, and converting online traffic to loyal customers?

While there is no right or wrong answer, there are proven strategies for success. Having search advertising that’s guided by smart automation, a diversified social ad campaign that focuses on mobile and video, and a solid display ad campaign that maximizes native advertising and audience-based targeting is a great place to start. Of course, the best digital advertising spans multiple channels for the biggest impact.

Alex Andrade-Waize, Head of Marketing at Spatially, sums it up nicely: “Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all advertising channel. There are, however, channels that tend to be better suited for different audiences.” According to Waize, whether you are a local business with a sense of urgency, you’re looking to target a professional business audience, you’re promoting a niche product, or you’re simply trying to reach Gen Z, in the end, it all comes down to who your audience is and where they like to hang out.

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