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Online advertising is a powerful resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs. However, there’s a lot more to it than just buying some Google and Facebook ads and crossing your fingers. You need to plan out your marketing strategy before you start spending your hard-earned cash on advertisements.

We’ve compiled ten simple steps that will help your business plan out a clear, concrete plan for your advertisements.

1. Look at Your Quality Score(s)

A Quality (or Relevancy) Score is a metric that search engines and social media platforms use. It determines if your keywords and ads are appropriate and high quality. Higher scores mean lower costs when users follow through on the actions you want them to take—signing up for a newsletter, purchasing a product, filling out a form, and so on. Really high scores can also save you money on the cost for every click on your advertisements.

You can boost your score in multiple ways. With curated keywords, refined ad text, and effective landing pages, which we’ll cover below. By understanding how your quality score works, you have a useful metric to measure your success right from the get-go.

2. Understand the Different Types of Keywords

Keywords are the bread and butter of successful search engine optimization or SEO. There are many, many different ways to categorize and prioritize keywords, so it’s very important to know what to look for early on.

Some of the essential keyword types you should understand include:

  • Short form keywords: These are made up of three words or less; useful when summarizing the simplest ideas in your content that people want to find, but very competitive (lots of pages will use these terms).
  • Long form keywords: Longer than three words, these keywords are more specific and less competitive—they are especially useful for advertising specific products and brands! (“$20 custom T-shirts in Meridian” is more likely to reach a particular audience than “T-shirts”).
  • Evergreen keywords: Some searches just don’t go out of style! These are terms that remain relevant and popular; annual roundups, interviews, beginner’s guides, and reviews tend to perform well over long periods of time and continue to gather searches.

These keywords will help you launch into effective SEO and online advertising, even as you continue to research new keyword categories and strategies.

3. Research Different Ad Formats

Ads show up in a lot of different places nowadays. An ad at the top of a website can perform quite differently than an ad in an Instagram story or a YouTube video.

There are two major groups of ads that you want to understand for your marketing strategy:

  • Display Ads: These are very common and probably what pops into your mind when you imagine “online advertisements.” Think of the displays on the top, bottom, or side of your screen when you scroll through a website. These ads are effective when targeting users who have clear preferences or visit sites already connected to your services and products.
  • Text Ads: You usually find these on search engines like Google—a little bit of descriptive text with a hyperlink to a webpage with more information. These are often cheaper than display ads, though they aren’t very flashy. They work best when targeting users with specific search terms and are often improved with optimization testing.

When you understand these two categories, you can prioritize your advertising. It helps you determine whether you are focusing on websites, social media platforms, or search engines, and plan your advertisements accordingly.

4. Determine Your Target Audience

Determining the right sites and keywords to focus on often depends on your audience. Different demographics use the internet differently, and they search for different topics.

Develop a buyer persona—a hypothetical, ideal user: Who are they? Do they have interests? What do they want? What can you offer them? Use real data to see if your ideal client matches real user interest and adjust your strategy with the insights from the data.

There are a lot of great, free resources for demographic research. Pew Polls, open-access journals, census statistics, and analytics reports from search engines and social media platforms can all fit in your toolkit.

5. Know How to Track Your Ad’s Performance

Speaking of analytics, it’s vital that you get familiar with your social media analytics when you start using ads. Google Analytics is a must, the absolute baseline requirement for tracking your advertising’s success.

Using Google Analytics, you can set up Custom Campaigns with customized URLs for all your advertising. This allows you to monitor and compare your campaigns straight from the Google Analytics dashboard.

6. Set Quantifiable Campaign Goals

Analytics are essential because they give you concrete, empirical data about what your ads are doing.

You should set quantifiable goals for your marketing campaigns which have clear, concise conditions for success: increase purchasing by 10% over the next 6 months, acquire 100 newsletter leads within 12 weeks. These are specific, measurable goals.

Don’t be afraid if you don’t always achieve your goals—setting clear conditions for success will help you understand your strategy and tell you when you need to change direction.

7. Plan Out Pipelines

Lead generation is a very important part of marketing: getting names, emails, and phone numbers lets you develop an audience for you to speak to. However, your advertising isn’t just about building leads, it’s about converting those leads into purchases.

Building a clear pipeline from lead generation, to nurturing prospects, to conversion into customers, will help you build advertisements with clear, specific purpose.

Know which advertisements will promote specific products or services for immediate purchase, and which will help you build a list of leads to convert into long-term clients.

8. Curate Content to Specific Platforms

Combine what you’ve learned about advertisement types, your target audience, and your goals to plan out specific content for your platforms. There’s no reason to write a ton of detailed written copy if you know that you want to advertise on a visual platform like Instagram that thrives off of display and video advertising.

Know the limitations and strengths of your given platforms, and several potential advertisement ideas that you could promote. Learn what’s performing well and see if you can use testing to find the most effective content for your advertisement campaigns.

9. Prepare Quality Landing Pages

What will users see when they click on your advertisement? You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about this next step!

Landing pages—the unique page that visitors see on your website when they click on an advertisement—allow you to customize your message, promote further action, and track your statistics more effectively.

These pages are important when cultivating leads for your funnel, and can gather a lot of valuable data about your website’s viewers. Make sure to block landing pages from search engines—this will cut down on spam and give you more accurate data.

10. Tell Users the Next Steps to Take

You know your audience and you know your campaign goals, so you should hopefully know what you want users to do when they click on an advertisement: sign up for your newsletter, purchase a product, download a free PDF…

Here’s the thing: you need to tell the viewer, explicitly, what they should do next. If a client goes through the effort to learn what’s being offered, they’re likely to take further steps when provided clear directions: letting users scroll down to find the CTA can see conversion lift up to 304%!

Never keep your readers in doubt: always give them a next step on your advertisements and your landing page.

Following these ten simple steps, you’ll better understand how online advertising functions and know just how your advertisements fit into your overall strategy.

Need some help managing the technical side of your business? Monkey VA can help you manage your social media, monitor your analytics, and prepare original copy for all your marketing needs. Schedule a consultation today!