A Swimming Lesson in Online Advertising

swimmingI know from first-hand experience that online advertising is complicated to anyone who is not familiar with it – and that’s putting it lightly. When I first started learning about online advertising, I felt as if I was entering a whole new world – one that talked a different talk, walked a different walk and danced a different dance. I felt as if I was slowly drowning in a fast-growing pool of terminology, knowledge and options that seemed entirely foreign to me. But after continuing to tread and thrash, I kept my head above water and slowly taught myself to float. Needless to say, I’m going to arm you with some information (and maybe a pair of floaties) that will, hopefully, keep you from plunging headfirst towards the bottom.

What is an ad network?

An ad network is a company that connects web sites that want to host advertisements with advertisers who want to run advertisements. In simpler terms, if you want to run an ad on lots of different websites, rather than having to contact all of those websites, make plans and get contracts signed, you can use an ad network. It’s sort of a one stop shop. They have all the contacts, etc. And by going through a network, you can save yourself a lot of time. Rather than having ten different contracts going with ten different websites, you can have one contract with an ad network and still get what you are looking for.

What are my different options for advertising on networks?

Your advertising options will vary with every network, and trust me, there are tons and tons of networks out there. It just depends which one you choose to advertise with. But the two main forms of advertising are either “run-of-network” advertising or “targeted advertising”.

Run-of-network advertising is, put simply, telling a network that you would like your ad to run across all the sites they have on their network. This is usually done to get the advertisement in front of as many people as possible. However, always be sure to ask for a full site list from each network and also about sites that contain questionable content. You probably don’t want your brand running on a site that may contain violent, inappropriate images and/or content. A lot of networks I’ve dealt with guarantee against this type of content, but always ask just to be sure!

Targeted advertising comes in many shapes and forms, and it involves placing an ad directly in front of the pairs of eyes you choose. So just what shapes and forms does targeted advertising come in? Many! Read on to find out.

Demographic Targeting: Specifically targeting your audience based on age, gender, household income, job title, etc. An example of this would be targeting a car seat advertisement to stay-at-home, first-time mothers in their late twenties. You would tell the network that this is your demographic, and using the data they have, the network would place the ad on sites that these mothers frequent.

Geo-Targeting: This type of advertising involves delivering an ad to a website’s user based on his/her location. For instance, if you own a clothing boutique in Chicago it would do you no good to place ads in front of users in Montana, or even a different country. Geo-targeting allows you to target users in specific countries, regions, states, cities, zip codes, etc. However, check with a network beforehand to see if they have the capability to geo-target. While some may offer it, some may not.

Behavioral Targeting: This is another technique advertisers can use to optimize their digital campaigns. Behavioral targeting uses information collected on an individual’s web-browsing behavior, like the pages they have visited or the searches they have made, to select which advertisements to display to that individual. This practice helps advertisers predict that users behavior, and therefore, place your ad specifically in front of eyes that are more likely to purchase your product or be influenced by your ad.

Retargeting: Maybe someone came to your website but didn’t make a purchase, or perhaps they clicked on one of your banner ads and were about to make a purchase, but got interrupted and closed out of it. Retargeting will automatically place an ad in front of those who have already shown some sort of interest in your brand or product, which decreases wasted impressions and improves ad efficiency.

Now that I’ve armed you with a few of the basics, you should be a few strokes ahead of the crowd. Just remember, always ask questions if you don’t understand something. A large majority of the ad networks that I have spoken with have been more than helpful in answering questions and explaining things in ways that I can understand them. And if you’re unsure about online advertising, try running a test campaign to see what kind of results of you get. And remember, online advertising is all about optimization – or best said by Oneupweb – relentless optimization.