Digital Marketing 101: introduction to paid advertising

Welcome to the second instalment in our Digital Marketing 101 Series. (Read our first post, A Beginner’s Guide to SEO.) This week, we’re tackling the basics of paid advertising: what’s involved, when to use it and how to get the most bang for your digital buck.

In the world of digital marketing, paid advertising is the catch-all term used to describe any ads placed in an online environment. Outside of paid social, digital advertising typically falls into two categories: search and display. Google offers products for both and, happily for charities, you don’t always need to have big advertising budgets or a media buying agency to plan a search or display advertising campaign of your own.

Paid advertising basics explained

The difference between search and display. Search refers to ads that are served to users on (you guessed it) a search engine results page. They appear as text ads alongside organic search results and are triggered when the user types in certain search queries which relate to the keywords you’re targeting as part of your advertising strategy. Search ads are highly targeted and designed to deliver your message to the right person at the right time.

Display ads, on the other hand, are the image-led ads we see when we’re browsing other websites. They come in a range of shapes and formats from banners and skyscrapers through to videos and GIFs. Through display, you can serve ads to people on sites related to keywords you select or serve them to people based on their interests. Where search is ideal for converting leads and putting your message in front of a primed audience, display is more effective at building brand awareness and reaching a much bigger pool of potential supporters.

One of the smartest uses of display advertising is a tactic known as remarketing, which allows you to create an audience from people who visit your website, then serve your ad to them when they visit other sites on Google’s display network. Many advertisers choose to run a combination of display and search to both keep their brand front-of-mind and ensure they feature prominently at the point of conversion.

The difference between cost-per-click and cost-per-impression

Digital marketers love a good acronym. Two you’ll hear a lot if you choose to delve into paid advertising are CPC (cost-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions). You can select how you prefer to pay, but most search ads are sold on a CPC basis. This means that you only pay when a potential donor or supporter clicks on your ad – which makes it ideal for charities on tight budgets who need to keep a close watch on their spending.

Display ads are generally sold on either a CPC or a CPM pricing model, where the advertiser pays every time the ad is viewed. Which format you choose depends on your goals and your budget. If your ad is going to appear across a number of sites and rack up a lot of impressions, CPC means it can be seen by a large number of people without costing you too much. (The same logic can be applied to search). On the flipside, if you’re expecting a big click-through rate, it might make more sense to stick with CPM.

Setting up a paid advertising campaign

Once you’ve decided on the pricing model that suits you, it’s time to set up your campaign – Google Ads Help is a great place to start as it contains step-by-step walkthroughs to get you up and running. But first, here’s some more info you’ll need to have a handle on before you start.

  1. Know your audience. It’s critical to have a good understanding of who your audience are, along with their online habits. What websites do they like to visit? What are their interests? Where in Australia do they live? What’s their age and gender?
  2. Identify your keywords. What are the keywords your audience most commonly type into Google when they’re searching for an organisation or cause like yours? Are there any other specific keywords related to your organisation? What’s the search volume of these terms? How much is a click on average? You can use Google’s Keyword Planner for this, provided you have set up a Google Ads account.
  3. Know how much you’re prepared to spend. When you come to set up your campaign, you’ll need to specify a maximum amount per click or impression. With search in particular, the more you’re willing to spend, the greater visibility your ad will have on the search engine results page. (It’s worth remembering that ad position also depends on other factors, such as current advertiser competition for your keyword, so there’s still no guarantee that your ad will get top billing).

How to access Google’s Grant program

One of the best features of Google Ads is that you set the budget – and you can change it at any time. But even better news is that Google now runs a special service for charities, Google Ad Grants, through which eligible non-profits can access $10,000 (USD) in paid search advertising every month. Here’s a quick summary of how to access it:

1. Check you’re eligible

To qualify for a grant, you must hold current, valid charity status – in Australia that means being registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). You’ll also need to have a live website that provides sufficient details about your charity. Not all NFPs qualify however: the grant doesn’t cover Government entities and organisations, hospitals and medical groups, childcare centres or educational institutions.

2. Familiarise yourself with the guidelines

Google sets a number of specific parameters around how to use their grants, which recipients must agree to and abide by. These include always linking back to your charity’s approved URL, ensuring your ads promote your core mission and regularly maintaining your Google Ads account.

3. Set up your campaign

All Google does is provide the capital: you still need to do the work setting up your budgets and managing your campaign. This means staying within the limits approved for the grant. US$10,000 equates to just over US$300 a day and Google also sets a maximum cost-per-click of US$2. (Be sure to read more about this fantastic program and how to apply for a Google Grant.

Monitoring your campaign’s success

The beauty of paid advertising is that, unlike traditional media buys, it’s a lot easier to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. A host of metrics exist which enable you to track conversions and establish how many new leads are introduced to your charity as a result of your ad. Once your campaign is up and running in Google Ads you can track its performance and run reports at any time, then tweak elements of your campaign as necessary.

There’s so much more to learn and discover about paid – much more than we could cover in a single blog post! But the important thing to remember is that it’s easy to get started. Begin experimenting with small campaigns, learn your way around the formats and keep a close watch on how your campaigns are tracking and you’ll be a paid advertising pro in no time.

If you found this post helpful, look out for our next Digital Marketing 101 instalment. You can also read one of our previous posts on how to set up a paid Facebook ad campaign.