Digital Advertising for Small Business
29 October 2015
29 October 2015,


Digital Advertising Options Delivering Big Results to Small Business

Paid advertising within the digital media offers many opportunities for businesses. It is a far more targeted approach than print and electronic media offer. And, online advertising can deliver far greater return on investment because it is so targeted.

The key to successful Internet advertising is understanding the audiences that each type of advertising medium helps you to reach. And which types are appropriate for your business. Here is a run-down of five of the most popular digital advertising media.

Pay-per-Click Advertising with Google and Bing/Yahoo

Google and Bing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be used successfully by companies selling products or services. B-to-B and B-to-C businesses alike are appropriate. PPC allows you to target a local, regional or national market. If your customers use the search engines to find you and your competitors, this advertising medium could be very profitable for you. As an advertiser, you only pay if someone clicks on the link in your ad and visits your website.

Among my clients, those who have been successful with pay-per-click include a hair stylist, a wholesaler of mineral-based products, a real estate company specializing in rentals, an inventory counting service, and a tennis club—for just a few examples. In other words, pay-per-click is appropriate for many different kinds of businesses.

Some businesses complain that pay-per-click advertising is too expensive, and there may be some situations in which competitors’ profit margins are so significantly greater that they can bid up the most popular keyword search phrases so that this medium is no longer profitable for others. But, usually it is just a matter of using the settings that Google and Bing provide to narrow the audience for the ad enough to ensure that you are targeting the best possible prospects. And, both Google and Bing allow advertisers to set a daily budget, so there should be no surprises with their billing.

Find more information about Google AdWords here.  Information about the Bing/Yahoo advertising platform can be found here.


Yelp Advertising

Yelp is most appropriate for local consumer service companies whose potential customers are looking for advice from other consumers. Restaurants, entertainment venues, doctors, dentists, some kinds of lawyers, home service providers, automotive repair shops, and other businesses that provide a service are appropriate advertisers on Yelp. In order to be successful, however, you do need to fit into one of Yelp’s designated business categories.

If you offer a niche service that can draw in customers from beyond the boundaries of the average local service area, (5-10 miles) Yelp may be a better advertising choice for you than other options.

Yelp’s cost structure is a hybrid between cost-per-click and cost-per-impression, with a relatively small additional monthly fee. Generally speaking, you must contract for 1 year, although seasonal businesses may be able to arrange for a 6-month agreement. The contracted monthly cost is based upon Yelp’s knowledge of the volume of searches it gets within a particular locality for different categories of business, the number of impressions Yelp can deliver and the anticipated number of click-throughs to the advertiser’s Yelp listing page. In other words, Yelp guarantees a particular number of clicks for the agreed upon cost. Advertisers can link their Yelp listing to their website, and they offer a “click-to-call” action button for mobile users.

One word of warning: In order for Yelp to be a good advertising medium, it is necessary for you to have some pretty good reviews on the site. If you do not, it is not possible to delete bad reviews or quickly get better reviews posted because of Yelp’s review policies.

LinkedIn Advertising

With my last newsletter, I did an extensive article on all of the ways to advertise on LinkedIn. You can read it here.

LinkedIn is most appropriate, of course, for companies marketing business-to-business—both service providers and those selling business equipment and other kinds of products to businesses. It is possible to target local, regional, national and international markets through LinkedIn. And, it is also easy to target businesses by industry.

Facebook and Twitter Social Media Advertising

Although their capabilities for advertisers are somewhat different, Facebook and Twitter are both most appropriate for companies that offer a product or service to consumers. The market can be local, regional or national—even international.

The specific type of business that can be successful with advertising through these social media sites is somewhat more nuanced. Find a few of the businesses that Facebook touts as successful with their medium here.   Notice that at the top of the page, you can filter results by size of the business, by goal, by industry, by advertising product, and by world region.

Facebook and Twitter advertising does require some work. In order to be successful, you will need to maintain active Facebook and Twitter accounts, with frequent postings of both original and non-original (shared) content.

Living Social/Groupon Advertising

Living Social (an Amazon offshoot) and Groupon sell coupons for local products and services at discounted prices to people who have signed up to receive these “deals” via email or mobile app.

These two advertising media are best for consumer businesses willing to provide a discount to a new customer in order to get them to try their product or service. If you know you make the best cranberry muffins in town, but no one comes in to your store to try them, these advertising media may be for you.

Although they are known mostly for local advertising, both of these advertising media also offer bargains on products and travel that are not oriented to a particular local market.

I believe that businesses that offer seasonal products or services also can be especially successful on these sites. In those cases, your ad will serve as a reminder to the consumer that “it’s time!” For example, here in the Denver area, businesses that offer sprinkler system blow-outs, sell snow tires, Christmas decorations, or automotive winterization packages could probably be pretty successful with these ads now.

The businesses who generally find Living Social and Groupon most profitable are those hoping to generate repeat customers by incentivizing them to try their products or services. The one caveat is this: These media tend to attract bargain hunters. Someone who buys a coupon for a 1-hour massage for $45 may be unwilling to pay your regular fee of $75/hr. Just something to think about…


Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of online advertising opportunities. Depending upon the nature of your business, there will be numerous other possible advertising mediums—some of which will be specific to your business category.

No matter what you sell, though, online advertising channels need to be a big part of your marketing mix. The Internet has become the single greatest medium for generating sales because it is an “on-demand” medium—people use the Internet to find all kinds of products and services they need, when and where they need them. That gives strategic online advertising a power to compel sales with which no other medium can compare.

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