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How to Choose the Right Channel for Your Digital Advertising Campaign

marketer pointing something out on a laptop screen

The advertising landscape has grown to a point where there are seemingly endless possibilities for partners and channels to test. Just take a look at all the advertising platforms on Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Supergraphic. It can seem overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to determine the best place to start.

Every advertising channel has its own unique value and place in the customer journey. In order to maximize your chances of hitting your target audience, it’s ideal to run campaigns across multiple channels. But budgets don’t always allow for that.

Determining Your Digital Advertising Budget

Making decisions about where to prioritize budgets can be tricky, so it’s extremely important to first define what success looks like for your organization, the KPIs you’re working towards, and the metrics that will measure success. From there, you can develop realistic and accurate goals. Remember to take the time to understand your business model, your customer personas, and your sales process before starting to develop a strategy, ensuring your marketing strategy aligns with the overarching business objectives.

After you have the foundation set, it’s time to take a step back and talk about initial campaign planning and how to prioritize with your finite budget. The ultimate goal of all paid media campaigns is to maximize the return on every dollar spent. So within your budget limitations, what channels make the most sense to hit your goals most efficiently?

Before we dive into channels, I should also note that if budget isn’t wildly restricted, then I suggest building some wiggle room for testing & innovation into your media plan. For example, your strategy could involve budgeting 80% of your investment to industry best practices and 20% to testing new strategies. Testing new channels can be extremely effective, and it can sometimes come as a surprise to find your target audience in unexpected places.

Using the Right Channels to Hit Your Goals

Regardless of your budget restrictions or lack thereof, the planning will ultimately depend on the goal of the campaign and the target audience. For example, if you’re trying to drive awareness, paid search might not be the first place you should put your dollars, because with paid search you’re at the mercy of consumers actually searching for relevant terms. However, if your goal is conversions, then paid search might be the first place to invest since you’re able to capture those high-intent searchers who are looking for terms most relevant to your brand.

Below I’ll run through some advantages and disadvantages for different advertising channels.

Paid Search

Paid search is great for capturing high-intent consumers and driving conversions, especially if your keyword list is buttoned up and you’re only targeting lower-in-the-funnel terms. We typically consider paid search to be more of a foundational campaign, and it’s a no-brainer that you want to capture relevant search traffic if your budget allows.

It’s also worth noting that Google Ads sees an average conversion rate of 3.75% on the search network, which is high compared to the display network, which has an average conversion rate of only 0.77%. We typically see display perform well for us in terms of driving brand awareness and affinity, especially when running display prospecting. We tend to run more display retargeting campaigns than prospecting, and use it as a way to get our brand back in front of people who have been to the site. Conversion rates are usually much higher for display retargeting campaigns than display prospecting.

Paid Social

In regards to paid social, we see a lot of success using Facebook & Instagram for all of our goals from brand awareness to driving traffic & conversions. We typically see better performance on Facebook for our traffic and conversion campaigns, and utilize Instagram to build brand awareness and reach.

All inventory included, Facebook is usually one of the first platforms we recommend based on past performance, and of course because there are more people on Facebook than any other platform. Facebook targeting is also hard to beat. You have the option of creating saved audiences, custom audiences, or lookalike audiences.

When creating a saved audience, you sort through Facebook’s data and build an audience based on interests, location, age, gender, used devices, income level, etc. With custom audiences, you’re able to reach past website visitors and people who have engaged with your content or app by using your pixel or 1st party data. The third audience type is a lookalike, where Facebook allows you to create lookalike audiences from your 1st party data sources, which allows you to target people who are similar to your existing customer database. We see a lot of success with lookalike audiences, which makes sense, since they’re people who are very similar to existing customers.

Lastly, you can get even more specific by excluding certain audiences that you’d like to avoid targeting (like a customer who just bought your product yesterday, for example). Facebook’s targeting capabilities are top notch; that, combined with Facebook’s reach, makes it an easy bet to put ad dollars towards Facebook.

Programmatic Video, Display, Native, and More

Outside of paid search and paid social, you could also buy programmatic video, display, native, digital audio, and connected TV through The Trade Desk. Through a DSP like The Trade Desk, you’re able to buy ad inventory from ad exchanges or from publishers directly. So The Trade Desk not only allows us to maximize reach, but also allows us to plan cross-channel strategies and utilize extremely sophisticated targeting. For example, you can modify bids based on multiple factors in combination, including time of day, device, location, context, recency, etc. For these cross-channel strategies, we typically use a combination of lead and awareness goals depending on the channel.

Foundational and Evergreen Campaigns

So with all of these advertising platforms available to us today, you can really start to stitch together very detailed cross-channel media strategies, or simply cover the basics by showing up in Google when people search for your brand, all depending on your goals and budgets. Another trick we use, especially if budgets are tight, is to launch both foundational campaigns and seasonal campaigns.

Foundational campaigns are the “always active” evergreen campaigns. Largely focused on customer acquisition, we manage, adjust, and update these campaigns to drive consistent, predictable results. On the flip side, we launch seasonal campaigns to build targeted awareness and drive direct responses, often targeting a larger audience to get our campaigns in front of more eyes.

Putting It All Together

The advertising landscape can be overwhelming. There are endless possibilities when it comes to the partners, channels, and types of campaigns you can run in a paid media strategy. That’s why it’s extremely important to know your goals upfront to ensure you’re making the best choices.

Remember to define and understand your needs, KPIs, and success metrics. From there you’ll hopefully have some pretty clear answers on what channels to start with once you understand the budget and target audience. Keep in mind, you can optimize your budgets across channels based on performance, so once the campaigns launch, pivot to the channels that are driving the best results.