The Marketer’s Guide To The Fundamentals Of Digital Advertising
Digital Advertising & Paid Media Buying
The fundamentals of digital advertising that I write about in this article are evergreen.
Meaning they will never change.
The digital advertising landscape is ever-changing but the fundamentals will hold true.
Digital advertising is the art of promoting a business strategically on websites or apps that are most likely to reach a target audience.
I don’t think I really need to define it.
Everyone knows what an ad is.
Ads are on TV, on VHS tapes, Apps, Magazines, Podcasts, Blogs, YouTube, Google, etc.
My point is that ads are everywhere.
Whether you are a business owner or a marketer, advertising can 100% help you reach your Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) or Goals.
I have been advertising or buying media for businesses for years.
A lot of our clients are getting 1,200% – 2,000% Return On Ad Spends.
This means for every dollar those clients spend, they get on average $12-$20 back.
That is a great ROI and makes marketing or advertising budgets a no-brainer for our clients.
But I want this article you are reading now to cut straight through the gimmicks and bullshit of advertising.
With the internet flooded with Tai Lopez’s and Joel Kaplan’s of the world, it is easy for ambitious people to fall for the gimmicks of “being your own boss” and “living a 4-hour workweek”.
I hope the reader of this article knows that advertising or marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Advertising 100% works, but it takes time and money, trial and error, and a lot of headaches.
Brenden The Marketer’s Marketing Experience
To give you some background to my career in digital advertising, I started when I was 11.
I used to make websites on what is now known as Wix.com
I started a Google Adsense account and started putting ads on my websites.
No money was made, but it was a start, I was an ambitious kid.
When I was 18 I went to college for marketing.
I interned for graphic design and branding agencies.
I started social media marketing for a cybersecurity company.
A professor of mine in college commissioned me to conduct market research for a local chocolate company.
But my first job (as many other marketers) where I started advertising on the internet, our budget was $5 per day.
I thought I would get huge returns for my client for a campaign that costs $150 per month.
This didn’t happen.
I now manage budgets of $10,500+ per day across 28 clients.
I learned the hard way a couple of irrefutable laws of advertising that are non-negotiable when speaking to new clients.
The Irrefutable Laws of Digital Advertising
Here is what I had to learn the hard way so you don’t have to.
- Minimum budget per campaign with a single goal (Not including retargeting campaigns): $20-$30 per day depending on the platform. (Facebook is cheaper than Google).
- For new campaigns, they have to run for a minimum of 3 months. Advertising is a business investment and not a cash grab.
- Every asset of the campaign (if you want it run by me), has to be set up on the platforms I am most familiar with and trust.
- Conversion tracking needs to be set up first and thoroughly before any money is spent. Also between the marketer and the client, you need an agreed-upon source of truth.
Minimum Budget $20-$30 Daily
A minimum budget can differ amongst industries.
I won’t begin a campaign with a budget that is too low or else we will get no results and the client will blame me.
In the rule, I say “per campaign”, this is because in some cases I will accept a lower budget.
For example, one of my clients is an Orthopaedic Surgeon with 4 locations.
We run one big lead generation campaign, then 4 smaller specific campaigns for each location.
These campaigns run for $8 per day each, so in total is $32 per day for the entire campaign.
Campaign Flight Minimum of 3 Months
For new campaigns, they have to run for at least 3 months.
If you, unfortunately, can’t afford to keep a campaign live for at least 3 months, then you should wait to advertise.
When I start a new campaign I do as much competitor and keyword research as possible to launch the campaign for success.
I will wait 10 days for the campaign to gather enough data for me to start making gradual optimizations.
We have dealt with clients who can’t let the advertising campaign run for longer than a week without pausing it.
Like I said, advertising does work and can bring you great returns but not within the first 1-3 months (maybe if you are lucky).
Every campaign needs time to collect data and to allow the machine learning to optimize itself to maximize conversions.
Once the first 10 day period is over, I will begin a schedule of analyzing and optimizing a campaign once a week.
I wish you could do this daily but you really can’t with digital advertising.
Too many optimizations too frequently can really mess up your performance without indication as to which change is making the difference.
If you go into an advertising campaign with the intention of only letting it run for 1 month, you realistically can only make 2-3 optimizations within that time.
That is just not enough time to start seeing great ROAS (Return On Ad Spend).
Campaign Tools & Assets Need To Be Familiar
There are so many tools for business owners or marketers to build websites and market their business.
This is great and allows for the market to stay competitive with new and better tools for cheaper prices.
As a marketer, I have seen clients utilizing different platforms.
At the beginning of my career, I would agree to work on any platform.
They are fundamentally all the same, so I could always figure it out.
However, some platforms I am just not familiar with.
When taking on these clients, the unfamiliar platforms would always become an issue with either installing conversion tracking, page speeds, or just becoming frustrating to use.
Regardless of the reason, using platforms that were not familiar to me specifically, hurt the performance of my client’s campaigns.
If a client wants to work with me, they have to agree to the tools I use so I can best deliver results based on my experience and familiarity with the tools I am using.
Imagine building houses for a living, then you are tasked to build a house with a whole new set of tools you are unfamiliar with.
You can probably still build the house, but it wouldn’t be as smooth as you’d like.
Now imagine you are building 30 houses at the same time using 30 different toolsets.
It becomes too much and there’s no way you are truly maximizing the potential for your campaigns.
Conversion Tracking Needs To Be Set Up First
At the beginning of my advertising career, I would make the mistake of not setting up conversion tracking right away and it always bit me in the ass later.
Never set up conversion tracking at the bare minimum.
Conversion value needs to be included in all your data tracking.
Don’t worry about timing.
You may have a launch date but I would rather push that date back to ensure conversion tracking is properly set up.
Make sure you have a checkout amount or conversion value included in your conversion tracking.
At the very least, set an average conversion value of 10% less than your actual average order amount.
I like to under-promise and over-deliver.
If I can optimize a campaign based on 10% less than the average order amount, that means most likely I am making more money for my client.
Don’t just set up the basic conversion events like landing page view or button click.
Adding Conversion Tracking
You need conversion tracking with revenue or conversion value included somehow.
Each platform can accommodate this and most have helpful support live chats you can utilize to get this set up.
When I onboard a new client and I am starting the conversion tracking set up I usually do the same 3 things:
- Google Analytics
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
This is the basic set up but depending on the advertising medium you may want to include LinkedIn or Twitter or Programmatic conversion tracking.
Even if a client comes to me for just Facebook advertising, I like to set up conversion tracking on all the other platforms too just in case they eventually want to utilize those platforms, we don’t have to start from scratch with new pixel data.
If you have an email list of past customers that is over 1,000 people, you can usually import this list to any platform to jump-start your pixel data.
One last thing that goes into this final rule is that you need to have an agreed-upon source of truth between you and your client (or staff).
Reporting is never 100% accurate but agreeing on a source of truth, helps you work together to achieve your goal.
I have dealt in the past with clients who are looking at conversions within their website builder’s metrics, while I am looking at the conversions tracked through Google Analytics and we disagree over the performance of the campaign or more specifically where the conversions are coming from.
“Are the conversions coming from organic search, or from the advertisements”
Trust me, it is important to establish a common source of truth before the campaign begins
The Moral Responsibilities Of The Advertiser
When creating marketing strategies and knowing what tools are available to advertisers, it is easy to get carried away.
If I wanted to I could bombard our target audience with so many ads that they could never escape the client’s company.
I could send an email to them right when they wake up, an ad when they open up their phone, ads on TV, ads on their work computer, ads on their favorite podcast.
I could do all of this then start retargeting ads they are unavoidable.
Obviously, when reading this, this sounds like a horrible marketing plan, and I would agree.
As advertisers, we have moral responsibilities.
Marketers get access to a lot of data from leads and this information can definitely be abused and shouldn’t.
But the main moral responsibility I am referring to is to not flood the world with ads.
I see a lot of ads and new platforms always find a way to monetize their audience with new ads.
Ads won’t go away and I hope we won’t live in a world where we can’t escape advertisements.
There is a Netflix Original show called Maniac with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.
In this show, national landmarks are flooded with ads.
There is even a new payment method called an “Ad Buddy” where you can purchase things without money but you have to listen to a person read you ads.
This is just a fictional Netflix show but I do see the possibility of advertisers going too far and stamping everything with an ad to where it impedes regular life.
I know this is a strange take on ads, especially from a guy who lives in the world of digital advertising but I wanted to make that distinction.
Advertising Too Much
If your business is advertising too much, it may hurt your brand by coming off as annoying to your audience.
If your product really provides a true benefit, people will look for it eventually and that is where you can serve them an ad.
The main idea of the ads is to display what your offer is, then allow the person on the other side to decide if they want to explore it further.
It is too easy to be everywhere with your digital advertisements and you should keep your ad campaign to the essential minimum.
The Digital Advertising Tactics That Will Always Work
The biggest lesson I have learned during my time as a digital advertiser is that the fundamentals will always work.
The landscape may change but the fundamentals will still be present.
At its core, advertising is trying to show people a product that they could benefit from.
If you remember to keep the user experience in mind when creating your campaign, landing page, and funnel you will stay ahead of the curve.
Make your funnel fun to go through and easy to understand.
It is easy to get lost in the high number of conversions to remember that each conversion is a unique person who trusted your ads enough to purchase your product.
Make sure you treat them like humans.
Here is another article on Humanizing your marketing strategy.
Simple Funnel Structure
The basic sales funnel consists of Brand Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion.
A lot of businesses get caught up in utilizing conversion campaigns only.
It makes sense, they want sales.
When I take over an account the first thing I look at is their funnel.
If they have been running only conversion ads for a while and they are noticing a drop in performance, 9 times out of 10, that client is not running a brand awareness campaign.
We recently took over a large account, a publicly-traded company.
This client spent a lot of money every day and made a lot of money too.
However, they were not promoting a top-of-funnel campaign for brand awareness.
It may seem like a waste to launch a campaign that does not have the goal of sales, but that is what the funnel is for.
We have seen conversion campaigns convert better when there is also brand awareness running simultaneously.
A lot of times, I get too deep in the marketing strategy trying to think of “the next thing” where I skip the basics and this always leads me back to square one.
You need a brand awareness campaign, consideration campaign, and conversion campaign when creating a strategy.
Within each campaign is where you can get creative.
If you are ready to start your first Facebook or Google Ad campaign here are my guides to setting them up right the first time!
Before I started managing big accounts, I would read books or blogs that say what I just wrote above.
It seemed too basic and I used to just skip over it.
“Ya ya I know what a funnel is”.
But now I have seen why it holds true.
Utilize all phases of the funnel or your campaign performance can dip.
Overlooking the basic fundamentals could be the reason your campaign is not performing well.
Fix your funnel, test different copy, creative, and audience.
This will allow you to grow your business or client’s business through digital advertising.
If your performance is not headed in the right direction, I would highly encourage you to evaluate their funnel structure.
Then see which funnel phase they are neglecting (Usually the brand awareness phase).
I hope you enjoyed this article and please bookmark it to come back to.
In your career as a digital advertiser, if you hit a roadblock, it is important to revisit the basics.
No matter how big your agency becomes, these will hold true.