Online Advertising: How to Do It Right

Most small businesses get stuck with their online lead generation in three areas:

  • SEO – They understand the concept of search engine optimization, and do some work there, but they usually give up before great results are achieved.
  • PPC – People get a Google AdWords account, invest some money, watch it disappear, and stop.
  • Social Media – Here, people just waste time because they don’t know how to do it right.

Online lead generation is a big topic.  In this post, I’m going to talk specifically about how to spend money wisely to ensure return on your investment.

Before we begin, I’m going to assume you have a well-defined target market, you understand clearly who your target is, you know where they hang out on the Internet, and you know their psychological triggers. Without this info, you’ll always lose in marketing.

Online Advertising: Think Outside the Box

To get started, you need to think outside the box. Yes, your potential customers may search for your product or service–so being listed with a PPC ad can do you some good.  But that’s not the only way to reach them.  Plus, only a small percentage of your entire target market is searching for what you sell at any given time.

The key is to go where the customers are. Figure out where they hang out on the Internet.  Learn what they read.  Find out what social networks they visit.  Discover industry-specific forums or blogs.  You get the picture.  Once you know where they are, advertise there.

Sponsoring newsletters or dedicated solo e-mails is an extremely effective method of advertising for many businesses.  If you discover that much of your target is subscribing to a certain newsletter, find out if you can sponsor that newsletter or send a dedicated advertisement.  A dedicated, or “solo,” e-mail is an e-mail advertisement that a publisher will send to their newsletter list that contains only one piece of content: your ad.  These can be golden.

Once you find an area where it makes sense to advertise, contact the publisher or vendor and set up a test. They’ll always want to sell you on a long-term contract.  Don’t bite.  Your job is to make this process scientific.  Take the guesswork out.  The only way to do that is to test.  I like to limit tests to $2,000.  You may want to limit them to less than that.

When you run your test, be sure to split-test. If you’re running a dedicated e-mail, for example, you’ll want to test a couple different subject lines against each other.  On your next test, choose the subject line that performed best and then test something in the body of the e-mail.  Next test the landing page.  Eventually, you get to the point where you’re confident in the number of leads or sales your ad is going to produce every time you run it.  Only at that point should you sign a long-term contract.

That’s it.  It requires a bit of patience and scientific thinking, but it will produce results.

Lastly, let me just give you a few pointers:

  • Always have your landing page mirror the content of your ad.  The further the landing page strays from what the ad said, the higher the bounce rate you’ll have on the landing page.  I prefer to have my dedicated e-mails and landing pages look almost identical.
  • Be sure the important content and your opt-in form (or “buy now” buttons) are above the fold on your landing page.
  • Use subject lines and headlines that trigger a psychological response from your target.  Talk about the benefits of what you sell first.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum.  Preferably, you should only have one call to action in your ads and on your landing pages.  If you give users other options, they might take them and then you might lose the sale.  Help narrow their focus.
  • Use lead capture forms to capture lead info on your landing pages if your product is not an impulse-buy product.  Offer something of value (a free report, e-book, consultation, etc.) in exchange for contact information.  The minimum piece of information should be an e-mail address.  Keep in mind, the fewer the number of fields in your form, the higher your opt-in rate.  The more fields you have, the lower the opt-in rate.  Use the fields to filter your lead flow.

Online advertising is an important marketing strategy for many businesses. This is just a start (and the most important part) of getting it done right.  Feel free to ask questions about online advertising in the comments and I’ll answer them in subsequent blog posts.

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Tyler Garns Tyler Garns, Business & Marketing Strategist at Tyler Garns Marketing LLC, has over 10 years of experience in the field and is a recognized expert in Internet marketing. Tyler specializes in building "done-for-you" campaigns. You can follow him on the Tyler Garns Blog.

18 Reactions
  1. Great points all around. We find PPC is one of the best places to start with online advertising, but there is so much potential to invest more and see the ROI needle jump.

  2. Great stuff, Tyler. Sorely needed, too.
    I just posted about 21 Takeaways to Save Small Business on Main Street and talked about how to create this same lead capture concept in a physical store!
    I’m with you on this part, on all of your post. Thanks.

    “Use lead capture forms to capture lead info on your landing pages if your product is not an impulse-buy product.”

  3. Our best results in PPC is for our high end services like outsourced bookkeeping. On our low end services that sell for $100 for QuickBooks training, we have a hard time making it work.

  4. Thank you for the helpful information, Tyler as, TJ mentioned in his response, it’s “sorely needed.” I’d like to add that with on social media sites it’s a good tip to tailor your message/brand into something teachable. Something that can be digested into a “how-to, tips, or guide.” This increases the value of the content (especially when you post it where your customers are, as you said), presents you as an expert in your field, and makes it easy to include a call to action and capture form at the end. Just my .02 . . .

  5. Excellent advice and I think that many companies will struggle because they don’t spend the time and effort to truly know their customers, where they hang out & what makes them tick.

  6. Thanks 2ndLaw Media, TJ, & Robert for your comments. Robert, I agree – the key is to really know your customers. Unless you’ve spent the time to get to know them well, you’ll always struggle to get ROI on your marketing investment. And 2ndLaw Media, I believe that the online marketing world really opens up for most people when they get beyond PPC. Like you said, it’s a great starting point because you can start with a small investment. But, for many it’s not where they get the best return.

  7. I haven’t really be able to grasp the whole thing with Pay Per Click. Do you think that contextual text ads will stay forever? When will we see more social and interactive ads?

  8. For a new starter online with all the dreams systems and passion finally I think I have found the way to go Online. I truly appreciate the content you are providing.To hear Jim Rohn on a tape say”It’s not what you get it is what you become” makes sense when I start perusing quality articles and blogs.
    Once again cheers

  9. All great points; well made and easy to follow and implement. The only addition I would like to suggest is Great, Relevant Content. Without it, you will struggle to make any impact with any of the above. Every web/landing page created, every email sent, every blog posted or article submitted must have quality, relevant content or the call to action will never be reached, never mind acted upon. Even the wording on your PPC text advert will mean the difference between somebody clicking through on it or ignoring it.

  10. Online advertising is very helpful for small businesses that would like to get better ROI with advertising. It is true that knowing how to do it right will definitely help your business get the right customers/ clients.

  11. Talk about finding the right post at the right time. I am just about to write my marketing plan for my new startup.

    This has been mega valuable!

  12. Online advertising can be quite helpful for small businesses and offers great opportunities for ROI. It is true that knowing how to do it right will definitely help your business get the right customers/ clients.

  13. I’ve lost faith in Google CPC and can’t get ROI and personally for nearly all small businesses Google is now un-profitable.


  14. HI Tylor, I agree with you on the concept of effectiveness of online advertising which benefit the small group of businesses. I would love to know more of online pixel advertising and its functionality. please do share with me.

  15. marshjosem,

    Are you referring to retargeting. If so, I’d recommend ReTargeter and/or FetchBack. Both great companies that offer excellent retargeting capabilities.