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Sep 1, 2017 · 15 min read

Online Advertising 101

Paid online advertising can be a great way of generating traffic and revenue for your online store. We take a look at what paid advertising is in this guide for beginners, so you can get started.


What is paid online advertising?

Paid online advertising is essentially any online advertising which you pay for, whether that is paid search, Facebook ads, banner ads, or affiliate marketing.

While everyone raves about the benefits of getting traffic to your site without paying for it, paid online advertising can actually be a great asset in your marketing strategy. Why? Because it can be be a great way to increase your traffic, increase your revenue, target your demographic and mean that you get found on search engines with a paid listing that appears above organic search results (which is good if your competitors aren’t running any paid search.)


What kinds of paid online advertising are there?

Because paid online advertising is so diverse, there are a number of different options when it comes to choosing your method.

Pay per click (PPC) or cost per click (CPC): Pay per click or cost per click means that you pay a set amount per click, and you only pay if someone actually clicks through and ends up in your store. If nobody clicks on it, you won’t get charged.  If you choose to run PPC, the return on investment can be high, you can get more exposure, you can update your budgets in real time, and it can be an affordable method of marketing. The good thing is, that clicks are easier to track than impressions too.

Search engine ads are the most popular way of implementing a pay per click strategy, but you can also do Facebook PPC ads, for example. However, paid search can be tricky if you don’t have any experience because it’s so competitive. There is a risk that when you first start you’ll lose some money before you start to make money, because you’ll need to play around to figure what works best for your brand.

In the example below you can see that it’s paid search because it has the word Ad next to it.

Paid shoes google ads

CPM: For every 1,000 views (also called impressions) your ad gets you pay a set amount. This means you get billed for people who have seen, and maybe not clicked on your ad. The good thing is that you don’t get charged extra if people do click on your ad. The prices for this are usually fairly cheap, and you have control over how much money you spend. The biggest issue with this is if people don’t go to your website and convert, you risk losing money.

CPA: Cost per acquisition or CPA is when a brand pays a commission to a website for sending a customer who goes on to purchase something on their website. If you’re an advertiser and you want to set this up, you’ll need to use an affiliate marketing network. This is tracked using a cookie.

CPA is a good way to get your brand promoted on other websites, and you only pay when someone has converted. It’s easy to track because the affiliate marketing company will do it for you. Setting it up can be time consuming, and managing an affiliate program needs someone working on it for between 5-10 hours per week to see growth.

Retargeting: Retargeting or remarketing uses a cookie to ‘follow’ people who have been on your website around on the internet. Once a cookie has been dropped, then when they are browsing later on, the cookie informs the retargeting provider that they should serve ads. This works best for websites who get about 5k of traffic every month. Otherwise it isn’t cost effective. It only targets people who have been on your website already, so they are already interested in what you have to offer.


What you need to think about before you start

Before you start your paid marketing campaigns you need to think about a few things.

  • Your budget.
  • How much time you want to spend on it.
  • The type of organisation that you have

Your budget: When you’re thinking about your budget for paid marketing, don’t forget to think about whether you need to pay a specialist to come in and help you (especially on the paid search side of things).

How much time you want to spend on it: Because some paid marketing channels take more time than others, it’s important that you look at which methods to use that works for your company and how much time you have to spare.

The type of organisation that you have: Some paid marketing channels work better than others depending on your brand and what your business goals are. You need to think about what it is you’re trying to achieve.


Choosing a network

Choosing a network for any paid marketing options is important. With PPC, CPC, CPM and retargeting there are some factors to think about.

What targeting options do you need?

When you’re deciding on a network deciding whether you need demographic targeting or interest based targeting is important. You can also choose both, but either way it’s important for the network that you choose to be able to help you to target them at the right time with the right message. ‘

Do you like the format of the ads?

If you like the format of the ads, they align with your brand and enable you to tell your brand’s story in a clear way and you think they are engaging, then this is a good sign. Steer clear of any networks where you don’t have that feeling.

What ad networks are there?

The most popular ad networks are the bigger names, but there are so many online these days that if these don’t fit your needs. These are a few to get you started:

  • Google Adwords
  • Bing
  • Facebook


Choosing an affiliate network

When you’re choosing an affiliate network, it’s slightly different to an ad network. Important things to consider are whether they have affiliates that match with your brand, whether you will have an account manager, the user interface, and monthly fees. This is covered in more detail in our article how to start an affiliate marketing program.


Key terms to understand

Behavioural targeting: This means that someone will be targeted based on what they have bought before

Match types: In paid search there are different match types so that the ad network knows when to show your ad. An exact match would only show your ad if someone had typed in the exact phrase. A phrase match means that your ad will show when the words are part of a searched phrase. A broad match means they will show your ad to a broad audience.

Click through rate: The percentage of people who click from your ad to your site. With CPC, the higher the CTR, the lower the price will be.

Quality scores: This rating tells you how well your ads work with your marketing message, offer or landing page.

Geotargeting: Targeting someone based on where they are located.

Date parting: Allows you to choose what time of day your ads will be shown.



Having a paid marketing strategy is important. You need to think about your budget, and how much time you’re willing to spend on it, as well as what kind of organisation you have. Then you can choose a method, or multiple methods for your paid marketing and do some research on ad companies to find the right fit for what it is that you want to do.

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