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Are Digital Ads Worth It for My Marketing Strategy?

December 6th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Julia Elliott

Digital display ads float out of a laptop screen and mobile phone

You may have dabbled in digital advertising. Or perhaps you've had the nagging feeling you should. If you're wondering, "Are digital ads right for me?" the answer is almost certainly yes.

Consider this: People are 155% more likely to look up "brand-specific terms" after seeing display ads — one of the most common digital ad types. Not to mention, they can boost your brand's awareness by 80%. Those are compelling numbers.

Still, the world of digital ads can feel overwhelming, whether you've experimented with it or are just getting started. We understand. At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we have 15+ years of experience in digital marketing. And we have a strong sense of what works for many brands.

In this article, we'll cover some of the essentials of digital ads for your business, including:

  • 6 benefits of digital ads

  • 3 types of digital ads to consider now

  • Expectations and results

  • A sense of costs

  • Challenges to keep in mind

Once you've read through this piece, you'll feel more grounded and confident about the value digital ads can bring to your marketing strategy.

6 benefits of digital ads

First, a little distinction. Digital ads are a type of digital marketing — an umbrella that can also include digital tactics like content marketing, email marketing, SEO and website development.

Ads, specifically, are small bricks of text or designed images. They appear on websites, search engines and apps. They lure people into clicking them to learn more about you.

Digital ads offer plenty of benefits. They'll help you:

  1. Reach people where they are. Folks spend a lot of time-consuming digital content you may want to be affiliated with. Ads get you in front of them and let them know you exist.

  2. Get detailed targeting. You can put yourself in front of people based on their online behaviors, interests, geography, ages, gender, income level and more.

  3. Retarget your best prospects. Digital ads let you retarget people who clicked your ad but didn't take action. You'll stay in front of people through the decision-making process.

  4. Layer strategies. Digital ads are relatively easy to use and can increase your reach, especially if you invest in various platforms.

  5. See results and make tweaks in real-time. Log into any digital ad account to see how your ads are performing — and pivot if something isn't working.

  6. Scale up fast. If something's working well, you can crank it up with extra investment.

Digital ads are a fit for almost any product or service. It's an entry-level digital marketing tactic that gets you in the game and gains traction quickly.

3 types of digital ads to consider now

Digital ads take many shapes. There are classic display or "banner" ads, popups, video ads and even "rich media" ads, where folks can fill in text fields or swipe through options. But to deliver those digital ads, three key methods are worth exploring.

1. Search engine marketing (SEM)

Typically done on Google Ads, these are pay-per-click (PPC) ads based on keywords people are searching for. If there are specific keywords you want to align with, this can be a great option — for instance, private schools in a particular region, or autism services from ABA therapists.

About 65% of small businesses use SEM, notes marketing data expert WebFX. 

2. Social media ads

Social's superpower is the rich data it has on its users — based on their actions and the personal info they provide. People scroll through social media frequently, so it's a great way to reach new prospects and build brand recognition.

It also keeps you competitive: Social ads count for one-third of all digital ad spends as of 2021.

Which you choose depends on your audience and may need trial and error. A few factoids:

  • Facebook and YouTube tend to have the broadest reach

  • Instagram and Twitter trend strongly with millennials

  • TikTok and Pinterest draw a larger female audience

  • LinkedIn is great for marketing to businesses and professionals

Of course, this is just a taste. Each platform has diverse audiences and could unlock potential.

3. Programmatic ads

These ads primarily appear on websites and apps based on people's locations, age, gender and online interests and behavior. So, these ads are great at "following" your key demographics.

Programmatic accounts for 89% of all display ads, so it's a big player. A sound choice for expanding reach, it helps in branding and building awareness with people who might consider your product or service. It keeps you in their eyesight.

Expectations and results

With digital ads, you will see some traffic to your website — especially in the beginning. But expectations are key. For one thing, take the "click-through rate," or CTR. For most display and search ads, the average CTR is 1.9%. But it can be higher or lower based on industry.

Also, people are constantly cycling through the different stages of the buyer's journey, namely:

  • Awareness

  • Consideration

  • Decision

So it's vital to have a variety of ads. Those ads should run consistently. It's also crucial to "switch up" your creative (i.e., images, video, etc.) every 60-90 days.

At any given time, you're trying to inform people, remind them you exist and convert them. It's a lot of moving pieces. But, when well-strategized, digital ads can be potent.

A sense of costs

Remember, it's ideal not to limit yourself to one platform. A healthy mix of marketing tactics does a better job of moving the needle. That said, here's a flavor of digital ad costs by type:

  • SEM: Small businesses tend to invest $9,000-$10,000 per month. This includes both ads and agency management fees. Note that keywords do get more competitive and costly for some industries, like mortgages and attorneys.

  • Social media: Ad spends average $200-$1,500/month, plus $1,000-$2,500/month to manage campaigns.

  • Programmatic: Rates range $1-$15 per 1,000 impressions — aka CMP (that's cost per mille, or one thousand). Note that you must work with an agency for this method.

Broader marketing packages might affect these rates. Discover more about setting a budget for your digital marketing campaigns.

Challenges to keep in mind

Digital ads are effective and easy to get started with. That said, they're work. Unless you have an in-house marketing crew, there's a learning curve. Many businesses reach a tipping point: "Do we want to pay to learn? Or skip the mistakes by hiring an agency?"

Agencies are skilled at strategizing, testing and pivoting — and connecting you to broader digital marketing options. They can help you assess your goals, budget and campaigns and pivot as needed. And in some cases, like programmatic, a marketing agency connection is a must.

Also, remember, mindset is major. Digital ads pay off when they run consistently and address people at different stages. They're not as successful when flipped off and on randomly.

What are my next steps with digital ads?

Are digital ads worth it? Now more than ever, the answer is a resounding yes — to keep you competitive and in your prospects' line of vision.

This article covered 6 key benefits and the 3 major types, including SEM, social media and programmatic. We also touched on expectations, costs and challenges.

Are you ready to explore your digital ad strategy with an agency? Talk to your advisor at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We'll use our 15+ years of digital marketing experience to elevate your brand and help your ads get traction.

Still exploring all of your digital ad options? Take a deeper dive into: 

Julia Elliott

For 17 years, Julia Elliott crafted strategies and stories for Zoe, along with its sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent. A deep background in journalism helped her create customized content marketing to drive client success.