Online Advertising Platforms: What Are Your Options & When To Use Them

Illustrated Cover Image for article discussing online advertisement platforms by MKTR.AI

Digital advertising platforms are EXPLODING!

To be fair, digital ads exploded in the 2000s, but they’re still growing rapidly and for good reason. They drive revenue… when done well.

But not just any online ad platform will work for your business’s next campaign. Without a plan, you could waste precious ad spend dollars on ineffective marketing.

Let’s be honest: When it comes to marketing, it can get a little frustrating with the myriad of techniques, tools, and tips that claim to help you increase ROI (and ROAS). But how are you supposed to know which one will give you the biggest bang for your buck without having to invest a lot of time, money, and effort?

This is a question that we get a lot from prospective clients: which platforms should we be advertising on?

In this article we’ll tell you about the most popular online advertising platforms, so you can choose the best platform and channel for your business.

But before anything else, let us first define the most important question here: What on Earth is online advertising?

What Is Online Advertising?

Online advertising is a marketing strategy that involves the use of the Internet as a medium to obtain website traffic and target and deliver marketing messages to the right customers. It is geared toward defining markets through unique and useful applications. 

Anyway, it is important to understand that Internet Marketing is a subset of digital marketing and NOT something different. When we talk about digital marketing, in essence, we mean online marketing plus Mobile SMS, WebTV, and other digital advertising.

With that, an online advertising platform lets you manage your online advertising strategy to make you more visible to an online audience. In fact, it is one of the most effective ways for businesses of all sizes to expand their reach, find new customers, and diversify their revenue streams. 

A major advantage of online advertising is the quick promotion of product information without geographical boundary limits. A major challenge is the evolving field of interactive advertising, which poses new challenges for online advertisers and marketers.

In the rest of this guide, we’re going to walk you through picking the right online advertising platform and channels for your business.

Choosing The Right Digital Advertising Channels 

With online ads, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that we recommend.

The key to effective online advertising is to be where your customers are.

There’s no point chasing trends that don’t benefit your bottom line. If you’re ad spend is going to advertising channels where your customers don’t spend time, it’s money down the drain!

Questions To Ask Yourself

So before we start up, ask yourself a few questions: 

What is your business?

What type of business are you running? How do you make money?

Every product has an audience and for each audience, there is an advertising platform that helps you to reach out to that specific group of people. Your job is to match your business needs with what the platform offers.

What is your target audience?

After you have understood what your business is, you need to know your target audience.

Who are your products or services intended for? You have to analyze your current customers. Analyze their ages, genders, locations, and interests.

After you have done that it’s time to create your potential customer profile. You can use big online advertising platforms to reach people interested in specific activities, products or services.

What is the goal of your advertising campaign?

When you are selecting ads platforms, the major consideration should be your GOAL of advertising.

Ask yourself, do you want to introduce your brand to the world?

Do you want to increase brand awareness, or you have a well-established brand and you want to direct people to your product pages to increase sales?

Define your goal. Goals will help you decide on an advertisement platform.

The top 5 Advertising Channels

With the listed considerations above, let’s now get a quick spin through the major digital advertising types for your business and their key benefits… 

1. Search Advertising

Search advertising (AKA paid search, search engine marketing (SEM), and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising) is the process of buying advertising on search engines. The process is largely automated with search advertising software, and the strategy is often used in combination with search engine optimization (SEO) and organic search marketing strategies.

Search ads are generally purchased by advertisers based on relevant keywords and are shown to a search user after that user includes that keyword in their search query. Ads can also be bought and placed across a search engine’s search network.

Businesses of any size can use and benefit from paid search ads. In today’s marketplace, search engine marketing matters. Experts put the number of searches on Google alone at 5.5 billion, per day, every day. Research shows that more than 70% of B2C consumer purchase decisions start with a search engine, and 93% of B2B buying decisions start with a search.

Some search results will feature both text ads and product listing ads together. This is what a paid search ad looks like:

Benefits Of Search Advertising

Cost

Search advertising remains popular because it’s one of the most cost-effective online marketing strategies there is. Since ads are PPC, you only pay when a prospect clicks on your ad. You won’t pay for ads that are seen but not clicked. Plus many keywords still have a cost-per-click (CPC) that’s under a dollar.

Qualified Leads

Search advertising puts your product in front of your prospects when they are already looking for it. If done right, search ads produce a higher click-through rate and more qualified leads.

Actionable Data

Because search ads are processed through software such as Google AdWords, advertisers benefit from a mountain of data that can be used to refine your search campaigns and better improve your performance.

Personalization

Modern PPC advertising can target your likely buyers even beyond their first keyword search and ad click. People-based marketing and remarketing strategies can let you re-engage with your audience around the web, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.

2. Display Advertising

Display advertising is the process of buying ad space on third-party websites for your brand, products, or services. Advertisers use display advertising software to target, buy, manage and track their ads and campaigns. 

While display ads are also a form of pay-per-click advertising, they are different from paid search ads. Display ads show up on web pages themselves — which you arrive at by clicking on one of the results of your SERP or by typing the address into your browser. They typically take the form of a box or banner and have an image/graphic and distinct call to action button.

Furthermore, display ads run across websites that have opted to monetize their content by selling ad space. There’s a large variety of possibilities, but commonly display ads appear at the top of a web page, the bottom of a page, in a sidebar area, or interspersed between content blocks.

This is an example of a display ad:

Benefits Of Display Advertising

Brand Awareness

Much like advertising on a roadside billboard or bus shelter, online display ads help drive brand awareness. Online display ads are more targeted, such that a shoe website serves up ads that would appeal to sneakerheads.

Versatility

You can run a display ad such as a banner, a static visual with text, graphic animations, looping video clips, or interactive ads that expand with a mouse hover or click.

High Volume

Websites that typically offer ad space do so because they get a lot of traffic. Some large websites get millions of visitors per month. All of those visitors are your potential customers, particularly when the software matches your ad with high relevancy websites and web users.

High Visibility

Even though website visitors may not have thought about your product or services — either because they’re unaware of your brand, or they’re outside of your demographic — they still might be shown your display ad. This gives you some of the highest visibility available on the web.

Retargeting

Display ads also allow advertisers to take advantage of retargeting. Because a user has recently visited your website, the display ad software may serve up your product or brand ads on other websites, which can serve as a reminder than increases conversions.

3. Social Advertising

As you can imagine, social advertising is the practice of placing ads on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Marketers and advertisers use social advertising software to help automate and streamline the ad buying process on social media sites.

Ads can be bought, managed, and tracked through the social network’s own software or with third-party tools. Ad placements typically appear in the post feed, among native content posts, or as banner ads in the sidebar.

Ad formats vary from platform to platform, but commonly advertisers will create sponsored content or promoted posts that consist of visual or multimedia posts with a strong, concise call to action.

Benefits Of Social Advertising

Engagement

Social advertising gives advertisers an opportunity to engage their customers in conversations, feedback exchange, customer service, reviews, and more. It’s a unique two-way communication not available in other forms of advertising.

Consumer Data

Social media is prized by advertisers for its deep insight into consumer demographics. Social media users supply a large amount of data about themselves to social networks. That data can make for richer user experiences as well as better ad targeting for businesses.

Targeting

Social media big data means that advertisers can target highly specific buyer personas. You can target people by age, gender, and education who like a particular book, or people with specific jobs, hobbies, locations, and more.

Wide Reach

Millions of people around the world use social media every day. About 214 million people in the US now use Facebook, while 133 million US professionals are on LinkedIn. Within these large audiences, businesses can target demographics interested in their products and services.

Retargeting

Another benefit of social media is the ability to retarget your existing prospects. With the use of social media tracking pixels or just your email list, you may be able to serve your ad up to interested leads who have visited your website recently or interacted with your brand.

4. Video Advertising

Online video advertising is the practice of using video content to promote products, services, or brands on third-party websites. The process of buying, managing, and tracking ads online is largely streamlined and automated with the help of video advertising software. 

Video ads can work well as part of a comprehensive digital advertising strategy, helping to improve brand awareness as well as contribute to higher conversions and sales. They are the ideal attention-grabbing combination of visuals and a narrative — perfect for introducing your brand, showing off products, or driving sales. 

The sight, sound, motion and the high-quality experience of watching video creates a positive viewer response to videos. With more video applications appearing in the online space, there is even more intense competition to gain consumer attention and keep viewers hooked.

The most common use of video advertising is on video content websites, such as Youtube. Here’s a quick example:

Benefits Of Video Advertising

High Engagement

Video advertising is highly engaging. The completion rate for video ad views is now as high as 83%. One-third of online consumer time is spent on video content. The average conversion rate for sites using video is 4.8% compared to 2.9% without, and the average user also spends 88% more time on a website with video.

High ROI

About 85% of companies using video ads find it successful, and 51% of all marketers say video now has the best ROI. Video has now been shown to increase organic traffic from SERPs, increase landing page conversions and rankings, and generate more social shares.

Video Growth

About 87% of online marketers are now using video. Millions of minutes of video are watched every day. Video traffic made up 69% of global consumer web traffic in 2017 and is expected to account for 80% by 2019.

Versatility

Video is another digital advertising medium that benefits from versatility. As more content consumption shifts to mobile, so does video consumption. Social media is another area where video reigns supreme. This gives advertisers a variety of ways to use video to reach their audiences.

5. Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising is the process of advertising across mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and wearable technology. This is an ad platform that is growing, as more and more people are spending more and more time on their mobile devices. Special mobile ad software is used to buy, manage, and track mobile advertising, and ads on mobile come in many forms, including search ads, display ads, video, social, and even in-app ads.

In fact, by the end of 2018, 5.1 billion people around the world subscribed to mobile services, accounting for 67% of the global population. Over the coming years, these new opportunities have the potential to provide an uplift to mobile operator revenue, with an expected annual average growth rate of 1.4% between 2018 and 2025.

Furthermore, not only are mobile ads getting noticed more than desktop ads, but users also report that they are more likely to click on mobile advertisements. Mobile advertising as a whole is trending upward, and businesses should be prepared to embrace this wave and incorporate mobile as a key component of their online advertising strategy.

Benefits Of Mobile Advertising

Growth Opportunities

There are huge growth opportunities to be had for mobile advertisers. In 2018, more than a third of advertising spend went to mobile, eclipsing the media dominance of network television advertising. Experts predict that mobile share will grow to more than 47% of the total ad spend by 2022.

Affordability

Mobile ads remain a fairly affordable choice for advertisers. Android banner ads have one of the lost cost-per-mille (CPM) for impressions of around $1.25. Overall mobile banner ads are around $1 CPM, compared to desktop ads at $6 for CPM pricing.

CPM = Cost per 1000 impressions, or views, or an ad.

Versatility

Another benefit of mobile advertising is its versatility. A brand whose customers are on mobile can reach them with search ads, display ad campaigns, Facebook videos, SMS messaging, and even in-app ads.

Less Ad Blocking

Ad-blocking software is popular with many computer users, with adoption as high as 40% among all US laptop users. However, there’s considerably less ad blocking on mobile devices. Only 15% of US smartphone users and 8% of tablet users block ads.

Now that you have a good overview of ad channels, let’s take a dive into the best online ad platforms.

The Best Online Advertising Platforms To Choose From

Before you start creating your campaigns, it’s a good idea to know which platforms you’d like to optimize for.

So let’s get to know some of the best online advertising platforms, to help you promote your business, win new customers, and increase your sales. 

1. Google Ads

As you probably know, Google is on top of things with 3.5 BILLION search queries every day!

Google is the biggest player in the pay-per-click industry and is vital to many marketers and business owners.

Two of the most important types of ads Google offer are: search ads and display ads:

Search Ads

This is the most common type of ad. You see them on the top of Google’s search after you perform it. Google usually offers 2 or 3 spots and several others on the right side of the page. You target specific keyword phrases and pay for each time someone clicks the ad.

Display Ads

The display network allows you to place your ads on places outside of Google. These ads will appear as banners or small boxes on sites that promote products or services. Often, they are related to the items you have shopped for online or the content of the site you are reading.

Because of the nature of the Display network, this is among the BEST online advertising choices for remarketing. By using the targeting tools to put your ads in front of people who have already expressed an interest in products like yours, you can increase the chances of getting a sale.

With Google ads, ads can show on both desktop and mobile devices. When using display ads, you can use device targeting to target only smartphone and/or tablet users. On this platform, you can publish ads within apps, browsers, and Google search results.

Most Google Ads options are useful. You have to figure out which one works best for you and scale your efforts and investment. Here’s a tip: optimize your marketing messages with keywords, and you might notice your website climb a few positions on Google’s search engine result page.

Lastly, with Google Newsstand ads, you can reach people while they’re sipping their coffee and reading the news, early in the morning, or at whatever time they reach for their mobile and access the news app. It is also a great placement because each person receives personalized news and ads benefit from the same customization system.

All things considered, Google Ads is for you when your consumers are actively looking for your brand or product. If you take time to perform user intent mapping, you should be able to target customers based on the part of your marketing funnel you’re attempting to feed.

2. Youtube Ads

YouTube advertising is also managed through Google Ads. YouTube ads allow you to show your video ads to a large audience of potential prospects based on several possible targeting options.

Just so you know, YouTube is currently the world’s second-largest search engine and the first video platform people choose to watch video content.

You can target based on keyword search, channel type, content format, industry, and even other websites where Google’s display network is able to show ads.

To date, there are seven types of YouTube Ads, including TrueView Ads, Preroll Ads, Bumper Ads, etc. Combined with robust placement restriction options to ensure your ads only show up with content that you deem appropriate, this is currently the best way to get video in front of a paying audience. 

Also, here are the video formats you can use on YouTube to promote your business:

In-stream videos

Video ads before, during, or after other videos on YouTube and across the Google Display Network. After 5 seconds, the viewer has an option to skip the ad.

Discovery video ads

These videos are promoted in places of search, where they can easily be discovered: in YouTube search results, as related videos or on the mobile homepage of YouTube.

Bumper ads

6 seconds non-skippable video ads during the main video.

All in all, YouTube Ads are easy to set up. They also have excellent analytics to measure the impact of your campaigns.

Their Brand Lift solutions, in particular, will tell you how effective your ads are at reaching your audience. This is valuable for any video advertisers and marketers!

3. Facebook & Instagram Ads

Facebook has been the most impactful social platform for marketers and advertisers for the last decade… and it still is.

With Facebook, you can reach millions of people around the world!

Due to its large user base, the social media giant launched Audience Network, an easy-to-use ad platform.

Facebook is well-known for its many advertising targeting options, and now they’ve given advertisers the option to choose from the following ad types:

Native ads

These are ads where you customize how the ad displays in your app or site so that it looks like it is an integral part of the user experience. Native ads tend to perform better than most other ad types because they are thoughtfully integrated into your app or site.

Interstitial ads

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that appear during transitions between tasks.

These are smaller ads that appear at the top or bottom of the screen. They perform the least well of all formats because people are accustomed to ignoring them.

In-stream video ads

These are video ads that run before, during a break, or after video content (pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll) in a video player on a website. In-stream video ads require that you integrate Audience Network with your video player.

Rewarded video ads

Rewarded video ads are a type of video placement for gaming apps that give people playing a game a reward in exchange for watching a video ad.

Instagram Ads

Instagram is another great option for advertisers since it’s a mobile-first platform created with the mobile audience in mind. Both Facebook and Instagram ads are managed via Facebook’s ad platform.

It is important to note that Instagram is a visually-centric platform. Hence, you should be posting high-quality, attention-drawing, and self-explanatory pictures that can quickly grasp the attention of your audience for your ads. 

All in all, If your product doesn’t have strong brand awareness and if you want to reach out to a highly engaged audience, anytime, anywhere, Facebook and Instagram for business might be the advertising platforms for you! With little cost Facebook allows you to introduce your product, build brand recognition, set up social credibility and ultimately win conversions.

4. Bing Ads

Just like Google Ads, Microsoft’s search engine Bing also has a lot to offer. According to Microsoft, Bing accounts for 33.5% of all searches performed in the US. Every month, there are five billion searches performed on Bing. This audience includes 68 million people who are not reached by advertisers who only promote on Google.

While Bing may have smaller market share than Google, your advertising budget could spread farther on the 2nd place search engine. On average, you will pay 70% less for Bing Ads than Google. This can be an advantage to smaller brands with smaller budgets. It can also be a great resource when you are testing a new idea and are not ready to commit to a large paid marketing budget. 

5. Yahoo Gemini

Before Google Ads and Facebook were invented, there was Yahoo who ruled the online world. Although Yahoo is not what it used to be back in the 2000s, it still has a large and growing number of monthly users and a nice batch of partner sites. To date, Yahoo Mail product still has 225 million monthly active users.

Yahoo Gemini offers search and native digital advertising on their product websites — Mail, Mobile Search, News, Sports, Finance, Celebrity, Movies, TV, Music, Travel, Homes, Autos and My Yahoo and other partner websites.

Gemini is great as an extra advertising platform because it allows you to sync your Google Ads account and it reflects any change you perform on Google Ads. It also provides all the tools you need to set up a professional campaign: audience segmentation, scheduling, and budgeting.  

All in all, if you want to drive traffic to your website, raise brand awareness, promote your app, or increase your online sales, this online ad platform is also a great choice! You get to take advantage of a tremendous scale, with 60+ billion monthly global native impressions across their network.

6. LinkedIn Ads

As you know, LinkedIn is the place where professional individuals gather around and network. Connections, groups, jobs, and many other great advantages make it a great place to be if you’re a dedicated professional.

Just like Facebook, LinkedIn advertising is based on demographics. This can improve targeting and make your campaign more profitable.

In fact, according to their website, 4/5 LinkedIn users drive business decisions. This means that if you have a B2B business, this platform is a smart pick for you. Let’s say you’re selling business consultancy or leadership training programs. With LinkedIn ads (texts, display, and videos), you’d be able to reach professionals in your area or worldwide interested in developing their business and growing their skills.

7. Twitter Ads

Twitter is a giant social network widely used by people from the US. With 336 million monthly active users worldwide, Twitter ads are an option worth considering!

Twitter campaign ads are similar to all the others, meaning you can target your ads to a selected audience, you can set a specific marketing goal and analyze the performance using their tracking tools.

Creating brand awareness through Twitter is easier than ever.

Twitter is one of the best real-time social networks, tweets happen fast, and so does your brand’s exposure grow. People tweet real-time events faster than they do on Facebook or on any other social media platform. It means that with Twitter ads, you can reach people interested in connecting with others, keeping up with hot trends and topics, and looking for new discoveries.

8. BuySellAd

This online advertising platform is different from any of the other platforms we’ve featured. It empowers publishers to cut out the middlemen and directly negotiate the placement of ads on their sites. This way, advertisers can find space on sites that directly cater to their target audience rather than worrying about picking the right keywords.

The platform enables publishers to retain the final word over the ads they publish, which leads to higher-quality campaigns and fewer annoyed users. When it comes to BuySellAds, the success or failure of ads depends entirely on two factors – ad quality and choosing the right website on which to display them.

BuySellAds supports split-testing so that ads can be refined and improved over time. That just leaves choosing the right publishers, which is a matter of identifying your target audience and creating ads with that audience in mind.

9. AdMob

With people spending over 5 hours per day on their smartphone, delivering ads via a mobile ad platform is a huge opportunity for you to market your brand. With that, AdMob can be one of your best platform options!

Since being acquired by Google in November 2009, AdMob has become one of the most popular mobile ad platforms. The platform is beneficial for companies aiming to monetize by showing ads in their mobile apps. It allows users to decide what types of ads they want to show and to set filters so only relevant ads are shown.

Within the ad network, four types of ads are available: Banner ads, Video ads, Native ads, Full page interstitials ads.

AdMob also features targeting and filtering capabilities similar to what appears within Google Ads. So if you want to take advantage of these in-app placements, you can use Google Ads to show up in AdMob ad locations. 

10. Wordstream

WordStream comes with loads of features for marketers who want a good return on their investment. Here, you can manage and measure your paid search and social campaigns in one place. There’s even a keyword tool — it will help you find the right phrases to boost your search rankings. WordStream is easy to use and will help you drive more traffic to your product pages.

WordStream’s product was also reviewed by users and stood above all average metrics. The product was rated based on performance and reliability, ad creation and editing, ad and conversion tracking, advanced targeting options, ad and landing page scheduling, and scenario planning. Notably, the product significantly outperformed the average in performance and reliability with a 93% satisfaction rating.

What Is The Best Online Advertising Platform?

The ad platforms mentioned above are great for sure, but they definitely aren’t the only ad networks in town! Take the time to make yourself aware of other options out there that are more flexible, cheaper and may even be a better fit for your audience. With that, here are 54 Alternative Ad Networks to Open Up New Channels of Growth.

As we’ve mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all ad platform. Again, it all depends on your advertising goals, budget, and industry. Different platforms may have different technical requirements, best practices, and targeting requirements. 

However, it’s a great start to look at all the options above for online ad platform comparison. With a bit of experimentation, you can find the perfect platform or combination of platforms to accelerate your digital campaign and get the results you’re looking for. 

For most brands, a combination of platforms is needed. Try experimenting with multiple ad venues to see which ones produce the best results for you. Test similarly targeted ads on each, or try targeting different audience segments on different networks. 

The key here is to ensure you are spending time carefully measuring the results and refining your approach as you go. Inspect and adapt and always ask yourself: What worked? What did not work so well? What can you improve?

By continually observing your results and making adjustments to your strategy, you can get the best out of each network and bring the most people to your brand. In time, you should be able to steadily raise your ROI & ROAS for maximum profitability.

Final Words…

I’d like to finish off by reminding you to first analyze your business, your target market, your marketing objectives, and business needs before jumping to launching an online campaign. 

Either you want to work with one online advertising platform, or combine them to see different results, it’s totally your choice.

But keep in mind that with machine learning and customer data, online advertising has the potential to help you deliver your messages to people that are highly likely to be interested in your products or services. Take advantage of this opportunity! Happy advertising


Don’t have time to continually monitor all your marketing and advertising and efforts? Hire an expert in marketing management. Schedule a time to chat with us today, and we at MKTR.AI will make sure your business is taken care of.

Do you personally know of any online advertising success stories? Share your tale with us in the comments section below!

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