Pump up the Volume


How small business can increase web ad traffic.

Most small businesses can’t afford big budget advertising; every dollar spent needs a return on investment. However, advertising is key to business growth and honing in on cost-effective techniques is imperative. Luckily changes in display advertising, especially web advertising over the past five years, allow small businesses to utilize one of the most effective forms of advertising.

Historically, advertising online entailed large production and start up costs. Now, with companies like Banner Snack and Google leading the charge in simplifying the process, small businesses can bid with the big boys.

With a successfully executed campaign, small business owners will effectively drive traffic to their site, attract new customers and hopefully increase sales. You don’t have to be an advertiser; but you do need an understanding of your audience and customers.

“Unlike other types of advertising, web advertising should be viewed as an intimate dinner conversation instead of a speech to the room,” advises Sara Burton, associate director, Performics, a leading performance marketing company. “Speak directly to users as individuals; try to understand their likes and their triggers as if you’re talking to them directly.”

Whether you’re using retargeting methods (in other words, keeping track of people who’ve visited your site and displaying ads to them as they visit other sites online) or regular display advertising, you want to be clear on your message. “Include call to actions such as call, shop or order now,” Ms. Burton reiterates. “Click here is no longer a strong enough call to action. You have to be clear on why the user should engage with your ad.”

Kathy O’Dowd-Grandt, manager of activation for display advertising, VivaKi Nerve Center (a research and development center), agrees and goes even further in emphasizing how short an attention span your audience has. “Users are going to give a couple seconds of attention and it’s going to be wasted if they can’t make heads or tails of a cluttered ad.” She also adds that using large font and bright colors are very effective in highlighting one or two important sentences.

Banner blindness is a common epidemic in the online world. Web users are served million ads every day. It’s imperative to not only understand your consumer, but also the environment in which you’re advertising.

Ms. Burton stresses your ad should match the content of the publication. “Text ads are great for text heavy environments such as search landing pages or blogs with lots of relevant content. Image ads are great for very photo heavy sites (like People.com) or retail sites. Videos are great on sites where people are consuming lots of video such as YouTube, Hulu or Funny or Die.” Ms. O’Dowd-Grandt believes that the use of images is a powerful tool. “Use this inventory to find your audience in premium spaces, to grab attention, and to help them become familiar with your brand.”

Once you determine your message, know what type of ad you want to run, where do you place it on the page? “When it comes to measuring performance, placement is everything in determining efficiency,” advises Ms. Burton. Ads closest to the top are called ‘above the fold,’ or ATF in ad lingo; these ads are generally the most effective and best performing, and normally the most expensive. Ms. O’Dowd-Grandt adds that although ATF ads are more expensive, you can purchase them through private deals with your sites of choice, or through self-serve platform targeting.

To get the maximum return on advertising investment, advertisers need to be diligent about constantly monitoring progress and improving performance through small changes in their campaigns. “This may seem like common sense,” Ms. O-Dowd-Grandt says, “but too often time-strapped businesses take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to advertising.”

Now that the user has clicked on the ad, what do you do? If the landing page isn’t effective, then the perfect ad has been wasted. Keep it simple and relevant. Once they click, you want for them to buy. “If your ad talks about 15% off sales on sweaters, make sure the landing page mentions the 15% sale, features the sweaters that are part of the sale and makes purchasing as seamless as possible,” Ms. Burton insists. “The rule is the fewer clicks to the goal conversion the better.”

Ms. O’Dowd-Grandt wants to make sure the user follows through on what the ad calls for. “Just like the ad, an advertiser needs to ensure the landing page is clean and is easy to understand what’s required to complete this action,” she says. “Also, make sure that the most pertinent information is in view without needing to scroll down.”

Even though display advertising has lowered the barrier to entry for small businesses, Ms. O’Dowd-Grandt encourages small business owners to do their research. “The display industry is growing and becoming ever more complex,” she explains. “Newcomers may find it difficult to get the most from their dollars when they lack the experience and background to effectively advertise online. There are industry publications online and platform help centers that can help small business learn the art and science of online marketing.”


About Meagan Adele Lopez

Meagan Adele Lopez is a social media digital advertiser at VivaKi, a partner of Publicis Groupe. Prior to joining VivaKi, Ms. Lopez co-founded SocialKaty, a local River North social media marketing agency where she grew the company to over 50 clients. She’s passionate about finding a way to communicate with other humans – purely and simply. For four yearsMs. Lopez worked in casting where she worked for such films as JunoThe Day the Earth Stood StillX-Files II,Jennifer’s Body and Repo Men, and television shows such as Medium and Numb3rs. While living in England, Ms. Lopez wrote her debut novel, Three Questions.