All You Need To Know About Display Advertising

Looking to get started on digital marketing? Then diving into display advertising is probably the most accessible way: it won’t require the technical proficiency of other marketing channels like SEO or social media marketing, for example.

However, display advertising can still be overwhelming for beginners, from which platforms to choose to how to target your audience to figuring out the ideal amount of investments to spend. 

Here, we will discuss all the ins and outs of online display advertising. By the end, you can implement your own online advertising campaign and know all the important things to maximize ROI.

Let us start by discussing the definition of display advertising. 

What Is Display Advertising

Display advertising is a blanket term used to define any visual (graphics, text, gifs, short videos) advertisement on a website. Nowadays, this extends into advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Display advertising has been the oldest form of marketing efforts on the internet. It all started in 1993 when Global Network Navigator—the very first commercial website— started displaying text-based advertising that include hyperlinks. One year later,—previously displayed the first graphics-based banner ad of AT&T.

However, the internet has evolved so much in this three-decade span. That advertising on Wired back in 1994 has a click-through rate (CTR) of 44%, an impossible feat to achieve today where people are getting more resistant to online advertising. Nowadays, the average CTR in Google Ads—the leading display advertising publisher— is only a little bit above 3%. 

Therefore, it’s important to understand that display advertising is not the only viable option in internet marketing, instead it’s just a part of a bigger concept we call digital marketing. You might want to check our previous guide on digital marketing here (link to older article) for a clearer picture.

With the average conversion rate of just 3%, is online display advertising still worth it? Below, we will discuss the unique benefits of display banners.

What Are the Benefits of Using Display Advertising?

With all the available digital marketing channels from influencer marketing to content marketing to email marketing, display advertising—as well as other forms of online advertising— still possess their unique benefits:

1. Time: getting short term results

All marketing efforts are ultimately the case of costs vs time: how to get results as fast as possible while spending as little as possible.

With that being said, there are certainly a lot of digital marketing channels that are more affordable than digital display advertising. Content marketing, for instance, can be technically free. 

However, online advertising, including online display advertising, remains the best options to get short-term results. If you do have the budget, and if your ad is designed properly, you can expect that 3% click-through rate. On the other hand, you will need to invest at least 6-12 months to get results from content marketing, and building organic traffic from social media will also take a significant amount of time.

2. Surgical precision with targeting

One of the key advantages in implementing display banners is the versatility in audience targeting. 

The idea behind this is that, by sending the right message to the right people at exactly the right time, we can improve conversion rates. Targeting helps us in this aspect, so we can display our advertising only to the audience that are best suited for our business, and at the time when they are active.

For example,Facebook Ads—one of the most prominent publishers of online display advertising— is famous for its targeting features, paired with Facebook’s wide user demographics. 

3. Measurable results

Display advertising is one of the easiest marketing channels to track, even more when we compare it with traditional, offline advertising like billboards or television ads. 

You can track how many people are clicking on the online banner (CTR), you can track how many of those actually purchase your product/service, you can track its costs (CPC or CPM), and many more. 

So, you can easily adjust your tactics based on data, spend more on those that worked, and spend less on those didn’t.

4. New technologies and improvements

Yes, in recent times the effectiveness of digital display advertising has declined dramatically. However, newer technologies like remarketing, programmatic advertising, and geo-targeting, among others (will be discussed below), have improved it in the past couple of years or so. We can see this in the fact that digital ad spending in the U.S. have now surpassed traditional advertising spending.

5. Lower costs compared to traditional advertising

Display banners are still more affordable than offline advertising like TV ads, billboards, or even magazine/newspaper advertisement. 

With that being said, display advertising—along with other online advertising forms— remains a viable option for small businesses with tighter marketing budget.

What Are The Types of Display Advertising?

As mentioned, the term “display advertising” encompasses all visual advertising on the internet.

With that being said, there are many different types of online display advertising, and many different ways to categorize them. For example, we can categorize these types by their forms: rich media, 360-degree, expandable banners, and so on.

Here, we will specifically discuss types of display advertising by how they are targeting the audience:

1.Keyword-based targeting

Here, you can choose specific websites that contain topics/keywords to display your online advertising. For example, if you are selling golf clubs, you might want to choose golf-related keywords.

In Google Ads, for example, you simply need to enter your target keywords, and Google will find the sites that are relevant.

2. Interest Targeting

Google Ads can target website visitors based on two interest metrics: affinity audiences and in-market audiences.

Affinity audiences are those that might be interested in your brand/product/service based on their search history, where Google will analyze their profile, lifestyle, and interests.

In-market audiences are more specific. Here, Google will track those who are currently searching for products or services similar to yours, including tracking their social activity.

For example, if you are selling cars, Google will target those who are actively watching car videos on YouTube (which belongs to Google) or actively consuming automotive blogs.

3. Website Placement

Here, we manually target sites that are related to our niche or product/service. If you understood your market, this is probably the safest option, since Google’s—or other ad publisher’s— suggestions can always be wrong.

4. Remarketing 

A fairly new form of display advertising, introduced in 2010, but has increased in popularity in recent years due to the perfection of its technology. Nowadays, remarketing—or retargeting— is the most common type of display advertising. 

The idea of remarketing is to display your ads to those who have visited your site (via other types of display banners above, via content marketing, or other channels). Google, Facebook, or other display advertising publisher will give a snippet of code (cookies) which you can put on your pages. This code will track your site visitors, and the ad publishers will use this list to display your ad.

Recently, remarketing ads can also target users who have triggered certain actions, for example, those who have searched for certain keywords, or those who have visited certain websites (including your competitors’).

How Much Does Display Advertising Cost?

The answer to this will vary depending on many different factors, but most importantly: which publisher/platform your ad is displayed, your industry/niche, and the pricing model.

To start, there are three different ways to price digital display advertising:

  • CPM (Cost Per Mile): Mile here stands for thousand. So, $1 CPM means you will need to pay one dollar for every 1000 times your ad is displayed (1000 impressions).
  • CPC (Cost Per Click): also called PPC (Pay Per Click), and here you will need to pay the publisher every time a user clicks your ad. 
  • CPA (Cost Per Action): relatively uncommon pricing model, but here you will need to pay when a certain action is triggered by the user. For example, when the user purchased your product or registered to your email newsletter program.

There are two major platforms for display advertising: Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Most major social media platforms nowadays (Twitter, Instagram) also publish ads for their respective platform. You can check here for the average cost on Google Ads based on your industry, and here for Facebook Ads. 

How To Start Your Online Display Advertising Campaign?

Now that we’ve understood the benefits of digital advertising and the different types available, how can we start our own display advertising campaign?

There are several different factors to consider here:

1. Which platforms can I use for display advertising?

The most popular—and important—online advertising publisher is Google Ads, where you can essentially display your advertisement on any website on the planet, as well as Google’s platforms including YouTube.

Another choice is to run your display advertising campaign on various social networks. Facebook Ads is the prominent choice here due to the huge user base (although it’s declining in popularity). Instagram is a wise choice if you are a B2C business, while LinkedIn is usually the better choice for B2B.

2. Targeting: understanding your audience

The better you can define and understand your ideal audience, the more cost-effective your ads will be. Conduct a thorough market research, develop your buyer persona, and figure out the best targeting options (discussed above) for your display ads campaign. 

Targeting is the key to lower your display advertising costs and thus, maximizing ROI. 

3. Designing your digital display advertising

Since display advertising is visual by nature, design and copywriting will play a huge role in improving click-through rate (CTR) and overall conversion rate. 

This—obviously— will be a very subjective aspect based on many different factors from your brand approach to personal tastes. However, this guide might help you to  get started in this aspect. 

4.Your landing page

Your display ad’s design will determine its click-through rate, but it’s your landing page that will determine conversion. It’s important to understand that a proper, conversion-optimized landing page is also an important aspect of a display advertising campaign. 

End Words

Digital display advertising remains an effective marketing channel with great potential results. It is true, however, that display ads can be really expensive if you are not careful.

The key to successful online display advertising is targeting: the more specific you can target your audience, the more cost-efficient it will be. 



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