Online advertising: tactics to grow your revenue

Alex Minchin
Alex Minchin

Online advertising is a must if you want to accelerate your revenue growth.

There. I said it.

Stating the facts

In Hanapin’s annual state of PPC report 2018-19, “79% of brands say that PPC is a huge driver for their business”. Out of over 400 marketers from both brands and agencies, just 4 reported that PPC performance was poor for their brand or their clients over the past twelve-months.

“79% of brands say that PPC is a huge driver for their business”.

To further reinforce the sheer scale of PPC online advertising, Alphabet (the parent company of Google) reported a revenue increase of 20% to $32.6 billion in Q4 2018 from Google Ads. PPC accounts for approximately 83% of Alphabet’s total revenue.

And despite this gigantic growth, Google still lagged behind Facebook, who grew by 38% to $55 billion, and Amazon, who grew revenue for their online advertising platform by 95% to $3.4 billion.

Global digital ad spend

According to eMarketer, in 2018, the worldwide digital ad market was forecast to grow by 18% to $273.3 billion. In 2019, forecasts predict a rise of 17% to $327.3 billion.

The power of PPC simply cannot be argued.

Why should you care?

You should care because if you’re still not leveraging the power of paid online advertising, you’re damaging your brand’s ability to grow.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. But are you really one of them?

State of PPC report 2018-19

If your customers research or purchase online, then you need to be present in order to be most effective at reaching them. As a marketer, this is pretty damn important.

Regardless of your ability or understanding of paid online advertising, it shouldn’t determine whether you add it to your toolbox or not.

The longer you run PPC advertising for, the more data you collect and the smarter your campaigns can become. Newcomers to the game have to spend more to ‘learn’ what their competitors might already know.

PPC gives you instant feedback on your performance, and you can use this insight to drive other marketing channels too.

You can use your Search Query Report to build up new keywords that can drive traffic and conversions. Or you can test what ad copy and imagery works best for your customers.

Those are just two examples of additional benefits that can be obtained from online advertising.

What online advertising options are there?

I thought you’d never ask…

Below are a few channels that you could (and probably should) consider for marketing your business.

Search Advertising

In the world of online advertising and PPC, search is still considered the golden child. Why? Because the intent of your audience is super high.

Users type in what they want into a search bar such as Google, Bing, or Amazon, and the results that are thrown back to them are (should be) totally relevant. Since the user has consciously searched for the said product or service, it’s safe to assume that they are in the market for it.

Speaking of which, you can even target specific users who are signalling activity of being ‘in-market’ for your products or services.

For instance, if somebody who is not into photography starts to search regularly for cameras, DSLR, camera tripods, and other similar products, they will be categorised as being in-market.

Google Search Ads

If the user is into photography as a passion, profession, or hobby, it’s safe to assume that their search habits will contain searches around these terms. Those users will be placed into an ‘affinity’ group.

As you can see from my search above for ‘best DSLRs to buy 2019’, the results at the top of the page (known as ‘above the fold’) is dominated by online advertising. This search term isn’t even product specific, and yet I see ads before I see the position zero snippet from Digital Camera World.

Search advertising feeds almost instant, and incredibly accurate, data back to you. This data can be used across other, slow-burn, channels really effectively.

And, of course, it feeds back into a continuous improvement model for your paid ads too – like how we drive 88% of all leads for a packaging company – meaning you get better results, whilst paying less (whether in online advertising costs or cost per conversion, or both).

For example, you could test ad copy and keywords out on your search ads to see which one converts best. You could then take the best combination and transfer it across to an SEO campaign with some level of predictability as to how it might perform.

At Zest, we’ve developed bespoke PPC automation scripts to handle the most labour intensive and ‘admin-heavy’ tasks in a fraction of the time it would take someone manually.

By deploying these scripts, your business could, for example, adjust your bidding based on the time of day, based on your peak times for conversion.

The scope for search advertising is huge, and it’s growing every single year. A well-optimised account can deliver sensational results, such as delivering £14 for every £1 spent.

Display Network Advertising

Next up is display advertising. This method of online advertising is more passive than search advertising and is particularly effective when used to build awareness pre-sale.

Display advertising works by utilising partner website space to display relevant ads. The publisher (the website showing your ad) receives a cut of the advertising revenue that you (the advertiser) pays. And it’s no small pool. Google’s Display Network (GDN) reaches a staggering 92% of all internet users.

Google Display Network Ads

In exchange, you get to leverage the ready-made (and probably highly-targeted) audience of other websites to your advantage.

You can typically use four types of ads to achieve this – the below examples are taken from Google since they are the largest network, but other display networks are likely to have similar options available:

  1. Text ads – The GDN allows the advertiser to run the same text ads on display as you would on the search network. These consist of a headline and two lines of text, and allows advertisers to test which ads are generating the most clicks.
  2. Image ads – A static image that fills an allocated but normally standardised space. You can include custom imagery, layouts and background colours on image ads.
  3. Rich media ads – RMAs include interactive elements such as animation or other customisable elements that change depending on who is looking at the ad and how they interact with it. For example, a moving carousel of products.
  4. Video ads – Video ads have become more popular since YouTube is included on the Display Network and rightly so, moving images capture attention. Here’s how digital video advertising will dominate the next decade according to Search Engine Journal.

You might, for example, advertise your power tool rentals on a popular home DIY website, to reach an audience of people looking to make home improvements.

I mentioned above that display advertising is more passive than search ads. The example above is a good example. People are on the DIY website looking for help or inspiration with a project. It might be a self-build kitchen or shed.

They are not specifically looking for the power tools required for the job… Yet.

If they were, they would be searching for the name of the tool they need, and perhaps a +rental, +hire, +buy modifier. This would likely occur within a search bar (see search advertising above).

Yet by placing your ad in front of them, they might just subconsciously remember your brand name when they do get around to it.

Or perhaps when s/he sees the list of tools they require on the DIY website they’re on, they might click through to your website.

And what’s more? You often don’t pay a penny unless someone actually clicks through to your website, making display advertising a very powerful and very cost-effective method of amplification for your business.

Video Advertising

No, you’re not imagining it. Videos are everywhere.

As a species, we humans find videos more engaging and more memorable than any other type of media out there. As a method of storytelling, video should be a part of your toolkit. In fact, Google reports that 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than TV.

Videos can come in many forms. Some ideas to help you include; webinars, explainers, vlogs, tutorials, interviews, testimonials, live streams, presentations, product videos, and panel debates. The list is extensive.

And your target market is interested. 59% of executives would rather watch a video than read text and 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service by way of video over any other media.

So now that we’ve swept your excuses to one side, here are your options with video advertising:

There isn’t enough time or space to give you the lowdown on how to go about video marketing, but here are some suggested video lengths that you should take note of for video advertising, put together by Strategico as part of their very useful guide.

Video ad lengths

So now let’s look at where to advertise and some key benefits.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook allows advertisers to reach their audience based on highly valuable data such as personal interests, website visits, and people that ‘look like’ your existing customers. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way:

  • Design your Facebook videos to work when played back in silence. Videos, by default, are played muted and therefore it’s important to not rely on vocal content to deliver the key parts of your message. Add captions to help with this.
  • Facebook’s Autoplay feature will count a three-second viewing as a ‘view’, so make those seconds count. Put your engaging content first to win your audience’s interest immediately.
  • Using Lead Ads, you can capture details and build conversions from within Facebook itself. This is hugely powerful, and we use this tactic as part of our growth strategies for clients. By capturing the lead at source, we remove the risk of distraction or drop-off leading to increased conversions.

Instagram Advertising

Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012, so many of the online advertising options are now shared. However, there are some differences and some tips specific to Instagram that I’ve shared below:

  • 1:1 ratio videos work best for Instagram feeds and vertical (9:16) for stories.
  • Videos on your feed should be built with silence in mind. Videos for stories should have sound as this is played automatically.
  • Since Instagram is largely a mobile only app, your landing page should be built for mobile. Avoid these common CRO mistakes in order to maximise your conversions.

YouTube Advertising

The second most visited website after Google is their video platform, YouTube. The scale of this website is just massive, and it’s still relatively under the radar as a growth tool. Here are some key pointers to get your started:

  • There are four ad formats available on YouTube:Skippable video ads – the most common type of YouTube ad. These are the ads you see before during or after a video; a viewer can skip your ad after 5 seconds. These are low risk and you’re only charged when the user completes 30 seconds or to the end of the video ad (whichever comes soonest).Non-skippable video ads – Viewers must watch the entire 15+ second ad which may deter viewers who don’t know the value of your videos. These generate higher CPMs than other ad formats on YouTube, but the abandonment rate is also higher.

    Midroll ads – Currently available for videos over 10 minutes: the ads are spaced within the video, like TV commercials. Viewers must watch ads before continuing through the video. These can be super effective if the content is highly relevant to the video being watched. The user is more likely to watch mid-roll videos all the way through.

    Bumper ads – these are non-skippable videos of max 6 seconds which a viewer must watch before seeing the main video. These have the advantage of being shorter in length of time and non-skippable, meaning that the chances of the user abandoning the video is low. These can be great for building brand awareness and recall.

  • YouTube video advertising can use targeting around demographics, audience interests, keywords, topics, and more. Many of the online advertising options available through Google Ads are also available for YouTube.
  • Production quality on YouTube typically needs to be higher than Facebook or Instagram. This is largely due to competition and the battle for attention. Either up the production quality or go all out on engagement.

Shopping Ads

If you are selling products online, then shopping ads should have caught your interest by now. These are purpose-led ads that can deliver huge returns for retailers in the ecommerce space. Here are a few considerations when using shopping ads as part of your online advertising strategy.

  • Shopping Ads uses a product data feed to populate information such as ID, Title, Product Category, Price, and Availability. There is no need to write ad copy for Shopping Ads. Instead, the information is pulled from your product data feed directly into the ad.
  • Shopping Ads do not use keywords to determine relevance. Therefore it’s worth making sure that your Titles and Descriptions are keyword-rich but also aspirational and benefit-led. Google will use this data to determine if your ad is relevant to a search query.
  • Make sure your images are high quality. Scrimping on professional photography will likely damage your returns in the long-term.
  • You can still use negative keywords to Shopping Ads, but be careful not to cut the right type of traffic that does want your products.
  • With Shopping Ads, you bid on the actual product that you are selling or a group of products. This gives you a huge amount of control over what you advertise, how, when, and how much for. It’s especially powerful when considered against product margin. It rarely makes sense to sell products at a loss unless you stand to gain in the long run – a special type of razor for example where the replacement blades are high margin.


Remarketing spans across multiple online advertising channels and enables the advertiser to create some powerful and long-lasting brand impression on its audience. If anybody tells you they’re creepy, just let them crack on with their one dimensional, predictable, marketing. Remarketing works.

WordStream found that conversions actually increase the more times a user sees an ad, rubbishing the notion that you may hear about remaining conservative in how much you put your ad in front of people.

Weird facts about remarketing from WordStream

Image credit: WordStream

Here are some of the most popular remarketing methods to consider:

  1. Search remarketing
    This allows you to display advertisements to people who have used search engines to search for keywords and phrases that are relevant to your products and services.
  2. Site remarketing
    Site remarketing enables you to retarget users who have landed on your website and have since left. You can show them ads on social media websites for example, reminding them of your product or service to re-engage them.
  3. SEO/SEM remarketing
    SEO/SEM remarketing uses the search terms that a user has entered before landing on your site to target ads. The advertiser can also combine these search terms with actions that a user has taken to help you get them over the line and into a conversion.
  4. Email remarketing
    Email remarketing enables you to target people who have taken specific actions on an email that you have sent them. For example, someone who opens an email and takes no action, will be treated differently to someone who has opened and has clicked a link within.
  5. Contextual remarketing
    This method of remarketing looks at audiences that might be relevant to your business by looking at other ads that they’ve been shown. Look for airport parking, for example, and you’re likely to see at least a handful of other companies who want to tell you about their service.



There you have it – hopefully some convincing evidence that you should have paid online advertising as part of your marketing mix. The potential returns are glorious if you get the right balance of channels and, more importantly, know what it is that you want to achieve.

You can use our Growth Calculator to forecast what a relevant traffic increase might do for your business. Simply input your key metrics and use the slider to adjust traffic upwards to see your revenue growth potential.

Then hit ‘submit’ and wait for a call, or strike a conversation with us right now ?.

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