Sneaky ways to spy on your competitor's facebook ads feature image

Always wanted to find out what are your competition is doing on Facebook?

Now you can.

With these 4 tips, you can potentially uncover a treasure trove of information that you can potentially use to optimize your ads.

Method 1: Info & Ads Section Of Your Competitor’s Facebook Page

Because of the not too recent Cambridge Analytica controversy, of which 87 million users data were mined and used for political ads, Facebook opted for a more transparent approach with their users.

Launched back in June 2018, Facebook has now made available for any user to view the ads that are currently running (doesn’t include historical ads) on any Facebook page.

To view this on the desktop, go your competitor’s Facebook page and click on the “Info & Ads” section at the bottom left hand portion.

Equinet_Academy Facebook Page

You would see the ads that your competitors are currently running. Take Equinet Academy as an example. They are currently running FB ads to get signups for their a few of their digital marketing (SkillsFuture approved) courses. Take a look at their ad copy and image creative. Are these information that you can potentially take reference and improve on for your own business?

It’s also worth while to notice if your competitor is directing their paid traffic to a specific landing page that is created just for their Facebook ads.

Equinet_Academy_FB_Ads

On mobile, it’s slightly tricker. Make your way to your competitor’s Facebook page and locate the information icon (with the “i” text). It’s definitely less obvious as compared to the desktop option, but you will be able to see all the ads that they are running too.

Equinet_Academy_Mobile

Method 2: Reverse Engineer Their Targeting

An important component of Facebook marketing is that of detailed targeting. Targeting allows you to show your ads to highly relevant people, and this will usually lead to better conversions. That’s the beauty of Facebook as compared to the other ad platforms out there.

Let’s assume that you are selling dog related products such as dog food and puppy treats.,

With Facebook ad platform, you can choose “Dogs” as an interest targeting. This show your ads to people who have an interest in dogs in particular. Finding these interest are usually a trial and error method, but there’s actually a simpler solution.

To reverse engineer your competitor’s ads targeting with a few quick steps. Just a caveat, the information provided is actually quite limited.

Step 1) Navigate to your competitors’ ads. Click on the 3 buttons at the top right hand corner of the ad. In this example, I chose to examine Castlery.

Castlery

Step 2) Click on “Why Am I Seeing This?” button

Castlery 2

Step 3) Check out what targeting are they using to target you (or your potential customers).

Castlery 3

In this case, Castlery is targeting me because I have visited their website before. It’s a remarketing strategy that Castlery is using. You are able to create such custom audiences for your ads within Facebook’s Business Manager -> Audiences section.

Try it out for different ads. You will see different targeting parameters such as”Furniture”, “Interior Design”, “Audience Similar To Their Customers” and many more.

This will give you an indication of what kind of targeting that your competitors are currently using for their Facebook ads.

Method 3: Be Served With More of Their Ads

What better way to spy on your competitors than to be served with more of their ads.

There’s method of doing this.

The trick is to let Facebook know that you have interested in their type of ads and would want to see more of them. And the way to configure this is to manage your ads preferences directly from your Facebook account.

Step 1) After clicking “Why am I seeing this”, go to “Manage Your Ad Preferences”

Manage Ad Preference FB

You will be able to see your different interests that Facebook has categorized of you. This is based on their machine learning algorithm, along with your historical interaction of Facebook ads.

Step 2) Navigate to the interest that most closely aligns with your competitor

Fb interests

Taking Castlery as an example, the most relevant interest will be that of “Furniture”.

Step 3) Click on the “Furniture” interest

Image_9

There will be a popup box which will prompt you with more information on “Furniture” as an interest. You will be able to see examples of ads that are currently serving to this particular interest.

This is a good opportunity to spy on more of your competitors’ ads too.

Step 4) Click on the “Smiley” icon

Image_10

Congrats!

Now Facebook knows that you have a keen interest in the “Furniture” cateogry and they should be serving you more furniture related ads in the future.

This will help you to view more of your competitor ads.

Method 4: Bit.ly “+” Hack

Bit.ly links are a great way to mask those long URLs into a nice & short variant. Also, they are an effective marketing tool to track your links effectively.

However, did you know that your Bit.ly stats are available to anyone?

This can be achieved by:

  • Taking the shortened Bit.ly link
  • Adding a “+” symbol at the end of the link
  • Visiting that Bit.ly link with that “+” symbol on any web browser

Let’s take WhizComms (a virtual broadband provider based in Singapore) for example.

WhizComms

Did you see that they are running ads to a landing page? And the landing page is shortened with Bit.ly link.
Copy the shortened link, add a “+” symbol to it and paste it on your web browser. You will be directed to the analytics page.

Image_12_Bit.ly

There are a few interesting insights that you can get from this.

  1. How long has this ad been running? The longer the ad has been running, naturally it means that the ad is effective. I have seen ads that are running for more than 2 years.
  2. The number of clicks that has been generated. This gives an indication of the amount that your competitor is paying on a daily basis.
  3. Are they doing selective optimization of the ads? For example, is the ad running more aggressively on the weekdays VS the weekends?

The same will work for any shortened link in general (goo.gl, po.st etc). Give it a go and see what interesting insights that you can find.

Conclusion

Similar to other digital marketing channels, running ads on Facebook costs money. With these 4 hacks to quickly spy on your competitor’s Facebook ads, you can reduce your learning curve and the amount of money that you spend learning on this advertising channel.

Have any other quick Facebook hacks to share? Be sure to drop us a message and share your tips!

John Tay

John is the co-founder of Secret Hideout, a creative marketing agency. As a digital marketer, he is obsessed about with driving impactful results for businesses via the different advertising channels.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is intent-based advertising that can help advertisers gain high quality traffic to their websites.

Unlike Search Engine Optimisation which focuses on increasing your organic search rankings on search engines like Google and Bing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), on the other hand, requires you to pay to play on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is why SEM is also commonly referred to as Paid Search.

Organic vs paid search results

Pay to play?

Paid Search relies on an auction model to decide which advertisers stand a chance to show their ads on SERPs, and also the ranking order in which their ads appear. To participate in the auction, advertisers key in a Cost-Per-Click bid, an amount they are willing to part with when searchers click on their ads. This is also the reason why you would’ve also heard terms such as “buying keywords”, “bidding for keywords”, or “Pay Per Click (PPC)” being thrown around when discussing about SEM campaigns in general.

In order for ads to show on the SERPs, advertisers must enter the following into a Paid Search platform such as Google Ads (formerly also known as Google AdWords):
1) Keywords
2) Ad Copy
3) Landing Page
4) Maximum Cost-Per-Click Bid

Infographic to show relationship between advertisers and consumers

The SEM auction

The two main components that most major Paid Search platforms take into consideration at the time of the ad auction are your Maximum Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Bid, and a Quality Score factor. (more on what Quality Score is in just a bit) In the following scenarios, we’ll examine what happens in the absence of a Quality Score factor, and how a Paid Search platform such as Google Ads takes these two components will be multiplied to form an equation called Ad Rank :

1) Scenario #1: Paid Search auctions are based purely on Max CPC Bids advertisers are willing to pay, WITHOUT taking the Quality Score into consideration.

keyword bidding process illustration

Result: Advertisers will be purely ranked on the SERP according to who can pay the highest dollar.

Possible Outcomes:
i) Advertisers with the most financial muscle can manipulate and dominate ALL search queries, whether relevant or irrelevant to their business
ii) Searchers will be frustrated as the SERPs will turn into a “spam”- like environment where results are not closely related to their search intent

2) Scenario #2: Paid Search auctions are based on Ad Rank, taking both Max CPC Bids and Quality Score into account.

Infographic on auction taking into account of quality score as well, reshuffling the order of the advertisers

Result: Ad Rank ensures that the auction creates a fair and optimised experience for searchers through the use of a Quality Score factor as a multiplier. (We’re leading up to what makes up a Quality Score in just a bit, bear with me!)

Outcome: While advertisers who have deep pockets will still have an upside against advertisers by keying in higher Max CPC bids, with Quality Score coming into play, smart advertisers can still stand a fighting chance by maximising their Quality Score to achieve a higher Ad Rank and ad position.

Components of the Quality Score

We all want to be that smart advertiser that pays less but ranks on a higher position. To do that, it is important to understand what makes up the Quality Score to make your advertising dollars work harder for you.

i) Landing Page Experience

Does your landing page content resonate with the searcher’s query, and the ad copy that was shown to them?

is the landing page relevant to the search query?

ii) Ad Relevance

Does your ad copy resonate with the searcher’s query? Have you included a Call-to-Action (Sign up, Learn more, Download now. etc) in your ad copy to encourage clickthroughs?

example of a call to action shown in an serp

iii) Expected Clickthrough Rate

Google Ads takes into account how well your keyword has performed in the past, based on your ad’s position. Note that this is a prediction based on what Google sees in your account and across all advertisers so you do not have much control over this, but rather, take this as a signal to help you assess whether your keywords lack relevancy or specificity.

example of clickthrough rate

Keyword Research and Targeting

Last but not least, similar to SEO, keyword research is a key determinant of your success with SEM campaigns. Your ads will have limited visibility if you are too conservative with your keyword targeting. Conversely, you could start racking up high advertising costs without seeing any tangible results if you’re too liberal with the keywords you bid for.

The most important thing when you decide if a keyword is worth bidding for on Paid Search is intent.

Intent is when someone is searching for midnight food options when they’re up watching the World Cup, or when someone has car troubles and needs a reliable workshop to have a look. Intents are business opportunities.

Getting Started with SEM

If you’ve reached this part of the article, you would have attained a basic understanding of how SEM works. To gain an overview of what else you need to take note of for SEM, Google has produced a series of bite-sized videos for your viewing.

If you’re not sure where to start on researching and building your keywords list, here are some keyword research and analysis tips from the pros. We understand that self-learning is not for everyone – if you’d prefer a guided and structured method of learning, do check out our 2-Day instructor-led Google AdWords Fundamentals Certification Course *. Not only do we help prepare you for the Fundamentals Certificate Examination*, our instructors also impart real-world best practices, tips, and share stories of their own experiences.

*To become AdWords certified, you need to pass the AdWords Fundamentals assessment and one of the additional advertising assessments that are available through Academy for Ads. The additional assessments are Search Advertising, Display Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Video Advertising, and Shopping Advertising. For more information, visit here.

Google Ads Trainer Lin Xuanbin at Equinet Academy

Xuanbin is a Digital Marketer with experience spanning MNCs, private companies and government agencies across Financial Services, Recruitment, IT, Media, and International Trade industries.

He has planned and strategised digital marketing campaigns over the Asia Pacific region for some of the world’s largest companies during his stints in award-winning global media agencies. Some of the clients he partnered with included Hotels.com, SAP, MINI, Laneige and SPRING Singapore.

Having been on both brand and agency sides, Xuanbin strongly believe brand marketers and agencies can benefit from better alignment and understanding to maximise the full potential of their partnership and digital marketing performance. In his day job, he likes to think of himself as a fully committed data ninja, manipulating and analysing large datasets to uncover the real business impact of the digital campaigns he runs.

If you’re new to digital advertising, you may have heard about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and a variety of buzz words related to internet marketing or digital marketing being thrown around. As a beginner, the unfamiliarity of the terms can be somewhat overwhelming. Fret not – by the end of this article you’ll have a better handle on what PPC is, and what it can do for your business.

Let’s start with a quick overview.

PPC – Pay only when someone clicks

In traditional advertising, you pay a fixed fee for an ad space on a magazine or newspaper. These ad spaces normally don’t come cheap, so you often have to invest a significant chunk of moolah without knowing for sure that anyone is even going to see your ad.

Cost estimate of a traditional newspaper advertisement

For reference, the cost of a full colour display style advertisement on The Straits Times in the smallest available size on a Monday costs an estimated $10k. That’s a lot of cash to cough up for a small business!

PPC advertising is a digital advertising model where you pay only when someone clicks on your ad. Google AdWords is one of the most popular platforms for this, but Bing and Facebook (and many others) also use this advertising model.

The Advantages of PPC

PPC offers several advantages over traditional advertising. It does away with the price-entry barrier in two ways:

  1. There is no minimum amount to get started. You can make a small one time top up of $10 to get your feet wet experimenting with running some ads, or you can jump in with $1000. You decide how much you can spend, based on whatever budget you have to work with.
  2. You only pay if someone clicks on your ad. The amount you pay each time someone clicks on your ad is called your cost-per-click (CPC). Sounds like a good deal right?

It’s a great advantage to be able to pay as much or as little as you want. For small business owners, this means you can start with a small budget to see how your ads perform.

Herein lies a third advantage to digital over traditional advertising – data. With traditional advertising, it is often a massive guessing game. Fire away at a few platforms. If you have a sudden influx of customers, there is no way to know if they came because of an ad you invested in, or whether it was because an influential but random somebody decided to recommend your business to all their friends.

Many platforms such as Google AdWords are able to track clicks and conversions. A conversion is defined as the visitor completing an action that’s valuable to you, the marketer. After the initial set-up, Google AdWords is able to tell you if a click resulted in the visitor accomplishing your intended goals. Quick example – let’s say after running your ad for a week, 100 people click on your ad for basketball shoes. Google AdWords will be able tell you that 10 people bought shoes from your website (10 conversions) after clicking your ad, for a conversion rate of 10% (a little high, but this is just for illustrative purposes).

By now you should be starting to see the power of digital marketing. If they perform well, scale them up. If not, refine. Let’s take the example further. Deciding that your ad can do better than that, you roll your sleeves up and flex your creative muscle. After running your ad for another week, you have another 100 clicks. This time, 20 people have bought your shoes (20 conversions). Your conversion rate has jumped to 20%! You then pop a bottle of champagne and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

via GIPHY

Conclusion

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Just as ad spaces charge differing amounts based on readership, so too can your costs go up or down depending on competitors. It is possible to get clicks for as low as 10 cents, and though rare it is also not unheard of for CPCs to go above $100 per click. For a more detailed overview of digital advertising strategy, check out this digital marketing strategy guide.

Digital Advertising Strategy Flowchart

What is Digital Advertising?

Digital Advertising is a medium of digital marketing that uses any form of digital ads to deliver marketing messages including, but not limited to display and video adverts, paid search, mobile, and social ads to a brand’s target audience.

In a 2017 survey done by KPMG, the online global ecommerce area is now valued at USD$1.9trillion. The average number of online transaction per person, per year in Asia is 22.1. To stand out in such a saturated market, digital advertising is one of the most efficient techniques. There are many efficient techniques to drive traffic and generate leads. However, without careful planning and evaluation, it may not be cost-effective. Without a strategy to manage KPI and optimise deliverables, falling short of business objectives is inevitable.

This guide developed by Equinet Academy will take you through our 5-step process for developing a digital advertising strategy. Applying a framework can provide you with a more concise vision of the outcomes and a more structured approach when developing and executing digital advertising campaigns.

5-Step Digital Advertising Framework

5-Step Digital Advertising Framework

Note: The above framework does not have to be executed in running order.

  1. Analyse and define: Define digital advertising campaign objectives and customer profiles, perform clickstream analysis, and benchmark against competitors.
  2. Determine digital advertising channels and tactics: Select appropriate digital marketing channels and tactics based on the parameters defined in phase one.
  3. Campaign setup and implementation: Create and launch digital advertising campaigns via Google AdWords, Facebook Adverts, etc.
  4. Gather data: Go through digital advertising campaign reports and analyse metrics such as conversions, conversion rates, click-through-rates, and ad scheduling.
  5. Optimise: Develop an optimisation plan including A/B split testing, reselecting digital advertising channels, and targeting different audiences.

How it all connects together.

Digital Advertising Strategy Flowchart

Digital Advertising Strategy Flowchart

1. Analyse & Define

In this phase, the key objectives are to ensure that there is alignment between the customer needs/wants and business goals where, lacking this alignment, one may end up developing digital advertising campaigns that result in low returns.

These are some areas we want to focus on in this phase:

  • Customer Decision Journey
  • Customer Persona
  • Clickstream Data
  • Competitive Research
  • Digital Advertising Campaign Objectives

Understanding the Consumer Decision Process

In order to create alignment, we first need to understand the consumer decision process or customer buying journey. This will influence which digital advertising channels we will target, what type of ad creatives to create, how we design our landing pages, etc, etc.

Customer Decision Process

Customer Decision Process

The 5-Step Customer Decision Process:

  1. Needs recognition: The customer journey begins with the consumer recognising the need for a solution to a problem. The marketing team can make known of the problem/solution and prompt the consumer to initiate action through digital advertising initiatives.
  2. Information search: After recognising a need, the consumer may look for relevant information through search engines, friends and family, sales consultants, directories, and the mass media. Should the consumer be able to obtain relevant information, he or she may proceed on to the next few phases of the customer decision process.
  3. Evaluation of alternatives: During this phase, the consumer may consider various factors such as features, price, and time. Marketers should take extra effort to ensure marketing collaterals highlight benefits that are unique to the competition during this consumer touchpoint.
  4. Purchase: By this time, the consumer has evaluated various alternatives, recognised the value of the product/service, and is more or less ready to make a decision here – whether to purchase or not. It is imperative that any friction (e.g. difficult checkout process in an e-store) should be greatly reduced or eliminated here.
  5. Post-purchase: Depending on the brand experience, the consumer may retain, repurchase, or spread positive word about the product or service. Marketers can take steps to reduce post-purchase dissonance and enhance brand perception by adding value to existing products and services (e.g. provide after-sales support, deliver valuable content, offer special promotions to existing customers, and more.)

Analysing Target Audience Demographics and Psychographics to Develop Customer Personas

It is important to identify and develop customer personas for any marketing campaign, as campaign message building and delivery tactics are highly influenced by its target audiences.

We can analyse audience demographics (e.g. Age, gender, location, education, language) using tools such as Facebook Audience Insights, conducting market survey or purchasing data from third party sources, and extracting internal data by enabling Demographics and Interest reports in Google Analytics.

As for psychographics (e.g. goals, challenges, fears, common objections), we can conduct online surveys, run focus group studies, analyse online enquiry form submissions, and interview salespersons within the organisation.

Sample customer persona of Equinet Academy, a digital marketing training organisation

Name: John Lim

Demographics

  • Age 32
  • Male
  • Marketing Manager
  • Lives in Singapore
  • Bi-lingual (English & Mandarin)
  • Computer-literate

Psychographics

  • Browses business and marketing websites
  • Spends time on Facebook and during office hours
  • Wants to maximise marketing budget and get a promotion and pay raise
  • Needs to know how to manage digital marketing agencies and what they are doing behind the scenes
  • Looking for short marketing courses to take away actionable strategies and insights

Description summary of customer persona

Constantly looking for new marketing strategies and ideas to increase their companies’ profits. They Google for marketing tips, hang out on Facebook, digest content on business-related websites like businessinsider.sg, and read emails on a daily basis. What’s most important to them is whether they can take away actionable digital marketing strategies and techniques that they can implement immediately after attending a course. Curriculum and courseware must be comprehensive and the course must meet the learning objectives.

Define Digital Advertising Campaign Objectives

A digital advertising objective is a goal, benchmarked against one or a set of performance indicators. Digital Advertising goals should be SMART:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

Before you define the digital advertising objectives, you should be aware of the corporate and digital strategy of the organisation. What are the business and marketing objectives in the digital strategy? Let’s look at case study 1 – How Linda Mandarin defined its digital advertising campaign objectives based on the digital strategy.

Case study 1

Summary of Digital Strategy

Linda Mandarin is a school offering mandarin lessons to employees from corporate companies, expats, individuals, and parents who want their kids to learn mandarin. However, their main target audiences are expats who come to Singapore for work.

Their classes range from beginner, intermediate, to advanced levels. To encourage signups, Linda Mandarin offers free trial classes to prospective customers. Based on past results, for every 5 free trial signups, 3 will go on to sign up for a beginner class.

In order to hit their target of 100 new students a year from free trial signups, Linda Mandarin would need to drive 167 free trial signups in a year. The signups are done through the website, with a form collecting the participant’s details and preferred trial class date.

Using a range of digital marketing tactics such as Digital Advertising, Search Engine Optimisation, and Email Marketing, Linda Mandarin has been able to consistently hit the minimum class size needed to run a class.

Challenges include:

  • Targeting the right type of customers that are more likely to convert into students
  • Cross-selling courses and getting students to progress towards higher level courses
  • Filling up classes i.e. hitting the maximum number of pax per class
  • Reducing the amount of phone/email enquiries while increasing the number of direct signups (through email and walk-ins)
  • Increasing brand awareness and brand confidence in order to gain a higher market share of their competition, who are also highly visible on search engines and have a strong presence on digital advertising channels such as Facebook and Google AdWords

Campaign delivery tactics planned for achieving the set objectives include:

  • Market segmentation and multi-channel targeting – Identifying customer profiles, where they regularly hang out, and targeting relevant ads via the relevant channels e.g. Facebook, News Sites, Lifestyle Portals
  • Positioning and differentiation – Showcasing benefits that aren’t offered by competitors on website and ad creatives. E.g. Class video recording and uploading video to the cloud for easy accessibility
  • Online communications mix – Ensuring course information is clear and concise on the website and registration is easy. Targeting website content, language, design, and tone to primary customer personas to engage and convert them.

Define Digital Advertising campaign objectives based on the digital strategy

Based on the challenges and objectives defined in the digital strategy above, we can define the following SMART digital advertising campaign objectives:

  • Double the number of expat leads within the next 12 months – This can be achieved by targeting the right search engine queries and refining demographic targeting in Google AdWords and Facebook Ads
  • Increase the percentage of cross-sells by 20% within the next 12 months – This can be achieved by launching ads offering limited-time promotional discount coupon codes to students who have completed the beginner courses
  • Increase the number of conversion (i.e. signups) for beginner courses by 50% within the next 12 months – This can be achieved by increasing marketing budget to drive more targeted traffic to the corporate website and speeding up customer response time and improving customer service

Develop KPIs for Digital Advertising Campaign for Reporting

KPIs help you to keep track of your campaign’s progress towards a defined objective.

When developing your KPIs, you should keep in mind the following:

  • KPIs should be relevant to the defined objectives
  • KPIs should be SMART
  • Metrics should be relevant to the respective channels
  • Ensure the KPIs are relevant to the stakeholders who will be analysing the data and making business decisions

We can use the following table format when developing KPIs:

Channel Objectives KPIs
Google Search Ads Increase traffic by 30% by Q4 Increase ad click through rate to 12% by Q2
Google Search Ads Increase revenue by 100% by Q4 Increase conversion rate to 2% by Q2

Reduce cost per lead by 50% by Q2

Facebook Ads Increase subscriber base t0 5,000 by Q4 Achieve 1000 ebook downloads by Q4
Facebook Ads Increase brand awareness by at least 50% by Q2 Reach 1,000,000 Singaporeans with an ad frequency of once in 7 days by Q2

Table #1

Analysing the competitive landscape, customer profile, and defining business objectives and KPIs are important steps to set the right foundation for your digital advertising campaigns. Without clear marketing objectives and deep insights of your target market, determining appropriate digital advertising channels in the next phase will be more challenging.

2. Determine Digital Advertising Channels / Platforms and Tactics

Technological Trends Relating to the Digital Advertising Channels and Platforms

In the recent years, there have been many new digital advertising channels and platforms sprouting out. The year 2000 was the birth of Google AdWords, followed by Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, and Instagram in 2010.

Though these platforms gained vast popularity internationally, not every part of the world caught on to the trends of the respective platforms. In Korea for example, Naver has a higher market share of users than Google and Twitter hasn’t caught on well in Singapore compared to the U.S.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of well-known channels / platforms:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Google AdWords
  • Outbrain
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Bing
  • Youtube
  • Naver
  • Baidu
  • Yandex
  • 360sou
  • Media Buying
  • DoubleClick

Some amazing technological trends happening in the digital advertising scene in the recent years include:

  • Identity-based PPC marketing: Instead of using cookie-based targeting methods, marketers can now target based on identity. It is now possible to upload a list of phone numbers into a custom audience list in Facebooks Ads and target relevant ads to them.
  • Automation: Dynamic keyword insertion, automatic close variants keyword targeting, and Target CPA bidding are all examples of Google AdWords campaign automation.
  • Life Event Targeting: Identifying shoppers with high purchase intent based on their browsing behaviour and targeting relevant ads to them with Google AdWords.

Select Tools / Channels / Platform for Digital Advertising Campaign

It is not particularly common for a company to utilise their marketing budget on every available platform out there. More often than not, companies determine the appropriate digital advertising channels by taking into account the following variables:

  • Customer profile and reach: What platforms do majority of target prospects typically frequent?
  • Data analytics of consumer behaviour: Which channels/platforms are consumers mostly converting from?
  • Costs vs returns: How effective is each channel in terms of generating ROI?
  • Goals: Are your marketing objectives brand awareness, reach, leads, or sales?
  • Competitive research: What channels are your competitors spending on?

Customer profile and reach

In Singapore for instance, Google Search, Yahoo!, and Bing dominate the paid search landscape, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Whatsapp, and LinkedIn dominate paid social, and Google Display Network (GDN) and Outbrain dominate the content distribution network.

If the target customers are Singaporean working professionals, age 25 – 50 years old, it is possible to reach the bulk of them by focusing marketing dollars on Facebook Advert’s Core Audiences and LinkedIn Ad’s targeting options, as compared to using Meetup.com, a growing but relatively small social networking platform.

Data analytics of consumer behaviour

By measuring consumer activity with analytics software such as Google Analytics, we can track the number of conversions generated from each platform.

For example, if the marketing objective was brand awareness while measuring the KPI of click-through rate (CTR), and Youtube Ads generated 50% more clicks than Google Display Network (GDN) over 12 months, one would focus on developing more Youtube Ad campaigns.

Costs vs returns

Another consideration that may influence the selection of a digital advertising channel is costs vs returns.

For example, if a Google AdWords Search Advertising campaign generated 50 signups (conversions) at the cost of $100 per signup while a LinkedIn Ad campaign only generated 10 signups at $200 per signup, one would assign a higher advertising budget to the former.

Goals

Depending on the marketing goals set, the selection of digital advertising channels / platforms will vary.

For example, if the marketing objective is to generate downloads for a new ebook, Google Display Network and Facebook Adverts might be more effective channels than Bing Search Ads, as people are less likely to search for a newly released ebook until it has gained some exposure.

Conducting Competitive Research

Why is conducting competitor research so important? You’ve heard the saying – Know thy enemy.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In the context of digital advertising, competitive research can help you:

  • Discover new online advertising channels/platforms/tools to find new customers: You can test which ones work for you. For example, you may not have planned on advertising on LinkedIn. While observing a competitor actively implementing LinkedIn ads, you may be prompted to test out the response of that channel as well. Using tools such as Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner, you also can identify search engine queries that are trending and target them.
  • Develop a competitive edge by improving campaign message building and delivery tactics: Enabling you to make improvements to your product features/service offerings, create a different value proposition altogether (e.g. price vs features), make your ad creatives stand out, and influence the content and design of your landing pages.
  • Identify new entrants in the competitive landscape: Online tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush can also help you monitor your paid search engine results pages (SERPs) rankings and keep track of any new entrants in the competitive search marketing landscape.

Ways to conduct competitive research

There are numerous ways to conduct competitive research. These methods can be further segmented into offline and online, in-house and outsourced.

In this section, we will be discussing online methods of conducting competitive research within the context of Digital Advertising.

1. Similarweb.com

SimilarWeb is a competitive research tool that can provide data of your competitor’s websites such as their estimate traffic from various sources and countries, audience interests, and a list of websites that audiences of your competitors also visit.

SImilar Web Traffic Estimates Tool

Display accounts for only 1.44% of Samsung’s estimate traffic

It can also help you identify your competitors and similar sites to conduct further competitive research on.

Competitors and similar websites - similarweb.com

Competitors and similar websites – similarweb.com

2. Google Alerts

Google Alerts allows you to set up email alerts for any keyword or phrase that is being mentioned across the web. You can monitor competitor brand mentions, product names, and even what others are talking about your brand online.

3. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner allows you to check the search volume, and competition (low, mid, high), and suggested bid price of keywords you want to target on Google paid search results.

This can give you a rough feel of the competitive landscape and whether your marketing budget allows for advertising in the paid search channel.

Keyword Planner data

Keyword Planner data

4. Google Trends

With Google Trends, you can key in multiple brand names (e.g. of your brand versus your competitors) and compare the popularity of various brand search terms, as well as the interest by region.

Google trends data

Google trends of popular smartphone brands and their influence by region

5. Alexa.com

Alexa is a marketing software composed of SEO, Competitive Analysis, and Workspace tools. Some of the key features of its competitive analysis tool allow you to find competitor sites that share a similar audience, view your competitors’ site performance such as its traffic sources, audience demographics, reach, and even engagement metrics such as time on site, bounce rates, and pageviews/user.

Alexa Competitive Analysis tool features

3. Campaign Setup and Implementation

Campaign setup and implementation comes after the planning phases (Phase 1: Analyse & Define, Phase 2: Determine Digital Advertising Channels/Platforms), as the campaign message and delivery tactics are informed by the preceding phases.

In this chapter, we will be focusing on the campaign setup, message building, and delivery tactics within the context of Google Ads and Facebook Ads.

Campaign Message Building and Delivery Tactics

What is campaign messaging?

The campaign message is what you communicate to your customers in the value your business provides – the pain points/problems your business can solve for them. Campaign messaging has tremendous impact on the success or failure of a digital advertising campaign. It can either positively or negatively influence your customers’ perception of your business.

We can develop the campaign message and delivery tactics based on the following:

  • Customer profile and consumer decision process
  • Digital Advertising campaign objectives

Customer Profile and Consumer Decision Process

By studying the profile of our customers (demographics and psychographics) and understanding their buying journey, we can strategically position our products and services in the minds of our prospects. We can then create emotional and empowering marketing messages that will win customers:

Apple knew their users loved to take great pictures and have consistently encouraged creativity in their line of products. They decided to launch a campaign where they select and feature high quality, creative photos taken with the iPhone on posters and billboards all over the world.

This stint caught on well with the consumer market and the campaign was covered on sites like Forbes and TechCrunch, breaking a new record for sales of the iPhone 6s.

“Sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been phenomenal, blowing past any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.


One obvious but often overlooked technique of building a strong campaign message is to think from the customer’s perspective.

A great example is asking customers what would solve their problems and feeding them back the exact same words in the marketing message.

Customer: “I need an all-in-one marketing software that can reach my customers across their entire buying journey.”

Campaign message by salesforce:

Campaign message example by salesforce

It is also important to take note of the stages of the consumer decision process when developing the campaign message.

To recap, there are five stages in the customer decision process:

  1. Needs recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase
  5. Post-purchase

Depending on which stage the customer is at, the campaign message will vary.

In the first stage (needs recognition), the customer may not be aware of the problem. The campaign objective would be to create awareness of the organisation’s products and services.

It is important to note that at this stage, the consumer is not yet ready to buy. The campaign message needs to be carefully crafted to build an ideal perception of the brand in the consumer’s mind.

Here’s an example of Grab’s landing page targeting potential drivers to join their fleet.

Grab landing page targeting Grabcar Drivers to sign up

Grab landing page targeting Grabcar Drivers

Upon clicking submit, the prospect is taken to a revenue calculator page.

Grab revenue calculator landing page

Grab revenue calculator landing page

If the potential payout is attractive, the prospect may wish to sign up, or conduct more research first to ensure he or she is getting the best deal.

The prospect may then proceed to do a search on Google, comparing driver benefits between Grab and Uber.

Google comparison search between grab and uber

Prospect using Google to conduct a comparison search between Grab and Uber

If the prospect is unable to decide on the spot, he or she may not take any action and continue with daily life.

Using advanced tracking tools such as Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics, Grab is able to detect whether the prospect has already converted into a full Grabcar driver or have yet to. If the prospect has yet to complete the driver application form, Grab can implement a retargeting campaign targeting Facebook Newsfeed and Google Display Network’s partner sites to push prospects to the last step (signup).

Grab signup page

Grab signup page

Tips on developing effective campaign messaging:

  • Ensure your campaign message is simple: People simply prefer simplicity. Given a choice, consumers would rather read a sentence than a paragraph when both mean the same thing. Simplicity also reduces chances of misperception and misinterpretation of a brand’s message.
  • Consistency is key: A consistent message will be more likely to stick in a consumer’s mind and resonate time and again even at different touch points of the consumer buying journey.
  • Brainstorm variations of campaign messages with your internal team and select the most effective one based on votes: Your sales and marketing reps have good ground knowledge of what’s going on in the field. They’ve interacted with customers, reviewed competitors’ products, and identified your competitive edge. They understand what customers want and what your business can offer that the competition can’t (differentiation).
  • Speak to your customers and analyse their feedback: You can do this through one-to-one interviews, online/offline survey forms, focus group studies. What do they think of your product? What challenges do they face and what problems are they looking to solve? If they are existing customers, ask them why they chose your products, what made them decide to go with your business?
  • Review competitors’ campaign messaging: You’d be amazed at the volume of insights you can gain by role playing as the customer and scrutinising your competitors’ advertising campaigns. Get ready to take lots of notes and apply the findings to your own campaigns.

Digital Advertising Campaign Objectives

The Digital Advertising campaign objectives influence how we promote our products and services.

For example, if the objectives are to increase brand awareness with a KPI of a one hundred percent increase in brand search terms on Google (i.e. from 1000 brand searches per month to 2000 brand searches a month), the following delivery tactics can be implemented to achieve the objective of increasing brand awareness:

  • Organising a free event or conference and launching Facebook Sponsored News Feed ads targeting Lookalike Audiences
  • Participating in a trade show and getting featured in online publications prior to the main event
  • Creating free trial promotional video ads on Youtube (targeting In-Market Audiences) and Facebook Video Ads (with Facebook Interest targeting)
  • Developing educational content that creates desire for the product and distributing content through sponsored ads

Define Digital Advertising Campaign Budget

Companies typically spend around 30% of their marketing budget on digital marketing. i.e. if their marketing budget is set at $100,000 a year, $70,000 goes to print media, offline events, etc, while the remaining goes to digital marketing.

Out of the 30% ($30,000), a portion is set aside for other digital marketing channels such as Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media and Online PR, Video Marketing, Mobile Marketing, and others.

How much then should a company spend on Digital Advertising? There isn’t a full-proof blueprint for this. However, here are some factors that can influence your budgeting:

  • Objectives (KPIs)
  • Costs
  • Returns

Here are two examples of budget allocation.

Example 1 (Google AdWords):

First we set the objective.

Objective (lead generation) = 100 signups (KPI)

Then we look at past analytics data to find out the conversion rate. Based on the conversion rate, 10,000 clicks is needed to achieve the objective.

Click/conversion rate = 1% or 10,000 clicks = 100 signups (1% conversion rate)

If a click costs an average of $1, then a campaign budget of $10,000 is needed for 100 signups.

10,000 clicks x $1/click = $10,000

We can check out the estimate cost per click (CPC) or suggested bid using Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner Tool.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner Estimate Keyword Bids

Google AdWords Keyword Planner Estimate Keyword Bids

Note: It is impossible to be entirely accurate when tracking dollar for dollar value on conversions. A few factors may affect the conversion count, such as:

  • If the conversion happens outside of the conversion window period (e.g. the conversion happens on the 8th day where a 7-day conversion window is set)
  • If cross-device conversion happens (e.g. customer clicks on an ad on mobile and converts on desktop)
  • Multi-channel attribution modelling is set to Last Click (i.e. the conversion happens after a customer clicks on an email link, and Last Click attribution model credits 100% of the conversion to email and 0% credit to the digital advertising campaign

Example 2:

Again, we set the objective.

Objective (brand awareness) = Reach 3 million Singaporeans (KPI)

We can use Facebook’s Budget and Schedule tool to provide an estimated daily reach.

Facebook budget estimated daily reach

Facebook budget estimated daily reach

With $7,000 per week, we can reach an estimate of 130,000 – 830,000 Singaporeans daily.

To determine the percentage of budget allocation per channel, we need to look at attribution data in Phases 4 and 5.

4. Gather Data

Understanding and identifying key customer behavioural traits can help you make better marketing decisions, resulting in reduced costs and increased profits.

Clickstream Data

What is clickstream?

Clickstream is recorded data of a user’s online activity (i.e. clicks) while browsing the web. It answers questions such as, which digital channels brought in the best customers, what the most common path to conversion is, how long users take to purchase from the first website visit, and more.

Benefits of analysing clickstream data

Analysing clickstream data can help you:

  • Understand which channels your best visitors are coming from: This can provide you with valuable data and help you allocate your budget to the most effective digital channels.
  • Identify what content is being viewed and engaged with, and for how long: This can help you identify various types of engaging content, so you can create more of them. Which content do they spend only 10 seconds on and which do they spend more than 2 minutes on? This can help you make improvements to existing content that result in low engagement rates.
  • Identify touch points where they drop out on your website: Does a significant number of visitors drop out just before purchasing? How would you optimise your page so more visitors would proceed to the next step?
  • Find out what visitors search for on-site and off-site (e.g. search engines): Through analysing Google AdWords search terms reports and your website’s internal search engine, you can optimise for keywords that contributed to more conversions on your website.
  • Differentiate which ad creatives performed better: How many clicks versus impressions (click through rate) and conversions did Ad A get versus Ad B? Depending on your marketing objectives, you may stop running the Ad that resulted in low click through rates or conversions.
  • Understand which device is more effective: Some visitors may prefer to perform certain functions on a desktop rather than on mobile devices. For example, some visitors prefer to complete an application form on a desktop rather than on a smartphone. While majority of users prefer to use Facebook on a mobile device. If you are targeting ads on Facebook, you may want to ensure your landing pages are mobile-friendly.

Tools for recording clickstream data

Here are some tools to measure clickstream data:

  • Google Analytics
  • Crazy Egg
  • Optimizely
  • ClickTale
  • Adobe Analytics

Key Performance Indicators Per Channel and Estimation of Expected Return Per Channel

What are key performance indicators (KPIs) in digital marketing?

Key performance indicators are measurable metrics or numerical values used to determine the effectiveness of digital marketing activities and keep track of the progress of the campaign in achieving a defined objective.

Examples of KPIs and metrics in digital marketing

If the defined objective is to increase brand awareness, then the relevant KPIs include:

  • Increase brand mentions on social media and the web by 30%
  • Increase Facebook fans to 10,000 likes from 3,000 likes in 12 months
  • Increase in brand search terms on search engines by 100%

If the defined objective is to increase revenue by 100% within 12 months, then relevant KPIs include:

  • Increase enquiries to 30 a month
  • Increase newsletter subscribers to 20,000 over 12 months
  • Increase signups to 100 per month

How to estimate expected return per channel

Estimating the expected return per channel can help marketing teams allocate more realistic budgets to better performing channels. It can also be a sign that improvements can be made to the marketing channel to increase profitability.

If a certain channel is underperforming, ad expenditure should be reduced or marketing activities should be optimised, otherwise the company’s profit will be negatively impacted. On another note, if a certain channel is performing exceptionally well, more money should be invested for faster growth.

To make a good gauge on the return of investment of each channel, two variables need to be looked at:

  1. Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA)
  2. Return on Investment (ROI) or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

Calculating the cost of customer acquisition is relatively straight forward. You can retrieve the figures just by looking at the data from the platform you’re advertising on.

Google AdWords Search Advertising

Google AdWords Search Conversion Report

Google AdWords Search Conversion Report

The cost per acquisition or cost/conversion is $62.15. (Take note that this conversion is recorded as last click attribution, which assigns all credit to the campaign or click the customer last interacted with.)

Assuming you’re only advertising on Google AdWords, you can calculate the ROI or ROAS as follows:

Say the profit margin/customer lifetime value (CLV) is $300.

ROAS/ROI = $300 – $62.15 = $237.85

The ROI ratio is around 4:1 ($237.85 : $62.15).

However, things can get complicated when you include a mix of marketing channels. Say you’re advertising the same product on Facebook, the same customer that converted on the Google AdWords paid search results could have clicked on your Facebook Ad prior to searching on Google.

If it wasn’t for the initial touch point on Facebook, the customer may never have heard of your product and searched for it on Google. In order to properly attribute ROAS to the proper channels, you need to apply multi-channel attribution model principles, which is outside the scope of this article.

Using the above scenario, if the total revenue was $100 we assigned 30% credit to Facebook for being the first interaction and 70% credit to Google AdWords for being the last interaction, then Facebook would be attributed $30 and Google AdWords $70 in revenue.

To simplify things here, we can use this attribution table from Bizible:

Advertising Channel Attributed Credit Revenue Attributed Revenue
Google AdWords Search 0.5 $5,000 $2,500
Google AdWords Display 0.2 $1,000 $200
Facebook Ads 0.2 $2,000 $400
LinkedIn Ads 0.1  $500 $50

Each channel reports its own revenue, but it is up to the business analysts to set the attribution credit values per channel, as deemed suitable based on deep understanding of the customer buying journey.

5. Optimise

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, your hard work will be paying off soon.

During this phase, we take all the data gathered in Phase 4 and develop an optimisation plan. This stage is crucial as it determines the continuity of your advertising campaigns. Whether you’ll be able to pump another $100k or $1k into a channel will depend on how well you optimise the following:

  • Audience targeting
  • Budget
  • Other variables specific to the respective digital advertising platforms (e.g. Ad placements, device targeting, ad scheduling, keywords)

Optimise audience targeting

If you’re unsure what changes to make at any point, A/B split testing could be a suitable option. A/B split tests can prove whether a hypothesis is true or false.

For example, if you’re targeting consumers from a wide age group e.g. 21 – 50 and you’re unsure which audience your ad would be most relevant to, you can split the audience into three separate campaigns (21 – 30, 31 – 41, 41 – 50) and display the same ad creatives to them. At the end of the experiment, you can track which age group garnered the most clicks.

Optimise budget per channel

Based on the attribution table in Phase 4, if Google AdWords (with an attribution credit value of 0.5) generated $2,500 in revenue and Facebook Ads (with an attribution credit value of 0.2) only generated $400 in revenue, your budget on Google AdWords would obviously be higher.

If the total digital advertising budget for the present year is $100,000 The allocation of budget per channel can be represented by a simple table.

Advertising Channel Attributed Credit Budget allocation
Google AdWords Search 0.5 $50,000
Google AdWords Display 0.2 $20,000
Facebook Ads 0.2 $20,000
LinkedIn Ads 0.1  $10,000

Other variables specific to each digital advertising channel

There are other variables you can analyse and optimise that are very specific to a particular digital channel. Take Facebook for example. If you’re wondering which device converts better, you can break down conversions by device type.

Facebook ad reporting break down by device type

Facebook ad reporting break down by device type

We can clearly see that iPhone users converted more than Desktop users, and at a lower cost per acquisition (CPA). If your budget is limited, you could focus more on targeting mobile users to maximise your ROI.

On Google AdWords, you can also break down reports by time: day of the week.

Google AdWords Day of the Week reports

Google AdWords Day of the Week reports

From the data, we can see that majority of conversions happened on weekdays. We can then optimise our campaign settings to automatically increase bids on weekdays.

Develop Schedule/Roadmap for Digital Advertising Campaign Within the Budget

Before we develop a roadmap for our digital advertising campaigns, let’s recall the customer decision journey:

  1. Needs recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase
  5. Post-purchase

Launching a brand awareness (needs recognition) campaign can enable your brand to reach many people, however the sales conversion rates are usually lower compared to targeting prospects who are almost ready to purchase (e.g. conducting a brand search on Google).

It is therefore more pragmatic to first focus your marketing activities on areas that can yield the highest returns, especially with a limited marketing budget. In this case it usually begins at the bottom of the funnel (purchase and post-purchase).

We can summarise the digital advertising strategy into the following table.

Digital Advertising Strategy Table

Digital Advertising Strategy Table

We can then take the campaign objectives and plot the marketing activities on the digital advertising schedule/roadmap in Gantt Chart format.

Digital Advertising Campaign Roadmap

Digital Advertising Campaign Roadmap

 

With a total budget of $20,000/year, we would be able to complete our marketing activities by Q4.

Summary of Key Learning Points

  • Digital Advertising is an efficient medium of digital marketing used by marketers to deliver marketing messages to consumers through online paid advertisements including, but not limited to display and video adverts, paid search and social ads, and sponsored articles.
  • We can develop a digital advertising strategy by applying a 5-step digital advertising process. Analyse & Define => Determine Digital Advertising Channels and Tactics => Campaign Setup and Implementation => Gather Data => Optimise
  • Understanding the consumer decision process and defining customer profiles are crucial in order to deliver the right marketing messages, at the right time, to the right consumers.
  • Conducting competitive research can help us discover new entrants in the competitive landscape, develop a competitive edge, and discover new digital advertising channels to find new customers.
  • Digital advertising objectives should be SMART and your KPIs should be relevant to keep track of your campaign’s progress toward a defined goal.
  • Factors you should consider when selecting your digital advertising channels are customer profile and reach, consumer behaviour, costs vs returns, and goals.
  • We can develop appropriate campaign messages and delivery tactics by referencing the customer profile and consumer decision process and digital advertising objectives.
  • The digital advertising budget per channel can be determined by calculating the revenue of each channel minus the cost of customer acquisition, yielding the ROI. The higher the returns, the higher the budget allocated to the particular channel.
  • When developing the schedule/roadmap for the digital advertising campaign, we should first focus on implementing campaigns that offer more promising returns.

To learn more on how to develop a digital advertising strategy for your business, sign up for our 2-day hands-on Digital Advertising course.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

Creating an attention-grabbing, emotion-evoking ad creative can be one of the most daunting tasks a marketer can undertake.

Nevertheless, a powerful ad creative can be one of the best investments a business can make, skyrocketing click-through-rates, conversions, and profits.

Here are 21 best practices you can follow when creating your next text and display ad creatives.

Understand the Objectives of Your Target Audience

This should be the first thing you spend some time thinking about before picking up that palette and brush.

Nothing gets more ignored than seeing something we don’t care about. Think about what the user might be looking for when they’re Googling “cheap hotels”.

Would your ad stand out if you mentioned “luxury hotel” or “five star hotel” in your headline? What about the terms “budget hotel” or “from $30 a night”? You get what I mean.

Focus on How it Benefits Them

People don't get excited over how great your product is. They get excited how your product can make their lives great Click to Tweet

A great example by Uber on highlighting the potential benefits of driving with Uber:

Here’s a list of phrases that convey consumer benefits:

  • Free shipping
  • Free returns
  • Free trials
  • Time saving
  • Access from anywhere
  • Convenient
  • Easy to use
  • Hassle-free
  • Save more when you buy…

Speak to One Specific Target Audience

Ever heard the saying, “For you to succeed in business… You’ve got to be be able to solve a very specific problem for a very specific person.” Or the saying, “Try to appeal to everyone, and you’ll sell to no one”? It’s a little extreme, but the message here is to be specific.

Enter the mind of one specific customer you’ve served. Listen to the conversation that’s going on in her head, engage in a conversation with her, and be specific when talking about your offer.

If she uses words like “condo” instead of “condominium” or “car” instead of “auto-mobile”, speak in her lingo.

Have a Compelling Offer

We’ve all had a moment where we gave in to an offer we couldn’t resist. Consider these examples of compelling offers:

Ad 1

Ad 2

For Ad 1, 30% off everything without any * with terms and conditions apply sounds pretty transparent and attractive.

For Ad 2, free delivery and 30-day free returns sounds like a real bargain.

The key is to make your offer compelling and irresistible.

Make Your Offers Easy to Comprehend

Here’s a golden rule to follow when writing your ad copy – K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple. People are so busy about their lives, they’re often lazy to rethink an offer. Consider the following ad variations:

Ad Variation 1

Purchase any two phone cases at 25% discount and get a third one for free.

Ad Variation 2

All phone cases at $5 each with minimum purchase of 3 items.

Both ads basically offer phone cases at $5 per piece. Assuming $5 is below the market rate, it sounds attractive as it is.

When you see Ad 2 as a consumer, you don’t have to crack your brains to know you can get the best deal as long as you purchase at least 3 items.

Be Specific

I can’t stress this enough. Being specific clears the air of mystery. It conveys transparency and trust.

Talking about fast shipping? How about stating exactly how many days it takes?

Offering the best deal? How about going into specific details like DirectAsia? – No Agency Commission and 0% Monthly Instalments.

Being Specific

Consider the following variations. Which do you think is more specific and appealing?

Ad Variation 1

Attend a course for $0 for when you claim your $500 SkillsFuture credit from the government.

Ad Variation 2

Attend a course at ABC Hub Academy. All courses are SkillsFuture Claimable.

Include a Relevant Call to Action

A call to action or CTA is one of the most important elements of an ad creative. It gives your ad purpose, reinforces what you have to offer, and tells the prospect what to do. Without it, your ad loses its significance.

You should really take your time to think about this one and not rush with whatever comes to your mind. Your CTA message should be relevant to whatever your prospect is thinking of doing (intent) when she saw your ad.

Here’s a decent search ad that showed for the query “last minute hotel deals”.

Clear CTA

If you’re thinking of finding last minute hotel deals, what could be more relevant than a comparison engine that helps you “Find Cheap Last Minute Hotels by Comparing 100s of Sites at Once”?

Display Credibility and Reliability

While everyone’s offering roughly the same features and benefits as you, how do you stand out?

By displaying social proof, status, and reliability.

Social proof

Facebook sponsored newsfeed ads automatically do a great job at this.

Fiverr FB Ad

If you target your ad to the friends of your existing customers/page fans, your target audience will see that their friends have already liked the brand. Instantly, innate emotions such as FMO (fear of missing out) and being part of a group gets triggered, increasing the chances of them acquainting with your brand.

Status

Check out this paid search ad by Intuit for their accounting software, Quickbooks. – The World’s #1 account software.

QuickBooks Paid Search Ad

People want to be associated with the best. And it takes boldness to proclaim that you’re the number one in the world. But heck if it works, who cares?

Reliability

Check out Microsoft Office 365 – Always up-to-date with the latest features.

Microsoft Office Ad Creative

Be careful not to promise the sky and under deliver here though. You could lose more in the long run, if dissatisfied customers post bad reviews on your false claims all over the internet.

Here are a number of words in the English dictionary that convey reliability (Note: Use them with caution! Some of these terms are perceived as too-good-to-be-true):

  • Always/Forever (e.g. Facebook’s homepage – “It’s free and always will be”)
  • Guarantee (e.g. Money-back guarantee)
  • Warranty (e.g. 5-year warranty)
  • Trusted (e.g. Trusted by MNCs)
  • Award-Winning (e.g. Award-Winning agency of the year)

Use Words That Trigger Emotions

Emotional triggers. We all have them. They’re either positive or negative depending on the factors that trigger them. Here are some common examples:

  • Fun
  • Fear of missing out
  • Comfort and safety
  • Love
  • Anger
  • Pity
  • Excitement

Let’s look at an ad by PETA that triggers anger and pity.

PETA Display Ad

Check out this compelling ad by Harley Davidson – “A ride unlike anything you’ve ever felt before”.

Harley Davidson Display Ad

This copy challenges you and creates excitement. That’s a strong emotional trigger.

Compare this with Kawasaki’s ad, which basically tells you what you should do – Click Here to learn more about duh duh duh… Great if you’re well-acquainted with the brand. Not so good if you’ve never heard of or seen a Kawasaki on the roads.

Kawasaki Display Ad

Match Your Ad to Your Landing Page

Imagine seeing a promotional banner offering storewide 50% discount outside a retail shop, and going in only to find out the offer had already expired. It’s an extreme example of false advertising, but you get what I mean.

Speaking about that, what would you do if you encountered a misleading ad? You’d probably feel cheated and walk right out of the store pissed, and you’d probably never return.

If your ad mentions a free trial, make sure the first thing your prospect sees on your landing page when he clicks on your ad are the words “Free Trial” and a call to action leading to his promised free trial.

Check for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

Give me a silent nod if you get irritated when you see repeatedly see grammar and spelling errors on a document. A few typos here and there are a common occurrence and may sometimes go unnoticed, but you’d still want to avoid any if you can.

Grammatical errors can hurt credibility and lead to fewer sales.

In July 2013 Disruptive Communications asked 1,003 UK consumers what was most likely to damage their opinion of a brand in social media.

Here are the results:

Survey Results

Image source

42.5% pointed to poor spelling or grammar as a factor that would damage that opinion of a brand on social media.

Proof read. Proof read. Proof read.

Design Your Ad For Multiple Devices

A display ad that looks great on desktop may not be readable on mobile.

Desktop (looks great):

Desktop Ad

Mobile (font is too small):

Mobile Ad

Ad targeting by device can also be specified in your ad platforms such as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. More and more advertisers are creating at least 2 different ad versions for mobile and desktop devices.

Differentiate Your Ads From Your Competition

Use Moat.com to check out your competitors’ display ads. Google your target keywords and check out your competitors’ text ads.

Take note of what you’re able to offer but they’re not, then highlight what makes you unique. Do your competitors offer free trial? Free shipping? Tax free? Competitive pricing?

What can you do stand out?

Create a Sense of Urgency

Have you created a sense of urgency? Does your offer motivate your prospect to take action before it’s too late?

According to a research paper by Shipra Gupta, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, studying the psychological effects of perceived scarcity on consumers’ buying behaviour, “scarcity communicated by the retailer threatens consumers’ freedom, thus triggering psychological reactance and encouraging them to take immediate actions like in–store hoarding and in–store hiding, to safeguard their behavioral freedom.

We’ve all been “victims” of perceived scarcity and we end up buying things on impulse that we later regret. That’s one of the main reasons group buying deal sites like Groupon thrive so well.

Sense of urgency

Suggested reading:

9 Ways To Use Urgency Psychology To Improve Conversions – Marketing Land

Include Your Brand Name or Logo

Including your brand name in your headline can boost brand awareness. The more often consumers see your text ad when searching for keywords within a particular category, the better the brand recall.

Brand Search Ads

Doing a search on “book hotels” brings you these 3 top contenders – Expedia, Booking.com and Airbnb. These ads show up for all sorts of related terms relating to accommodations.

Therefore the next time a consumer is planning on going on a trip, he or she might recall anyone of these brands and do a brand name search instead (i.e. type in “Expedia” instead book hotels).

Expedia Display Ads

And don’t forgot to include your brand logo on your display ads!

Include Your Target Keywords (Text Ads)

As recommended by Google AdWords, include at least one of your target keywords in your ad copy.

This will help improve your quality score and also make your ad look more relevant to the searcher’s query.

For example, if you targeted the keyword “principal garden price”, make sure you include the keywords in your ad text.

Include Your Keywords in Your Ad

Limit Your Text (Display Ads)

Certain advertising platforms like Facebook Ads and Instagram (owned by Facebook) restrict the amount of words on your image. I.e. text can only make up 20% of your display ad.

Nevertheless, be conscious of the number of words you use on your display ad. Too many words can overwhelm viewers and distract them from the main message.

Use Relevant, High Quality Graphics/Images (Display Ads)

Using relevant images can garner more viewer attention to your ads. On the other hand, irrelevant images can confuse prospects and lose ad clicks.

Avoid overly complicated images that distract viewers from the main focus. Use images that have a clear focal point.

Check out this high quality ad by Nikon with its focal point on the bird’s eye, drawing viewer attention right the centre of the ad.

Nikon Ad

It’s also alright if you don’t include an image, as long as there’s a focal point in your ad that conveys your main message. Such as this ad by Hotels.com prompting viewers to sign in to unlock secret prices.

Hotels.com Ad

Use Good Colour Contrasts (Display Ads)

Good contrasting colours can make important elements more outstanding and convey the main ad message to the viewer.

This ad by Universal Studios uses only 2 different colours (apart from its logo) – White and Blue.

Universal Studios Ad

Reading the white words on the blue background is rather soothing to the eyes.

A/B Test Your Ads

Last but not least, always be testing.

You might think you’ve just created the best thing since slice bread. But you’ll never know for sure which ad will get you more clicks and conversions till you run multiple versions and analyse the results.

Recommended reading:

The Practical Science of A/B Testing your AdWords [Beginners Guide] – Wishpond

Conclusion

I hope you found these 21 best practices useful when creating your next ad creative. And here’s a checklist for that too.

A last word of caution for next time when you launch an ad campaign. Beware of ad fatigue. Ad fatigue is when your viewers get tired of seeing your ad over and over again that they either ignore it completely or report it.

Be sure to change your ad from time to time (there isn’t a fixed period) if you start to notice signs of ad fatigue (e.g. drops in click-through-rates).

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.