Digital Advertising for Local Businesses

Ashley Taylor Anderson
Digital advertising tips for local small business owners

Digital advertising isn’t just a passing fad. Last year in the U.S. alone, digital advertising revenues exceeded $42 billion.

That’s a lot of money, especially when compared to newspaper print advertising, which brought in just $17 billion in 2013. Everyone from national chains to single-location businesses are entering the digital ad space — and as more businesses come on board, online advertising continues to grow and evolve.

Advertisers Have Gone Digital
Why have most business, including local service businesses, shifted their focus from print to digital advertising? There are a lot of reasons, but three of them emphasize why it should matter to you:

  1. Consumers Have Gone Digital. The average adult in America spends more than 5 ½ hours each day with digital media and just 25 minutes with print media, such as newspapers and magazines. If you want to reach local consumers, you need to advertise where they spend most of their time.
  2. Expanded Reach. Traditional print advertising allows you to run one ad on one page in one publication. With digital advertising, you can make your advertising budget go further and reach consumers across a variety of websites, search engines, and social networks.
  3. Improved Analytics & Optimization. In the past, the only way you could link in-person business to print advertising campaigns would be to run an exclusive discount code or coupon. With digital advertising, you can track exactly how many clicks, submits, appointments, and purchases you receive directly from an ad. This wealth of data also allows you to optimize your campaigns as they run so you get the most from your investment.

Benefits of Digital Ads for Local Businesses
As we covered last week on the topic of SEM, digital ads are a great way to boost your business’s visibility in the great sea of content out there on the web. With a digital program, you have the ability to specifically target your audience by search criteria, location, websites visited, and interests. And with most digital ad campaigns, you control the overall investment up front and the cost you’re willing to pay per action (usually clicks or impressions). For local businesses with a limited amount of time and money, digital ads provide a flexible, cost-effective way to connect with consumers in your area.

Types of Digital Ads
Digital ads come in a variety of formats. The five most common ad formats are:

  • Display Ads: You’re probably most familiar with this type of ad. When you visit a blog or news site, you generally find display ads at the top or side of the page. These ads use a combination of graphics and text to entice readers to click through to visit a linked website or landing page where you can book an appointment, make a purchase, read content, or download a coupon.
  • Text Ads: These ads consist of plain text and links only. The most common type of text ads appear in search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. When you search for a specific keyword, the search engine will show sponsored results at the top and top right of the page. Review sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, also display text ads in the form of featured listings that are promoted on the front page of results.
  • Social Ads: All of the top social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest — offer advertising options for businesses who want to expand their reach through social media outlets. Ads generally take the form of a standard social post in a user’s feed, but are distinguished from normal posts as promoted or sponsored content with a visible label. These ads can be highly effective because of their robust targeting capabilities and native format, which is less intrusive than other ad formats.
  • Video Ads: If you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube or Netflix, you know how video ads work. Before your content is served, the video player shows a brief ad similar to a traditional TV commercial. Some ads give users the ability to skip after a few seconds; others require users to watch all the way through. Video ads are now also being run as part of display programs on websites as “takeovers” (which, literally, take over the entire screen before loading a user’s requested page) or in normal display ad areas on webpages themselves.
  • Mobile Ads: Ads that appear on your tablet or smartphone can take any of the forms above. The only difference is that both the ad and the page the ad points to are optimized for mobile viewing. This usually means a simpler design, fewer words, high-resolution images, and bigger text and buttons to make it easier for users to view on a smaller screen.

The Bottom Line
There are as many digital advertising options out there as there are types of local businesses. If you’re interested in growing your business’s online presence, digital ads can be a great way to do it. Before starting an ad campaign, make sure to define your audience, goals, and budget, and then select the format and channel that will best help you achieve your objectives.


About the Author

Ashley Taylor Anderson

Ashley Taylor Anderson is a content developer and marketer who's spent her career knee-deep in the B2B technology space. In previous professional lives, she worked as a science textbook editor, media producer, and pastry chef.

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