Are paid ads worth it for your business?


Online paid advertising is a cornerstone of the marketing plans of many companies, but is it really worth it for small to mid-sized businesses?

In order to determine the answer, it’s important to understand how each paid platform works and how to optimize it, before spending any money with paid ads.

The more you can understand the different platforms and use each one to your advantage, the more bang you’ll get for your buck. And in online advertising, those bucks can disappear quickly. Without optimizing each campaign, you can spend your advertising budget in a week’s time, with no results to show for it. We’re going to look at the top three platforms for paid advertising, and how to optimize each one for the best results.


Google AdWords

When building an online presence, there are many things to consider: SEO, content, reviews, social media profiles, and much more. These components take time to cultivate, but are the most lucrative way to build a website over the long-term.

Google AdWords is basically the polar opposite of those efforts. You can start a campaign and immediately get clicks, contacts, and sales from that campaign. An AdWords campaign involves creating an ad that people will see when searching for particular keywords that you set. For example, if a business in Columbia, South Carolina sells customized dog bowls, they might include keywords like “dog bowls in Columbia” or “custom dog bowls” or “pet supplies Columbia.” When users search for these terms, they see that ad with the website and/or location and contact, and be able to go directly to the site and customize a dog bowl for their furry friend.

One of the best things about AdWords is that you only pay for the clicks you get. You don’t pay for impressions (the number of people who see your ad). The other plus is that people searching on Google are looking for something specific. You don’t have to convince someone they need a customized dog bowl because they’re already looking for one. They just need to know that you’re the best place to get that bowl.

They key to Adwords is knowing your audience. You have to understand what your potential clients are looking for, and the likelihood in which they’ll click an ad. If you’re in a niche industry (ie customized dog bowls), you have a better shot at ranking higher in keyword searches than if there is a lot of competition in your industry. If you are in a field with a lot of competition, identify what makes you different from your competitors, and tailor your keywords away from the generic.

For a business just starting out with AdWords, it’s key to set a fixed budget (so you don’t spend that advertising budget in a week). This doesn’t have to be huge; $50 or $100 can get you started in understanding what keywords and ads get results, so you can narrow down your efforts even further. It’s important to make sure your ad is optimized to speak directly to your customers, and that the landing page they’re going to is relevant to why they clicked the link in the first place. With an optimized Google AdWords campaign, you get targeted, interested customers coming straight to you for your services or products.


Facebook Paid Ads

Facebook paid ads have become a necessity to many small businesses as organic reach has dwindled. There are millions of active business pages on Facebook, and massive content being published. But because of Facebook algorithms, even if someone “likes” a business page, they won’t necessarily see that content. The average estimated organic reach of Facebook pages with less than 50,000 likes hovers around 10-20%. So if you’re only reaching 15% of your followers with the great content you’re posting to your Facebook page, how are you supposed to reach your customers?

To solve that problem, Facebook has (to their benefit of course), made their ad setup easy to use so that you can easily implement an advertising campaign.

First, you need to create a strategy, including realistic goals and objectives.

Facebook ads are best suited for creating brand awareness and harnessing leads. It’s important to understand where your business or product fits into the purchasing funnel; is your intent to promote awareness, generate interest, create desire, or call to action?

HelloFresh Facebook ad

HelloFresh Facebook ad


Often creating a lead magnet, which is something of value to the customer or that perfectly illustrates your capabilities (like the discount in the HelloFresh ad shown above), is key to launching a successful Facebook ad. You can then specifically target your exact customer persona with all kinds of demographics and interests that Facebook provides.

As with AdWords, it’s important to set a fixed budget, and understand how many people you’ll reach with the parameters you’ve set. It’s not always better to pay more for more exposure; a finely tuned audience is much better than a general audience for your ad.

Lastly, make sure to try several variations of your ad to see which gets the most clicks, and use those analytics to better understand your Facebook ad audience.


Instagram Paid Ads

Instagram ads can also be added as an extension to your Facebook campaign, but are often better served as a separate entity due to the differences between Facebook and Instagram. You can use photos, stories, carousel ads, and stories to communicate your brand and call people to action. In Instagram, it’s especially critical to do your research before posting. Know your customers: where they are, what they like, how old they are, etc. Instagram is less cluttered than Facebook, meaning your well placed and well-designed ad has a better chance of reaching the perfect consumer, or an ugly ad is more likely to really annoy someone who has zero interest in your product.

Levis and Banana Republic Instagram ads

Levis and Banana Republic Instagram ads


There’s more opportunity here for different types and more interesting content that can really speak to customers, but as with the other platforms, it’s important to test different content and see what works. As opposed to other platforms though, it’s better to blend in than to stand out. Aspirational, well photographed, no text on the image – these are all attributes of content that does well on Instagram.

Instagram also has the highest engagement rates out of all social media, making it an option that shouldn’t be overlooked.

So to answer the question: are paid ads worth it for your business? Absolutely. With a strong understanding of who you want to reach, what you want to say, and what action you expect from the campaign, these platforms are valuable tools for reaching your customers.