Online advertising has come a long way since the first banner ads started popping up across the web. New strategies have come into the mix and marketers today are using a diverse mix of advertising methods to capture different kinds of leads at various stages of the consumer journey.

The challenge for advertisers is combining these different types of online advertising into a single strategy that covers the entire buying process, generates leads and converts them into paying customers.

This starts with knowing which forms of online advertising you have at your disposal and when to each of them, which is what we’re covering in today’s article.


#1: Search advertising

Search advertising is the first digital strategy you’ll probably get involved in and for most brands/marketers this starts with Google AdWords. You’ve also got Bing Ads to think about as well as niche networks like Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China to consider if you have target audiences in those markets.



In most cases, search advertising looks something like the screenshot above and this is what most markets refer to as PPC advertising (although pay-per-click is actually a payment system rather than an ad format).

While advertising on a platform like AdWords is anything but simple, the concept itself is relatively straightforward. You bid on keywords that have commercial intent and users see your ads when they’re looking for anything from flights to a new outfit or wedding rings for the big day.

The idea is to capture leads that are close to buying and close the deal as soon as possible.


When to use search advertising

The unique thing about search advertising is you’re targeting leads that are looking to buy now or in the near future. No other marketing strategy really allows you to capture leads at this crucial part of the buying process and this is why AdWords has become an essential channel for just about every brand and marketer.


#2: Display advertising

This is the original form of online advertising and probably the first thing that comes to mind when people think of internet ads. Banner ads and popup ads are the most notorious kinds of display ads and these have earned the strategy something of a bad reputation over the years. These are also the ad formats that are most vulnerable to ad blockers, which is something you need to keep in mind when using this strategy.


            A display ad for ActiveCampaign on


With display advertising your ads are going to appear on third-party sites as users browse the web. The key to making this work is targeting so that your ads are relevant to user interests. For example, ActiveCampaign wants marketers and business owners to see its ads and there are a number of ways to get its display ads seen by the right people.

For example, you can target websites related to marketing and business topics or anywhere else you think your target audiences will visit. You can also target previous visitors to your website with display ads using something called remarketing, which we’ll be looking at in more detail later.


When to use display advertising

Display advertising is particularly good for visual branding campaigns where you want to get your product or services seen by your target audiences. These are people going about their business online, not actively looking to buy from a brand like yours right now – so these are leads at an earlier stage of the consumer journey that your typical search advertising target.


#3: Social advertising

Once social networks proved their worth as a marketing channel, it wasn’t long before the likes of Facebook moved to monetise their platforms via paid ads. It’s fair to say users weren’t exactly happy about the transition but Facebook, in particular, managed to integrate ads very well into its platform and the other big networks, more or less, followed suit.



Crucial to the success of social advertising is the targeting options you can utilise on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. You can target people based on their topical interests, buying history, life events, household details and all kinds of factors. Combine all of these elements and you can target people on a highly specific level – for example, honeymooners who are travelling in your area or first-time homeowners who are visiting a lot of home insurance websites.


When to use social advertising­­­­

Social advertising is ideal for targeting and engaging with specific audiences who have a proven interest in what you’re promoting. The key thing to remember is that these users are scrolling through their social feeds; they’re not in buying mode – at least not yet. However, social advertising allows you to target user interests in such detail that you’re in a good position to make things happen, as long as you get your ads seen by the right people.


#4: Remarketing

Remarketing (sometimes called retargeting) is the practice of showing ads to people who have visited your website after they have left. Let’s say someone clicks one of your search ads and scrolls through your landing page, but decides not to convert there and then. You know this person has an interest in what you’re selling – otherwise they wouldn’t have searched for those keywords or clicked through to your ad – but they’re not ready to buy now, for whatever reason.

With remarketing you can show these visitors display ads as they continue to browse the web, reminding them of why they were interested in the first place. Or you can reach out to them with an incentive (eg: a 10% discount) if they choose to buy after clicking through from your remarketing ad.

Google and Facebook both have remarketing features that allow you to show ads to people who have never even visited your site before – perhaps never even heard of your brand. The two advertising giants dip into their huge stores of data to find people that display similar online behaviours as the people who have already bought from you in the past, allowing you to target entirely new leads that might never discover your brand otherwise.


When to use remarketing

Remarketing allows you to show ads to people who visited specific product pages but didn’t buy. People who look at three different TVs are clearly in the market for a new television but they haven’t made their buying choice yet and you can help them make the final decision with your remarketing ads. Likewise, someone who’s close to buying but can’t quite make the final commitment might only need that extra incentive to buy and remarketing is the perfect strategy to deliver this.

You can also use remarketing to introduce your brand to entirely new people and create remarketing lists to deliver different ads to each lead as they move along different stages of the buying process – powerful stuff once you get to grips with it.


#5: Native advertising

Native advertising allows platforms to create ads that fit into the design and experience of the page. In most cases, this is where you’ll notice sponsored content on websites, social networks or other platforms, which is ad space you can buy up to get your content seen by certain audiences.


Native ads on the NY Times look just like regular articles, except they’re listed under “From our advertisers” (Source: AdEspresso)


Unlike regular display ads, the idea with native advertising is to extend the existing user experience – for example, lead a user from one technology article to one of your own that promotes your brand or its message in some way. This isn’t a hard-sell strategy like search advertising or remarketing but a much softer approach that generally aims to expand your audience.


When to use native advertising

Native advertising is best used when you want to target audiences on third-party sites or platforms. Essentially, it’s the advertising equivalent of guest blogging where your aim is to produce quality content for other sites and introduce their audiences to your brand.


#6: Video advertising

Video advertising accounted for 10.5% of all digital ad spend in 2017 and its market share is increasing every year. YouTube ads are still the most popular form of video advertisement and Facebook is catching up fast but the number of platforms pushing video ads is increasing every year.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of video advertising in the industry right now. First, you can pay for ads that play before or during third-party videos, as you experience when watching content on YouTube – something Facebook is still integrating into its network. The other main form of video advertising is to promote your own video content through paid ads on networks like Facebook and Instagram.

The two strategies are entirely different in nature. By showing ads during third-party videos, you have to pinpoint user interests strongly enough to justify the interruption and get them to click through. Essentially, your ad has to be more compelling than the video content they originally clicked to view. In the case of promoting your own video content, users have clicked to watch your video from the offset, which means you’ve already established that connection with your brand.


When to use video marketing

Placing ads on third-party video (eg: YouTube) is a great branding strategy although it can be difficult to get the kind of click-through and conversion rates you would normally expect from other strategies. This doesn’t mean you can’t convert users from this kind of ad but you will have to work particularly hard to take people away from the content they want to watch.

By promoting your own video ads, you cut out the third party and focus on creating video content that compels people to click and then converts them without any distractions. This isn’t to say the latter strategy is better than the first but it’s important to understand how they differ.


#7: Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing involves websites that promote products or services to their readers. A common example would be a software review site, where people can look at different platforms to compare their pros and cons against their needs. In most cases, these sites get a small commission from each software provider when a user clicks through to their site and makes a purchase.

The same process can work for all kinds of products and services.

Which means you can create your own affiliate program and reach out to websites with large, relevant audiences. The aim is to generate qualified traffic from these sites and pay a commission to these sites for everyone that finalises the purchase – small price to pay for a new customer, especially if you can generate high volumes through affiliate marketing.


Shopify has had great success with its referral program over the years


When to use affiliate marketing

If there are a bunch of affiliate marketing sites promoting the kind of products/services, then you’d be mad not to explore this strategy. It doesn’t work for every business model but it works incredibly well for those who get it right. You only pay for visitors who go on to buy from you and, if you can generate high volumes of affiliate traffic from various sites, affiliate marketing could become a major growth contributor.


As you can see from the seven types of online advertising we’ve looked at today, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to generating certain types of leads. Modern brands need all of these leads at various stages of the consumer journey to maximise their ROI vs ad spend and any decent advertising strategy will use many or all of the advertising methods we’ve looked at today.

If you need help with finding the right advertising mix for your company, get in touch with our team of experts today.