Online advertising: which pay-per-click platform(s) should your business be using and how?

Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn: where should you be investing your online marketing spend in 2020 and beyond?

You are reading: Online advertising: which pay-per-click platform(s) should your business be using and how?

If you have a business, whether that be a start-up company or a well-established brand that is ticking along but ready to scale up and grow its customer base, online advertising could be a great option to explore.

Depending on the type of business you are promoting or the service that you are offering, there are several different platforms to consider, each with their pros and cons when it comes to industry type, cost, reach etc. Here we’ll go through some of the biggest online paid media platforms and their strengths for promoting a brand.

What is online advertising? Online advertising (aka >online marketing, Internet advertising, digital advertising, Google Ads, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, web advertising), much like TV advertising, is a way to get your brand in front of potential customers and increase brand awareness.

The main pro of online advertising, over TV advertising, is that it’s a lot more measurable as you can see exactly how many people have seen your ad, how many people have taken interest in your advert and clicked through to your website. From there you could even see if that visit resulted in business for your company, as long as the correct tracking is set up for the website.

For example, if an online retailer chose to advertise a new range of clothing to potential customers, with the aid of something like Google Analytics, they’d be able to see how many people came through from their ads and how much money they’d spent on their online store and could therefore calculate the ROI of those ads. This is one of the reasons why more and more companies are predicted to spend more on digital advertising in the coming years:

via emarketer

What is search advertising?

Search advertising is a subsection of online advertising that allows a brand to place ads in front of users that are searching for their chosen keywords.

Out of all the types of digital advertising available, if done correctly, search advertising can deliver a great ROI as you are advertising to people that are actively searching for your service/product. So as long as you are targeting the right keywords, have well written ad copy, an effective landing page and a user friendly website, search advertising should always be a tactic to test.

But which platform(s) and type(s) of ads are best for your business?

Google Ads

Google is the biggest of all the search engines so makes it the most obvious place to start. There can be around 80,000 searches per second on Google globally and Google takes nearly 93% search engine market share:

via StatCounter

To advertise using Google, you must set up an account with Google Ads, add billing details, ready to pay for the clicks you receive, set up at least one campaign and ad group, choose at least one keyword, and create a minimum of one ad. This allows you to start advertising on Google and its search partners.

Which type of campaign should you use?


Search campaigns are driven by keywords, so can accurately target users with specific requirements.

Search campaigns are made up of ad groups, which contain the keywords and ads. When creating campaigns, a lot of thought should go into how the account is set up. They can be organised by location, theme, budget etc. Once these areas have been decided, ad groups should be used to split that main list into smaller, more granular lists to allow you to create text ads that are closely associated with that list of terms and send the user to a page that is very relevant to that keyword list also.

For example if you are selling shoes for toddlers and are targeting the terms “toddler shoes”, “footwear for kids” etc. then your ad should entice someone searching for these phrases to click on your ad and then the landing page should only show childrens’ shoes.


There are 1.9 billion monthly active users on YouTube a month:


A lot of people spend a long time on YouTube so it’s a great place to get in front of people. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are likely to see high conversion rates from YouTube, as many people are there to watch video content that is not directly related to products and services, so might not be in “buying mode”.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine so if your brand could be relevant to some of those searches, and it could be worth testing some ads on YouTube, if you have video content available.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping campaigns are ideal for online retail stores as they allow businesses to promote their inventory by showing their products alongside similar products with images and the price.

Google Shopping is fed by Merchant Center, so the advertiser provides Google with an up to date feed containing the required attributes about those products and Google generates the ads.

This type of campaign is only available to online retailers.


App campaigns are a way for app owners to advertise their apps across the Google networks; Search, Google Play, YouTube, the Google Display Network and Google Discover. All is needed is a few lines of text, a maximum cost per click bid, some assets and ads can be up and running.

These campaigns are only available to advertisers with an app to promote.

Microsoft Advertising

Bing and Yahoo are the next biggest of all the search engines, but still only make up a mere 4% of worldwide search engine market share combined.

There are 964 million unique monthly visitors to globally ( so there is reach available and also when advertising using Microsoft Advertising your ads can also appear on sites such as DuckDuckGo, MSN and AOL.


To advertise on Bing, Yahoo! etc you must set up an account with Microsoft Advertising ( and like you would on Google, add billing details and create at least one campaign. If you are advertising on Google you can even copy your campaigns straight over to Microsoft Advertising, making it super quick and easy to set up.


When choosing to use Microsoft Advertising, advertisers only have it’s search network available, so can only show their text or shopping ads to people that are actively searching for their chosen keywords or products.

Click costs can be lower than Google due to less competition and volumes will almost certainly be lower. However, it is very unlikely that advertisers could drive a fraction of the clicks that would be achievable with Google, but depending on the product/service you offer it may be that your target user is more likely to be searching on Bing or one of its search partners, so it shouldn’t be disregarded.

What is social advertising?

Social media advertising is another subsection of online advertising where brands can place ads in front of users when they are using social media online.

Unlike search advertising, social media ads are advertising to people that are not actively searching for a service/product (as they are busier sharing photos of their pets or stalking their ex’s) and so are probably less likely to convert.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” – David Beebe, branded content producer

But which network(s) and type(s) of ads are best for your brand?

Facebook for business

Facebook, which also includes Instagram (and could someday include Whatsapp), is the biggest player in the social game. There are 2.45 billion monthly active users on Facebook, which is more than YouTube. Instagram has 1 billion average monthly users, so the potential reach is enormous.


The beauty of Facebook and Instagram advertising is that you have a lot of data available, so when it comes to targeting people, you can based on their age, gender, location, interests etc, so as long as you know your target audience you can hone in on them to get the most from your campaigns.

Simply create an account at, enter billing details, link the account to your Facebook and Instagram profiles, create a campaign, ad set, and an ad, and you can begin advertising straight away.

What types of promotion are available?


You can create different types of ads within Facebook Manager to show on Facebook and/or Instagram, and which is best is dependent on what you are promoting and the assets you have available.

For instance if you have some good video content available, that you think could convert people on these channels or have a positive impact with regards to brand awareness, then there are video ads available. If you don’t and just have some great imagery then simple image or carousel ads might be a better fit.

Boosted Posts

If you’ve got some great content to push and you’ve shared it on your Facebook page you could choose to boost that post to a selected audience to increase its reach and potential engagement. This is really simple to do when you have an active Business Manager account and audiences already created.

Either way, if you have a Facebook and/or Instagram presence for your company, which has some following, especially if you can see a small amount of traffic coming through from them, that’s ideally converting, there could be potential to grow that following, traffic and conversions also.

For more information on how to advertise on Instagram, specifically, see my recent blog post:

Twitter Ads

Like Facebook there are a lot of users on Twitter, for instance in Q1 of 2019, Twitter averaged 330 million monthly active users so the potential reach is significant with Twitter, but that doesn’t mean it is the perfect fit for every business.



If you know Twitter is a good fit for your brand and you have followers that are engaging with your tweets, ads can be a way to increase that and get your brand in front of a larger audience.

Go to login with your Twitter log in details, create a campaign, ad group, add a creative and as long as billing details are set up to pay for the ads you can be live on Twitter.

Again, ads can be targeted based on age, gender, location, keywords, events, behaviors, interests, follower look-alikes, movies etc and there are several ad specifications available, the main two being:


Website Cards can be both image or video and contain up to 280 characters of text and link through to your chosen landing page.

Promoted Tweets

These Tweets, which will be clearly labeled as Promoted, allow you to expand the potential reach of a tweet and can be retweeted, replied to, and liked just as organic Tweets are.

via Twitter

LinkedIn Ads

If you are promoting a B2B company, LinkedIn Ads could be an option for you. If you have a product or service that is good for a particular industry, person in a certain job role or you have a list of companies that you’d like to target, LinkedIn is the one for you.

Just like the other platforms you must create an account, add billing details to pay for clicks and set up a campaign and there are several ad types to consider:

Sponsored Content

These are best thought of as promoted posts, as they allow you to get more eyes on content and updates that you would normally share through your company page. These are good for increasing targeted traffic to posts or pages.

via LinkedIn

Sponsored InMail

Sponsored InMail ads are sent to the LinkedIn inboxes of your target recipients and only deliver to active LinkedIn members. Content can be tailored to the people you are sending it to and the message contains a CTA button. These can be used to engage with prospects and/or connections.

Text Ads

Like other paid search ads these are charged on a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression basis and the ads can show on the side rail or inline when someone is browsing LinkedIn. These are good for targeting highly specific B2B audiences.


When it comes to advertising online, there are many platforms to consider and several different types of ads to think about per platform. But only some of them will be suitable for your business or brand so where you spend your marketing budget needs careful consideration.

Most businesses, as long as they select the right keywords to bid on, have a nice webpage for the customer to land on and a nice ad to attract them there, should be suitable for Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising. That being said, budget and competition need to be factored here as click costs can vary wildly per industry, so it may be that you need deep pockets in order to compete in this space.

Click costs are likely to be lower on social platforms, but there is a reason for this, people on these networks are not necessarily there to shop or browse for a service and so are less likely to click through to your site and convert.

Once you’ve picked your platform, you need to nail the following to start attracting relevant traffic to your website and earning revenue:

  • Choose your target audience:
    • Keywords they are using
    • Demographic
    • Interests
    • Remarketing (do they know your brand already?)
  • Create compelling ads
    • Click-worthy ads that generate interest
    • Landing pages that are user friendly and carry on the journey from the ad
  • Reporting
    • All the platforms will show how many impressions and clicks your ads received
    • CTR – gives an indication of how relevant your ads are
    • Conversions – make sure you use the tracking codes available to see if the people coming through from your ads are carrying out your desired action on your site
  • Learn
    • Test things and measure what works and what doesn’t
    • Use these tests to optimise your campaigns for the best return

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