Gone are the days of buying an ad in a magazine or billboard and hoping to see brand awareness improve. With digital media buying, marketers can get a clear picture of exactly what revenue they are creating through their media spend. Digital media buying also allows marketers to target their audiences with laser precision, a big step above old-school media buys where marketers would put out a general message and hope their target audience absorbed it. However, when not done correctly many marketers will find that their paid media spend is about as useful as an old-school print ad. Today’s marketers must create a digital buying strategy tailored to their audience and built to track results by selecting the correct channels, developing strategic goals, and using precise analytics. 


When looking to make a digital media buy you are most likely going to purchase an ad on one of the five most visited sites in the world: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. When you make an ad purchase on one of these five sites you have two main options for how you purchase by impressions or by clicks. Marketers purchase impressions by CPM (cost-per-mille) which means cost per thousand impressions. This is most commonly used in social, display, and video purchases. Marketers purchase clicks by CPC (cost-per-click). This is the most common media purchase in search channels. 

 digital media buying

Defining Your Goals 

Marketers have a lot of opinions on which channel will give you the best return on your spend. The reality is that you can leverage each channel for high return on investment if it correctly aligns with your business goals. This can shift from campaign to campaign, so when planning a new marketing initiative it is essential to determine your core business goal that you are looking to drive from this initiative. Once you have your goal in place then you can determine how you can leverage advertising channels to best reach this goal, rather than choosing a channel first. 

When you are crafting a digital media strategy your goals will fall into one of three categories: awareness, conversion or branding. With each of these three categories of goals comes different ways to measure success. 

Awareness Goals -  Goals where the objective is to generate awareness for new users about your business, your product, or your service offerings. To measure how successful your campaign is at creating awareness you should look at: 

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CPM 
  • CTR (click-through-rate) - Measuring the number of clicks advertisers receive on their ads per number of impressions.  
  • Branded Search Queries -  Awareness can be tricky to measure. This method typically has the least immediate impact on your business, yet can be extremely effective over time when done right. One way you can measure awareness-based goals is by looking at the branded search volume. We believe that when awareness is properly executed, more people should be searching for your brand terms.   

Conversion Goals: Goals where the objective is to generate new purchases or leads for your business by creating conversion events on your website such as cart completions or form submissions. To measure how successful your campaign is at creating conversions you should look at:  

  • Conversions
  • Cost per Conversion
  • Conversion Rate
  • ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) 

Branding Goals: Goals where the object is to stay top of mind for your current customers and educate them what your brand is all about. (For more information on crafting a branding strategy check out our recent article “Three Keys to Creating Brand Loyalty”.) To measure how successful your campaign is at spreading brand awareness you should look at: 

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CPM 
  • Followers
  • Social Engagement
  • Branded Search Queries 

Selecting a Campaign Type & Channel 

Now that you have defined your goals and measurement systems. It is time to decide which type of campaign you should run and on what channel. The four main types of campaigns are search, social, display, and video. 

digital media buying

Search  - Search is all about showing your ad to the right user, at the right time by targeting users based on their search queries. The two main channels for search campaigns are Google and Microsoft Ads (Formerly Bing) each with pros and cons that you will need to understand before selecting a platform. 

  • Google - Google is the most trafficked site on the internet and offers a lot of flexibility for search ads. One could argue that advertising Google should be your top priority since there is a very high probability your customer is using Google. To make sure your Google ad campaign is successful you should understand the problem that your product solves for and bid on those keywords. Google typically has some of the highest clickthrough rates and conversion rates across channels making this a great place to see high returns for your digital ad spend. 
  • Microsoft Ads (Formerly Bing) - While you may not think of Bing as a piece of prime advertising real estate, you may find more users here than you would think.  Many people are defaulting to Bing without even knowing most commonly from Microsoft products making it the second biggest search engine in the world.  Bing is also connected to LinkedIn, allowing you another layer of ad targeting. Bing can also be an effective channel if you are targeting an older demographic. With far less competition from advertisers, this can be a great place if you are looking to stretch your budget with lower CPCs and generally lower CPAs (cost per action). 

Social Media - Social advertising campaigns target users on different social media platforms. One of the huge benefits of social media is that it allows you to add a visual touch to your ads that search doesn't. In the past social advertising has been seen as too expensive, however social advertising has come a long way and is now a much more cost-efficient strategy. When looking at your social media advertising strategy you should consider the pros and cons of these platforms Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. 

  • Facebook - Facebook is still the largest social network in the world and it allows you to serve ads on Instagram through the Facebook ads platform. Facebook is a great platform for serving ads to users who can be easily segmented into specific interest groups like fast food eaters or travel fanatics. Facebook is also excellent for leveraging audience segments by customer lists. If you already have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, then Facebook can leverage lookalike models to find customers who are most similar to your uploaded lists.
  • Twitter - If your audience is very engaged on Twitter then it could be a good match for your business. Twitter allows you to target people who are most similar to your followers or account list which is great for reaching out to your target audience. Twitter also allows you to target users based on their search intent on Twitter, which makes it easy to target your audience using common keywords.  
  • Pinterest - Pinterest is great if you are looking to target women who are the largest demographic of Pinterest users. You can use Pinterest to promote pins and targets based on interest group, keyword, or audience. Mobile users have to click the pin twice to get to the landing page which reduces site traffic. (To learn more about getting started on your Pinterest campaign check out our recent blog “Pinterest for Business: Strategies You Need to Know”.) 
  • LinkedIn - If you are looking to advertise B2B then LinkedIn is an excellent solution. You can target users based on their job demographics including title, company, industry, etc. The content on LinkedIn is typically more professional. While CPCs can be very high on LinkedIn it is one of the best advertising channels in reaching professionals in their social media of choice.

Display -Display advertising appears on websites or apps most often as a banner ad. The goal of a display ad is to distract the user from their original task and instead click on new content about a product or service. The two main types of display ads you should be aware of are Google Display Network and Programmatic.   

  • Google Display Network - A big advantage of Google’s partner network is that you can advertise on sites all across the internet. Google allows you to target by both manual placements or audience segments. Make sure that you are always monitoring where your ads show. Google can get greedy and show your ads across mobile games which is low engagement traffic that wastes your media spend.   
  • Programmatic - Buying display placements outside of the Google Display Network, typically organized through Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) DSP & supply-side platform (SSPs). Each of the different vendors have different targeting capabilities and pricing. One advantage of programmatic display is that it can show on a wide array of placements that Google Display Network cannot.  

Video - One of the most engaging ways to get the attention of your audience is through video. While there are other ways to advertise through video the primary channel we recommend is YouTube. 

  • YouTube - When you advertise over YouTube you can show your audience an ad before they start their YouTube video. Similar to Twitter, if your customers often browse YouTube then this might be a great way to reach them. You can choose to play skippable ads or non-skippable ads, however the non-skippable ads come at a higher price point. With YouTube you can choose to target by specific video placements as well as by audience segments. 

Crafting a Paid Media Strategy 

Anyone can advertise in digital media, especially with each channel having its own ad buying platforms, however, you must define your goals, measurement systems, and channels before you make a purchase. The different unique features and capabilities of each platform make it easy to fall into different traps and money grabs. To learn more about getting started on a paid media strategy, reach out to info@bostondigital.com

Tech & Digital Marketing