Any mid-sized business owner or marketing director worth his salt realizes that paid media is essential for success in today’s online marketplace. Leaving it out of your marketing mix would be like making a cake without sugar or serving a southern-style breakfast without those fluffy, buttery biscuits. In other words: an epic fail (and, in some parts of Texas, an unpardonable sin).

Of course, not everyone is a Martha Stewart when it comes to paid media. No judgment; we all have our gifts. Besides, you can muddle by with that blue can of biscuit dough from the grocery store, right? Sure—until that can explodes upon opening and you accidentally set your kitchen (or marketing budget) on fire.

When it comes to investing money in a paid media campaign, it’s best not to guess. So, here is an in-depth explanation of the process by a someone who does it all. The. Time. (And knows how to cook, too.)


What is Paid Media?

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. When we say “paid media,” we are referring specifically to online advertising. It includes pay-per-click, remarketing, and social media ads. It does not include broadcast TV, newspapers, terrestrial radio, smoke signals, or any other “traditional” media that no one under 35 really uses anyway. It’s 2016, people. Get with the program.

While more traditional media is reflected online (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, New York Times, GQ), in many of those examples, people actually pay money to avoid being interrupted by advertising. So the more effective paid media these days lives on search engines (or Google, which also controls the majority of online display advertising) and social media (all social media platforms are really ad platforms).


To cook up a successful paid media strategy, you need a few key ingredients:





There are many other ingredients, such as display advertising and in-app advertising (e.g. Spotify ads), but AdWords and social platforms like Facebook and Instagram are the main things you should focus your budget and resources on. For a lot of different reasons (and a later blog post), display ads are NOT a great use of your resources if you are looking for engagement or more direct conversions. Likewise, in-app ads are niche, and can be used like sprinkles, but you would never make a cake solely out of icing and sprinkles. You could, but it would eventually turn into a big mess and probably make you sick to your stomach.


Note: Before launching any campaign, you MUST make sure that there’s goal tracking established on your landing page. This is what allows you to connect ad performance with business goals. Don’t skip this step.

Successful Paid Media Recipe

For Search

1. Conduct keyword research, focused on your target location, to determine ad groups and the necessary budget to have a strong impression share. “Impression share” refers to the percentage of total relevant searches your ads are eligible to show for. It’s impacted by ad rank (which is a combination of dozens of factors) and budget. Having a strong impression share is imperative to a successful paid media campaign because it allows your ads to show for higher-quality searches that are more likely to click your ad and engage on your landing page.

2. Set up your budget document. Use this to keep track of how your campaigns are spending. Update with cost from AdWords twice per week to make sure your campaigns are on track to spend their allotted budget, and adjust if any campaigns are overspending. (AdWords will increase your daily budget by up to 10% if it thinks doing so will result in more clicks/conversions, so it’s common to have less to spend towards the end of the month).

3. Write ad copy for each ad group. It’s best to stick to two to five targeted keywords per ad group and write the same number of ads, each with a different keyword in it. This increases the likelihood that your ads will show because it gives them more opportunities to trigger keywords than if you were to have only one or two ads.

4. Create extensions, which can include phone numbers, callouts, sitelinks, and more. These allow you to include more info beyond the character limits of your ad copy and give users more opportunities to get to your landing page. Use them.

5. Determine what geographic locations you want to target, and which ones to exclude, to make sure your ads show to the most relevant audience. Once you’ve set up location targeting, you can view which locations have the best performance and adjust your budget to put more money into those areas.

6. Set limits for what hours of the day your ads will show. As with location targeting, you can see what times have the best performance metrics and increase your bids for those hours. If you don’t have data from previous campaigns, let your ads run for a few weeks before completing this step.

7. Decide on a bid strategy. Let Google update your bids or manually change your bids. The former is certainly easier, but the latter gives you maximum control.

8. Launch! Make sure to check on your campaigns regularly for the first few weeks to identify any possible issues and make the necessary optimizations.

9. Optional: Adjust your bid adjustment. This is also a step you’ll want to complete after your campaigns have run for a few weeks. You can increase or decrease your max keyword bid by location or device to spend your budget more efficiently.


An In-Depth Recipe for Paid Media Success

For Social

1. Build an audience(s) that has the ideal interests/demographics of your target customer. You can get super targeted with this step: I’m talking annual income, parents with children in certain age ranges, people who have an anniversary coming up, or Taylor Swift fans (#SwiftieForLife). Take time looking through the targeting options on each platform so you have a better understanding of your opportunities.

2. Keep your audiences segmented so you can easily identify who responds best to your ads and adjust your budget allocation accordingly. However, note that Facebook and Instagram have minimum daily spend requirements of $5 per audience per day. If you have one campaign with 5 audiences, you’ll need to budget for a minimum of $25 spend per day. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to reduce your number of audiences.

3. Set up your budget document. Use this to keep track of how much your campaigns are spending. Update with the cost from each platform twice per week to make sure your campaigns are on track to spend their allotted budget, and adjust if any campaigns are overspending.

4. Establish your daily budget, start/end date, and the placements you want your ads to show in. Placements include spots in the news feed, spots on the platform sidebar, and even spots on audience networks, which are websites that partner with the social channels to form an ad network. It’s a best practice to use news feed placements because that’s where people are most likely to see your ads.

5. Design your images. And by “images,” I really mean any visual content, including videos, GIFs, slideshows, stop-motion… are you seeing a theme? Ads that contain dynamic content can be much more engaging than plain ol’ pictures. When brainstorming with your creative team, make sure your ideas include these types of content. That being said, don’t try to make a piece of content fit in a format it’s not designed for. Instead, think about what would be most relatable to your audience and branch out from there.

6. Write ad copy. Engagement is great, but what you really want is ACTION. Great, eye-catching headlines are so important, as well as simple, clear calls-to-action (CTAs) in your content. Keep everything as short as possible so it’s easier for people to read (and fits within the ad guidelines for copy length). You can also use CTA buttons that have pre-set text.

7. Build your ads. The information you’re allowed to include will vary based on what objective you’re optimizing for. If you want app downloads, you’ll need to connect your app to the ad platform, but if you want website clicks you’ll need to connect your ad to your landing page.

8. Optional, but encouraged: Test multiple ad variations to see what your audiences responds to best. Try testing ads with the same images and different headlines, ads with different images and the same headline, ads with CTA button vs. no CTA button, carousel ads vs. single-image ads vs. video ads…you get the idea.

9. Launch those puppies! Celebrate, then double check to make sure everything is set-up properly and all ads were approved by the platform.

10. Monitor your ads regularly. The ad platforms will automatically optimize to show your best ads, but this can mean that one ad gets shown 95% of the time, which can lead to decreased performance and ad fatigue (because people are seeing the same ad too much). If you notice this happening, pause the ad that gets shown the most to allow other ads a chance to show.

Monitor Ads RegularlyGreat! Now I’m done, right?
LOL no. The key to successful paid media campaigns is to continually make optimizations and adjustments based on the data you gather, kind of like tweaking a recipe to make it even more delicious the next time you cook it. It will probably take a month or two to gather enough data, but depending on the amount of traffic you receive, you might be able to make adjustments more quickly.

Some common optimizations include pausing keywords that earn a lot of clicks but no conversions, adjusting your budget allocation to put more money into campaigns that have better performance metrics, and testing ad variations against each other. Make sure to discuss these optimizations with your client and explain why you want to do them and what you expect to learn.

Now for the fun part – it’s chow time!
Reporting on your campaigns is one of the most exciting days for a paid media manager because you get to see the fruits of your labor – kind of like watching everyone’s looks of wonder as you set down that platter of ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure you highlight the metrics that relate to your goal, as well as what insights and recommendations you have based on those metrics.

If you’ve totally understood this recipe, but realized your team can’t do it by themselves, then by all means, call us and let us talk you through how we can help you. If you’ve read through it and still don’t understand any of this, then you should DEFINITELY contact us.