One of our biggest challenges as digital marketers is traffic. How can we easily and affordably get people’s attention, push them to our websites, and convert them to subscribers and customers? The secret is digital advertising. And if you understand how to make it work, it can give you full control over your traffic flow and help you sell more too.
In this chapter, you’ll learn the process for planning, setting up, and optimizing your ads, including the metrics you need to watch, the lingo you’ll use as a media buyer, and the people in your business who should be responsible for digital advertising.
But before we start, let’s get clear about why paid traffic is a smarter investment than organic.
The Difference Between Paid and Organic Traffic
Free traffic is always the goal, right? Which is why most businesses aim for organic traffic first. After all, if you can get a steady flow of free traffic, you’ll pocket the savings.
But as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
The easiest way to explain that is with a simple comparison: the water hose versus the rain.
Paid traffic is like a water hose. You have complete control over the direction it’s pointed, the amount of water pouring from it, and how long you let the water flow. You can turn it on and off whenever you want.
If you’re getting more traffic than you need, with paid traffic, you can slow the flow. You have control of where it’s going, how fast, and when.
Organic traffic, on the other hand, is more like rain. You aren’t sure when or if it will come, how consistent it will be, nor how long it will last. Listen to the weather channel all you want. You have no control.
With organic traffic, you can lose traffic if Google changes their algorithm. If a competitor has a huge launch, you could lose traffic to them. You also have no control over where the traffic goes. Even simple things like changing the URL of your landing page can mess things up.
You can enjoy all the control of paid traffic without it actually costing you anything. You do that by building funnels that reimburse your ad spend.
So in essence, you can acquire customers for free, and then once your advertising costs have been reimbursed, use simple tactics to build loyalty and optimize your customers’ lifetime value.
Better still, it’s not an either/or proposition.
The better your paid traffic is, the better your organic traffic will be as well, because good advertising drives traffic—and the pages that get lots of traffic tend to rank higher in search engines.
That creates an upward spiral of traffic acquisition. A win-win, if you will.
But it’s important to be realistic. You just can’t run one traffic campaign and expect it to magically deposit a million dollars in your bank account.
If you want a constant flow of leads and customers for your business, you must look at this as a system.
Top 3 Sources for Paid Traffic
Some of the best platforms for paid traffic are Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
But to know which one is right for you, you need to know where your customers hang out and which ad platforms are suited for the type of marketing you do.
In most cases, you’ll probably start with Facebook and Google. According to Business Insider, these two sites drive 80% of referral traffic, more than all the other platforms combined.
But again, it depends on what you’re trying to do.
1. Google Is Like the Yellow Pages
Because Google is a search engine, people start there when they’re looking for information. So it’s a lot like the Yellow Pages.
To drive traffic through Google, you’ll bid on keywords that will help people find you and can lead to an ideal sales conversation.
2. Facebook Is Like a Billboard
Scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed is a bit like driving down the highway. As you scroll, you see ads, promoted posts, as well as random comments.
And if you, as a business, are willing to pay, your message will also appear in the newsfeed of your target audience.
With Facebook, you can spend as little as you want and still expand your reach.
Because it’s a social platform, and because they collect data on our behavior every day, they know a lot about us. All that data makes them the most powerful ad platform available today.
Target your ads precisely enough, and you’re sure to get the right eyeballs on your message.
3. YouTube Is Like Television
YouTube’s top metric is the number of minutes watched. Their goal is to keep you on the site consuming videos, so they operate a lot like traditional television, playing ads in the videos, interrupting people’s viewing.
Disruptive, yes, but with YouTube, your ads are always relevant.
That’s because you can target your ads based on the YouTube channels your audience likes, the types of videos they watch, and what they’re searching for.
So what are the top 3 paid traffic sources? What’s the best place to start with your paid traffic campaigns?
Facebook, Google, and YouTube: All three will give you quality traffic from people who are interested in your offers.
Okay, that gives you a good background for the strategy we’re about to discuss. Let’s dig into the methods you’ll use to execute a winning ad strategy.
Methods of Well-Executed Digital Advertising
We’ve established that paid traffic is your best (and most cost effective) way to drive traffic. Now let’s talk about how to create ads that magnetically attract your best customers.
NOTE: We’ll focus primarily on Facebook advertising here, but you can apply this same process to whatever platform you’re using.
4. Two Concepts for Evaluating Your Target Audience
How do you know the type of ads you should be running and how to precisely target those ads? It comes down to 2 foundational concepts: the customer journey and traffic “temperature.”
Concept 1: The Customer Journey
The Customer Value Journey, remember, is the path people follow as they build relationship with your business, from first touch to final sale.
The three core stages of this Journey are:
Awareness. This is the top of the funnel, when new prospects first discover your brand exists and that you can help them solve their problems.
Evaluation. This is the middle of the funnel, when prospects are seriously considering making a purchase. Their biggest question is whether you’re the best source.
Conversion. The is the bottom of the funnel, where people take action and buy something from you.
Concept 2: Traffic Temperature
At each stage of the Customer Journey, your audience has a different relationship with you. At the top of the funnel, they barely know you and may not even know what you do. But as they move through the funnel, they learn more about you and become more committed and loyal.
You might say, they “warm up to you.” Which is why we refer to this deepening relationship as “traffic temperature.”
Cold Traffic. Generally, this is new traffic from people who are in the Awareness stage. These people are good prospects for your business but have never heard of you or your brand.
Your goal with cold traffic is indoctrination. You want to introduce your business to new audiences and get them coming back for more.
Warm Traffic. Warm traffic comes from people who know who you are but haven’t bought anything yet. It aligns with the Evaluation stage.
Your goal with warm traffic is acquisition, to convert a site visitor into a lead.
Hot Traffic. Hot traffic comes from people who are at the Conversion stage. These are your buyers, people who are ready to buy or have already bought something from you.
Your goal with hot traffic is monetization, to sell a high-dollar product to your best customers.
Ultimately, your goal is to move people from cold to hot, transforming new leads into loyal customers, willing to buy from you over and over again.
You do that by matching your message to a prospect’s temperature.
With cold traffic, you don’t necessarily offer a sale. You’ll spend more time building relationship. Whereas with hot traffic, the relationship is secure. You speak more as a friend, and you make offers based on the topics you know they’re interested in.
Believe it or not, these 2 concepts alone will massively improve your ability to create successful traffic campaigns. Simply relating to people based on their temperature, you’ll build trust and engagement.
Now let’s move to the 5 elements that make up a winning ad campaign.
The 5 Elements of a High-Performing Campaign
Every ad campaign is made up of 5 key elements: the offer itself, the ad’s copy and design (which we call the “creative”), the ad scent (the cohesive look and feel of your overall campaign), and the targeting, or who you pitch your offer to.
1. Your Offer
Your offer is not the same thing as your product or service. Your business is built around a product; your ad campaign is built around an offer.
So what is an offer? It’s the unique combination of your product or service with other bonuses or add-ons, including all the details of your promotion:
- The deliverables
- The price
- The schedule
- How it’s being delivered
- And more
So you may only have one product, but you can offer it for sale in a variety of ways, creating hundreds of different offers.
This example, for instance, offers a coupon for big savings on your first visit:
This one, from Survival Life, offers a valuable product for just a penny:
Your offer is also the starting point for your ad campaign. Get it right, and everything else will usually fall into place.
But the opposite is just as true: put together a bad offer, and your ad won’t convert.
2. Your Copy
Your ad copy refers to the messaging you use in your ad campaign. It should be clear and compelling, so the benefits stand out—both the benefits of engaging with the ad and of taking whatever action you’re asking for.
Good copy has a strong emotional hook. It’s intriguing and persuasive without relying on hype.
Generally, you want to start your ad by speaking to a pain point your target is dealing with. Then your offer should be presented as the solution.
This Hired promotion leads with the problem: “counting down the hours until you get to leave the office.” If someone resonates with that problem, they’ll be eager to see the solution.
If going to the store is a pain point, they hook your interest in the very first line.
3. The Creative
Creative refers to the graphic elements of your ad: the image, video, or carousel images.
Don’t be fooled by the term “creative.” It doesn’t have to be overly imaginative. Good creative communicates your message visually in just a second or two. So it supports and enhances your copy.
Here at DigitalMarketer, we like to be literal with our ad creative. Whenever possible, we visually display the offer, so people know at a glance what the deliverable is.
Take this ad as an example. The article we promoted the offer in is on the left, and the resulting ad is on the right.
Or this one where we promoted our 60-Second Blog Plan:
In both cases, the creative is literal, depicting—as closely as possible—the download we’re offering.
4. Ad Scent
Ad scent refers to congruency, or “sameness,” throughout your campaign.
Why is this important?
Because trust is a huge conversion factor. If people feel comfortable that your offer is valid, they’ll seriously consider your offer. Do anything to create doubt or fear, and they’ll exit without taking action.
Here’s how ad scent works…
Every time we click, we use simple visual cues (or scent) to ensure we’re in the right place. If we lose scent at any point, we begin to feel we’re in the wrong place or that we’re being tricked. As soon as that happens, we exit and go back to where we started.
Your visitors should always feel like they’re on the right path.
You do this by creating a flow—visually, in your messaging, and in the presentation of your offer—from your ad to your landing page, and every other piece of your campaign.
To create congruency, focus on 3 elements:
- Design: Use similar imagery and colors on each piece of the campaign.
- Messaging: Use similar phrases and benefits.
- Offer: Your offer should be the same throughout.
Ad scent is low-hanging fruit in digital advertising. Get it right, and you’ll boost your conversion rate and lower costs.
See how Whole Foods does it in this ad:
The ad mentions “FREE Instacart delivery,” and when they click, they land on a page with similar wording in the headline: “Free Delivery Credit.”
If the landing page talked about keeping your fruit fresh or any other topic unrelated to free delivery, it would confuse people, and they’d click off without taking action.
That’s why it’s important to create a strong scent between the elements of your campaign.
The final element in a high-performing ad campaign is targeting, and it’s important because even a great offer won’t convert if you put it in front of the wrong audience.
Follow 2 rules of thumb when planning your targeting.
5. First, be as specific as possible.
Specificity has to do with research. When planning your targeting, learn as much as possible about your target audience. You want to know your target audience so well, you can single out specific interests that this group has but no one else would have.
Second, get the message right for your target temperature.
Temperature, as we talked about earlier, has to do with matching your message to the level of relationship you have with your target audience.
Here are some guidelines for getting the temperature right.
Cold Traffic. Here, you’re just introducing yourself to new audiences, so you have 3 goals (none of them being to sell):
- Indoctrination. Aim to build trust and establish credibility by sharing valuable information for free.
- Pixelling. When they arrive on your content, pixel them so you run more ads to them and warm them up.
- Segmentation. If they click on a blog post about email marketing, we know they’re interested in that topic, so we can make them a more relevant offer later.
What kind of offers do you make to cold traffic?
- Blog posts
- Social media updates
- Content videos
- Lead magnets
- White papers
- YouTube ads to content
- Twitter ads to pillar content
When paying for cold traffic, you’ll pixel people who engage with your ad or click through to free content. You want to give them value so they begin to like your brand. So focus on entertaining, inspiring, and educating everyone who clicks through.
Warm Traffic. Think about warm traffic as acquaintances who have shown interest in return. It’s not a developed relationship yet, but there has been a connection. So you’ll target these ads to:
- Leads that opted into your email list. (You’ll upload that list to a traffic platform.)
- People who have visited your website and been pixeled.
- Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube channel subscribers, etc.
Your goals for warm traffic are to:
- Generate leads
- Drive low-dollar sales
What kind of offers do you make to warm traffic?
- Lead magnets
- Quizzes or surveys
- Free or paid webinars
- Flash sales/low-dollar offers
- Product demos
- Branding videos
- Books (free or paid)
- Free trials
Hot Traffic. These are your buyers. They may be people who have opted in and are on the fence about buying from you. They may have added products to the shopping cart but never purchased. They may have purchased something from you in the past but haven’t responded to recent offers.
Your goals in running ads to this group are:
- Activation. If they haven’t purchased in a while, remind them that you’re still there.
- High-dollar sales. Upsell buyers of lower-priced products.
What kind of offers do you make to hot traffic?
- Paid webinars
- High-dollar offers
- Done-for-you services
Cold, warm, or hot, getting the temperature right allows you to put your campaign in front of the right people. And the more precisely you can target your ads, the better they’ll perform.
Now let’s talk about…
Creating an Ad Campaign
How do you put all these concepts and elements together to create a successful ad campaign?
The secret is to create everything in advance—all the copy, creative, and targeting—before trying to set up your campaigns. The idea is to create precisely targeted ads that speak directed to your target audience. And for that, we use the Ad Grid.
6. Ad Grid: From Strategy to Scale
The ad grid is a strategic approach to creating campaigns that perfectly align with the temperature and interests of the people you’re targeting.
The idea is to identify in advance the types of people you’re targeting and the hooks that are most likely to grab their attention, so you can be sure you’re creating a good marketing/message fit.
You’ll create your ad grid in Excel or a Google Sheet, but it will look something like this:
Now, with your spreadsheet ready, here are the 7 steps you’ll go through to plan, implement, and scale your campaign.
Step 1: Identify your avatars
An avatar is a profile for one type of person who’d be interested in your offer (example: entrepreneur, stay-at-home mom, consultant). The avatars for your campaign may be different from the avatars for your business, and that’s okay.
For each traffic campaign, you’ll have 2-4 different avatars. You can have more, of course, but the more avatars you have, the more work it will take to plan your campaign.
To figure out who your best avatars are, look at your offer (e.g., the lead magnet, blog post, or webinar you’re promoting) and brainstorm several different types of people who’d want it and benefit from it.
Each of these will be an avatar for your campaign. Plug them into the top row of your grid.
Step 2: Identify the hooks
What’s most appealing about your offer? Each benefit or outcome of your offer can be turned into a hook to grab the attention of your audience.
Generally, you’ll create hooks based on these 6 outcomes.
- Have. What will they have if they download and consume your offer? How do their lives look before & after?
- Feel. How will they feel better, smarter, or more successful for accepting your offer?
- Average day. How did you change or improve their average day?
- Status. How do people elevate in status or become a better person after consuming your offer?
- Proof/results. What social proof, case studies, or testimonials validate your offer? How can you promote the sense of belonging that people will get from joining other people who’ve responded?
- Speed and automation. Speak to the time savings or quickness of learning or applying the information in your offer.
Don’t feel like you need to create a hook for all these outcomes. But do be creative and come up with several benefits or outcomes that will grab the attention of your avatars.
Okay, now that you have your hooks, enter them in the first column of your grid.
Step 3: Create your ad copy
You need segmented messaging for every cell in your spreadsheet, each targeting one hook and avatar.
You can write the ad copy yourself or, because the ad grid clearly communicates the avatars and hooks you’re targeting, you can outsource it to a copywriter.
Regardless of who does the writing, though, you want unique ad copy for every segment: Avatar1/Hook1, Avatar 2/Hook1, etc. And for each segment, you want the copy for the entire ad: text, headline, description and ad type.
So let’s say you have 4 avatars and 5 hooks, you’ll need to write 20 ads.
This level of segmentation gives you the best chance of success in your campaign. Instead of creating generic ads for a few avatars or hooks, you’ll create highly targeted ads aimed at specific types of people (avatars) with specific interests (hooks).
With this approach, your odds of getting a good return on your ad spend are incrementally higher!
Step 4: Avatar Research
Once your copy is written, it’s time to research your avatars to identify the interest groups you’ll use in your ads.
For this, research each avatar separately, finding the answers to each of these questions:
- Who are the authority figures, thought leaders, or big brands in your niche?
- What books/magazines/newspapers does your ideal customer read?
- What events do they attend?
- What websites do they frequent?
- Where do they live?
- What tools do they use?
- What’s specifically unique about this group?
To find the answers, do a Google search and ask people in your target audience. It may take time to find the answers, but these answers will help you get your ads in front of the people who need to see them. So take the time to do it right!
You should also use this little-known technique…
We call it the “But No One Else Would” trick, and here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’re targeting an ad to golfers. You want to find interests that only avid golfers would know about, so no one will click on your ad except qualified prospects.
Even casual golfers would likely know who Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are, but only avid golf enthusiasts would know Bubba Watson. So when setting up your ad, you’d want to target people interested in Bubba Watson.
This is what you’re looking for in your avatar research: the interests that only die-hard fans would know about, so you can get the right eyeballs on your ads.
Step 5: Create or Outsource Ad Creatives
Your creative is the visual element you’ll use in each ad. At a minimum, you need one creative for each hook.
What should your creatives look like?
Do a Google image search of each hook’s keywords, and see what comes up.
The top-ranking images show you what people think about when they hear your keyword.
Use that as inspiration. But don’t copy. Design original images or videos that include the imagery people associate with your keyword—but that also have your brand’s unique look and feel.
Step 6: Set up your ads and compile your results
At this point, you have all the assets you need for your ad campaigns. It’s time to set up your ads. Use the ad grid to help you build each ad:
- Use the avatar for your targeting.
- Use the copy and creative you’ve developed to build the ads.
- Use your avatar interests to build an audience size in the range of half a million to 1.5 million each.
Then turn your ads on and run them about a week. Once you start getting results, you can begin gathering your metrics.
Your best success metric depends on the purpose of your campaign and the temperature you’re targeting. It might be:
- cost per click
- cost per 1,000 impressions
- cost per acquisition
- Or some other metric that reflects your success
Record that metric in your ad grid below the ad copy for each avatar/hook. Ideally, you’ll collect the metrics at 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, and at the end of the campaign.
Step 7: Scale
Scaling is about figuring out what’s working, what’s not, and how you can get bigger, better results.
There are 2 ways to scale a campaign:
- Horizontally: If your results for an avatar are better than average, buy traffic in on other ad platforms to boost your visibility to that group of people.
- Vertically: If a specific hook or avatar is working especially well, create more ad sets to that group on the same platform.
Find your winning avatar and hooks, and scale those. But also refine your process so you get better results in less time with a smaller investment of time or money.
Optimizing Your Process
In digital advertising, your goal is to attract cold traffic, then warm it up over time, so you can effectively attract new people to your website, get them to opt in, and persuade them to buy.
To do that, you’ll build campaigns that include ads for all temperatures of your target audience. The challenge is to stay within your budget while targeting different segments. Here’s how to optimize your ad spend.
Your formula for success is
Let’s assume your budget allows you to spend $10 a day. Your daily spend will look like this:
- $6/day on cold traffic, driving cold traffic to your site with pure content
- $3/day turning warm traffic into leads or buyers
- $1/day retargeting and selling a higher-dollar product
That ratio may change periodically depending on your needs, but this is a good balance, allowing you to target all temperatures while maintaining control of your spending.
7. Optimizing your Ads
When targeting different temperatures, you need to adapt your ads to the level of relationship. These templates will give you a good head start.
8. Optimizing a Weak Campaign
If a campaign isn’t performing well, go back to your offer. If you have a powerful offer, your other elements can be weak and the ads will still work. But if your offer isn’t right, nothing else matters.
In some cases, your ads will start out strong, but results will wane over time. When this happens, it usually means ad fatigue has set in. People have seen the ad too many times and aren’t responding to it anymore.
You can fix ad fatigue in 2 ways:
- Retarget to another audience.
- Change out the campaign.
The Lingo: The Language of Digital Advertising
What are the terms you need to know as a digital advertiser?
The classification of the audiences you target with your digital advertising campaigns as cold, warm, or hot.
Audiences targeted with ads that have no prior experience with your brands, products, or people. Ads targeted at cold audiences introduce the business to the prospect and establish trust and authority in an effort to build awareness.
Audiences targeted with ads that are aware of your brands, products, or people but have not yet converted to a customer or haven’t purchased in a long period of time. Ads targeted at warm audiences should be designed to convince a prospect that you have the superior solution.
Audiences targeted with ads that have previously purchased. These audiences know your reputation and have used your product or service. Ads targeted at hot audiences should convert a customer into a high-ticket or repeat buyer. Most ad campaigns to hot audiences will be conducted through retargeting.
An ad campaign designed to reach customers and prospects with a message and offer that is based on their previous behavior. That behavior might be an opt-in to a lead form, a purchase, or a visit to a page on your website. Ad retargeting is available from ad platforms such as Facebook and Google.
How many times has an ad been shown to the people you’re targeting. Ideally, you want to keep the frequency below 10. If people to see the same ad too many times, it becomes annoying and can lead to ad fatigue.
The Facebook metric calculating how relevant your ad is to your target audience. In Google Adwords, it’s called “quality score.” It measures people’s engagement level and how much they like your ad.
The Metrics You’ll Use to Measure Success
What are the metrics you need to watch as a digital advertiser?
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
The number of clicks divided by the number of impressions on an ad and any other call-to-action. The higher the click-through rate, the more prospects you will be moving from stage to stage in the customer journey.
Cost Per Acquisition of Customer (CPA)
The amount of advertising spend divided by the number of customers generated. Drill down on this metric by calculating CPA by by traffic campaign, traffic source, and more.
Cost Per Lead (CPL)
The amount of advertising spend divided by the number of leads generated. Once again, drill down on this metric by calculating CPL by traffic campaign, traffic source, and more.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
The amount of advertising spend divided by the number of clicks on the ad, ad set, or ad campaign. Believe it or not, this is the least important of these four metrics.
Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM)
The amount it costs to reach a million people. When you’re creating a campaign to extend your reach or build brand awareness, this is the metric to use.
The Roles: Who Has Responsibility for Digital Advertising?
Who should own your digital advertising? Where in the company does responsibility lie?
Media Buyer / Paid Traffic Specialist
The paid traffic team (or individual) should have primary responsibility for setting up and deploying your digital advertising.
They’ll rely on input from other teams and individuals within the organization, especially from designers for creating the ad graphics and landing pages, marketing and sales for creating compelling offers, and content marketing for finding great content to direct cold traffic to.
Marketing & Sales
As the competition for attention continues to increase online, all marketing teams must learn to buy traffic at a positive return on ad spend.
Any team member who is producing content (blogs, podcasts, videos, press releases, etc.) must understand how that content can be leveraged by a paid traffic specialist.
Data & Analytics
To produce a positive return on ad spend, a paid traffic team needs access to an analyst that understands the goals and processes involved in buying traffic.
Digital advertising is a key tactic for digital marketers because it gives you control over your traffic flow.
To succeed, though, you need to create different campaigns for each stage of the Customer Journey—and you need to understand the “temperature” of each stage. Get that right, and you’ll soon be driving traffic like a pro.
But your digital marketing mastery doesn’t stop there. Not only do you want to be driving traffic to your onsite content and landing pages, you also want to engage your audience in social media. And that’s just what we’ll cover in the next chapter.