The Definitive Guide to Paid Media Marketing

Learn about the different types of paid media marketing and how they can help you promote your business.

Marketing design
December 3, 2021

Table of Contents

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Learn the difference between organic and paid marketing, and how to spend your marketing budget effectively.

New business owners often aren’t sure what paid media channels are available to them, and which will be most effective in helping them promote their business.

Since marketing budgets are usually not endless, it’s important to find the best channels to promote your business, and this will depend on things like your business model, brand, marketing strategy and of course, your audience.

Learn everything you need to know about the different channels you can use in your paid media strategy and how to use them effectively.


Organic vs paid marketing

This used to be impossible a few decades ago, but today it’s possible to promote your business even without a single dollar spent. The so-called organic reach represents the people you can reach simply because they will have an interest in your products or services, or relevant topics you talk about and can discover you through their intentional search (e.g. through hashtags on social media), or your blog posts.

When it comes to the channels used for organic and paid marketing, they are part of the so-called marketing mix, which consists of three types of media: owned (your website, blog, social media), earned (unpaid partnerships, guest blogs, features in other media) and paid media (ads, paid influencers etc.) A successful marketing strategy needs to combine all of these elements to make sure you’re using your budget wisely and reaching the right audiences across all channels.


Here are some eye-opening statistics on the benefits of native ads:

A native ad blends into the surrounding content so it’s less intrusive than traditional display ads. (Image source: AdEspresso)

Since Facebook is still the most popular platform, this is probably a place you have to advertise on (unless you’re in a very niche industry such as e.g. a TikTok influencer).


Some forms of organic marketing are:

  • SEO, such as using the right keywords on your site and blog section and letting helpful and informative articles draw organic traffic to your site (people looking for an answer to a search query online).
  • Social media, since each post will have an organic reach which includes your existing audience (followers), as well as people who will, for example, see their interaction with your brand on their own newsfeed and so learn about the brand.
  • User-generated content, sometimes your existing customers will share their experiences with your brand (of their own accord or if you ask them to), and other people in their network will also learn about it.
  • Partnerships: it’s also possible to do backlink exchanges and guest blogging, which basically means you get to put a link to your site on another page for free.

Of course, these are not strictly free forms of advertising, since each of these can also be paid for, which we will talk about in more detail later.

While the prospect of keeping marketing completely free is surely tempting, it’s important to remember that free advertising has its limits. Ultimately, it will be very difficult to get new high-quality leads, if you only rely on existing customers (their networks are limited) and SEO (people who are only looking for information might not be that interested in purchasing your products or services).

So, in order to build your brand awareness and of course, earn more revenue, you’ll need to invest some money into your marketing efforts. That means paying the publisher (search engine, social media channel or a website) to run your ad.

Impressions vs clicks

When you run a paid ad there are two main types of results that are measured and charged for. The first are impressions or views of your ad and the second one is clicks or engagement with your ad.

While the first one focuses more on increasing a brand’s visibility, the second is used for a more narrow audience to prompt action.

Although ultimately, action is the desired outcome, this doesn’t mean that one type of ad is better than the other. In order to define your audience and build traction around your brand, you will also need to run brand awareness campaigns. The drawback with this type of ad is that you can also spend your money and get little or nothing in return (people seeing your ads doesn’t mean that they will take action).

On the other hand, the idea of paying only once a person clicks on your ad and therefore shows definitive intention to purchase from you is tempting. You can allocate a set budget and know that every dollar is spent on people with a genuine interest in your brand (unless they click on the ad by mistake of course).

The drawback here is that you’ll always be able to reach a very limited number of people and won’t necessarily reach your marketing goals. For example, if you’re running a lead generation campaign and have an allocated budget of $1,000, but only get 100 leads with $5 per click, you can see how this campaign has failed in the sense that it only reached half of the intended goal.

Types of paid media ads in digital marketing

Now that you know what paid marketing entails, let’s look at the main types of digital advertising you can employ.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Although we’ve already explained that PPC is also a type of ad spending, it’s also the term used for a type of digital ads used on search engines.

If you search for a term on Google, you can see that before the first organic results, there are usually a couple of ads that come up tied to this topic. You can see the text “ad” next to these results.

ppc example.png

Organic search results can get much more clicks (some reports say as much as 94%), however it’s also important to note that the 90% of people stay on the first page, so being present on there, even if it’s with a paid ad really counts. Moreover, a study by Wordstream shows that two thirds of clicks from users with high commercial intent go to paid results.

The way PPC works is that you bid with other marketers for a top spot on the search engine results page (commonly known as SERP). So whether your ad will actually be displayed on the first page and how often will depend on a number of factors including:

  • The keyword you wish to rank for: is it a very popular one or something niche.
  • The bids from other advertisers
  • The quality of your ad: copy as well as the relevance of the landing page which it’s pointing to in relation to the search query.
  • The authority of the website: domain authority, ranking, traffic, etc.

You will probably want to add a PPC campaign through Google Ads, as this is the single most popular PPC advertising system. When managing your PPC campaigns, here are some things to take note of:

Keyword research

You can do it yourself with a keyword research tool such as Google Ads, AHrefs, SEMrush or Wordstream. You should be as extensive as possible, but try to stick to keywords that are relevant.  

Negative Keywords

These are non-converting keywords that get the wrong type of audience to click (those who won’t purchase).

Ad Groups

Splitting up ad groups means you get to target smaller and more relevant groups of people with targeted ad copy and landing pages.

Landing Pages

If you have several different products or services or cater to different types of audiences, you’ll want your PPC ads pointing at the most relevant landing pages. Don’t send everyone to your homepage if there is a more useful page for them to check out.

Social media ads

This type of advertising is so popular that many people confuse digital marketing with advertising on social media platforms. The most distinctive feature of social media advertising campaigns is that you’re able to have a dialogue with your audience. They can provide direct feedback on why they like/dislike your product, and ask you questions about it easily.

Creating an effective social media strategy means deciding which channels are most relevant to your audience. For example, boomers are probably going to see ads on Facebook the most, while Instagram is unavoidable for millennial audiences.

You should definitely do your own research of your target audience, but for a general overview, you might want to check out this social media fact sheet from Pew Research Center that gives a good overview of the demographics present on the biggest social media platforms.

social media usage.png

Moreover, since Facebook Ads Manager is a tool used to create and run marketing campaigns on both Instagram and Facebook, you’ll need to at least have a Facebook business account if you want to advertise on Instagram.

When creating a campaign with Facebook Ads manager you can choose from 11 different objectives, depending on what you want to achieve with your campaign: is it visits to your website or more followers?

So, what type of ad formats are available to you for advertising on social media? Let’s take a look.

Text ads

Data suggests that ads with photos outperform those without by far, but there is still a place for simple text-only ads in the vast universe of social media. For example, text ads on LinkedIn are similar to PPC ads on Google.

Photo ads

Depending on the platform, you can use one or more images to accompany your ad text. In general, the so-called carousel ads you can use on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn should be used to promote different products or services. Don’t stuff your ad with images just for the sake of it, since it will likely yield poor results.

Video ads

This type of ad is quickly becoming the most important form of advertising online. Although they are by far the most complicated and expensive to produce, there are some pretty good and affordable (or free) video editing software that allows even total beginners to create simple video ads. Of course, it goes without saying that video ads are especially important for advertising on YouTube.


This type of ad is especially popular on Instagram and Snapchat. They are quick and simple ads that are best used for limited-time offers (since stories have a limited duration). They should include a simple call to action (like swipe up or purchase).

Promoted posts

While you can also create ads from scratch which won’t show up on your profile page, it’s also possible to promote your existing posts. This is a great technique to use in case you see a post is performing well organically and you want to double down on the traction it’s already gained.

It’s also a good tactic for brand engagement campaigns since your ads will show up to people with a similar description/demographic as your current customers/followers.

User-generated content and influencer marketing

In an ideal scenario, you can get free advertising from customers that like your brand and share experiences on social media. If this happens, make sure to reshare this content (ask for permission first, of course). It helps to build trust in your brand and establishes long-term connections with your clients.

However, you can also approach people to advertise your brand on their profiles for compensation (also known as influencer marketing). When choosing an influencer to partner with, don’t just look at the number of followers.

Try to find someone who is interested in your brand story and who shares similar values/target audience. This always brings better results than paying loads of money to a huge influencer that will just copy and paste text without even bothering to read through it (celebrities such as the Kardashians and Scott Disick are notorious for this).

Display ads

In a nutshell, a display ad is any type of digital advertisement that combines image, text and a link to a specific website/page. We’re so used to seeing them across the internet that 82% of Americans say they ignore ads they see online.

So, with this statistic how is it possible that marketers still invest in this type of advertising?

Well, one answer is that display ads are very affordable and still manage to bring a positive ROI to marketers. They’re especially effective for websites with a large traffic since even the small click-through rates can mean thousands if not tens of thousands of new visitors to your site and therefore potential customers as well. All for the price of a few cents per click.

It’s also advisable to use retargeting with your display ad campaigns, since a staggering 96% of people who visit your website aren’t ready to buy. In addition to that, retargeted ads have a much higher CTR: 0.7% compared to just 0.07% for regular display ads.

One specific type of display ads that you can consider are native ads. These are display ads that match with their surrounding content, both in terms of style and the content/context.

native display ad.jpg
  • They can have up to 49% higher click-through rates than regular display ads (Voluum)
  • People are more 18% likely to show purchase intent when clicking on a native ad (Hubspot)
  • They are the second best performing marketing channel (eMarketer)
  • Retention rates with display ads are 3 times higher than with banner ads (Marketing Land)

Video ads

We’ve already mentioned them as a subcategory in social media advertising, but video ads require their own section as one of the most important forms of paid media advertising today. Here are some convincing numbers:

  • One third of online activity is spent watching videos (WordStream)
  • Including a video on your landing page can increase conversion rates by up to 80% (WordStream)
  • 80% of users can recall a video ad seen in the last 3 days (SmallBiz Trends)
  • 89% of marketers say videos give good ROI, and 87% say it increases website traffic (Wyzowl)
  • 94% of people say videos helped them make a purchase decision (Lemonlight)

And the list goes on. Video creation definitely doesn’t fit into every marketing budget, but it’s safe to assume that going forward it will become pretty uncommon for businesses not to invest in this type of marketing, since videos produce greater engagement and recall than perhaps any other type of ad.

Podcast advertising

Podcasts had quite a bit of revival in recent years and there are tons of podcasts available to listen to online covering a range of different topics. Creating an ad for a podcast is easy and cheap, all you need to do is find someone to record it. Of course, since many people listen to podcasts online, these sites can also be a good spot for display ad placement.

The key thing about podcast advertising is to identify your niche. Just like with influencer marketing, since there are so many podcasts out there you should strive to find those that attract listeners most similar to your target audience. Do your research and make sure to listen to a few episodes before approaching the podcast creators.

Finally, if you consider yourself or someone from your team an expert on the topic, you might also want to consider being a guest on a podcast and help people to learn more about what you do by sharing your experience and expertise.

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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