There are all sorts of avenues small to medium-sized businesses can take when it comes to digital marketing. Although we’ve had success with SEO, social media, and other channels, our SMB clients who are killing it are the ones focused on display advertising.

From a consumer’s perspective, this may conjure thoughts of the annoying pop-up ads that sent us scrambling to download an ad blocker. But targeted, value-driven display ads are actually becoming more effective than ever.

Today I’m going to help you decide if the benefits of display ads outweigh the risks for your business. Successful small to medium-sized business are turning to display advertising (and, as we will see, programmatic advertising), and it’s becoming more likely that your business can’t afford to ignore the opportunity it offers.

The Wide Reach of Display Advertising

Some businesses are dabbling in Facebook or Google Ads, wasting a lot of money in a short amount of time, then getting out—never to return.

Their competitors—at least the ones who are beating them month after month—are getting results by building campaigns the right way, then increasing their budget/spend to scale up.

Whether you’re trying to increase brand awareness or cultivate leads that convert, display ads can take many forms. Content is still king, but that content doesn’t always come as walls of texts.

Common forms of display ads include banner ads, videos, audio clips and other image-based ads.

See also: How to Design the Best Display Ads for High Converting Campaigns

While display advertising as a whole covers a broad range of content, there are three fundamental categories that these ads fit within.

One category is direct buy advertising. These ads are placed on certain sites with explicit intent on the advertiser’s part. The advertiser selects each individual site themselves.

With contextual advertising, the advertiser puts their ad on a site relevant to their brand. For example, an ad for an automotive parts store might appear on a car enthusiast website.

The third category is remarketing ads. Remarketing ads retarget visitors to an advertiser’s website after they leave the advertiser’s website and travel elsewhere on the Internet. You’ve seen these when you’ve shopped on a site such as Amazon and later you’ll notice advertisements featuring the product that you were looking at. These ads are particularly effective for generating sales, as customers are already familiar with the brand and the product.

The most important thing to remember about display ads is that they don’t require any input from the user. Pay-per-click ads appear on search results pages and require the user to type in specific keywords before they even have the opportunity to click on the ad. Display ads, on the other hand, are already there, alongside the content. They’re encountered when searching, too, since the search results pages (SERPS) often have display ads.

Put simply, display ads reach a massive audience of users online because they draw attention from searchers and consumers of information. With that kind of reach, it’s easier to draw more traffic to your site, provided your ad is targeted correctly.

Targeting means making sure your display ads appear next to relevant content, or in front of the targeted or interested audience. Otherwise, people aren’t going to bother clicking.

display banner sizes

Standard Banner Ad sizes (click to see a large version)

Benefits of Display Ads

In addition to the reach of display ads, another obvious benefit of display ads is how visually appealing they can be. It’s easy to add style and creativity to an image-based banner; you simply can’t do this with typical PPC ads, which are subject to text and strict character-count restrictions. Display ads can pop with enticing graphics, video, and sound.

Your display ads can also function as a gateway to your brand identity. With PPC ads, users have to first click on your ad before they can learn about your brand, but display ads allow your personality to shine through. With enhanced graphics and video content, people will be able to get a taste of your brand without having to click. If you can instill confidence in your brand through a display ad, people are much more likely to click, compared to a Google Ad appearing on the top of a search results page.

Thanks to the available parameters you can set for your display ads, you can target specific audiences that are more likely to convert. By limiting your display ads to certain sites and even certain users, you’re more likely to get clicks from people who closely fit the ideal customer persona. This is especially useful when it comes to geotargeting. Imagine you’re trying to run display ads for a local car dealership. By only showing the ad to people in your geographic area on car review or auto parts sites, you’re much more likely to get clicks. As if that wasn’t enough, narrowing your scope like that also reduces costs.

For any digital marketing campaign to succeed, you’ll need a way to measure your results. Display ads make it easy for you to quantify your results with tools such as Google Analytics. With information about how many times your ads are getting clicked and how often those clicks lead to conversions, you’ll be able to make informed optimizations to improve your campaign’s performance.

programmatic advertising digital graphic

Programmatic Advertising

Banners have been a staple of the online experience for decades now, but programmatic advertising has changed the game. In short, programmatic advertising puts a lot of the labor typically done by people into the virtual hands of machines, automating the ad buying and posting process.

If you want your display ads to stay competitive, you’ll need to invest in programmatic advertising. You can spend more time planning and strategizing, because you won’t have to deal with negotiating ad space.

With the highly targeted data used by programmatic ad services, you buy a user impression rather than a placement on a webpage. You can be confident that the impression is targeted to your target audience and not wasted on someone who may not be right for your product or service.

If you’re looking to get your ad on a particular website (direct buy display ads), you can use programmatic advertising to get a guaranteed spot. The price of the ad is already preset by the buyer and seller, so the site can automatically accept the ad. To make sure you’re setting a price that will get your ad displayed, you’ll have to connect the demand-side platform with the publisher’s supply-side platform using a deal ID.

One of the most popular and impressive features of programmatic advertising is real-time bidding. In fact, this process is often mistaken to be the entirety of programmatic advertising, even though it’s just one form it can take.

In the real-time bidding process, when a user visits a webpage, the website learns as much as possible about the user (from browser cookies) then offers that user impression to an auction.  Dozens, if not hundreds of bids come in for that user based on how important various advertisers believe that user is to them. A “winner” is chosen and the winning ad is displayed. The entire process happens over the span of milliseconds.

SMBs Go Digital

Each year, more and more of small and medium-sized businesses’ marketing budgets go to digital marketing and display advertising. The internet continues to grow and become a larger part of consumers’ lives, so businesses have to adapt to the new reality of consumer trends to stay competitive. The only problem is that digital marketing can be so labor-intensive that embarking on that endeavor has been financially impossible for many.

With innovations like programmatic advertising, however, it’s easier than ever before for your business to take advantage of the same opportunities your competitors have. By automating so much of the process, digital marketing is less time-consuming and more affordable than it has ever been.

Remember: Collecting data is essential if you want to optimize your advertising efforts to the greatest extent possible. You need to know who to target and what kind of content to employ to not only increase traffic but conversions as well.

Beyond The Basics of Display Advertising With Symphonic

As display advertising and digital marketing become more affordable for SMBs, the only issue remaining is time. Many businesses simply don’t have the time or the people to manage digital marketing efforts.

With Symphonic Digital, experienced professionals use data-driven, proven methods to implement and optimize your display advertising and digital marketing strategy. We continuously monitor performance, so we can constantly optimize your returns. Contact us today to get started with your campaign.