Digital Advertising 101: Your guide for small business

Small businesses have several new digital advertising options to target the people you’re selling your goods or services to in ways that are affordable and effective.

Navigating the digital advertising landscape can be daunting though. Often busy owners end up just sporadically posting on various social networks and then hope for the best. Free postings can help drive business. Paid digital advertising can further extend your reach and target your specific audiences, ultimately raising your brand visibility.

Here is your digital advertising 101 guide to help you connect with customers and grow your small business.

Paid search advertising

As a small business owner, you can pay to have your ads displayed to users as they type queries into search engines. The ads usually appear as links in the search engine results pages. With Google pay per click (PPC) search ads, you only pay when people click on your ad to visit your website or to call your business.

Local search advertising

Google ads can feature your company’s address and contact information, making it easy for local customers to contact you and find your locations. Registering and establishing your business profile is free and is a great first step toward increasing visibility. When people search for nearby businesses on or Google Maps (for example, “restaurant near me”), they can see local search ads that feature your business locations.

Google offers guidance on local search advertising as a way to get more store visits and calls and allow customers to learn more about your business.

Display advertising through ad banners

Display ads appear on websites in various sizes, positions and formats. These include text, images, and rich media—a term for an ad that includes advanced features like video, audio, and other elements that encourage viewers to interact with your ad.

You have options to display the banners for all visitors. In addition, a visitor’s profile or location can trigger the appearance of a specific banner ad targeted to that consumer.

Display ads also can appear on specifically designated areas of a website or social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


An e-newsletter can complement and leverage your digital advertising strategy. It communicates directly to your target audience –prospects or customers— who signed up or agreed to join your list.

Initially, many email newsletter services are free. Features can be added at a cost. Fees typically kick in when your email list grows to a certain number of recipients. Popular e-newsletter services include MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Markitors.

Social media advertising

If you’re a small business today, odds are you have some level of social media presence across different platforms.

Posting free content and staying engaged on social media can help strengthen customer relationships. At some point though it may make sense to consider taking it to the next level with paid advertising.

Here’s a summary of advertising options on several of the most popular platforms.


Facebook ads allow you to reach a highly targeted audience with messages that resonate with them.

Facebook offers a step-by-step self-serve process to launch an ad campaign. Many small businesses choose to start with a modest budget at first to see if the campaign generates worthwhile results.

A more cost-effective alternative to a Facebook ad campaign can be boosting posts that you create so that they are visible not only to your followers but also to people who don't currently follow you on Facebook. Your boosted post can include a call-to-action button so that you can drive people to take other actions you care about.

LinkedIn offers considerable opportunity if you’re looking to generate potential leads, identify prospects, or create greater brand awareness.

LinkedIn offers a range of advertising options and a guided process in seven simple steps to publishing ads. Different advertising options include:

  • Sponsored content and videos
  • Video and text ads
  • Carousel and display ads

Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more

Depending on your type of business, it might make sense to commit your advertising dollars to different social media platforms. For instance, younger users are more likely to be active on Instagram and Snapchat.

You’ll find links to advertising options and instructions by visiting the home page of each of these platforms.

Choose the digital advertising mix that’s right for your small business

Depending on your business and how you can best connect with customers, traditional advertising still has value. It makes sense to develop a good working knowledge of the many different digital advertising options. And adding a digital component to your advertising mix might get more customers through your door and accelerate the growth of your business.

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