Building a site doesn't guarantee an instant audience. Including a combination of both paid and earned media in your comprehensive online communications and promotion strategy can mean the difference between success and failure. Following these best practices will help you create a successful campaign that doesn't drain your budget.
The forethought you put into the campaign will have a direct impact on your results.
- Define success. Set realistic and achievable goals for the campaign - your results can easily be measured if you prepare to track your success appropriately.
- Include a clear call to action. Unless your focus is exclusively on branding, you will need to include some type of opportunity for conversion. Clearly define your messaging to spark a dialogue.
- Define your target audience. Who would you like to reach with your campaign? You need to know who you are looking to attract before you can know where to promote your campaign.
- Review the calendar to set a schedule for the campaign.
- Consider how your online paid campaign correlates with any other forms of promotion you are running.
- Consider the news cycle, legislative calendar,upcoming holidays or any other outside factors that could affect the success of your campaign.
- Know your limitations. Prepare a budget in the planning phase.
- Invest in monitoring and support. You can't launch a paid promotion and ignore it. Prepare to allocate enough resources through the end of the campaign, preferably someone who can be the campaign expert. If you do not have adequate time to dedicate to monitoring and optimizing your campaign, you should limit the promotion you do and consider outsourcing the campaign.
Creative Development Once your planning is complete, developing the creative should be simple. Online ads typically fall into two categories: graphical ads and text ads. Graphical ads (banner or blog ads):
- Consider the size of your ads. This is your "canvas" so make the best of it.
- Consider the location of the ads and their relationship to the content on the page.
- If you want to create an animated ad, make sure that the text makes sense no matter when the user begins to pay attention to the ad.
- Make the ad engaging. Consider images and text - or even the use of video in your ad. Make the users want to click on the ad.
Text ads (search engine or RSS ads):
- Most text ads are pay per click so you only pay when someone clicks. Make sure that your message is very clear and speaks directly to your target audience.
- The keyword or phrase you purchase should be in the headline if at all possible.
- Consider the character limitations. Your communications department might not be happy with the real estate, but your message can be delivered in such a small space. Keep it simple.
Media Planning & Buying
More and more avenues are available every day for paid online promotion. A range of websites and companies offer banner ads, blog ads, search engine ads, contextual ads, RSS ads, dedicated emails and the list goes on.
- Do the research. Make sure that the medium of paid promotion you chose is in line with your campaign goals and your target audience. Just because RSS ads are the cool, new thing doesn't mean they make any sense for your campaign.
- Target. Don't forget about your ability to target your buy (location, demographics, referring URL, keywords, etc).
Testing & Optimization
There is no guarantee of success in paid promotion, but spending time testing and evaluating your campaign will help maximize your returns.
- Don't be afraid to test. Consider setting aside part of your budget to create a test campaign budget. Tracking the success of a small test buy will give you very helpful data for planning the larger campaign. Throwing your entire budget into one medium or one website or one ad creative is simple, but less often successful.
- Track your success. Evaluate your campaign by using your metrics for success. This may require use of an analytics program, creating separate numerous landing pages, adding a tracking pixel to your ads and landing pages, or just spending a couple of hours in Excel - however you need to do it, do it.
- Optimize your campaign.If you’re tracking success, then you know what creative is working best on which sites, or how well landing pages are converting users. Depending on your results, consider doing one of the following:
- Changing the graphics or text of your ad(s).
- Shifting media inventory.
- Targeting by new criteria.
- Editing your landing page(s)