Contractor Marketing 101 | Paid Online Advertising

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paid online advertising

The concept of paid ads isn't too terribly complicated. Paid online advertising helps contractors generate online visibility and traffic. More traffic leads to more bids.  More bids lead, hopefully, to more profit. 

There are many types of online advertising formats to choose from. But trying to wrap your head around them all can be hassle. In fact, it may not seem like understanding paid online advertising is worth the effort. Especially with strange acronyms, like SEM, SEO, and PPC.

Fear not! In this guide we shall walk you through it all. We'll describe several types of online advertising available today. We'll also explain some of the best paid digital advertising techniques.  

Our goal is simply to make you more comfortable with paid ads.  For contractors, competition is fierce and marketing is a contact sport. Paid online advertising can lead to new paths for revenue growth.  Paths that may currently be closed to you.

While we're at it we’ll also touch on location based advertising like geo-targeting and geo-fencing. Oh, and those annoying acronyms we mentioned earlier? We’ll help unravel those along the way as well!

Paid Online Advertising: A Quick Explanation

Paid digital advertising gets your business’ message out there, fast. Think of it as the digital version of ‘real-world’ advertising. 

It's like taking out a digital classified ad.  It's very similar to renting an online billboard like one of those personal injury lawyers. Except with digital ads you get all of the upside and none of the downside. 

However you aren't displaying your ads to disinterested drivers on the highway.  Your message goes out on the search engine results pages, or display ads that appear across the web.

Who Does it Work For?

Paid digital advertising works for contractors of all sizes.

Large builders like D.R. Horton invest millions in digital advertising campaigns. But even local mom and pop contractors are reaping the rewards.

There are two main forms of paid digital advertising. Search engine marketing and display ads.

Both deliver a nice ROI for contractors across the board. They're easy for GCs and specialty contractors to tailor digital advertising campaigns to suit their needs.

And it doesn't hurt that it's possible to control who sees which ads, and when.

paid online advertising

How Do Contractors Use Search Engine Marketing?

First of all, what is search engine marketing (or SEM)?

For most contractors this means pay-per-click ads (or PPC). These are the ads that show up on the top and bottom of the search page. Between them are the unpaid or “organic” search results.

This is prime digital real estate and search engines like Google and Bing don’t hand out these spaces from the goodness of their hearts. 

However, one of the advantage of pay-per-click ads is you only pay when someone clicks them (the clue’s in the name!) No matter how many times your ad is shown. No click, no pay.

You final bill tells you how many times your ad got a reaction. This gives you a gauge of how much interest your ads generate. 

How About SEO?

Most contractors are familiar with search engine optimization (or SEO). This is the process of optimizing pages to rank well in search. The goal of SEO is to optimize content and attract links from other websites. 

There are only ten spaces on the organic results page. The goal is to optimize your site better than your competitors. When done well, the search engines may reward you with one of the ten spots on page one.

SEO and SEM are sometimes confused. Professional marketers actually consider SEO to be a part of SEM.  They're both focused on the search engine results page. 

SEO is focused on the organic results. Paid SEM campaigns target spots in the sponsored ads section.

Which is Better, SEO or SEM?

Here's a a question. The paid ads shown on Google and Bing look a lot like the organic results. So, if that's the case, why would you pay for something you could get for free?

The answer is simple: Speed

Getting your site to rank for terms in the organic search results can take time and effort. SEO is a long term strategy.

One of the main benefits of paid SEM is instant visibility. Another benefit is positioning. PPC ads usually appear first on the page. On the flip side, while PPC campaigns are fast, costs can mount up just as fast.

That’s why some businesses use both SEO and paid SEM strategies.
The strategy is to build a strong organic search position then scale back on PPC spending.

What Are Display Ads and Why Use them?

One of the disadvantages of PPC ads is that they’re actually kind of dull! They consist of a header and a simple block of text. Not the greatest way to define your brand identity.

Display ads, on the other hand, are far more varied. They can include images as well as text. In fact, display ads can even use auto-playing video to catch the eye.

Display ads usually appear alongside content on participating websites. Not all websites carry display ads. For those that do, it’s a popular way to monetize blogs and other sites that don’t sell anything directly.

Display ads are placed by on websites by ad networks. The larger (and more reputable) display ad networks are choosy about which sites can host ads. For example, many disqualify adult sites. As the advertiser, you can often set finer controls over where you want your ads to be shown.

Display Ads vs Search Ads

Display ads are a particular sore spot for contractors that shy away from any type of paid online advertising.  A common criticism is that they’re even harder to target than PPC ads. Targeting display ads isn't harder, but is more complex. If applied correctly, it's also more effective in different scenarios.

There is no argument that PPC ads are pretty simple. Prospects type a phrase into their favorite search engine and PPC ads appear in the search results along with the organic results. The slight downside of this method is contractors need to wait for prospects to initiate a search in order to show their marketing message.

While display ads can be triggered by search activity, they can also be displayed based on certain user behaviors.

For example, let’s say you’ve been looking at the latest Nike trainers on Amazon's or Dick's Sporting Goods' website site. Then you navigate away and start reading an article on Yahoo.com or some other site.

There’s a good chance you might spot an ad for that same online store alongside the article you’re reading. And the ad may be for a range of Nike trainers suspiciously like the ones you were viewing back on the first website. In fact, you may notice that these ads seem to keep popping up for a while as you wander the around the web!

This powerful online advertising technique is retargeting. It allows contractors to present their ads more than once to the warmest prospects.  If someone visits your website, chances are they are in the market for some a service you provide.  They may be in the research phase of a project and not quite ready to purchase or even contact you directly yet.

With retargeting, you can continue to stay in from of them and present your best offer as they're working through their buying process.

This technique is perfect for advertising to prospects who are considering large projects like remodeling a kitchen or replacing an old HVAC system.

Display Ads and Brand Awareness

Studies consistently show click-through rates for display ads are lower than for PPC search ads. So, why do huge corporations continue to invest in this form of paid online advertising? One of the main reasons is brand awareness.

By repeatedly showing an ad to potentially interested customers, it’s possible to pull in business long after the ad was actually seen. The fact that display ads allow for visual branding (think logos, images, and decorative fonts) means that they’re much more likely to linger in the mind than a uniform PPC ad.

Sometimes, getting your ads seen is the easy part; the challenge is getting them seen by the right people. Next, we’ll explore a couple of effective ways to achieve that.

What is Geo-Targeted Advertising?

Geo-targeting is a paid online advertising technique that aggressive contractors love. It allows you to define a physical location where you want your ads to show.

For instance, a geo-targeted ad could appear to internet users in Las Vegas, but not to those in Reno or Los Angeles. Perfect if you only do business in Sin City.

Geo-targeting isn’t completely foolproof. The technique uses the user’s IP address. This gives an approximate guide to their location.

Geo-Targeting vs Geo-Fencing

Where Geo-targeting targets potential customers in a broad area (for example, a city). Geo-fencing is much more granular. Geo-fencing drills down to target customers in a precise location. That could be a district, neighborhood, or even a retail park.

Geo-fencing leverages mobile technology and GPS to achieve that exceptional degree of accuracy.

Paid Online Advertising: Putting it Into Action

Many contractors choose to set up and manage their own paid advertising campaigns. If you have the time, it’s perfectly possible to create individual campaigns using Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook Ads – and so forth. You could also make use of sites such as Yelp – one of the most popular online directories for local businesses.

It’s equally possible to use a platform like AdRoll to oversee paid digital advertising campaigns that run across multiple third-party platforms. That approach means you can streamline your campaign management by tapping into one integrated solution. AdRoll is especially associated with retargeting – a highly effective technique which we explored earlier.

Of course, for smaller contractors who don't have an in-house marketing team, setting up even a single digital advertising campaign is too labor intensive.  Their marketing efforts end up being sporadic and ultimately ineffective.

If you find yourself in that position, give us a call at (702) 582-6708 to discuss ways we can help you use paid ads to drive customers sales without the hassle of figuring it out on your own. Whichever approach you take, the key thing is to ensure your business is tapping into the rich benefits of paid advertising!

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