Which Online Advertising Media Platform Should My Business Use?

From Facebook to Google – we look at the different platforms you can advertise your small business on

Which Online Advertising Media Platform Should My Business Use?

In days gone by small business advertising was a simple task. You would call up either the local newspaper or the Yellow Pages, get a borderline-extortionate quote and then pay it. Advertising was expensive, but it was simple and, when done well, it worked. Today the opportunities for small businesses have proliferated and become much more targeted thanks to the internet, but with so many options available it can be difficult to decide which is the best fit for you.

Ultimately, advertising is only worth the money if it drives people to buy your company’s products or services. So here’s a run through of the main opportunities you should consider investing your advertising budget in, in order to reach your target audience and generate leads for your small business:

Google Adwords

Adwords is the single biggest system for small business advertising. Google will display your website’s ad above results generated from particular searches. Choosing to display your ads against the results that relate most to your business will increase the likelihood of people clicking through to your site.

Ads can be up and running in just a few minutes: simply set up an account, write your ad, link to the relevant pages on your website and pick which words you want to appear against.

There are two pricing models: PPC (pay-per-click) charges you a set amount for each time a person clicks on your ad and goes through to your website, while CPM (cost per mille – Latin for 1000) charges you for every 1000 times your ad is displayed. The amount you pay for each ad is based on the popularity of the keywords you want it to display against and the number of competing bids for the same keyword from other businesses.

CPM costs less than PPC but you’re paying for ad views, which doesn’t necessarily mean traffic. PPC only charges when someone actually clicks on your ad. As such, it costs a little but you can set a maximum budget for each campaign.

Google is by far the most popular search engine, attracting around 65% of all worldwide searches in 2012, so Adwords is the first place to go if you want to put your business before potential new customers. However, the flipside of this is that with so much competition, the most popular words (those that get the most monthly searches) are heavily contested and priced at higher rates.

One way to get around this is to advertise against searches related to your business’ location. These terms will likely have less competition and therefore cost less to advertise against. People searching for a local product or service are also more likely to find what they’re looking for and make a purchase. Another method is to advertise against longer, more specific searches. These are searched for less frequently but have significantly less competition too so you can potentially hoover up a large amount of very relevant traffic without breaking the bank. However, this will require you spending more time researching search terms to target. Adwords has a very handy keyword tool that help with this by providing suggestions as well as letting you see the number of searches each term gets a month and the amount of competition it is generating from other companies.

Facebook for business

Facebook, with over a billion active users around the world spending on average over six hours per month on the site, is another great target for online advertising. Small business owners can set up a free business page and then spend money on paid ads to promote your page or website. Business pages can be used to keep your followers updated of upcoming company news, events or special offers as well as to provide an extra outlet for customer service.

Advertising on Facebook is highly targeted. It uses the personal information from people’s profiles, such as location, age, marital status and likes and interests to decide if they would be interested in what you sell. So a wedding dress maker in Bath, for example, could target local profiles of people with an ‘engaged’ relationship status to catch the eyes of couples planning their upcoming wedding.

Be warned, Facebook’s ad builder can at times be restrictive. For instance, images can only be one size and displayed in a certain place and ads that breach its terms and conditions (from content that’s judged to be inappropriate to phrases such as “as seen in the Guardian” that try to piggyback on other brands) will be withdrawn.

To help, XLN recently put together a guide to small business advertising on Facebook with some more information about setting up and managing a Facebook ad campaign. For more information on using Facebook for business, check out Startups.co.uk’s feature here.

Google Plus

Recently, XLN found that 33.7% of small business owners had a Google Plus account, second only to Facebook (44.2%) in the SME sector. Google Plus has become more popular in the last year with over 500 million users recorded at the end of 2012.

This year Google launched Places for Business which lets you create a company profile to be displayed when the business is returned as a search result. Signing up to Google Plus and creating a Places for Business entry means customers can quickly and easily find information like your business’ opening times, contact details, location and products, increasing the chances of you making a sale. Google’s ultimate aim is to provide its users with relevant information, which locality is a big part of. So providing these details in your Places for Business profile will be rewarded with a higher rank in search results and increased traffic to your site.


Voted the most business-friendly social media platform by the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn specifically seeks to connect like-minded professionals. A great resource, especially for business-to-business companies, LinkedIn ads make it possible to advertise to an extremely niche and well targeted audience. You can choose which people to display your ad to based on their industry, job function, seniority, geography and more!

LinkedIn groups are also another way of identifying people with a potential interest in your business. Advertising to these with relevant content can drive large amounts of traffic to your site quickly and relatively cheaply.

Daily deals, vouchers and discount codes

Groupon, Wowcher and MyVoucherCodes are just some of the names in this space. For restaurants there are similar options like the Tastecard diners club. Sites like these will want a steeply discounted deal to push, alongside your advertising cash – but for some local businesses the results can be spectacular. Be warned though as some small businesses have had problems: if you get your sums wrong up front and a loss-making deal proves more popular than expected, how would it affect your business?


Instagram lets you take photos using your mobile and apply a wide range of photography filters to give them a more professional look. These are then shared by users on other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. It was recently purchased by Facebook and as such it’s introduced business accounts and seamless sharing. Another nod to the business owner, Instagram ads, is due to be launched within the next couple of weeks and is definitely a space worth watching for the future.

James Wilson is marketing director at XLN Business Services

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