Business Growth Series: A Beginners Guide To Online Advertising For SMEs


Online advertising is a field which offers equal part challenge and opportunity to any SME wishing to take advantage of it. The challenge is to find the right channels for your business, to maximise how far your online spend goes. 

Where To Start

Starting from scratch can be daunting, of course, particularly given the jargon laden nature of much of the language surrounding online advertising. Whilst anyone running an SME will know exactly what printing a leaflet or taking out an advertisement entails, and will have an idea of how to measure its effectiveness, tasks such as monitoring cost per click, ad impressions and resulting website traffic can seem akin to quantum physics to those not well versed in the technicalities.  

A Brief Guide

The good news is that there are tools and websites which make the creation, targeting and analysing of online advertising relatively simple and easily achievable. While this list does not aim to be anything close to comprehensive, we hope by listing the following we provide a helpful introduction to to some of the platforms currently available.  

Facebook Ads

Taking it for granted that your business will have its own Facebook page, allowing it to reach out directly to consumers, create a two way conversation and cement a strongly defined brand image, it’s important to realize that the site can also be used as a hugely effective advertising platform. Almost a billion people visit the site every day, and your Facebook ads can be targeted directly to the kind of people you want to reach, forming a part of the stream of information which they access in an impromptu and casual manner, slipping in under the radar which tends to pick up more traditional forms of advertising. The multi-media nature of Facebook means that any advertisement can feature items such as downloadable apps, directions to a shop and video content. You have full control of the budget and can manage your advertising via a single site, at the same time as accessing analytics which allow you to monitor the effectiveness of your advertising.  

Google Ads

Using the google Ad Sense program you can place your advertisements on sites of every type, targeting the content and medium of individual ads to suit the market which you feel the site is going to reach. The fact that you bid for the space on a particular site via real time auctions allows you to keep careful and ongoing control of your advertising spend, whilst taking advantage of the fact that the sites in question have already targeted and established the kind of people you’re hoping to reach.  

Twitter Ads

The power of Twitter as a tool via which to build a brand is firmly established, but the intimate relationship people develop with their Twitter account makes it the perfect medium platform via which to disseminate minutely targeted adverts. You can target the people receiving your promoted tweets via gender, geography, device, interests, or simply by targeting those who resemble your followers. The budget is based upon effectiveness; you only pay when people like, reply, click on or retweet your Promoted Tweet, and the fact that there’s no minimum spend means that you can start small and build as your business grows.  

Banner Ads

  You can pay to have your own banner ads placed on a huge variety of websites and blogs, via networks which keep a percentage of the fee you pay in return for offer access to sites which you can filter and select to find the perfect match for your business. Some of the top networks include: