LinkedIn Direct Ads
These are by far the least effective and most expensive for a small business. LinkedIn has several snippets of language in its ad agreement users sign that allow it to wreak some havoc on your ad budget. Most notably, the part of the usage agreement that allows it to exceed your Daily Ad Budget by as much as 20%. If they allowed you to set a Daily Ad Budget below $10, you might be able to accomodate this extra 20% easily, but their Daily Minimum is $10. This makes it hard for a small business operating on a shoe string budget to plan.
If the click through rate was high enough, the budgetary issues would not matter as much – you would be getting a better return on your investment. However, running an optimized LinkedIn Direct Ad for a week netted the following numbers: 27,143 impressions, 10 click throughs. That’s not a lot of activity on an SEO optimized ad. The other issue I found with LinkedIn Direct Ads was the inability to see where and how it was being displayed. Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads offer you a much better snap shot of how your ad is being delivered, and much better and more comprehensive analytics to help you fine tune your efforts.
Bottom line: for a big business with a larger budget, LinkedIn Direct Ads may be a great solution, but for a small business who is counting every penny, I’d try another ad method for your hard earned dollar.
The jury is still out for me with Facebook Ads and how effective they are for a small business. They have some detailed demographic data and capabilities that make them worth checking out, and a much better analytics set up than LinkedIn Direct Ads (Google AdWords still wins the analytics data fight for ad tracking). Success with a Facebook Ad depends largely on your business type and target market, however; while success in AdWords can be much more broad if you are good at writing short ad copy.
Facebook Ads also gets a proceed with financial caution flag from me. Facebook is a bit better at setting daily minimums and weekly budgets, but a small business owner must pay attention to their weekly spend and remember to stop the ads from running if you find yourself reaching your weekly budget. This is also true of LinkedIn Direct Ads, and one way you can curb the bleed on their daily minimum.
With Facebook Ads, a great picture and action language is key to any kind of success. Don’t be afraid to do a little A/B testing, running the same ad with different photos and logos, to see where you score. Too many people just toss up one version of an ad and call it good, then wonder why they aren’t getting any results. Another thing to consider with Facebook Ads: the landing page. Are you choosing your Facebook Page with a call to action, or taking folks out of Facebook to your website’s great landing page? It matters. Do similar A/B testing with your landing pages and conversion goals to see what is more successful for your business.
In spite of recent changes to search, for small businesses with tight budgets and a great need for detailed analytics on the ads they invest in, Google AdWords remains my favorite ad method. I think that Facebook Ads will be a contender over time, but for now – Google still wins. Small business needs the ability to see detailed drill downs of their ads, their click through rates and how well their ads are converting, and Google AdWords still does that the best.
It can be frustrating to work with Google AdWords, trying to hit that sweet spot of keywords and click throughs without triggering the AdWords moderator bots that can get your ad pulled. One key is action words and knowing the difference between a feature and benefit. What I mean by that is being able to show the ad reader the benefit your business gives them if they click through. So instead of saying you have a “wide selection of sizes” for a dress, you say you have “hard to find sizes always in stock”. See the difference? Don’t under estimate the power of linking your AdWords ad to your Google Place either – this can reap many local benefits for your business.
Google AdWords can also quickly exceed a small business budget. Be ready to experiment with your maximum bid level and daily budget a bit until you find the return rate and expenditure paring that works for you. Just as with Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Direct Ads, you will want to monitor your budget daily. Even more important, set conversion goals and track them by linking your Google AdWords account to your Google Analytics account. If an ad isn’t converting, use version testing to try another method.
No ad system is foolproof anymore. People use AdBlocker on Firefox and Chrome extensions that remove not only ads but social widgets (including social comments) and other tools to keep ads at bay. That is another reason to be cautious about your ad spend and the duration of your ad campaign. Regardless, ads are still an integral part of great marketing, along with social marketing and traditional off line methods. You can’t assume that your target market is only in one place. I hope this quick sketch, while not being a deep dive into methods for each system, helps you decide where your ad money will best be spent.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ad methods and how they worked for your type of business in the comments.