Our Five-Minute Guide to the Basics of Digital Advertising

Get to know the essential metrics and platforms used in the digital advertising world.

Advertising Strategy

It’s 2019. We don’t need to tell you that if you’re ignoring digital advertising, you’re missing out on major opportunities.

To cite just one study done by Nielsen Analytic Consulting, the average return on investment (ROI) within three months for traditional marketing practices was 9%, but for online marketing the average ROI was 118%.

“Should I spend some of our ad budget on digital?” is a no brainer, but “how should I start spending?” is much harder to answer.

If you’re not a specialist yourself you may not know where to begin. Here are some answers to the two biggest questions we see people face as they get started with digital advertising.

1. How do I choose a digital advertising platform that best suits my goals?

With all the options available, it may seem overwhelming to decide where to spend your dollars. But it’s surprisingly simple — the platforms you use should be based around the ultimate goals of your advertising campaign and the audience you want to target.


If your goals center around B2B interactions, LinkedIn is probably the most effective place for you to advertise. The professional networking platform is a good place to generate business leads, but not to drive large amounts of petition signatures or newsletter sign ups. If you are looking for low CPAs and high volume, LinkedIn is probably not for you.


If acquisition is the name of the game, then Facebook might be for you. Facebook can help you acquire a high volume of new leads while keeping your CPA down. Facebook is also ideal for political campaigns because of their ability to serve ads to users based on the type of political content they are likely to engage with (i.e. conservative, liberal, moderate). This creates more flexibility for campaigns with persuasion and mobilization goals.


If you want to target a younger audience that is connected to journalism or interested in news and current events, Twitter might be the ideal platform for your campaign. You can target people who follow certain publications, journalists, and political figures to find an audience that skews younger and is responsive to your messaging.


Search allows you to only reach the constituents that matter; whether it be at the congressional, statewide, or even national level. You can drive more signups by finding people who are specifically searching for your product, candidate, or grassroots movement  — potentially leading to higher conversion rates.


Programmatic advertising can help spread brand awareness and persuade audiences through rich media and high levels of video engagement. Video completion rates are higher for programmatic (50-60%) than Facebook (20-30%)  — if you are trying to make your brand a household name or convince an audience to support your position, programmatic might be the right choice for your campaign.


Instagram is a great platform to appeal to an extremely young audience. If your message is targeted towards a younger age group, great  — if you are pushing a message that is intended for an older audience, you might want to brace yourself for higher costs. Additionally, Instagram placement ads are common and are included by default for ads bought through Facebook.

2. How do I measure the success of my campaign?

Once you have decided where to spend, CPM, CPA, and CPC aren’t just abbreviations  — they are extremely important metrics that can help you measure your progress towards your goals.

Cost per mille (CPM) represents the average cost for every thousand impressions. If your goal is to spread brand awareness, impressions are important metric to track — they’ll tell you how many times people have seen your ad.

Cost per acquisition (CPA) represents the average cost of a conversion. If your goal is to increase the size of your email list, newsletter, or petition, CPA is a great way to keep track of your progress.

Cost per click (CPC) represents the average cost to get one click. If your goal is to drive traffic to your site and increase brand awareness, CPC is a good measure to evaluate your progress towards your goal.

Understanding what these terms mean is crucial, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Metrics like CPM, CPA, and CPC need to be looked at in the context of what audience you are targeting and what platform you are using.  Many variables impact your overall cost. With research and practice, you will slowly get a better grasp of what’s “good” performance for your brand in your industry.

Where’s a good place to start? Check out these cross-industry benchmarks for each metric.

And keep in mind: the digital advertising world is constantly changing. You’re off to a good start by knowing the basic terms. That will help you understand some big-picture strategy and performance data. But you will need to stay on top of all the relevant changes that will affect your advertising campaigns going forward.

Anyone can enter in a credit card and buy some Facebook ads – but there’s no need to start from scratch. Work with experts who will help you take your digital advertising to the next level. IMGE can help.


Chart Sources
Google Search and Display

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