The world's largest websites draw tens of millions of users every month. You would think the cost of advertising on these networks would be enormous, but that's not the case at all. Thanks to the rise of display ad networks, brands no longer purchase an online ad space entirely for themselves — nor should they want to. By utilizing display advertising, it's now possible to pay for only the most relevant visitors to those major websites.
This approach to online advertising has opened up marketing options for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Today, display networks sell advertising on a visitor-by-visitor basis. Since the actual display ad is automated, it doesn't require any extra work from advertisers or the ad networks themselves. But it can save a lot of money over time for brands, which makes display ads all the more appealing.
Choosing Your Targets
Think of CNN.com, for example, as a window leading you to all of your consumers — your focus is on the individual visitors.
Suppose your target audience for an ad is a 25- to 44-year-old female with a college degree, unmarried, and earning more than $50,000 a year. If you advertise on one single, low-volume website, you might not reach that many actual consumers. However, through websites like ESPN, CNN or WordPress, you could display your ad to thousands of women meeting that criteria.
Display networks let brands be picky about who sees their ad.
Setting Your Price
If ads are customized for each individual user, who picks the ads? If you guessed either the advertiser or a computer, you're right: It's both. In action, a display network automates bidding processes and generates ads to display almost instantly. But those decisions are informed by preferences established by the advertisers themselves.
A wide range of variables can be used to refine the potential audience, and then a bidding strategy is employed to make sure spending is controlled and reaches an acceptable level. More competitive demographics will be more expensive due to the increased demand, which is why niche targeting of consumers can be so budget-friendly.
Watching the Results Flow In
Once your display ad preferences are set, you can launch your campaign and get real-time updates through the ad network. With this feedback, you can see what kind of engagement you're getting, as well as how much you're spending on the campaign. If needed, you can continuously optimize the campaign to improve your ROI.
Those tiny fractions of ad space may seem insignificant, but they're what allows small and midsized brands to advertise alongside the giants. SMBs benefit when they leverage the opportunity themselves.