The Different Forms of Digital Advertising

The Most Popular Ways to Advertise Online

Digital Advertising
Digital Advertising. Getty Images

Twenty years ago, digital advertising was just a bunch of banners placed prominently on websites. They were annoying, you clicked on one in every 100, and they became the victims of "banner blindness." Today, digital advertising is vast, with many different types of online ads being produced based on target audience, website content, and call to action. But before diving into the costs, and varying forms, let's take a look at the basic definition of digital advertising (aka online advertising).

Basic Definition

If you see an advertisement on the internet, then it is classified as digital advertising. In fact, there are ads on this very page, and most other websites you visit, as they are the primary revenue driver for internet companies.

From banner ads (including rich media banners) to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social networking, email marketing, online classified ads, site takeovers, and even SPAM, online advertising is one of the fastest growing ways to reach an audience.

With the web now readily available on smartphones, digital advertising has spread to the mobile platform. Companies are spending millions of dollars trying to find a way to advertise on phones without creating an unpleasant or disruptive experience. So far, the most popular way to do so has been through native advertising methods (read more on that here).

Costs Associated With Digital Advertising

There are hundreds of different advertising models online, but most fall under one of the following three categories.

Without a doubt, every ad you have seen online today was paid for by one of these methods:

  • CPA (Cost Per Action) - In this model, all the risk falls on the publisher of the ad. The advertiser only pays the publisher if someone clicks AND completes a transaction.
  • PPC (Pay Per Click) - The most common form of online advertising as it behooves both parties. The advertiser pays when someone clicks on the ad, but they do not have to complete a purchase for the publisher to get paid. Under this model, target keywords are highly important.
  • CPM (Cost Per Mille) - More commonly known as CPT (Cost Per Thousand), the advertiser pays for exposure based on visitors to the website and eyes on an ad. If a website gets two million visitors per day, and the ad is seen on 50% of those pages, then a CPM of $2 would be equal to $2000.

Types of Digital Advertising

To list them all would take forever, but here are some of the main ways that advertisers are getting to consumers with an online buy:

  • Banners ads (These include skyscrapers, full banners, squares, and buttons.)
  • Adsense (These are the ads served to consumers via Google, by showing ads relevant to the information on any page.)
  • Email advertising (and SPAM)
  • Native Advertising (This continues to grow and dominate the online advertising space.)
  • Facebook Ads
  • YouTube Ads
  • Sponsored Tweets
  • Website Takeovers
  • Rich Media Ads
  • Pop Up Ads (and pop-unders)
  • Pre-video ads
  • Blogging

The Problems With SPAM
You, no doubt, know the term and are even more familiar with the actual product. SPAM is derived from a classic Monty Python sketch in which everything on the menu in a small cafe consisted of Spam.

This bombardment with Spam became synonymous with the way unsolicited emails bombard the inboxes of consumers.

When email marketing was relatively new, SPAM was rife. However, anti-spamming laws have cut down a lot of this traffic, with fines and other punishments being dished out to the guilty parties. It hasn't stopped it entirely, though, with Spammers becoming more sophisticated, and also finding ways past anti-spam filters. This is the junk mail of the digital world. 

Another form of SPAM is phishing, which includes the vicious 419 fraud. However, this goes beyond the realms of advertising and into something that is both highly illegal and potentially life-destroying.

Give Customers an Easy Path To Unsubscribe

Finally, while on the subject of SPAM, do everything you can to make it easy for your customers to quickly unsubscribe from your email list. While it may seem counter-intuitive, you do not want to create a negative experience. Making it easy to opt out will leave the customer with a positive impression of you. They may well continue to buy from you, even though they don't get your emails. On the other hand, if you put the unsubscribe button in 6pt type in the middle of a bunch of legal copy, and make them jump through hoops to leave the list, you will lose that customer for good. 

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