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advertisingOnline advertisements come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. From the classic digital ad formats like IAB banners to modern video overlay ads, lots of ad formats are used by today’s digital marketers to earn our attention and business.

While it’s easy to write off online ads as irritating distractions, the reality is that a good ad can be incredibly effective. From 300×250 banners to social media ads, the right combination of headline, image and call-to-action can produce an incredible return on investment for the advertiser.

In this guide, I’ll share eight online advertising examples in different forms, ranging from social media ads like the ones you’d see on Facebook to retargeted banner ads that ‘follow’ you around the web based on your browsing activity.

I’ll also explain why certain ad types perform better than others and which formats are best suited for each type of ad campaign. By the end of this guide, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of the purpose of each online advertising format.

Ready to begin? Before you start reading, enroll in our Display Advertising: The Key Components for Campaign Success course to familiarize yourself with the principles of online advertising and the specific terms I’ll be using in this guide

Pre-Roll Video Ads


Have you ever been forced to sit through an advertisement before you could watch a video on YouTube or another video sharing website. These video ads are called pre-roll advertisements, and they’re typically short promotional videos.

Pre-roll ads are fantastic for branding, since the users is forced to sit through at least five to 10 seconds of advertising before they see their desired video. They’re also an acceptable option for direct response, although usually less effective than banners.

Because most users will click through using the ‘skip’ button after watching the first few seconds of your video, it’s important to get your message through quickly when using pre-roll advertising to market your business.

Do you want to make your own pre-roll ads? Join our Video Marketing for Beginners course to learn how to create your own pre-roll ads, then use a network like Google Adwords to market to your target customers using a video placement campaign.


Banner/Display Ads


Display ads (also known as banner ads) are a staple of online advertising. They cost very little to display, can generate huge clickthrough rates when designed correctly and are ideal for generating leads and, in some cases, for selling your product.

There are hundreds of display advertising networks serving ads on a wide variety of websites. Most display ad networks serve ads in the IAB standard dimensions, such as the 300×250 pixel “medium rectangle” and 160×600 pixel “skyscraper” ad.

If you’re just getting started with online advertising, banner ads are the ideal choice for learning the basics. They’re easy to design in Adobe Photoshop, cheap to bid on, and easy to split test using the Google Adwords Display Network.

There are two keys to achieving success with banner ads – great targeting and great ad design. Learn how to design effective display ads that get incredible clickthrough rates and cheap clicks in our course, Advertising: Website Ad Design.

Adwords Search Ads


When you search for certain keywords on Google, the results will be made up of a combination of paid listings and free listings. The free listings are sorted based on relevance and optimization, while the paid listings are sorted based on bid value.

These paid ads are known as Adwords Search ads, and they’re placed based on the keyword you search for. Commercial keywords like “Credit Cards” generally bring up Adwords ads, while keywords with low commercial value generally won’t.

Adwords Search ads are known for having a high conversion rate, since the user’s intent – in this example, to learn more about credit cards – matches the product or service offered by the advertiser.

Running a Search Network campaign on Adwords is quite a complicated process, with dozens of variables – from keyword match types to Quality Store – to modify based on the campaign’s performance.

Would you like to learn how to run a campaign on Google Adwords? Google Adwords for Beginners training is a must to learn the basics of Adwords, from match types and bidding methods to maximizing your Quality Score for cheap clicks.

Related Content Ads


Have you ever noticed “sponsored” listings at the end of a blog post? These listings typically include small thumbnail images, persuasive and mysterious titles, as well as a call-to-action link encouraging you to click through and read more.

These are related content ads, and they’re used to market a wide variety of forms of web content. From blog posts and sales letters to videos and interactive guides, any form of readable or viewable content can be promoted using these ads.

Related content ads typically have high clickthrough rates, since the content they’re promoting isn’t overtly commercial. Instead, it’s usually subtly commercial – guides on topics like “Choosing The Best Credit Card” or “5 Mysterious Weight Loss Tricks.”

These ads can be purchased through networks like Adblade and Adsonar. Most of the time, they’re best combined with a content marketing strategy that guides the visitors you receive towards your product, service or marketing offer.

Do you want to drive thousands of visitors per day to your content using related content ads? Learn how to develop and execute a content marketing strategy for maximum traffic and sales in our Content Marketing for Small Business course.

Social Media Ads


Social networks like Facebook give advertisers a huge variety of targeting options for their advertising campaigns. From basic characteristics like age and gender to favorite bands, movies and sports teams, Facebook Ads are hugely customizable.

Facebook Ads come in two varieties – sidebar ads, which look like the two display ads pictured above – and sponsored content. Both ads can be used to drive traffic, generate ‘likes’ to a Facebook Page or simply inform users about a new product.

Although social media advertising is technically a form of display advertising, it’s a little different in practice. The targeting options of social media make it far easier to customize a social campaign than it is to customize a large-scale display campaign.

With the right targeting options, you can create a social media ad campaign targeted to your perfect audience, whether it’s women aged 18 to 27 near Hamburg who like Metallica and Chanel, or 55-year-old US Navy veterans living in Connecticut.

Would you like to learn how to target your Facebook campaigns and reach the ideal audience for your business? From targeting to bidding, learn how to use Facebook Ads like a professional with Facebook Advertising Boot Camp.

Video Overlay Ads


There’s more to video advertising than just the pre-roll. Video overlay ads are text or banner ads that are displayed on top of a YouTube video. Like pre-roll ads, they can be purchased, designed and targeted using the Adwords Display Network.

Video overlay ads can be targeted using a variety of variables. You can select target keywords and display your ads on related videos, use placement targeting or select a retargeting audience to reach an audience that’s already visited your website.

While pre-roll video ads are ideal for branding, video overlay ads are generally the best choice for direct response. This is because they’re cheaper on a CPM basis and better suited to the rapid attention span of many YouTube users.

The key to an effective video overlay ad campaign is twofold – great targeting and even better copywriting. Learn how to write inspiring copy for your overlay ads to drive traffic and conversions in our Web Copywriting That Works course.

Contextual Ads


Have you ever read a blog post about saving money, then spotted an advertisement for a cash-saving credit card beside it? Say hello to contextual advertising – a digital advertising targeting option that places display ads beside relevant content.

Contextual advertising isn’t an advertising example itself – it’s technically a form of targeting for other advertising formats. Contextual advertisements can be banners, as in the example above, video overlay ads, social media ads and much more.

Although contextual ads can seem a little creepy at times, they’re beneficial for both users and advertisers. Users get to see ads that are actually of interest to them, while advertisers benefit from a more motivated and enthusiastic marketing audience.

A wide variety of ad networks include contextual targeting options, either on a per-site or keyword basis. The most well-known is the Adwords Display Network, which allows contextual targeting for text ads, display ads, videos and other ad formats.

Contextual ad campaigns take a while to start, but can deliver huge profits once the low-converting placements are excluded. Learn how to create profitable contextual ad campaigns using the Display Network in our Advanced Google Adwords course.

Retargeting Ads


Do some advertisements seem to ‘follow’ you around the Internet? When you visit a commercial website, the company that operates it might place a retargeting cookie – a harmless tracking file – on your computer.

This cookie is compatible with advertising networks like Google Adwords, as well as specialized retargeting networks like Adroll. It lets advertisers ‘retarget’ you on any website running Google Adsense units or using their own ad server.

Retargeting ads have gotten some flack from privacy advocates for feeling ‘creepy’ and annoying, but they’re largely harmless. Privacy laws prevent advertisers from keeping anything other cookies, which don’t contain any personal information.

Advertisers selling commodities – such as web hosting, in my above example – like retargeting because it lets them market to a dependable audience. Among users, it’s widely regarded as an annoying and repetitive advertising practice.

In markets where price is the main distinction between competitors, retargeting is a great way to attract new customers. For an example of how to use retargeting, read our blog post on marketing your hotel or travel agency online.

Which form of advertising is best for your business?

The eight advertising examples profiled above each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some convert well but have high per-click or per-impression costs, while others perform exceptionally well only with extensive optimization.

Choosing the best form of advertising for your business is difficult, especially if you are an absolute beginner. A good technique is to look at what your competitors are using, where they’re advertising and the formats of ads that they’re displaying.

Feeling creative? The eight advertising examples are by no means the only ways to market your business. Discover five quirky but effective advertising ideas that can help you grow your business in our blog post on creative advertising ideas.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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