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Paid Media to Fuel Your Content Marketing

Micaela Baral

Every marketer is looking for ways to make their site compliant with Google. Not just today, but for the foreseeable future.

The best way to ensure your website will rank well is by creating content that engages and delights visitors. Creating a great content marketing strategy means having content that can span a multitude of online channels and customer personas. By creating a positive experience for your visitors as well as the search engine crawlers, you can begin approaching content-centric marketing from a holistic point of view.

While you want to create original content that covers a variety of in-depth topics that inform and intrigue your visitors, what is often overlooked is the opportunity to promote content through paid channels to bring new visitors to your site and to open up the top of your sales funnel.

How to use paid media for your content marketing efforts

Promoting your content through owned, earned and paid media channels is a surefire way to ensure you're maximizing the reach and traction of your content. While all three are of equal importance in balancing a full campaign, paid media is the quickest and most powerful way to connect with a new audience online.

Paid media has been associated in the past with more traditional forms of performance marketing for lead gen or e-commerce. But as the digital market matures, the avenues for alternative forms of paid media have grown and offer unique opportunities to drive traffic to your best content, as opposed to landing pages asking visitors to sign up for a free consultation or demo. When incorporated wisely, paid media offers a positive return on investment and can amplify your content.

That being said, there are a variety of options in the realm of paid media, each offering their own marketing benefits and challenges. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each before considering them for your business. Here is an overview of the paid media landscape to properly assess where and how to invest in paid media to fuel your content marketing.

Display Ads – These are not new to the experienced digital marketer. Display ads are clickable ads that can appear on different sites as part of a larger ad network. In fact, they’re not just well-known to the average marketer; anyone who has ever searched the web has seen these types of ads appear on sites they browse. Display ads can include banner, social media and pop-up ads. They can also appear on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and are mostly sold on a CPC or CPM basis. Content display ads are also distributed by ad networks such as OutBrain and Zenata.

What makes display advertising unique is when it’s used to promote visitors to engage with a piece of your content rather than with an overt sales message. For the user, it’s refreshing to see ads promoting sponsored content that is meant to entertain you, as opposed to being bombarded with another sales-heavy ad imploring you to buy something. For the marketer, it’s a great way to open up a new channel for your content as well as have complete control of the process.

Unlike its more organic cousin — earned media — paid media for content gives its advertiser full control from the creation of the ad copy and design to the budget invested in each paid ad campaign. Given that you are typically paying for a click or an impression and are a choosing site on which you would like to invest your time, you can quickly find and grow an audience. Sites like LinkedIn are going to have a different demographic from a site like Reddit or StumbleUpon. By targeting specific sites with specific demographics, you have more choice in who you target as your intended customer.

Retargeting Ads – Only a small percentage of first-time site visitors actually complete a purchase on that first visit.  Retargeting is a great way to re-engage abandoned customers and bring them back to your site.

If a customer was looking at a specific red purse on a retail website and then left the site to check their email or read a generic article, the red purse would reappear in retargeted ads. The ad which showcases the item they had been looking at but chose not to buy would effectively “follow” that person as they browsed the web.

These types of ads are extremely powerful because they keep that item top of mind for that customer. However, all too often marketers remarket to abandoned customers with sales-oriented pitches, usually involving a discount or another value exchange. While those can be effective, sometimes it’s helpful to remarket to a potential customer with a piece of content that isn’t as salesly or as far down the sales funnel.

Paid Influencers – These are also sometimes referred to as paid brand advocates or paid brand evangelists. These are online bloggers or avid social media gurus with large followings that fit in with your target audience. By incentivizing these online influencers to review and use your product, you can reach your intended audience and begin to grow your social presence. Also, by having users eventually share their own experiences with your product or service, as you’re following increases, you can begin to organically growing your earned content.

Paid Content Promotion/Sponsorships – These last forms of paid media are most consistent with the more traditional forms of paid advertising. You are simply paying websites to promote your brand and content. This is the most straightforward form of paid content advertising because you usually know ahead of time what the website you are advertising on can provide you from their visitors.

For example, if you were to advertise on a retail blog with paid content or sponsorships appearing during their peak hours, you would get a break down ahead of time of the demographics of that site's audience and numbers of visitors. This is by no means a guarantee of engagement with your brand, but can give you more concrete numbers in an attempt to attract them.

Paid media benefits and challenges

As with all forms of advertising, paid media can be a double-edged sword. The benefits of various paid media are its immediacy, its scale and having full control of its production. In these ways you can use it primarily to fuel your funnel, identify funnel leaks and find new customers.

Now, for the downsides. As more and more companies are looking for an alternative to Google AdWords and other more established advertising channels, the competition in alternative sources of paid media is only going to become more fierce. The increase in competition has naturally led to an increase in cost. What does this mean in terms of return on investment? Well, the jury is still debating that one. Because many alternatives to Google AdWords are often fairly untested social media platforms, the return on investment may vary.

Customers and their opinions of paid ads have continually impacted their effectiveness. Audiences on many social media sites such as Reddit are naturally averse to advertising. And if done poorly, paid ads can actually hurt, rather than help, your brand. Doing research on the audience that has a tendency to frequent each site is important before deciding to make any investment.

When using paid media it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of promoting content through this channel. But when used wisely, paid media can be an excellent opportunity for your business.

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Author bio: Micaela Baral is a marketing manager for National Positions, a digital marketing agency based in Agoura Hills, Calif. National Positions works with hundreds of companies large and small and has been named to Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing privately held companies from 2009-2012.
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