June 26, 2020

The role of the digital marketer is ever-evolving. Today’s digital marketing professional is not only an expert on the available digital channels but also in strategizing and planning campaigns and ad spend. Digital marketers not only need the skills to evaluate data but also to optimize campaigns before they are even published. This requires a deep dive into the most important elements of digital media planning and all the elements it includes.

What is Digital Media Planning?

Digital media planning is the process of choosing media platforms to reach pre-set marketing goals. Businesses have many options available today when it comes to marketing, whether digitally or in print. With so many options, focusing on each individual channel might not be the best approach. Instead, an effective campaign requires a look at the overall goal and the bigger picture of the paid search campaign. An effective marketing campaign includes platforms that work together to reach the goals of the business. 

Potential media platforms might include:

  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Video
  • YouTube

Digital media planning involves the who, what, why, how, and when of an advertising campaign. It is a careful and detailed plan that encompasses the overall strategy of a campaign. With so many digital channels available today, consumers are met with a lot of overwhelming noise. The goal of digital media planning and advertising is to cut through that noise and encourage potential customers to remember the specific brand.

Why is Media Planning Important?

Media planning is important because of its ability to increase brand awareness and conversions. An effective media plan can also reach the exact customer that a business is targeting and to track their conversions. The purpose of media planning varies depending on the business’s individual goals.

How Does Media Buying Work?

It is important to note that media buying is not the same as media planning. Whereas media planning focuses on strategizing of the overall campaign, media buying is the act of buying ad campaign placements. A media planner is a person who is in charge of allocating a businesses’ marketing budget and media plan to the most effective platforms and audience. The best and most effective media strategies are a collaborative effort. The media planner will need to understand the goals of the business while also using their expertise in the search advertising industry.

A media plan is a tool that organizes media spend across different advertising platforms and channels. This tool can then help you discuss strategy and make adjustments in the planning stage and throughout the campaign. 

A media plan should include the following details:

  • Target audience
  • Purposed channels
  • Frequency of advertisement
  • Type of content creation
  • Expectations of the marketing team
  • Marketing budget and adjustments

The more detailed a search advertising media plan is, the clearer the objectives are to those working on the campaign. This allows each team member to work together toward goals that increase traffic and meet the needs of the business.

What is the Media Planning Process?

Planning is one of the most important parts of the media buying process. Carefully planning each element of the paid search advertising campaign before running it will ensure the implementation of it running smoothly. 

An effective media buying process includes each of these important steps:

  1. Define Your Audience – Who Are You Trying to Reach?

One of the first steps toward creating an effective digital plan is to define your audience. Before you know which channels to target and what type of content to create, you will need to know the buying habits of your ideal customer. This involves collecting information about your current customers and considering any markets that you are not currently reaching. Market research can be especially useful for this step, both internally and externally:

  • Conduct internal market research: Your internal market research will come from your brand’s goals and objectives. It involves your business’s purpose and intentions.
  • Conducting external market research: Your external market research will come from the industry market. By evaluating your competition, current industry trends, ideal customer, and the industry as a whole, you can learn a lot about your goals and objectives.

The more in-depth you can get with this exercise, the more closely you can reach your target customer. You can learn more about defining your target audience with the exercise below.

The Importance of Defining Media Plan Goals

One of the first and most important steps to take when digital media planning is to define your marketing goals. Without first defining your goals and how you will measure them, it will be difficult to determine whether or not your campaign is working. Additionally, by carefully defining goals ahead of time, you can make any necessary adjustments to media campaigns along the way.

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is running your marketing campaign and then forgetting about it. An effective media campaign is carefully monitored and adjusted as needed for optimization and to maximize the return on investment (ROI).

  1. Determine Your Goals- What Actions Do You Want Your Audience to Take?

Each paid search marketing campaign should begin with a list of carefully considered goals and objectives. Goals should be specific, measurable, assignable, relevant, and time-based. The goals of your paid search marketing campaign will depend on your business. 

A few common goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness and loyalty
  • Increasing sales of a specific product or service
  • Collecting signatures for an email newsletter
  • Encouraging customers to sign up for a training

Get specific with your goals, right down to the exact percentage of customers you want to convert or the number of clicks you want on your campaign. Once you have determined your goals, you will then want to translate them into a key performance indication (KPI). It is important not only to consider what your marketing goals are but also how you will measure them.

How you measure your goals will depend on the goal itself. If you are implementing a search advertising campaign to increase sales, then you might set a dollar amount or a percentage increase in sales over a certain quarter. If your goal is to create an opt-in form within your ad groups, then you might measure your results based on how much of your traffic signs up.

  1. Determine the Best Channels- What Channels Allow You to Reach Your Target Audience? Is an Integrated or Multi-Channel Needed?

Once you have a good idea of who your target customer is and what and how you will measure your goals, it is time to determine the best digital channels. Fortunately, you have many options available, including social media, paid ads, banner ads, blogs, SEM, search engine optimization (SEO).

Many businesses will choose a multi or omnichannel approach. This allows you to take advantage of multiple platforms. It also allows you to improve your brand awareness by offering customers a seamless experience from one digital platform to the next.

Ongoing market research is an important part of identifying the best channels to use in your digital strategy. Digital channels and tools are constantly changing, so understanding your goals and which channels align with the best is a great way to optimize your ads.

It is also important to consider the channels you want to test and then implement early in the planning process of your search marketing campaign. While you can optimize your search campaign throughout the process, it is much more difficult to change channels.

  1. Test Out User Experience

When optimizing your campaign, both before and during implementation, it is vital to consider the user experience.

The following elements affect the user experience when running paid search ads:

  • Load speed: Poor load speed will lead to high bounce rates. When a web or landing page takes a long time to load, the potential customer can lose interest or trust in the site.
  • Landing pages: Consider the search terms and the landing page that you are presented with when you click-through your advertisement. Is it relevant? If you were a customer, would you feel satisfied with the information you were given?
  • Offer codes: It is also important to test any offers or codes. An email sign-up that does not actually send the information to the business is one way to waste ad spend. A coupon code that does not work correctly will lead to high abandonment rates.
  • Security: Your conversion rate is also affected by customer trust. Consider the trust factor of not only your search ads but also your landing page.

Test out the user experience as both an interested buyer and as one that is not yet convinced to convert. Make a list of positives that would encourage you to complete the offer. Then, consider the elements of the user experience that would not encourage you to complete the offer. It can also be useful to complete this exercise with a couple of your top competitors. What do they do better? What do they do worse? Gather this information and learn from it.

  1. Create an Effective Ad Copy

The paid search marketing process is also highly creative. Whereas some customers are enticed with engaging copy and strong call-to-actions, others require engaging creatives. Finding the right creatives for your search ads will require testing similar to the process you will take when determining the right ad copy. Additionally, some ad groups will respond to certain images, whereas others might prefer videos.

The clarity and relevance of your ad copy will directly determine how many people notice it and take action. Consider the type of copy that your target audience is most likely to interact with. Double-check that your AdWords campaign and paid search ads are free of error.

Encouraging customers to click on your ads is just one part of the process. A copy of your landing page or website is also important. Developing a copy that is relevant and useful to your customer is important during the planning process. Changing up your type of copy to include things like blogs, videos, images, and infographics tends to get the best results.

Finding the right ad copy that works with your target audience may request ongoing experimentation and testing. Split-testing and multi-testing during the planning process of your paid search advertising campaign can assist you in determining the words and phrases that work best with your targeted audience.

       2.  Create Engaging Creatives

The paid search marketing process is also highly creative. Whereas some customers will be enticed with engaging copy and strong call-to-actions, others will require engaging creatives. Finding the right creatives for your search ads will require testing similar to the process you will take when determining the right ad copy. Additionally, some ad groups will respond to certain images, whereas others might prefer videos.

      3.  Define Search Campaign Budget

You may already have a good idea of your purposed budget before beginning the planning process, but if you have not yet narrowed down the budget, now is the time to do so. You will need to determine the digital budget for the overall paid search marketing campaign and then determine which channels to allocate dollars to.

Depending on your goals, you might also decide to adjust your marketing campaign’s pricing model. Your options will include:

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): In a CPA model, you will only pay for leads that convert. You will have previously set your marketing campaign goals and determine a bid maximum for each conversion rate. While this method can reduce ad spend, it can make it difficult to determine problems with the overall sales funnel.
  • Cost per click (CPC): CPC is one of the most common methods of paid search ads. In a CPC model, you will pay each time an individual clicks on the ad. Depending on how you set up your ad, this could direct your traffic to a website, landing page, newsletter sign-up page, or contact us page. The CPC model means you only pay when you grab the customer’s interest and is especially common when using AdWords.
  • Cost per thousand (CPM): In a CPM model, you pay for the number of thousand impressions on your ad. CPM is a great way to measure brand awareness, and it can be a cost-effective method.

Choosing the right model requires that you consider your objectives and KPIs when planning your advertising campaign. Consider which model will allow you to best track your conversion rates and make any needed adjustments to optimize your marketing campaign.

Defining a budget can be tricky if you are new to marketing or have not yet previously run any digital ads for your brand. It can be overwhelming to consider how much you should spend and where you should spend it. Rather than focusing on the individual dollar amount for each channel, consider an overall budget limit. Then, take this limit and divide it into percentages for each chosen channel type. As you continue to optimize your marketing campaign, you can adjust the percentages, and thus, the spend.

  1. Collect Data and Analyze

Research, research, research, and then research again. You can never have too much data to analyze when creating a digital search marketing campaign. The more you know about each channel and your target customer, the more informed decisions you can make when media buying.

This also means testing. A/B split testing can provide you with valuable information as you plan your search engine marketing campaign. Using A/B testing, you can easily find out which content or visuals are preferable among your target audience. You can also use A/B testing to determine the best landing page.

Another testing option is multi-variant testing. With multi-variant testing, you are testing multiple things at once, as opposed to just two as you would with A/B testing. The great thing about multi-variant testing is that you can learn more about different ad types much faster. Analyzing your competitors can also provide you with a valuable collection of information to use when planning.

What should you test?

With multiple channels, target audiences, creatives, and calls to actions, it might seem overwhelming determining which items to test. 

These are a few options:

  • Landing pages: Testing for not only the creatives of the landing page but the type of landing page, can also be useful. Consider different options like click-through, lead captures, long-form sales letters, or sales letters.
  • Offers: The type of offer and how it is worded can affect conversion rates when implementing search ads. Try out different offers like free items, discounts, or dollar amounts off — test different ad copy in how each offer is worded.
  • Call-to-action: An effective call-to-action is one that encourages the reader to take immediate action. Testing out different versions of the same call-to-action can help you determine the one that works best with your target audience.
  • Visuals: Visuals can make a huge difference when planning search advertising campaigns. Test out different colors and graphics to determine which one produces results that best meet your objectives.
  • Target audience: It is also possible to test your target audience. Perhaps you previously believed that your ideal audience was young adults who are headed off to college, but testing can reveal that your ads actually attract the parents of these teens.
  • Channels: You can also run ads to test out different digital channels to learn where your target audience is and where they respond best to your search engine ads.

Keep in mind that you want to maintain consistency when testing. One landing page may work well with a certain type of customer and not with another. If you change too many factors at once, you might not get as accurate of information.

Once you have published your ad, the process of optimization is not yet complete. Instead, this is actually a valuable part of the planning process. Begin gathering data from your search engine campaign and evaluate how well it is reaching your goals. From here, you can make any minor optimizations that achieve even more of your goals.  This might include adjusting your bid or shifting ad spend to another marketing platform. Be sure to keep track of your changes so you can determine what is working and what is not.

What are the Best Media Planning Tools?

Part of planning your media advertising campaign is identifying the tools you will use to create effective ads and to measure results. Fortunately, one of the greatest advantages of digital marketing is the ability to collect and evaluate data. It is crucial to determine the tools that you will use throughout your search marketing campaign during the planning process.

These are a few of the best media planning tools in the market today:

  • Landing page designer: Landing pages are important when planning an upcoming search engine campaign. Tools like Unbounce and Instapage are easy to use and allow marketers and businesses to create engaging, user-friendly landing pages that are designed based on the individual goals of the business.
  • Social media planning: Social media planning sites like Buffer and Hootsuite will allow brands to schedule content ahead of time, which can be effective when considering organic traffic in addition to paid social media.
  • Google Analytics: You will find one of the most valuable tools right within your Google analytics ads platform. You can use the audience area to identify acquisition metrics and to optimize your keywords and advertisements. You can also use the tool to identify new keywords, including long-tail keywords that you are not currently reaching.
  • TrackMaven: Whether you are looking for a way to evaluate your search marketing results or you are in charge of reporting, TrackMaven is a useful tool that integrates multiple digital tools like HubSpot and Google Analytics to determine your most profitable channels.

New tools are constantly being added to the marketing industry, just as existing ones are constantly updated. Choosing which tools to use can be overwhelming with so many options. Consider which tools allow you to track your objectives and better understand the results of your AdWords or search ads campaign.

The Importance of the Planning Process When Advertising

You are probably already aware of the need for optimizing your paid search ads campaigns as they are running. However, it is just as important to optimize your marketing campaigns during the planning process too.

These are a few tips to ensure you are optimizing your campaigns to their fullest extent during the planning process:

  • Consider your goals and how you will measure them. Always keep your strategy and individual business goals at the forefront of your mind. Determine the necessary steps to reach your goals and what tools you will use to measure them before ever running your AdWords campaign.
  • Aim to maximize profit: Always aim to maximize profit. Adjust bid amounts, copy, images, or channels as needed to get the highest profit possible.
  • Consider your marketing timeline: Considering your marketing timeline when planning can be a great way to consider which media platforms are ideal and when to use them. It might not make sense for every business to display ads across every type of media channel immediately. Instead, it might make sense to start with a few and then extend your reach over time.
  • Avoid separating results by channel: Digital media is about the success of the entire marketing campaign. While it is important to look at each one individually to make any needed adjustments, it is also important to keep the goals of the entire campaign in mind throughout the planning process.
  • Continue to test: Digital marketing is an ongoing process. Testing and adjusting are never complete. Complete multiple tests during the planning process and then continue to test throughout the entire paid search ads campaign.

In many ways, the planning process is one of the most important parts of the paid search advertising strategy. In fact, the best way to maximize ROI and implement ads that effectively reach your consumer and meet your goals is to plan sufficiently.

Defining Your Audience- How to Create an Avatar and Understand the Customer Journey

In order to optimize your marketing campaign and maximize your paid search advertising results, you will need to define your audience clearly. Failing to hone in on your target audience can lead to poor campaign results. Even the best creatives and call-to-actions mean little if they are not reaching the right target audience.

Once you have a good idea of who your ideal audience is and where they are most often, you can narrow down your ads to reach the exact customer you want when they are more likely to convert.

Creating Your Avatar Checklist- 8 Steps to Understanding Your Target Customer

Use the exercise below to create a customer avatar and define your target customer:

  1. Create an avatar: Creating an avatar can help you truly visualize your target customer. If it helps, you might even consider a drawing that allows you to connect with and better understand your customers. Give your avatar a name and list a few defining characteristics. What do they do for a living? Did they attend school? Do they have children? What do they do in their free time? 
  2. Get to know your avatar better: Use this exercise to get as specific as possible. Consider what a typical day in the life of your target customer looks like. What do they do when they get out of bed each morning? What challenges do they face throughout the day? What makes them comfortable and satisfied? When they use the internet, what sites are they browsing? The more details that you can gather, the more you can hyper-target your customer.
  3. Take advantage of research to understand current customers: Chances are, there are a few questions that you might have about your targeted avatar. Use this opportunity to research and fill in those questions. Interview previous customers who may be similar to the avatar that you have created, research the market, and get to know the individual challenges and interests of the target. If you have previously run ads, you can pull information about the demographics of your audience. Use this information to learn more about who are you are already reaching versus who you want to reach.
  4. Live a day in the life: While you might not be able to become your avatar, you can pretend to be them. You have already listed the hobbies and interests of your avatar, so you have a good idea of where they spend their time. Spend some time exploring these locations. Visit the same social media sites and forums. Go shopping where they would shop. Be aware of your surroundings and get to know the life that you have created for your avatar to understand them better.
  5. Consider the challenges of your ideal customer: Everyone has challenges, and learning how to overcome the challenges of your target customer is a great way to earn their trust and loyalty. Make a list of the challenges that your avatar is likely to face and then come up with potential solutions.
  6. Use social listening to learn more about your customer: You can expand the information you have gathered by browsing social media sites where your avatar is more likely to visit. You can also take advantage of information from tools like Facebook Audience insights.
  7. Discuss your findings with your team: Turning this into a group exercise will allow you to consider additional characteristics and difficulties that you might not come up with on your own.
  8. Consider which ads would work best with this avatar: By this point, you will know your avatar pretty well. You should have a good idea of the type of ads and channels that they will respond to best. This step might require a good amount of planning and testing. You might need to try out multiple CTAs and types of content to find what works best.

Keep in mind; some brands that sell multiple products or services might have more than one type of ideal customer. It might make sense to complete this exercise for each one. If you have a large marketing team, you could assign each type of product or service to one member.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Optimizing your campaign both prior to it running and throughout the campaign can prove to be time-consuming. So, why do it? It might be easier to set the campaign and leave it until your ad spend is diminished. But, taking the time to optimize your campaign is the best way to maximize your budget and reduce wasted ad spend.

When to Optimize Your Ad Campaign

At what point in your paid campaign should you optimize?

  • Prior to launch: Optimizing your campaign before launch ensures that you are targeting the right audience with the right ads. Your objectives here are to hone in on your target audience and identify the channels that will produce the best results. During your pre-launch optimization, you will also want to consider the creatives and content that you will use.
  • After gathering initial data: If your initial data is not reaching your previously set KPIs, don’t worry. Most campaigns will require ongoing optimization to reach the marketing results that you want. Fortunately, if you planned ahead, you are already ready for the next level of optimization.
  • Throughout your marketing campaign: You have carefully researched your target audience and optimized your paid search advertising campaign before running it. Once you hit publish, the process of optimization is not complete. It is important to continue evaluating and optimizing your paid search campaign throughout the entire implementation.

Here are a few important elements to focus on during optimization:

  • Budget: You can easily make bid adjustments throughout your marketing campaign. One of the most common bid adjustments is with automated keywords. This method involves closely following your data and using the keywords that produce the best results. You might also adjust your budget to different channels that are producing better results.
  • Device: A large percentage of internet users search primarily from their mobile devices. Optimizing your advertisements means creating landing pages and websites that are mobile-friendly. It also means optimizing your ads so that they are displayed correctly on a smartphone. Search queries also tend to differ on mobile search than on a desktop. Individuals are more likely to use shorter terms and leave out defining locations.
  • Time: The cost of conversion can vary significantly, even depending on the time of day that your ad runs. Once you have begun to collect data, you can determine which time of day produces the best results.
  • Date: Dates can also affect your cost of conversion. Your offer or ad type can also dictate the best date in which to run your campaign.
  • Audience: You might notice that a certain type of audience responds best to your ads. It might make sense to adjust your audience based on your marketing objectives.
  • Location: Geo-targeting your audience to their exact location can help you display your campaign to its most relevant audience.
  • Keywords: In addition to using keywords to target your ideal audience, you can also use them to choose the audience who should not view your ads. Using negative keywords, you can increase your relevancy and reduce any ad waste.
  • Integrate across multiple channels: A seamless integration between multiple channels will usually offer the best results. Although different channels might call for different types of copy and call to actions, maintaining a consistent brand and voice among each one is important.
  • Channels: One channel is not necessarily preferable over another channel. Many factors dictate the best marketing channels to use, including marketing goals, budgets, and current marketing campaigns. One effective strategy is to try multiple platforms and identify KPIs, setting up a minimum result indicator. As you continue to test out different platforms, you can adjust your media budget to the best-performing channels.

Taking the time to optimize your ads during the planning process can help to reduce the amount of optimization that is needed when the ad is active. However, even with careful planning and preparation, it is important to continue to monitor ads to ensure ad spend is effective.

Justifying and Reporting Your Budget

Whether you are a business owner, digital buyer, own a digital marketing company, or are in charge of your business’s entire marketing department, justifying and explaining the marketing budget is an expected task.

Generally speaking, ad spend success is determined by the return on investment. As long as the action is returning more than it costs to deliver, the ad is typically considered to be successful. Of course, other businesses may have other additional goals that also need to be considered.

Additionally, not all channels are easy to measure ROI. Paid ads might allow you to calculate your ROI, but determining an investment into social media or content marketing is more difficult. Other brands may also implement an organic search campaign into their strategy. Common measurement metrics in these cases might include:

  • Social media mentions (shares, retweets, mentions, comments)
  • Website traffic (the number of users who move from one site to another)
  • Reach (the number of customers who are able to view the ad/content)
  • Actions are taken (downloads, clicks, comments, sign-ups)
  • Keyword rank
  • Traffic from a certain keyword

Because of the varying measurement tools available with each channel, it may make sense to your campaign to track ROI for each individual one and then compare them to the overall campaign objective.

Benefits of Using a Digital Media Buyer for Your Marketing Campaign

Because a lot goes into planning and optimizing the process of digital media buying, it can be useful to collaborate with a group of professionals. Just a few of the benefits you can take advantage of when you work with a digital media buyer include:

  • A detailed planning process that ensures your advertisements are optimized before they ever run
  • The ability to target your ideal customer, right down to their interests and daily habits
  • The assistance with identifying your marketing campaign goals and KPIs
  • Access to a team of individuals who are experts in their industry including paid search specialists, content creators, graphic designers, and search engine optimizers
  • In-depth competitive analysis to understand which keywords to target
  • In-depth knowledge of each marketing channel that can assist you in creating your multi-channel marketing strategy
  • Ongoing optimization of your campaign
  • Access to numerous marketing and reporting tools
  • Ongoing communication with team members to communicate and strategize

Transparency in the Media Buying Relationship

While skills in marketing and digital buying are certainly important when choosing an agency or partner to trust with your marketing campaign, transparency is also crucial to consider. While the digital team is your expert in media planning and buying, it is the business owner who is an expert in their products or services. 

Consequently, marketers will also rely on transparency with each advertising partner. Transparency in the media buying relationship includes:

  • Campaign Availability: Programmatic marketing has opened the door for transparency in terms of the websites in which your ads are displayed.
  • Consumer targeting: An understanding of where demographic targeting metrics come from will assist the marketer in understanding their overall campaign.
  • Bid process: With so many bid placement options available, transparency is important to ensure that the campaign is maximizing its ROI.
  • Fees: Partnership and ad fees can quickly cut into profits. Transparency is crucial when discussing the costs of advertising. 

Transparency is key when optimizing advertising campaigns, whether it is in the initial planning or the post-publication process. In addition to optimization, transparency allows each team member to understand the campaign’s current progress toward the already established goals.

The planning process can be easier when you have a team of digital media buyers to assist you. By carefully considering your marketing objectives and then choosing the channels and strategy you will use to target those goals, you can ensure that your campaign is optimized, from initial planning to the completion.

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