Ad Channels
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This is page five of a handbook on Growth Hacking. Begin here.

What's the story behind this?+

My goal with Julian.com is to write handbooks that teach you a topic more effectively than anything else you can find online.

That's bold and sorta obnoxious, right? That unattainable ideal excites me.

It made sense that I finally got around to writing about growth. Because it's what I've been doing professionally for the past few years.

And I finally feel I know more about growth than most people.

In fact, I started a growth agency. The two played well together: I put this handbook on hold for a few months because I had a new goal: Sign agency clients whose products would help me learn what I still didn't know about growth. So this handbook could become more insightful.

It worked. This handbook now incorporates the results of my carefully chosen, on-the-job experiences.

I wish I could write more handbooks by unifying paid work (agency) with unpaid work (writing). Unfortunately, this probably won't happen again, as future handbooks cover topics I wouldn't want to do professionally, like speaking Chinese 😂

If you'd like to get handbooks a few months before they're published, subscribe below. I only email once per quarter. You can also say what's up on Twitter.

Interesting in building muscle? Check out my already-released Muscle Guide.

Papa, where do customers come from?

A channel is any place where users are acquired. 

A channel can be either:

Ad channels are the most scalable, reliable, and broadly applicable channel. (On upcoming pages, I also cover sales and content.)

Companies just launching tend to see the most channel traffic in this order:

  1. Ads (and/or sales if B2B)
  2. Word of mouth and referrals
  3. Content marketing
  4. PR
  5. Everything else

As a healthy company matures, its largest channels tend to re-order as follows:

  1. Word of mouth and referrals
  2. Content marketing
  3. Ads
  4. Everything else

Ad channels covered

This page compares the major ad channels and explains when to use each:

On the next two pages, you'll then learn:

  1. How to make quality ads.
  2. How to run ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Once you've read these three pages, you'll be able to run ads well on any channel. 

Channel fit

Use four criteria to prioritize which channels to test:

Let's dive into these critical factors.

I. Channel cost

Every channel has an associated ad cost per click (CPC), which in part determines its affordability. 

(A channel's CPC is determined by how in-demand its ads are by advertisers.)

One-time purchases

The higher your gross margin, the more  channels you can afford to experiment with.

If you're selling a cheap $10 item, you will not succeed with ads. Facebook and Instagram (FB/IG), which are the most reliable ad channels, can't drive e-commerce sales within North America and Western Europe for less than roughly $15. 

So you need to be making at least $15 in gross margin per basket. And, you'll of course want to make more to account for volatility — and profit.

FB/IG are the cheapest. Often by a lot. So this $15 floor goes even higher on other channels. If you have low margins, look instead to unpaid channels such as SEO.

Subscriptions

Here's how to calculate if a channel is affordable for your subscription company:

Assuming near-zero marginal cost to service a customer, you have $40 of room between what it costs to acquire them and how much they ultimately pay you.

Simple, but not easy

For both one-off purchases and subscriptions, the rule of thumb for healthy, sustainable ad spend is your CPA should be no more than 1/3 to 1/2 your ARPU. So this example fails the rule — cutting it too close to sustain long-term acquisition. 

But there's a hidden factor: follow-on organic growth. If you can measure how many of your paid-for customers referred others for free, you can calculate the additional revenue rightfully attributable to your ads.

At my agency, clients constantly underestimate how many follow-on purchases our paid traffic is responsible for. One solution is taking attribution seriously: survey customers aggressively. Get them to tell you where they heard about you.

However, what matters more than breaking even on acquisition is how quickly you earn back the cost of acquiring a customer. If this payback period is too long, you will run out of money trying to scale.

Channel costs

Below, channels are ranked by their rough cost per click for U.S. audiences:

These numbers vary wildly depending on audience, ad quality, and more.

When you can't afford a channel

Once you've tested and discovered a channel isn't profitable, you have three options:

II. Channel niches and expectations

Every channel has a degree of audience fit for your product. The greater the fit, the greater the ensuing conversion rate when they reach your site. 

This fit therefore also determines a channel's affordability. Because it's easy to get people to click an ad, but it's hard to get only the right people to click. 

And you're billed either way.

For example, a channel may be twice as expensive per ad click as the next, but if its audience converts three times better on your site, it's a more affordable channel.

So what determines audience fit? Four factors:

Fortunately, you can target nearly anyone through FB/IG and AdWords. Most demographics. Most technographics. 

But, on many other ad channels, niche audiences have a foothold. And your product is either suited to them or it's not. For example, consider how enterprise executives may not use Snapchat. Or, how teenage gamers may not use LinkedIn.

So, to summarize: For your ads to reach scale, you're at the mercy of both your product's market size and that market's targetability across ad channels. 

If I build another product, I will work backwards from the best channel fit: which channel audiences are the most affordable, most plentiful, and most engaged.

III. Channel scale

The last criterion for prioritizing channel testing is whether enough of your audience uses that channel.

Let's compare audience volume across a few channels:

If you have low gross margin per customer, you'll need many customers to generate meaningful revenue. (This is a big reason why I wouldn't develop a cheap product.)

So if your volume-hungry product isn't a fit for the larger channels that feature your audience, you'll have a hard time scaling ads.

Saturation

There's another volume-related consideration: saturation.

Saturation occurs when a channel's audience is tired of seeing your ads. Your ad clickthrough rate then plummets, and in turn your cost per customer rises. 

The smaller your audience, the quicker you saturate it — spend being equal. The solution is to suppress your daily ad spend, which is a tradeoff of volume for longevity.

(I talk more about saturation on the upcoming Facebook Ads page.)

Stay up to date

The above channel fit criteria are subject to change. Because channels evolve. They release new ad units and sometimes overhaul their targeting.

The onus is on you to monitor the channels and periodically re-assess their fit:

✋🏼 Dope — you're good to go. Come say hello on Twitter.

Learn this material more in-depth

Bell Curve is the growth agency I built using many of the strategies in this handbook. We work with some of the fastest-growing companies in SaaS and ecommerce. We train you to do what we do.

The trifecta: AdWords, FB, and IG

Your ad channel testing should typically begin with Google AdWords and Facebook

Instagram and Facebook (FB/IG) are rolled into the same platform. So everything I say about Facebook ads equally applies to Instagram ads.

Their massive audiences and precise targeting make them viable for many products.

However, how you target audiences on these two platforms is very different. But complementary. Every business should pursue both to capture their full audience.

(Other channels, such as Pinterest, reddit, Snapchat, and LinkedIn, may also play a part in your strategy. But they often aren't viable due to poor post-ad-click purchase rates.)

Different types of targeting

What nearly every ad channel has in common is demographic targeting (e.g. language, geography, and gender). 

So that’s usually your first step toward excluding ill-fitting segments of the population: avoiding demographics who don't buy from you.

But, that's not enough of a filter to make your cost per customer acquisition maximally efficient. So, every channel also offers a unique set of criteria that reflects its users’ engagement with that platform. 

You use this criteria as a proxy for pinpointing the users most likely to buy from you.

For example, Facebook users may list their marital status and work history. Therefore, Facebook lets advertisers target users based on marital status and work history. And maybe you're selling something best suited for married people.

Or, on Google AdWords, users search with keywords. So Google lets you target ads based on keywords. For example, married people search for "anniversary gift ideas."

There are important implications to this distinction: profile versus keyword targeting.

Let's explore this.

Facebook targeting

First, brief context on how Facebook and Instagram targeting works.

On Facebook, users fill out their profiles that they then enrich by sharing articles and Liking businesses, products, activities, and people.

Users also browse the web at large — visiting thousands of sites containing Facebook's tracking code, which Facebook monitors to infer even more of your interests. Ones you never even expressed on Facebook itself.

You can then roughly target users based off all of this data.

The job of a skilled Facebook advertiser is to determine which of these targetable criteria is most closely associated with their ideal audience. 

For example, people interested in fashion may Like a fashion blog on Facebook. So, perhaps that's how you'll target ads for your clothing company.

Now let's compare Facebook's targeting to AdWords'.

Facebook versus AdWords targeting

Certainly, there's s no more direct way to target an ideal customer for a men’s fashion company than to show ads to people searching right now for "men’s clothing."

And that's exactly why AdWords performs so well: People are signaling interest in your product, and it's on you to not drop the ball while pitching yourself.

In contrast, on Facebook, you’re performing profile-targeting: Your audience size is limited by the number of Facebook users who happened to express prior interest that overlaps with your market. And you're merely approximating that overlap. 

Further, Facebook has a timing problem. You may have Liked something related to fashion two years ago — or maybe just this morning. In the eyes of Facebook's targeting capabilities, they're conflated into the same degree of interest.

So you're betting on an audience's current overlap with your product.

In contrast, with Google's search ads, people express their desire to buy a car right now through a query like "buy Toyota vs. Honda". It doesn't get clearer than that.

And people who are interested now are more willing to actually buy — instead of just window shop. This means they're more cost-effective to target. Fewer wasted clicks.

I call search's targeting type behavior targeting. As in, someone is performing the behavior of searching for what they want. You then target based on that behavior. This contrasts Facebook's profile targeting, which uses profile and past engagement data as a proxy for someone's current interest.

In the dichotomy of profile versus behavior targeting, Pinterest and AdWords stand alone as the two major behavior channels. They're both largely built around search. (There's also the less effective Bing and YouTube ad channels.)

Behavior versus profile targeting

While behavior targeting is effective, it's not a panacea: You’re at the mercy of how many users take the time to proactively search for what they’re interested in. Not everyone wanting to buy clothing necessarily searches Google for it.

For example, some clothing buyers skip web searches altogether and instead directly peruse their favorite blogs, ask friends, or walk into stores.

In other words, if you target exclusively via behavior channels, such as AdWords, many potential customers will never see your ads. Worse yet, potential customers who would actually buy from you but for whom buying is not currently top of mind won't be searching the web at all.

That's why profile targeting nicely complements AdWords: With profile Facebook, if you can target someone likely to be a good fit for your product, you can bring them up the ladder of product awareness through ad copy and your website. 

You have the potential to expand your immediate market.

Channel targeting and saturation

There's one more way these two targeting methods are complementary: saturation.

Put simply, AdWords is better for targeting people who currently want a product like yours, and Facebook is better at targeting people who aren't necessarily looking to buy now but are a perfect fit you could massage into buying your product.

That's why I've taken so much time to discuss targeting types: You have to balance your expectations and your budget. Most businesses neglect this.

Here's the point

Three ad channel takeaways:

Ad channel comparisons

AdWords is simpler to master than Facebook and Instagram (FB/IG). So I dedicate an upcoming page to FB/IG. You'll come to understand it as well as I do. To learn AdWords, I recommend starting with their official guide.

For the rest of this page, I assess the pros and cons of the remaining major channels. You'll learn when to use each.

Even if these channels sound like a poor fit, I recommend testing each eventually. You never know, and the growth rewards are too great to bury your head in the sand.

You'll learn a lot about growth by reading the entirety of these collapsed sections.

B2C versus B2B companies

First, a few thoughts on the difference between B2C and B2B companies.

B2C's relatively low margins prevent many ad channels from being viable.

This is why subscription B2C businesses are better than one-time-purchase B2C businesses: With subscription, you pay once to acquire the customer, but they continue paying you for (hopefully) months to come.

The burden rests on your product's quality to keep them paying. If it's a high quality product, you can earn a lot more than from only charging once upfront.

This is also why hardware companies should integrate a subscription component: The Nest security camera, for example, charges monthly to keep recordings in the cloud.

However, B2C companies have a big leg up over B2B: On average, they have bigger addressable audiences. (There are more consumers than there are businesses.) This is  important because most ad channels can't effectively target employees. Channels lack good "firmographic" data (business and employee details) to target by.

So B2B advertising is a relatively expensive spray and pray approach.

Meanwhile, most ad networks are built from the ground up to precisely target B2C demographics. Especially Facebook and Instagram.

Keep these differences in mind as you explore the following channels.

Instagram ads 👍+

Instagram (IG) is the best profile targeting channel. This mantel recently belonged to Facebook, but people are engaging slightly less with Facebook ads.

IG users convert the best after clicking ads. And clicks are reasonably priced.

It's an especially good fit for mobile apps and ecommerce goods. But it's generally a poor fit for B2B SaaS and enterprise companies — especially if your site or web app isn't mobile-friendly. But if you can afford a $200 CAC, it's worth aggressively testing.

For many of my clients, Instagram is their only profitable channel. 

Instagram is part of Facebook

On Instagram, you target audiences and create ads just as you do on Facebook. In fact, you advertise on both through one dashboard. (Facebook owns Instagram.)

Their difference is in their ad formats: Ads look different on Instagram, so you should rewrite and redesign content accordingly. (I teach ad creation on the next page.)

Like Facebook, Instagram supports profile targeting. This means saturation will occur. (While people do search Instagram, most IG consumption occurs through passively browsing your feed.)

Large audience

Instagram has more users than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest combined. This means if you get Instagram ads working, they'll sustain a higher daily spend than other channels (except Facebook).

Further, there's a sizable 18-24 audience that's engaged with Instagram but not Facebook. So if you target this demographic and you're only running Facebook ads, you'll fail to capture the attention of your total audience.

That said, people of all ages use Instagram. And every age clicks ads and can convert on your site, including 65+. I have 65+ working for several clients.

Users are in the right mindset

IG audiences are engaged. They're looking for interesting, new content.

This engagement carries over to the post-ad experience: IG users are more likely to convert on-site. More so than Facebook mobile users of the same demographics.

Because users open IG for the purpose of having their attention grabbed by something new. They're open to discovery and distraction. 

What a lovely time to shove an ad in someone's face.

(In contrast, on Facebook, users are expecting content from familiar friends. So, ads from companies they've never heard stand out like a sore thumb.)

For this reason, (good) Instagram ads significantly outperform Facebook mobile ads for ecommerce goods and app installs.

Buried text means self-evidence is important

Notice how in the above image of an Instagram ad, you have little room to pitch your product through text. Because the text component of the ad unit is buried at the bottom and is given little focus.

This means your ad performance hinges on how well your image or video grabs someone's attention for the right reason: the underlying intent to purchase. 

If you're selling a product that is not self-evident through imagery alone (e.g. a backpack versus auto repair), you need to put text on top of the image to describe what you're selling. Or use the IG video ad format to show your product in action. 

Whatever you do, don't be obscure with an IG ad — or people will scroll past it.

Not a fit for desktop software

IG is almost entirely accessed on mobile. That makes it a good fit for ecommerce goods and mobile apps, but a poor fit for desktop SaaS software.

Even if a visitor could sign up for your service on mobile then return on a desktop via an email reminder, it's rarely cost-efficient to introduce such friction into your funnel. 

For desktop software, stick with Facebook desktop ads and AdWords.

LinkedIn ads+

LinkedIn offers profile targeting. Like Facebook, several distinct ad units are offered. 

Some units are impossible to make work, and others perform okay at best. But if you're a B2B company earning a lot per customer, you should test LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn offers uniquely granular company and employee targeting. So, when these perfectly fitted visitors reach your site, they convert acceptably. (Worse than FB/IG, but better than many other channels, including Twitter, Snapchat, and display ads.)

LinkedIn economics

Unfortunately, LinkedIn ad clicks are so expensive ($12-$20 USD), that they're only affordable if you're selling high-priced products or services.

In fact, if you don't earn over $10,000 USD in the lifetime of a customer, you probably cannot afford LinkedIn ads. That's an honest conclusion from seeing millions of dollars spent on LinkedIn. 

This threshold unfortunately rules out most B2C companies not selling financial products, vehicles, or homes. And many B2B companies.

What works on LinkedIn

The B2B companies seeing the best LinkedIn performance offer educational and job opportunities. Because that's largely why people visit LinkedIn in the first place.

(A common theme emerges on this page: Your best channels are those frequented by users with pre-existing intent to discover products like yours.)

The types of landing pages that work well for LinkedIn are also atypical: email-restricted content (e.g. guides, whitepapers) and webinars outperform traditional "Signup now!" pages. 

Fortunately, if you earn a lot per customer, you can afford the hand-holding involved in providing prospects with marketing materials to encourage sales conversations.

And, as mentioned, each LinkedIn visitor is likely valuable. Because, you can narrowly target LinkedIn ads to just your very best audience fit. The power of LinkedIn is its unrivaled "firmographic" data. That's the B2B corollary of demographics.

Meaning, on LinkedIn, you can target by a company's industry, employee count, location, and more. Plus, you can target employees based on their roles and seniority.

You can even target just employees working at a whitelist of companies you supply.

You can't do this on FB/IG. Facebook's firmographic data is sparse and stale. Because Facebook users don't rigorously maintain their work history on their profiles. (Why would they? That's what LinkedIn is for.)

If you're targeting niche industries or niche job titles, LinkedIn is your best bet.

LinkedIn's ad units

LinkedIn offers well-differentiated ad units. Experiment with multiple to uncover a fit:

Pinterest ads+

Pinterest ads don't work for most companies.

You have the greatest chance at making them work if you're selling fashion, food, or furniture goods, and if your product lends itself to eye-catching imagery.

And if you're predominantly targeting women. Because that's most of the audience.

In other words, Pinterest can (modestly) work for some B2C ecommerce goods. 

However, Pinterest is a much broader fit if you exclusively use it for retargeting, which is the tactic of showing ads to uncoverted site visitors to get them to return and buy. 

Retargeted visitors convert at a much lesser cost than new visitors, so you can sometimes make otherwise weak ad channels newly viable through retargeting.

And, in Pinterest's case, their targeting is granular enough to place it among the better weak channels still worth testing.

Pinterest targeting

On Pinterest, you can target users based on the content they typically engage with (e.g. fashion, furniture) or the keywords they're currently searching.

In other words, you can intercept people's searching behavior with ads. So, like AdWords, Pinterest has behavior targeting! And Pinterest's behavior targeting can refer a sizable amount of traffic. Double yay! We growth marketers need as many behavior ad channels as we can get. They're the saturation antidote.

Unfortunately, while Pinterest's cost-per-click is low, its users generally don't convert once they arrive at your site. They bounce without signing up. (Same with Snapchat.)

I chalk this up to the way Pinterest users interact with "pins:" They rabidly open new tabs then later return to them while forgetting why they opened your random website. And they leave instantly. Time-on-site for Pinterest traffic is bad.

Plus, some users click on pins so quickly that they'll sloppily click ads unknowingly.

The antidote is to therefore straddle the line between two objectives:

  1. Don't make your ad look so much like an ad that people reflexively ignore it.
  2. But, make your ad look enough like an ad that those who click do so purposefully.

Blend in, but don't mislead. Or get billed for clicks that don't convert.

When to use Pinterest

I've found mediocre (at best) ad performance when three conditions are met:

  1. Your audience skews toward 24 to 35-year-old females. Pinterest is 80% female and 60% 24-35.
  2. Your product is in a category Pinterest users organically search for en masse, e.g. fashion and furniture. Even if you're a step removed from a popular category (i.e. you sell chair accessories instead of actual chairs), you can still have difficulty making Pinterest ads work. You want to match exactly what's being searched for.
  3. Your product lends itself to visually enticing imagery that fits alongside organic content. Like on Instagram, there is little room for text on Pinterest ads. It's all about self-evident visuals.

Twitter ads 👎+

Like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is mostly a profile targeting channel.

It saturates.

(While Twitter does offer behavior targeting, most Twitter users don't use the platform by searching. They skim their Following feed.)

Due to its high cost and poor performance, Twitter is a bad ad channel. 

However, it's a great brand marketing platform — if you're an enterprise wanting to stay top of mind with potential buyers. But, this handbook doesn't teach brand marketing, so I won't dive into that.

Here's what makes Twitter a bad growth channel: It's over twice as expensive per click than Facebook and Instagram, and people who click also convert at a worse rate on your site. Further, it has far fewer engaged users than FB/IG, so it saturates quicker. 

(The reason for Twitter's poor on-site conversion is probably similar to Facebook's reason: You don't open Twitter to find new products and experiences. You're looking for news, discussion, and media pertaining to the people and topics you care about.)

It gets worse. Twitter is redundant: Its ad units don't offer anything special over other channels'. And it doesn't open doors to new, large audiences. Because most people in developed countries who are on Twitter are also on Facebook or Instagram.

So if you have FB/IG working at scale, Twitter is unlikely to open doors to profits.

There is, however, a redeeming feature of Twitter.

Twitter's redeeming feature

Twitter has a huge array of niche interests you can target audiences by. For every lesser-known company, interest, or person, you can target people who Follow them.

On Facebook and Instagram, you're unable to target cultural interests with this specificity: You can only target interests that have reached a threshold of public interest. For example, if a newspaper's Facebook Page has fewer than, say, 25,000 Likes, they won't appear as a targetable option when making ads.

And even if they reach the threshold, Facebook might still not make them targetable.

So if you're selling to a niche audience that can only be accurately identified based on who they Follow on Twitter, then Twitter is worth testing. 

But it'll still only work if you earn a lot per customer. I'm talking thousands of dollars. 

As a reference point, in the last four years, the only time Twitter ads worked was for a client earning six figures annually per customer. This client had fewer than 500 companies in the world who were a fit for their product. And I noticed that employees at those 500 companies followed the same few influencers in the space. 

So I targeted those influencers' followers and got a few to turn into sales leads.

In short, most companies should skip Twitter for growth marketing. Those who can justify it are typically Fortune 500's emptying their brand marketing budgets.

For that, it's effective. Twitter ads are much better than banner ads.

Similar to Facebook

One more thing. Twitter conveniently shares Facebook's newsfeed ad format. This consists of text on top, an image or video in the middle, and more text underneath.

So, if you port your best-performing ads from Facebook, they should also be your best performing ads on Twitter. (Controlling for audience, that is.)

This saves you time and money on re-testing ads from scratch.

Also like Facebook, Twitter has a healthy mix of desktop and mobile users. So it's theoretically suitable for every product type — from ecommerce, to mobile apps, to B2B desktop software.

Reddit ads 👎+

Reddit ads are typically a waste of time. Their targeting granularity is too broad to be effective, or too niche to be scalable.

Skip reddit ads unless your product appeals very broadly (e.g. underwear, credit cards) or you can squeeze enough revenue out of the tiny niches that exist on reddit.

However, reddit is undergoing a massive shift in both their product interface and ad platform capabilities: They're increasing the news feed's emphasis on videos and GIFs. And they're planning to show video ads alongside that multimedia. 

If these upcoming video ads perform anything like video ads do on Facebook, they may be effective. So I'm waiting to see. This section will remain brief until then.

How reddit advertising currently works

Like most modern ad channels, reddit ads are native: they look like organic posts and are differentiated by a subtle "promoted" label.

Targeting works on either an interest- or subreddit-basis. 

Interest categories include Travel and Technology, for example. These show your ads to redditors whose browsing behavior falls into these categories. 

Unfortunately, such targeting isn't narrow enough to home into your best-performing, profitable audiences: Putting aside how ineffectively broad an interest like "Technology" is, you typically need to narrow B2C audiences via gender and/or age to make ads cost-efficient. 

And reddit doesn't offer gender and age targeting. (Because their users don't provide them with that data.)

Your alternative is subreddit targeting, which runs ads within the niche subcategories that organize the site's content, e.g. foreign films or StarCraft.

In some cases, there's short-lived potential in subreddits — if you earn a lot per customer and can therefore extract meaningful revenue from just a few visitors. 

But, subreddit targeting is fundamentally broken too: Niche subreddits don't have many active subscribers. So they saturate quickly. And the very niche subreddits can't be targeted in the first place, because reddit disallows ads in subreddits below a certain subscriber count.

reddit is the worst thought-through ad platform of all the major social networks. I'm glad to see they're now doing something about it.

Snapchat ads 👎+

Snapchat ad clicks are cheap, but the on-site conversion is terrible.

Snapchat users do not take out their credit cards. They're coming for free stuff. Even the wealthy adults who use the platform. 

Expect 5-10x worse on-site conversion rates than what you'd get from a well-targeted FB/IG campaign.

This is a shame because the ad creation experience on Snapchat is wonderful, their support is top-notch, and their targeting criteria is sufficiently granular.

However, their ad platform is new, so I'm expecting improvements in the near future.

Snapchat's current use

The only effective use I've seen for Snapchat is real-time retail targeting: Snapchat lets you target users within 0.3 miles of any physical location.

So, if you're a retail business that lends itself to impulse purchases (e.g. restaurants, entertainment), Snapchat may be a fit. Capture everyone walking by on their phones.

Otherwise, like Twitter, Snapchat is only suited for brand marketing: In fact, if you're an enterprise with money to blow, Snapchat is likely better than Twitter for brand exposure. They offer better persona targeting (e.g. new mothers, gamers).

Display ads 👎+

Display ads are the banner ads you see across the web. 

They perform terribly. 

People don't click banner ads anymore. They haven't for years. And those who are weird enough to click banners aren't usually the people who then buy on your site.

However, display ads are still good for cheap brand marketing. As in, advertising not first and foremost to get clicks, but to stay top of mind with potential buyers.

Consider how Verizon and T-Mobile perennially spam every site on the web with banner ads. They aren't getting a lot of clicks relative to their ad spend. But they do it because they want to stay top of mind when your phone contract expires and you're considering a new provider.

Or consider how movie studios aggressively spam sites with banner ads before a film's release. The same idea is at play: You're not expected to click the ads then convert on the spot. Studios are merely hoping you keep the film in mind when you're bored next weekend and stumble into a mall.

If you decide to run display ads, do it through Google Display Network. It provides the most granular targeting and is therefore the most cost-effective when run well.

Display ads work for retargeting

Display ads are modestly effective at retargeting. 

(Retargeting is showing ads to visitors who've been to your site. To get them back.)

But you shouldn't actually use them for retargeting. Because Facebook and Instagram retargeting hugely outperforms display ads in cost per conversion.

So there's no point in wasting money here. In fact, doing so competes for the attention of the same eyeballs being retargeted via FB/IG, causing your retargeting audience to get over-exposed to your ads. They saturate quicker.

Every time I've tested display retargeting concurrent with FB/IG retargeting, FB/IG costs rise without any net benefit to the business.

All other ad channels

Curious about other channels? Go experiment. 

There are a ton, although few that are as big or as effective as those I've covered.

It’s the job of a growth hacker to rigorously test new channels. Routinely and exhaustively. You should be spending a third of your time doing that. Keep yourself in a position to discover pleasant surprises. 

Finding just one channel that's profitable could make or break your business.

Unrelated, to read handbooks (like the one you're reading now) a few months before I publish them, subscribe below. I'm releasing how to write well, think critically, and play piano. I email once every three months.

I have another handbook that's already been released: The Science of Building Muscle.

How do I make ads on these channels?

In two pages from now, I teach you how to run a professional ad campaign on Facebook and Instagram. 

In learning FB/IG, you'll understand concepts underlying every other ad channel. 

First, though, the next page explains how to write and design good ads.

Next page

Making ads

How to write and design ads that people want to click.

Or, choose a page using the menu at the bottom of your screen.

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