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Quick Guide to Digital Ads
Marketing Foundations

Quick Guide to Digital Ads

The right mix of digital ads can deliver your message to your ideal customer in their favorite digital channels. But how do you know which ads will work best for your audience and goals? This quick guide to digital ads breaks down some of the different types of ads available, and their pros and cons, to help you develop your plan.


Google Ads

Search: Expanded Text Ads

These are probably the ads you envision when you think of Google search ads. They’re triggered when someone Googles a word or phrase that matches up with one of the keywords in a campaign.

What they’re great for: 

  • Situations where you need exact control over the order of an ad’s headlines and descriptions.
  • Awareness and conversions. (Find out more about that here)

Challenges with them: 

  • Manually creating enough different ad variations to test different combinations can be time-consuming.

Search: Responsive Ads

While nearly identical in appearance to expanded text ads, responsive ads differ in the way they’re set up. By uploading several headline and description options, Google’s system will mix and match different combinations together to create an ad.

What they’re great for: 

  • Testing a vast number of ad combinations at once.
  • Awareness and conversions.

Challenges with them: 

  • Ensuring that every combination of headline and description will make sense can be a finicky process.

Display: Traditional Banner Ads

Traditional banner ads appear on Google’s partner websites exactly as you upload them. They’re usually created in standard ad sizes, including 300x250, 320x50, 160x600 and 728x90. 

What they’re great for: 

  • You know exactly what your ads will look like on partner websites.
  • Driving awareness.

Challenges with them: 

  • Ad inventory is more limited because the ad has to fit the exact available space, whereas responsive display ads can fit in non-traditional inventory spaces.

Display: Responsive Ads

Responsive display ads, like responsive search ads, utilize the mix-and-match feature to test out different combinations of images or videos, headlines, and descriptions. 

What they’re great for: 

  • Situations where you don’t need stringent control over the appearance of the ad.
  • Driving awareness.

Challenges with them: 

  • The ads can vary so widely. One ad might combine a headline and image, and another might not contain an image at all. It’s important that none of the elements are necessary to understand the meaning of the ad because it might not be present in every combination. 



Programmatic ads fall into four categories: display, video, ConnectedTV, and native. Regardless of which type, they are shown on websites and/or TV that is part of the programmatic network you’re using. 

What they’re great for: 

  • Complementing display or video ads you may be running on Google’s Display Network or YouTube.
  • Seamlessly blending into content on the website they’re shown on, for native ads.
  • Reaching a specific audience. Yes, even as specific as the top 5% of households that spend a significant amount on stamps and coin collecting, if that’s who you’re trying to reach.
  • Driving awareness.

Challenges with them: 

  • Performance strongly depends on compelling ads. If the ads don’t stand out, they won’t get much traction.



Sponsored Content

Sponsored content ads are simple - you click on an ad and are taken to a landing page. 

What they’re great for: 

  • Reaching an audience using targeting options that aren’t available on many other platforms, including job title, seniority, company, member groups, and type of degree.
  • Building awareness.

Challenges with them: 

  • Getting a Goldilocks audience size -  not too large and not too small.
  • Cost per click can be high across all types of LinkedIn ads.
  • A campaign-specific landing page is the optimal experience, but plan for additional time and budget.


Lead Generation

The initial ad appearance of lead generation ads is similar to sponsored content ads, but these ads promote content. 

Here’s how they work: 

First, the ad appears in a person’s LinkedIn feed. Once they click on it, they’re taken to a form that auto-fills with the information from the person’s profile. Once the form is submitted, that information is sent to the advertiser and the person who filled out the form receives the content.


What they’re great for: 

  • Collecting information from the people who fill out the form, including name, email, current job title, and company, just to name a few.
  • Learning who is interested in your content. Over time, you can begin to see who actually converts out of everyone who fills out the form. 

Challenges with them: 

  • You need a privacy policy page for these ads to run.
  • Launching the ads isn’t enough. You need a nurture strategy in place for following up with people who fill out the form.


YouTube Ads

Ads on YouTube can be videos, but they don’t have to be. 

What they’re great for: 

  • Visually stunning video content that will intrigue your audience.
  • Running a display or overlay video next to content that is topically relevant.

Challenges with them: 

  • Brand safety can be a potential pitfall. The last thing you want as an advertiser is your ad running before an offensive video. Ensuring that the video content is related to your brand can prevent this.
  • Not being skipped. Getting your key message and relevant information in before a user hits the “Skip Ads” button can be tricky, but not impossible.


Facebook & Instagram Ads

Ads on these two social media platforms can vary quite a bit in appearance, as there are quite a few different types. 

What they’re great for: 

  • People spend a lot of time on social media. This allows you to target them in a place they’re already likely to be.
  • Reaching people with an ample mix of different ad types, from carousel ads to instant experiences.
  • Awareness.

Challenges with them: 

  • Like LinkedIn, getting the right audience size here can be difficult. Depending on the situation, there may not be an audience size large enough to run an ad.


No matter what mix of ads you choose for your plan, be patient and give them enough time to run before. As data comes in be prepared to make tweaks and changes as you learn about their performance. 


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