SEM Guide: How to Find the Perfect Channels for your Campaign

SEM Guide: How to Find the Perfect Advertising Channel


What’s the best place to advertise online? The answer today is more complicated than it’s ever been. Google AdWords is what comes to mind when somebody thinks of a classic Pay-Per-Click campaign (and we’re talking about AdWords in our next blog post).

But the choices are endless, and they’re getting more numerous.

The question is: what’s the perfect place for your customers and your particular product or service?

Where do your customers spend their time?

If you watched our webinar on building buyer personas, you should have a detailed profile of who your target market is. What their likes are, their dislikes, their dreams, problems, beliefs and hobbies.

You’ll also know where they spend most of their time online (if they even spend time online). In this video, Roar Local says that if your target market is a 60-year old grandmother whose only online activity is emailing her friends using an AOL email address but hates computers, then you shouldn’t advertise online. Catalog marketing would be the best approach for her.

Where does your ideal customer spend his or her time online?

  • Do they have a favorite blog?
  • Do they visit major news sites?
  • Do they spend a lot of time on Facebook?
  • Do they like watching cat videos on YouTube?
  • Are they constantly searching for new sites on StumbleUpon?
  • Is your customer a traveling sales person who uses her phone to search for cool places to eat?

Your persona profile will tell you where your ideal customer spends his time, which is also the key for the best way to reach them.

The Ever Growing List of Online Advertising Options

As I mentioned above, the list of where to advertise online is very long, and growing longer. Ad networks, social media, individual blogs and independent websites are now being joined by the mobile experience.

Here’s a sample list of the most common places to advertise, but this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Search Engines

Google AdWords is by far the best known and largest online property to advertise, with Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing in second and third places, respectively, in the U.S.

However, if your market is global, you should check out this article from CNET, which says that China’s Baidu network is ranked 2nd in the world, and fourth was Russian’s Yandex network.

Ad Networks

Closely related to search engines are ad networks. Google, Yahoo, Bing and many other companies manage advertising on third party sites. If you’ve ever visited several websites in a row, and you saw the exact same ad in the header or the sidebar, then you probably encountered sites whose advertising was managed by an ad network.

Two of the most famous are the Google Display Network and the Google Affiliate Network. The Google Display Network is massive, encompassing more than 4 billion daily page views, 700 million monthly users, and reaching more than 80% of the online audience. It enables you as a business owner to advertise on potentially thousands or millions of independent websites that your potential customers frequent on a daily basis.

We’ll cover another way to advertise on independent websites, but the Google Display Network is one of the most powerful, if not overlooked, ways to advertise online.

Website Marketing Reviews has a fairly comprehensive overview of ad networks in general.

Social Media Options

SEM Guide: Social Media Channels


YouTube is actually the third largest search engine in the U.S., and the fourth in the world, according to Karmasnack. Using videos is a great way to separate yourself from your competition, so this is an advertising property I would pay special attention to.


Facebook is the fourth largest search engine in the U.S., according to the Karmasnack article, and at 1.06 billion active users as of January 30 2013, it’s the world’s largest social network.

Facebook is amazing not just because of its sheer size, but also because of the level of micro-targeting you have access to. You can target your advertising with very detailed demographic and geographic options, allowing you to spend far less than you would normally spend on a Google ad, yet achieve much more targeted results.


If your buyer is more of a business buyer, then LinkedIn advertising is probably a better fit. As with Facebook, you can target specific demographic characteristics, with the addition of companies and industries. Again, a very cost-effective way to micro-target your audience.

Other Social Networks

Twitter, Pinterest and many other social networks allow advertising. A very fruitful but little known source for social advertising is StumbleUpon Paid Discovery.

B2B Networks

If you sell a niche product or service to a B2B audience, you might want to consider advertising on one of many niche websites or ad networks, such as IT BusinessEdge and UBM Tech.

For a younger, hipper IT crowd, venture capitalists and geeky consumers, sites such as Mashable, TechCrunch GigaOm, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, ClickDex and Sociable Blogs present interesting alternative advertising networks.


The beautiful thing about the web is that you can approach independent owners of successful blogs that target your ideal customer. Many bloggers don’t take advertising, but many do. Independent bloggers also provide an added benefit: many of them are willing to enter into an affiliate relationship with you. Essentially, you don’t pay for the ads until somebody actually buys something, a great option if your advertising budget is low or non-existent.

Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising is the brave new frontier of online advertising. I would venture to say that anybody who advertises online should put this at the front of their list (always taking into account who your target market is).

Mobile is the fastest growing way to reach the internet. It already surpasses the desktop in most third world countries. If you haven’t made mobile a centerpiece of your online marketing, you’re behind the eight ball.

Your Next Steps

Where to advertise is a complex subject which requires lots of due diligence on your part. To summarize, you need to:

  • Create a complete profile of your target market. This is known as a “persona.” Our recent webinar guest Xavier Colomés described the importance of “Personas.”
  • Find out where your target market spends most of their time online. Are they Facebook junkies or do they prefer to read about the latest new iPhone apps on Mashable?
  • Explore all the different possibilities for advertising online, including the major search engines, ad networks, social media properties, B2B networks, independent blogs and websites, and affiliate networks.

In our next installment we’re covering the mechanics of one particular type of advertising: Google Adwords.

See you then!