The time has come. You’ve decided to spend some money on online display advertising to help drive your business. Many people have the perception that online display advertising is difficult and choosing an ad network can seem daunting. Maybe you think your business can’t afford it, as it can be expensive, but with more self-service and low minimum networks becoming popular, smaller businesses can now take advantage of display advertising. Below, we discuss some of the key steps you should take and six questions to ask when choosing an ad network.

Figure out Your Marketing Strategy

There’s no one size fits all marketing strategy, as every business is a bit different, but similar strategies can be applied to like businesses. A good place to start is to take a look at what your competitors are doing. Where are they advertising? Who are they targeting? Additionally, what are your goals? Do you want your ads to have a lot of visibility, or do you want to target a very specific type of audience? Are you trying to get sales or build brand awareness for your business? Online advertising gives you the ability to do both depending on the ad networks you choose. Once you figure out exactly where you want to be and how much you want to spend, you’ll be better equipped to figure out which is the best ad network for you.

Do Your Research

Doing some research will put you in the best position to make the right decision for your business. This means getting familiar with the components of display advertising such as ad formats, pricing, targeting models, tracking, and key metrics you should know to measure performance. Once you feel confident with those topics, you can start looking at the multitude of advertising networks available.

Evaluate a Network

There are many types of networks out there. Some are very large and have a wide reach across the web, while others focus on niche markets and categories. Some are self-service while others are more hands on. There are some questions you should ask yourself about each possible network and how they might fit for your business. Below are 6 topical questions you should ask each advertising network when trying to decide where to advertise.

1) What is the size and audience of the network? Is it more of a niche audience or are a wide range of categories covered?

As we mentioned, depending on your strategy, you’ll want to choose an ad network that best complements that strategy. For example, if you own a network hardware business, choosing a network that allows you to target IT related categories would be a smart decision.

2) What are the pricing options? Are there spend minimums? Are prices based on CPC, CPA, or CPM models?

Different networks offer different pricing options. Make sure to ask if there are minimums, what they are, and if they may be able to adjust them to fit your budget. Additionally, CPC (cost per click) models are more appealing vs. CPM (cost per impressions) because you only pay for clicks. AdSpeed has a nice breakdown of the different pricing models if you’re not already familiar with the differences.

3) What ad formats are available? Are there any unique ad formats or unique ad positioning offered?

This is generally more relevant to larger advertisers, as they have the ability to produce unique advertising pieces, but checking the available ad formats could make a difference for you. Certain retailers like Amazon, allow you to place ads along side certain products or at key buying stages, like the checkout page, which offer a unique placement versus a typical banner ad which may be more beneficial to you depending on your offering. Additionally, some networks also take advantage of new technology like mobile location-based advertising, which can help you stand out amongst your competitors and other advertisers.

4) Do they help optimize your account, or is it a self-service platform? If they do help, how?

Some networks come with a dedicated rep or team to help you get the most out of your campaigns. Obviously these will be more expensive than other self-service available networks. Good advice from ReachLocal: If you do have someone helping you, make sure they know exactly what your goals are and how they’ll help you achieve them.

5) What kind of reporting do they have?

Ask for examples of reporting. Do they offer a lot of tools to help you make business decisions? If they have robust reporting, a rep might not be needed, which can help bring down your cost.

6) Do they have any additional offerings? Affiliate, PPC, Facebook, or Email Marketing?

Perhaps you’re looking for a one-stop shop. Some networks also have additional offerings other than just online display advertising. In combination with other options like PPC (pay per click) and email marketing, online display advertising becomes even more effective.

Whether it’s online display advertising, PPC, or some other form of advertising, these same questions should be asked when deciding where to spend your marketing budget. Don’t be afraid to ask each network rep questions about their platform, audience, and services. Also don’t be afraid to negotiate. Many vendors may lower their minimums or allow for tests to show the effectiveness of their networks.

As mentioned above, online display advertising can be expensive but it’s worth looking into. Online display advertising can be a great way to gain brand awareness and if you choose the right placements it can be quite effective. Smaller budgets may want to consider PPC advertising, which can be more affordable and even more targeted to help keep expenses down. Again make sure to do your research so that you are better prepared to make the right decision for your business.

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