Paid Media Marketing 101: The Basics of Modern Marketing


Christine Hannivan


Temps de lecture

9 mins
Paid Media Marketing 101: The Basics of Modern Marketing

Back in the pre-computer world, advertising was done on television, newspapers, billboards, etc. All of these had limited ad space available for companies to buy in hopes of getting their name and products out to the masses. Nowadays, with our societal shift to internet-first activity for, well, pretty much everything, the ad space is almost unlimited, but so is the competition. 

The days of the Mad Men-style suits and smoky room ad landscape of old are over. Ecommerce business owners now need to be experts in all kinds of paid advertising methods if they want to run a successful business and get eyes on their store. That said, getting started with a paid media marketing campaign to amp up brand awareness and sales doesn't have to be difficult.

Here’s everything you need to know about building, scaling, and optimizing a modern paid media marketing campaign for ecommerce businesses.  

What is Paid Media in Marketing?

In creating content that you can promote through paid ad placements like sponsored/boosted social media posts, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, pop-ups/banner ads on websites, and video ads, paid media marketing, if done properly, is one of the fastest ways to generate leads, brand awareness, and engagement for your business. 

Generally, there are three types of media your company should invest time and money in if you want a well-rounded and profitable presence online: 

  • Earned Media: Reviews, social media shares, press, etc.
  • Owned Media: Content created by your brand, like blog posts, podcasts, videos, downloadables, etc.
  • Paid Media: All of your paid advertising on search engines, publisher websites, social media platforms, etc. 

While focusing on earned and owned media is more of a long-game strategy that can take up to a year to see improvements, investing in paid ad campaigns early on can really make a difference in meeting and achieving your business goals today. 

Types of Paid Advertising

A well-rounded paid advertising strategy involves investing in various ad channels and content types. That said, starting with small monetary investments in a few areas where you feel your business might do well, is a great way to dip your toes into the world of paid media marketing without spending too much money. 

From there, you can start optimizing and scaling your campaigns as the data and results come in – but we’ll get to that part a little later on. Here are some of the most common types of paid ecommerce advertising options for your business: 

Pay-Per-Click, Paid Search, and Feed-Based Campaigns

PPC advertising is a form of paid media where advertisers pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of their ads. Platforms like Google Ads, Amazon Ads, Microsoft/Bing Ads, and Yahoo Ads will display your ads to users searching for specific keywords that you can bid on, auction-style, so that your ad is displayed across their search engines and other platforms (like YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.). 

More specific to ecommerce are feed-based PPC ads like Google Shopping campaigns, which use your product data to decide when and where to display your ads across the Google Search and Display networks, YouTube, and Gmail. 

These can be set up as standalone campaigns or through Performance Max campaigns in Google Ads (we’ll dive a little deeper into the latter a little later). Feed-based ads can also be set up on social media platforms like Meta, TikTok, Pinterest, etc. If you want to enhance these Shopping ads further with your local inventory, Google also offers Local Inventory Ads to display your local store information and products to nearby shoppers using Google. 

Depending on your audience, you may want to favor one service over another. Choose keywords that are closely related to your business and that also have a relatively small cost-per-click (CPC) to keep costs low. 

Display Advertising and Newsletter Sponsorships

While appearing in different places, display and newsletter ads are similar in that they are placed in areas run by publishers other than yourself. Display ads can be set up on platforms like Google Ads or with direct publisher buys, while email sponsorships are done in partnership with the person or company running the newsletter. These give you access to large audiences of people with similar interests. 

These paid advertising types offer a few different ad formats and targeting options. Display ads, for example, can be banner ads or desktop/mobile leaderboard ads, while newsletter sponsorships can appear in email headers, display ads, or as native ads that appear within the email content itself. 

These ads are great because you can sell your products or services to a large group of people who may not yet be aware of your company, but they should be included as a part of a larger strategy since you can never be sure how many people will actually resonate with what you’re selling. 

To be successful with these paid media marketing types, ensure that the sites you wish to place ads on are getting the traffic you expect and that they can prove that they have a healthy list of email subscribers.

Social Media Ads

Paid social media marketing is a great way to grow your ecommerce business nowadays, and it should definitely be a part of your marketing strategy. Platforms like Meta, TikTok, X, Pinterest, etc., all offer robust ad platforms where you can choose to invest as much or as little as you’d like. They also offer some of the most in-depth and detailed ad-targeting options of all paid media platforms, making it easy to drill down your audience and increase your ad conversion rate.  

Social media advertisements can come in the form of video ads, photo carousels, single images, sponsored/boosted organic posts, and more, making it easy to play around with different formats and combinations to see what works and what doesn’t. 

One tip for setting up ads on social is to keep in mind that these platforms are very much mobile-first, so build your content to reflect an audience that needs a good reason to stop scrolling. 

Outdoor/Out-Of-Home (OOH), Digital Out-Of-Home (DOOH) and Print Ads

One of the oldest means of getting your name out there is running ads that people encounter as they move throughout their day. Depending on what your company sells, investing in print ads can be a relatively inexpensive way to make an impact on a specific audience. Going big and buying ad space on things like billboards, digital screens, and bus benches opens up some space to get creative and make an impact on people. 

For example, ads placed in the real world do well when they have an air of mystery to them and prompt viewers to satisfy their curiosity by visiting your website, landing page, or social media platforms. You can also create something eye-catching that interacts with the environment the ad is placed in, ensuring that you leave a lasting impression on those who are just passing through. 

We also shouldn’t forget digital out-of-home advertising. These are the kinds of ads you’ll see on screens while out and about in the world. They can be as large as the ads displayed in Times Square or as humble as an ad on a fast food menu screen behind the cash register. 

While ads online can be blocked by ad blockers, DOOH ads can’t. They can be a great way to reach new customers, and the variety of placement locations/options means there’s something available for every budget!

Video/Podcast/Radio/Television Advertising

While videos can run as ads on social media, you should also consider creating video advertisements for other platforms like YouTube (which can be set up through Google Ads) since they require different aspect ratios and lengths to meet the demands of each platform. 

Another great way to get your name out there is to sponsor podcasts. 

Podcasts are unique because they can cater to niche groups. They have very loyal audiences who are generally receptive to the idea that buying products or services from podcast ad reads can help out their favorite creators and ensure they can continue to make the shows they love. Having a targeted product and market fit is easier when the topic of interest is laser-focused

Finally, and more traditionally, radio and television ads are similar to outdoor and print ads in the sense that they can reach large audiences but suffer from the lack of specific targeting you can get from other forms of paid media marketing. These ads can also get expensive, so try some other types out before you graduate to this type of marketing.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a great way to promote your company and build a following for your brand. Companies can work with influencer agencies or content creators directly to have people with larger online followings show off and promote your products in the form of videos, social media posts, blog articles, and more. 

Influencers can get expensive, though, depending on their follower count, so a good place to start is to find micro-influencers who might not have hundreds of thousands of followers but who have loyal fanbases and communities to advertise to. 

Scaling and Optimizing Your Paid Media Strategy

As an ecommerce business, you can throw a little money into a few of the aforementioned paid media types, but if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll want to put some time and effort into optimizing and growing your strategy as a whole. Here’s how:

Choose the Right Channels

Not every business needs to be active on every platform. Through a mix of competitor and customer research, learn where your competitors are advertising and where your ideal customers are spending the most of their time, and optimize for those channels. For example, B2B software companies might have a hard time finding an audience on TikTok, whereas a boutique candle store probably shouldn’t spend much time advertising on LinkedIn. 

You’ll also want to consider segmenting your efforts between campaign goals and your customer’s position in the sales funnel. For example, display ads are great for brand awareness campaigns, but search advertising will get more clicks from people further down the funnel who are ready to purchase.

Understand How to Measure Campaign Results

One benefit of paid media is how easy it is to track campaign results. Not only should you monitor your ad campaign performance, but you should also be looking into the actions people are taking after clicking/viewing them. 

Understanding that favoring certain KPIs for certain campaigns and different ones for others will also help you gain the right insights from each campaign. For example, you should pay closer attention to your ad impressions KPI if the goal of the campaign is brand awareness, while conversion rate will be much more important if your goal is to increase sales or email newsletter sign-ups. 

Experiment With New Tools and Features

The paid advertising landscape is constantly changing. While this generally means having better features and tools at your disposal, it also means that keeping up with updates and trends could get tricky. Many of the most popular ad managers regularly publish updates and changes to their social media accounts and websites. For example, Google Ads keeps a running list of all their new features and announcements in their Help Center, as does Microsoft Ads.

At Blue Badger, one of our favorite new updates to the paid ad world is the launch of Google Performance Max campaigns, which are a new way to purchase Google ads across YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps with a single campaign. These complement your keyword-based Search campaigns to help you grow performance across all of Google’s advertising channels, making them extremely powerful tools for sales acceleration and brand awareness. 

We also love Shopify Audiences, for its ability to create custom audience cohorts based on user's Shopify store data and the data of stores like theirs. 

Another exciting update comes with Yahoo Advertising’s brand new Yahoo Blueprint, which uses AI to power, improve, scale, and optimize your campaigns. Launched in December 2023, this feature is still in its early stages but already offers a sizable amount of predictive analysis and data visualization features built to help users get the most out of every campaign, with the promise of more updates to come.  

Forget the Default Settings

While it could be tempting to start small and run campaigns with the default settings some ad platforms put in place – like Google Smart Campaigns – we strongly recommend getting a feel for the platform with custom campaigns that will offer you much more robust targeting options right out of the gate. 

The ease of use here comes with the caveat that you’re forfeiting your ability to manage your bidding strategies, targeting, and more, making these campaigns less profitable than something properly customized for your goals and audience.

Test, Test, and Test Again

If you’re setting up campaigns with no intent to A/B test, you’re probably throwing money out the window without even realizing it. Most ad platforms offer the ability to split traffic between two or more ad variations so that you can see what best resonates with your audience and make changes as needed. 

More often than not, you’ll start to notice the value of making what seems like small, insignificant tweaks, such as changing the font size on an image or using a different keyword in your ad copy. Experiment with different optimizations, learn from the data, and never stop testing.

Should You Work with a Paid Media Marketing Agency?

Agencies offering paid media marketing services aren’t hard to come by, and working with a paid media agency can help take a lot of weight off your shoulders, especially if you are a small to mid-sized ecommerce business owner. 

That said, their services can be much more expensive than hiring an in-house paid media specialist to run this side of your business, and they will still require a lot of training to understand your unique business and the challenges you face. 

A positive to working with an agency is that their main mission is to stay up-to-date on digital marketing trends, updates, and algorithm changes, making them indispensable experts in understanding what’s working and what isn’t in the paid media space so you don’t have to. 

Additionally, working with multiple clients over many years equates to agencies bringing you a wealth of experience across many team members, while in-house teams are usually much smaller if not one single person.  

Conversely, they also must stay current on your company and industry, which means that you and your team will likely need regular meetings and conversations with them to ensure they understand what is required to succeed in your space. 

While agencies will always need to be trained, you can expect that they’ll have a good grasp of the company they work for and what is expected of them after a few initial meetings. 


To succeed at paid media marketing, scale and optimize your strategy by selecting the right platforms, measuring results through KPIs, embracing new tools, and conducting A/B tests. In this quickly evolving sector, adaptability, experimentation, and focusing on delivering value to your audience remain key to thriving amidst competition.

As an agency specializing in crafting comprehensive omnichannel ecommerce experiences, we at Blue Badger understand the unique challenges of ecommerce growth. Beyond paid media, our services encompass custom theme and app design, strategic planning, conversion rate optimization, ERP integration, PIM implementation, and more. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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