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Hacking Paid Media: 5 Little Tweaks That Can Deliver Big

Paid media’s importance lies in the fact that it is the one marketing channel that guarantees volume and timing. While it can become costly at times, implementing a few tricks and ideas can substantially increase the effectiveness of your paid SEM and display banner campaigns. By following these 5 tweaks and tactics, you will start getting more from your campaigns while still staying within your marketing budget.

Paid Media Is Important

Its ability to deliver and scale a brand’s message to the right people at the right time is unmatched by any other form of advertising. While AdWords, Facebook Ads, and banner ad campaigns can deliver a lot of immediate and long-term value to a brand, the channel can become very costly as well – eating away at the budgets of beginner and experienced marketers alike. However, implementing a few quick tweaks and tactics to your overall paid media strategy can help you drive down your costs and earn more value from your media buying initiatives.

To get the most out of your efforts, understand and internally define these three factors of your paid media:

  1. Targeting – Who should see the ads?
  2. Messaging – What should the ads say?
  3. Goals – What needs to be achieved?

Once these three factors have been defined based on your efforts, you can add to and tweak your current campaigns’ targeting and messaging to help you reach your defined goals. Below are five targeting, messaging, and goal defining tactics that can help you, the online marketer, find new successes with paid media. Let’s jump in!

1. Target Keywords Of Your Industry’s Biggest Events

Attending industry tradeshows and events is crucial for many businesses. It provides a more personable way for businesses to connect with prospects, clients, and audiences that can’t be done through email or social media channels. But people can only have so much networking volume in person. Using Adwords, brands can reach a large volume of a tradeshow’s audience at a relatively low cost by targeting their industry’s biggest events.


Greenbuild is perhaps the world’s largest and most popular expo dedicated to green building. Thousands of deals can get started during its expo. So wouldn’t it make sense for relevant companies to build interest around the event’s keyword? Not yet, apparently:

greenbuild monthly searches

The volume of search queries around Greenbuild will only increase as the event gets closer. At a very low competition and a high volume of searches, it makes sense for any green construction firm to advertise on this keyword.

Below you’ll see that Marin Software took the initiative with the ad:tech New York event, perhaps the biggest online advertising and marketing event:

adtech google advertisement by marin software

2. Iterate Creative Copy To Promote Your Brand’s Earned Media Wins

If you were researching a product like KISSmetrics, would you click on an ad like this?


I definitely would.

Whether a product is earning positive media on Twitter, a small blog, or Mashable, any social proof can help move a brand’s audience from thinking about converting to actually converting. Unfortunately, most of your earned media won’t have the reach or volume to be able to influence all of the people who you’d like to be apparent to.

By using your paid media creatives to promote your latest earned media wins, you will give your earned media the reach that it’s missing. Try using tweets for the copy and landing page of your Adwords ads, or having your display ads promote your big coverage pieces or favorite testimonials.

Examples from the wild:

paid media ad for

Salesforce has committed an ad bombardment around its 2011 Dreamforce event, serving dozens of ads to promote it. This display ad particularly stood out, as it promotes its winning of the 2010 CRM Market Awards to display its legitimacy to those looking for new CRM solutions.

evidon paid media ad

Evidon uses some of its big client wins to promote their service. Using logos of Akamai, The Media Kitchen, Mopar, and other brands as social proof, Evidon is effectively showing off their credibility and peaking its audience’s interest.

3. Use Paid Media To Generate Earned Media

Your brand’s starting to grow and you’re acquiring some great customers and partners, and you’re looking to keep this going. If your current customers truly are happy, they wouldn’t have any qualms with referring you to people within their own network who can benefit from your services. The only problem is that asking for referrals can be tough. You want to make it easy for your customers, and you don’t want to come off as needy or sound like you’re begging for business.

Paid media can be used as an awesome and automated approach to help you generate some earned media and referral business. To do this the right way, your ad creatives and landing pages need to be positioned appropriately. Have the messaging of your ads promote your brand’s values and use a call to action that promotes sharing. As for the landing pages, you can have your ads direct your audience to your social network of choice, with a pre-populated message that will help your audience spread your message to their own networks.

Here’s a great example of this from TheGiveGive’s Jeff Riddle:

give-give advertisement

Clicking on this ad will take users here, which pre-populates your tweet box with this message: “”Giving is good business” via @thegivegive”.

This can be applied on Linkedin and Facebook as well! Click the following links to check it out:

4. Retargeting Visitors Who Have Visited Important Webpages

If display and SEM are the bread and butter to your paid media initiatives, retargeting should be the meat of it. What you may already know is that retargeting shows ads to everyone who has visited your website but has left without converting. It is generally a much more cost effective way to drive conversions, since you’re only spending your advertising dollars toward people who have already shown interest in your brand, and you’re not spending any money toward developing an initial brand interest.

To retarget effectively, it’s a best practice to show roughly 15 to 20 impressions to each of your unique visitors who haven’t converted. However, sites with a small budget and a large amount of traffic may have a hard time allocating spend for retargeting. Naturally, an advertiser would attempt to combat this by starting with a smaller spend, but doing this will deliver sub-par results since the audience is being served less than 15 ads each month.

To fix this problem, start by retargeting visitors who have visited just one of your more important pages within your site (such as your pricing page), as opposed to your entire site. By doing so, you won’t waste any money on retargeting a sub-optimal amount of impressions to all of your website’s visitors. Instead, you’ll be focusing an optimal amount of impressions to a smaller, but more active and conversion ready audience. This effectively lowers your spend and increases your performance.

5. Drive Activation

The whole point of advertising is to spread your message. Companies generally spend money on ads with the hopes of achieving or optimizing toward an ROI. This general use case involves using ads to drive relevant traffic back to their website. But this use case doesn’t use paid media’s guaranteed timing and volume to its full potential.

Contests are amazing ways to drive brand activation and recognition. The problem with online campaigns, however, is that they tend to require people to visit a brand’s own internet real estate to partake in them. Using paid media, brands can activate a larger volume of people from real estate that the brand doesn’t have to own.

The campaign (look at the ad in the bottom right corner):

yahoo ad

Target ads to a relevant audience or retarget ads to your current audience, with messaging based around finding a secret ad to win something.

youtube paid media

Pick a time to serve your secret ads, and gather your winners! Anyone who clicks on the winning ad should be sent to a landing page to claim their booty. Terminate the campaign once it’s gathered a set number of winners. (Thanks to Chester French for the idea)

This not only drives your brand’s recognition and activation, but it develops stronger relationships and loyalty with your brand’s audience base. Ultimately, you’ll receive all of the benefits of running a contest just from serving some ads.


While paid media can become a very costly marketing channel, its guaranteed timing and volume gives marketers a lot of hidden value to work with. From quick tweaks to unique ideas, paid media campaigns can be modified to start delivering more marketing value in many ways, while keeping its costs within current budgets.

Have you tried any of these tactics? Do you have any cool tips and ideas to add? Be sure to share your findings below, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know how I can be helpful to you.

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics combines behavioral analytics with email automation. Our software tracks actions of your users across multiple devices allowing you to analyze, segment and engage your customers with automatic, behavior-based emails in one place. We call it Customer Engagement Automation. Get, keep and grow more customers with Kissmetrics.



About the Author: Samir Soriano is the Director of Marketing at ReTargeter, and enjoys helping, learning, and doing.

  1. Nice one Retargeting is where it is at!

    I also like the bidding on seasonal or event keywords idea. has some good points on carrying the message through ad, landing page and onwards, keep delivering on initial promises. Too many people just send people to their standard homepage, get specific for different people and ads.

    • Interesting, Dan. I gotta check out the Zero Moment Of Truth.

      • Enjoy mate, my favorite video is from the landing page, the cupcake store owner who says online marketing was critical to her success. More offline businesses NEED to see this. It’s from Google and no opt-in for anyone else interested.

  2. Great article Samir!
    Thank you for sharing!

    Also, Dan´s suggestion is very valuable, I´ve downloaded ZMOT and will definitely be reading it in the next few days

  3. Samir,

    Thanks for sharing the post.

    Any data or research to support the claim “To retarget effectively, it’s a best practice to show roughly 15 to 20 impressions to each of your unique visitors who haven’t converted.”


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