Digital Advertising
Digital Advertising

Digital Advertising Strategy in 2020

HubSpot's Manager of Acquisition tells us what to stop, start, and keep doing in 2020 with digital advertising strategies.

Josh Chang

Manager, Acquisition Analytics


There’s a lot that falls under digital advertising: design, audience targeting, optimizations, analysis, and more. Organic content channels are flooded and not reaching as many people as before, so paid advertising is an effective way to get your content to the top of people’s feeds (and their minds). But the variety and breadth of the topic can make it hard to master and intimidating to test.

In our latest HubSpot Research survey, we asked marketers "What percentage of your overall marketing budget are you spending on advertising?"

What Percentage of Your Budget is Used on Advertising?

If your company plans to invest in paid media, take the time to evaluate digital advertising trends and analyze data from your past campaigns to figure out how you can most effectively invest your ad dollars.

There’s a ton to cover on this topic. In this article, I’ll focus mainly on landing page optimization, measuring your campaigns differently, and the dos and dont's with display ads.

In 2020, let’s look beyond the click and unearth the true value of our digital advertising campaigns.

For Paid Search and Paid Social, Stick With What Works

In 2020, continue advertising via paid search and paid social, and keep doing what works for your brand. This likely means continuing to invest in the “big four” — Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram — as well as seeking new opportunities to reach your audience through online advertising. In our latest research, marketers in North America reported that Facebook provides the highest return on investment, with Google Search a close second.

Regardless of what channel you use, always measure your results as a means to drive future strategy. For example, if you’re a B2B company and want to try Instagram as a channel, make sure you have an idea of what “success” looks like on Instagram before you run your campaign. Does that mean driving direct conversions from Instagram, or thinking of it more as a brand awareness play?

Additionally, make sure you are testing your landing pages and your website. Since your landing pages and website are major players in the campaign game, how are you optimizing those assets to maximize the impact of your ads? HubSpot has a ton of content on A/B test ideas, but something a little more advanced might be to test your conversion actions. For example, testing the number of fields in your form can help you answer a question like “is my form too long and hurting conversion rate?” Or on the flip side, is my form too short (i.e. I’m just collecting email addresses), and all of the “leads” I’m driving from this landing page are low quality and not actually driving customers and revenue for my business. This point leads nicely into the next section!

Look Beyond Click and Conversion — Zoom in on Value and ROI

In 2020, start calculating the value of your digital advertising beyond clicks and conversions.

Marketers tend to focus on conversions and their cost per conversion and, hey, I’ve done this too. But the big question is: how do you know what a good cost per conversion is? You can’t truly know that unless you’re measuring the value of your conversions, and keep in mind every conversion is different.

The key to answering this is to get more granular in how you’re measuring the value and ROI of your campaigns. Start by reviewing the contacts that converted from your campaign. (If you’re using HubSpot, you can use the Pipeline tool or the Ads tool to measure and calculate ROI.)

In other words, having your full-stack marketing foundation in place is crucial for knowing the full value your ad campaigns are bringing. This means you have a way to join impression, click, and cost data from Google, Facebook, and other channels to your CRM or revenue systems.

This leads to insight like: My campaign spent $500 to generate 100 clicks and 20 conversions (ad platform data), which led to 5 purchases for $X of revenue or lifetime value (CRM data).

A simpler alternative to this might be knowing each of your website conversions is worth $X to your business from historical data, and using that as a starting point.

This approach to calculating the value of your advertising also helps you answer attribution questions, such as what attribution model you should use. You can’t answer this question without first knowing your revenue data.

Even if you can’t nail down an exact number for revenue or LTV, start with your best guess and get more specific as you go. To get even more granular, consider looking at conversion value per channel. What’s the value of a new customer who converted on mobile? How about on Facebook or Instagram? How does the value of my conversion change if I shorten or lengthen my form and collect different information? Conversions from different slices like these often have different ad performance and value tied to each.

Here’s the bottom line: look beyond your lead number and start calculating the value of those leads. These downstream metrics and numbers are the best data to reference when talking to management about advertising. They don’t worry as much about impressions and cost-per-click, they just want to see that their money is working for them, and will pay closer attention when you talk about the return on your ad spend or ROI. Make an effort to speak their language, and you’ll likely have more flexibility with your budget.

Rethink How You use Display Ads

In 2020, stop relying on display ads for conversions.

Display ads are generally measured by view-through conversions (when visitors saw your ad but don’t click, and then convert later), which, depending on your goals, are less valuable than a click-through conversion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for display ads. They can work for a brand awareness campaign. But if you’re relying on display ads for conversions (measured with view-through), it’s time to rethink your strategy.

I’m not suggesting you abandon display ads. At HubSpot, we look at how brand awareness campaigns (campaigns not meant to drive direct conversion) and performance campaigns (campaigns meant to drive direct conversion) work together. For example, if we invest $1,000 into a brand campaign, do we see a lift in our performance campaign results?

Display ads can also boost organic and cross-channel performance because consumers see your brand, their curiosity is sparked, and they search for your brand’s website or your social media accounts. If you take a look at your source data after running display ads and you notice a correlated increase in organic traffic, there may be a relationship between your brand awareness advertising and organic traffic. It can be tricky to measure this correlation, but if you can, you’ll have a better picture of how display and brand awareness campaigns should be valued and impact the bottom line.

Overall, it’s tough to balance and measure the relationship between brand and performance campaigns, but it’s safe to say that display ads are not your best bet for driving conversions. Stick to these for building awareness.

Additionally, in 2020, stop running the same ads on mobile and desktop. I’ve found that marketers are still treating mobile and desktop as the same medium and are considering conversion value the same. This is no longer true — mobile and desktop need to be considered as two very different ad subsets of all your paid and non-paid platforms.

When deciding between the two, consider where your audience is. For example, if you’re a SaaS company (like HubSpot), it’s safe to assume much of your audience and high quality users are on desktop — that’s where a big chunk of your budget should be going.

Marketers need to start thinking of their leads more like audiences, and that they are either product-interested or content-interested. Tailor your promotional strategy to each. Marketers may be tempted to target audiences who have expressed interest only in their content with a product ad, but be patient!
Barb Gagne, Cyberreason

Barb Gagne

Director of Digital Marketing

We’ve seen more success through desktop ads, but if you’re an ecommerce business or a B2C business, mobile might be the way to go — depending on where your audience is shopping. A good example of this is Rothys, a direct-to-consumer shoe company that invests in Instagram ads.

HubSpot Video


My Recommended Digital Advertising Tool

To improve your web strategy and digital advertising in 2020, I recommend Supermetrics. This powerful reporting and automation tool lets you leverage API connectors to tons of different channels (no coding required), and integrates with familiar visualization and reporting tools like Google Sheets and Google Data Studio. This allows you to bring all the data you have from different channels (Google Ads, Facebook, HubSpot, Google Analytics), and analyze it in one place. There’s even a ton of flexibility to pull data from your own databases if you have a more complex setup.

Take a Deep-Dive Into the State of Digital Advertising

Of course, the best way to learn about these strategies and approaches is by testing and implementing them. In 2020, focus on creating advertising campaigns that impact your audience and leverage compelling media. If you want to gain insight into what other marketers are doing, access over 70 data points and trends from over 3,400 marketers around the world. Dive deeper into HubSpot's survey data by clicking the download button on the banner below.  

Editor's note: This article was researched in December 2019 and January 2020, and was originally published in early February 2020. A lot has changed in the world since then, so keep that in mind as your process these trends and data. 

By Josh Chang

Manager, Acquisition Analytics

HubSpot's Josh Chang sat down with us to talk about digital advertising strategy and he left the room with our jaws still open and a mic on the ground. If you're getting serious about ads this year, this is a good place to start.

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