Online Marketing: Beginner’s Guide


This guide is designed for non-profit organizations or small businesses. (The examples are from organizations that serve expectant parents or young families but the big picture applies to any service.) I know there are a lot of folks doing great work, but we all have limited advertising budgets, and it’s hard to get the word out sometimes. You may have tried things like a print ad in the newspaper – but doing that once a year may be $250 and you can only hope that it gets you some people. (Ask today’s parents if they read the newspaper… I’m guessing the answer will be no. Most of the people who see your newspaper ad will be past the age of child-rearing. They’re not your target audience.)

With today’s online marketing, there are much more effective ways to spend your ad dollar that allows you to put your ad in front of a very targeted audience of young parents in the places where they look everyday (Facebook, online search engines, and YouTube. To see statistics on who uses social media, click here.)  This tutorial offers an overview of your options, with links to more details. (And, of course, once you have the basic vocabulary and ideas I share here, you can do online searching to learn lots more about all these topics.)

The big picture view: to increase awareness of your services to potential future clients (who may not be looking for you now, but might in the future once they know about you), use Facebook Boosts or Ads. To reach people who are currently searching for services like yours, use Google Ads.

Facebook Boosts

The simplest (yet effective!) place to start is with Facebook posts. 68% of adults in the U.S. use Facebook. 74% of Facebook users visit Facebook every day. (source) This is where parents’ eyes are looking!

Facebook allows you to “boost” a post. When you write a regular post on your page, then your page followers will see it on their “feed”. Then you can also pay for a boost to put it on the feeds of people who don’t yet follow your page. In 2018, for $50 I boosted a post about our classes to local parents (see info on targeting below). That was displayed to 4705 local parents. Of those, 62 clicked through to learn more. Cost 81 cents a click. How to Boost.

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads allow you to place an ad right on the user’s “feed” – not off on a sidebar that they’ve learned to ignore. They can just read the ad, or they may choose to click on it. (You choose what happens when they click – they could click to like your Facebook page, or the click could link to your website.) You only pay if they click on your ad.

Facebook ads let you target. For example, I targeted an ad to people that Facebook has determined are: women, 24 – 45 years old, living in Snoqualmie, North Bend or Fall City Washington that Facebook believes are parents of toddlers (1 -2 years) or preschoolers (3 – 4 years). Facebook said that’s a possible audience of 3400 people.

This year, on average, for $10, Facebook would display an ad to about 500 people in my targeted group, and about a dozen would click through My average cost per click was 90 cents for each person who came to our site to learn more – fairly good bang for the buck.  How to place ads on Facebook.

Wondering whether page boosts or ads are better?

  • A post boost is something that will appear on your page’s timeline and reach your current followers as well as who it is boosted to. You can have longer text in a boost.
  • An ad does not appear on your timeline, so you can write it so it appeals to new customers who know nothing about your brand. You can also target ads a little more specifically than you can target boosts. You can also schedule them to appear at a later date.

Google ads

The big picture is: you create a short ad. You choose whether it will display on search networks, display networks, or both. Then you define what kinds of people to show it to (geographic region, etc.). Then you define “keywords.”

For “search network advertising”: When someone in your region searches for those keywords (e.g. coop preschool), then the ad will display at the top of the listings. For “display network” your ad will appear in a sidebar when people are looking at related content (e.g. an article about choosing preschools). I only do search network because I specifically want to target my ads at people who are searching for my service now.

Here are my 2018 results.

Ad Impressions Clicks Click-thru CPC Spent
Coops 4328 210 1.9% 2.36 195.52
Toddler 5855 132 2.3% 1.62 213.93
Parent-Baby 2515 49 2.0% 2.11 103.19
Science & Art 1344 61 4.5% 2.29 139.58
Total/Averages 14,042 325 2.3 2.01 652.22

For example, I ran an ad for our parent-baby classes which would only show to people who were searching from a location in one of the seven cities served by our program. It would show if they searched for keywords such as “baby parenting class”; “mommy and me group” or “music class for babies.” Over a period of about 4 weeks, that ad showed to 2515 people who were actively searching for programs like ours. 49 clicked through to learn more. Cost $103. Learn how to place ads on Google and Yahoo Bing.

Promoting a video

You may choose to make a video for your website to promote your program. (It’s really simple to create a basic video with PowerPoint. You set up your slide show, record the narration, and add music as desired, then save it as a video.) If you do, then upload it to YouTube, then embed it somewhere on your website (check the help info in your website tool to learn how to do this.)

On Facebook, you can put a post with a link to the video, and then boost that post. (In 2017, my $10 test ad displayed to 1700, and 62 clicked through.) On Google Ads, you can create a “video campaign” (learn how and learn more). Ads display on YouTube. (My 2017 test ad displayed to about 950 people, 24 clicked through.) Or you can set up your ad (“promote your video”) on YouTube directly. (Learn how.)

Another option is to make a 15 second teaser video in a Facebook ad. If people like the mini video in the ad, they may click through to learn more.

Check your web presence

When you spend money on internet advertising, most of those ads will take people directly to your website to learn more about your program. PLEASE make sure your website is the best it can be and contains all the essential info they would need! Learn more here.

Is it working?

When you spend money on an ad in traditional media (newspapers, mailings, radio ads), it can be hard to tell: how many people saw the ad? How many were your target demographic? Did they take any actions after seeing the ad?

It’s easier to get those answers for online advertising. All the services listed above will give you all sorts of statistics on how many people saw the ad, how many clicked through, what portion of the video they watched, and so on. This helps you decide whether the ad was money well spent.

It’s even better if you can take this to the next level. Many websites allow you to see your statistics. So, for example, on a day you ran an ad, you can see not only how many people clicked in from your ad, but what they did once they got to your site. Did they click on links on the page? Did they look at other pages? How much time did they spend on your site? There are also some external tools that can track statistics, like Google Analytics.

It’s even better if you can do “conversion tracking” which shows more specifically what a user did on your site after clicking through from an ad. These articles might be helpful to you: How to Track Facebook Ad Conversions and Understanding Conversion Tracking.

Staying up to date

The world of internet advertising is always changing, so if you want to be effective, update your website and your marketing strategy on a regular basis.

I wrote this overview in 2014, and updated it in summer 2018. The online world changes very quickly, and the processes might not be the same and you might not get the same results now as I got then.


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