Paid Digital Media 101: Quick Course in Marketing Success

Selling products and services during increasingly digital times requires a crash course in paid digital media 101 and mobile advertising.


Sometimes life sends us back to school to brush up on skills necessary for success. In marketing, you need to polish your 4 Ps — product, place, price and promotion — and figure out how to deliver your message in an increasingly digital world.

You may offer a great product or service at the right price through a variety of distribution channels, including brick-and-mortar stores and online fulfillment services. But without efficient promotion, word won’t reach consumers.

That’s why paid digital media is important. You can’t just rely on what marketers call earned and owned media.

Earned, Owned, Paid

Earned media are the powerful posts about you that consumers create on social media. These posts may be based on your organizations’ owned media that consumers see on your website or on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Owned media includes whitepapers, blog articles and social media posts your organization produces.

In contrast, digital paid media is advertising, such as banners, smaller ads and videos you post on other websites and social media.  It also includes ads you sponsor on search engines — the kind that pop up in response to consumer Internet searches.

Channels for Paid Digital Media

Many digital pay roads lead to marketing success. Here are some of the basics.

Paid Search/PPC/SEO

Paid search is part of search engine marketing (SEM). One example of paid search that remains dominant is pay per click (PPC) advertising. A form of search engine marketing that doesn’t involve advertising is search engine optimization (SEO).

Effective SEO helps make your owned media rise into the top listings on the first page of a web search based on specific keywords you select. You can’t buy SEO, but you can hire a digital marketer to improve your website and its use of keywords.

In pay-per-click advertising, a search engine or social media entity charges you a fee each time someone clicks on one of your ads in their pages. One major trend in PPC is that Facebook is beginning to challenge the dominance of Google Adwords.

Display Advertising

If you want to monetize your own company’s website, you might allow other, non-competitive organizations to post display ads there. Or you might choose to spend part of your marketing budget on display ads on other company’s websites that you targeted through consumer data analysis.

Paid Social Media

What your company posts on its own social media accounts is organic social that should build community and encourage interaction with consumers. An organic post’s exposure is limited unless lots of people decide it is worth sharing.

Conversely, paid social makes it possible to advertise on the pages of many private social media accounts. Native advertising is one of the big trends. It blends in with the style and content of organic posts and may include texts, photos and videos.

Research shows that Internet users are most likely to share video, so it is emerging as a paid social strategy of choice. This leads to mobile marketing where video advertising is increasing rapidly.

Mobile Marketing

If you aren’t marketing on smartphones and computer pads, you may be losing lots of business from mobile-loving millennials these days. Text message alerts are a dependable staple for quick calls to action.

When designing SEM programs for mobile, consider that the conversational nature of voice-search tools (Siri, Cortana) are increasing the use of long-tail keywords that are more specific to a consumer’s needs. A good digital marketing agency can help you do it.

Programmatic Ads

Finally, you might say that mobile is the native tool for the next big thing in digital marketing — programmatic advertising. It involves millisecond auctioning of digital advertising space. The object is to reach specific viewers with exactly what they need as soon as their search pages load. It’s customer centric, it’s now and it’s likely to turn paid media into earned attention.


Posted by Sarah Prokopchak, Jr Account Executive at initiate-it, a digital first, full-service agency in Richmond, Virginia. Sarah has been working with initiate-it for over three years on a variety of client accounts including Sandler and VCU Health.