How Much Does Online Advertising Cost?

| PPC Management
How Much Does Online Advertising Cost?
  • 5.00 / 5 5
1 vote, 5.00 avg. rating (98% score)


One of the most common questions we get at Marketing 360® is about advertising costs.  Businesses getting ready to promote online, naturally, want budget estimates for their advertising.

It’s a good question, but the estimate is only useful when you understand how online advertising works – and how those processes determine what you’ll need to spend.

In this post, we’ll review how online advertising works on two of the biggest platforms, Google Adwords and Facebook Business.  Both of these platforms use algorithms that affect budgets, exposure levels, and rankings.  Also, both are auction systems where the amount you spend compared to your competition effects your results.

Quality and Relevance Scores

One thing that’s important to understand with online advertising is that while the systems use bidding between advertisers to determine exposure, the campaign with the highest bids is not usually the winner.

The reason has to do with an underlying standard of each platform:  they want to deliver content that’s the most useful and relevant for users.  A large part of what the algorithms do is assess the implied needs of the user, then match those needs to both the advertisement and landing page content.

For advertisers, this assessment is displayed in Google’s Quality Score and Facebook’s Relevance Score.  These are 1-10 scores that reflect how relevant your ad is for the targeted audience.  The more relevant you make the ad copy and landing page, the better the score will be, but the primary factor is user metrics.  When users engage with your ad and its content, the system determines that it’s serving its purpose, improving your score.

When you have a higher Quality/Relevance score, your threshold for most competitive bid goes down.  The system wants to display your ad because people like the content.  This means if you have an ad with a score of 9, and a competitor has a score of 2, they won’t be able to match your exposure, no matter how much they bid.

Quality score on Google Adwords is data column associated with a keyword:

google quality score

Facebook’s Relevance Score is found in their ads reporting tool:

facebook relevance score

The better quality your content is for users – as it connects to performance metrics – the less you have to spend to get exposure and ranking.

This, of course, affects your budget.  When your execution is at its best, you’ll get the most exposure possible for a lower overall budget.

Competitive Bidding

Both Facebook and Google are based on auctions that determine the amount of exposure you get.  While you bid against competition, your bidding is not literally one-to-one against them.  Rather it’s affected by what the system indicates you need to pay to get the maximum amount of exposure.

Facebook’s auction is based on three criteria.

First is the amount you bid.  Facebook suggests you bid an amount that reflects the value of the action you want people to take.  For something such as increasing likes, you might bid low.  For an actual website conversion, you’d bid more.

Second is the estimated action rate.  The necessary budget will vary depending on whether you want to boost a post, get a video view, or increase conversions on your website.  The system automatically displays your ad to the audience most likely to take the desired action.  If you target your ad more precisely, you’ll get more out of your budget.  Options include:

facebook campaign objectives

Third is the relevance score.  For example, if you have an ad that gets a lot of negative feedback, it decreases its value, and therefore its exposure.  An ad that gets a lot of likes or shares will do better.

Google Adwords takes into account your Quality Score and what other businesses are bidding, then gives you estimated bids, for both first page and top of page:

google estimated bids

As your campaign data is tracked, the bid you need to make to be at the top of page changes.  When the metrics reflect user engagement and interest, your required bid drops.  When user metrics are poor, you’ll have to spend more to hold higher positions.

Your Exposure Goals

The last factor in understanding how much your online advertising will cost is the most straightforward:  how much exposure you want from your campaign.

There are few cases – on either Facebook or Google – where you simply want to run your ads 24×7.  One of the advantages of digital advertising is how precisely you can target your ads so they show at the most relevant times for the right users.  Likewise, you don’t want to run ads when the clicks will be wasted by an audience unlikely to act on your conversion goal.

The amount of your campaign budget determines how often your ads show.  For example, Facebook uses an automated “pacing” program to shows your ads evenly over the time duration you set.  Similarly, your Google ads will be paced throughout the day based on your budget.  If your daily budget is lower, the system won’t display your ads every time a user does a search on your targeted keyword.  Your strategy needs to be set around getting your ads to show to your audience as much as possible during the time periods they’re most likely to convert.

On Google, the keywords you’re bidding on and the location of your advertising also affect your costs.  For example, a lawyer in Manhattan, Kansas bidding for the keyword “divorce lawyer” will pay less than a lawyer targeting the same keyword in Manhattan, NYC, where competition for top ranking is much higher.

Google and Facebook also have demographic features that let you display ads to targeted audiences based on criteria like age, location, gender, and interests.

Last, you can also use ad retargeting to show ads to specific groups who’ve already interacted with your brand.  On Google, you can create remarketing lists that use cookies to track people who’ve previously visited your website.  Facebook lets you create lists based on customers (like an email list), remarketing from website traffic, and from people who’ve downloaded an app.  These can be highly targeted ads based on the previous interaction.

When you speak with one of our marketing consultants, we’ll provide you estimates on what your online advertising budget will need to be.  But as you can see from the detail’s of this post, it’s a number that’s likely to change.

The goal is to work within the systems to your advantage.  When the campaigns are well optimized, you’ll reach the right audience at the lowest possible cost.