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Online advertising: The complete guide to internet ad types and formats

Online Advertising: The Complete Guide to Internet Ad Types and Formats

Investing your money in online ads poses its own new challenges, as you’ll be dealing with many different types of ads and platforms. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a thorough and in-depth guide to the different ad types and formats out there to help you build a solid online advertising strategy and spend your budget wisely.

Today’s economy’s key driving force is ever changing and marketers, whether they’ve been in the game for a while or are new to the field, must bring their a-game if they don’t want to fall behind. Entrepreneurs have come to the understanding that the only logical thing left to do in a world swarming with competitors is to create a website for their business and focus their efforts on building and revamping their online advertising strategy, while building some great advertisement examples at the same time.

Benefits of online advertising

As today’s leading medium for marketing you owe it to your online business to be online. While mass marketing like radio spots and printed media can make a difference to your business’ success, it won’t enable you to create a personal relationship with your potential consumers from around the world like online advertising can.

Not only will you be able to reach out to your target audience on a global scale and enable millions of consumers to reach your business, online advertising is also incredibly convenient and accessible. You can easily track sales items online, send notifications, develop a targeted audience engagement strategy and plan ad campaigns accordingly with just a few clicks. Plus, you’ll have access to a wide array of analytics tools so you know exactly which campaigns, marketing strategies and keywords are working for your business and which are not.

And if that wasn’t enough of an incentive for you to delve as deep as you can into internet advertising, one of online advertising’s top advantages is its cost-effectiveness and low operating cost. Unlike old-school methods where you have to spend a fortune to promote your products and services, online ads are inexpensive with certain sites enabling you to promote your website for free. Not to mention, you’ll be helping the environment by reducing paper, printing, and postage usage.

Types of online advertising

Whether you’re a seasoned paid specialist or are new to the online advertising game and have only heard of Image Ads, Video Ads and Carousel Ads, there are so many types of online ads available, it’s easy to get lost.

Most online advertising ads run today run according to programmatic advertising. This is essentially the use of technology to automate the targeting and running of online ads. It involves using software to target specific audiences, often in real-time. It's what makes online advertising so efficient and impactful.

In order to choose the best ad format for your campaign’s purposes and goals, ensure your ad is engaging a improve your return on Investment (ROI), you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these four main types of online advertising:

Social media ads

With more than half of the people on earth using social platforms, you simply can’t ignore social media advertising. In fact, social media ad spend has already surpassed printed ads and ranks as the third-largest advertising channel, behind TV and paid search.

Promoting your business via social media you’ll be able to reach and target specific audiences across the different channels, drive leads and sales, and leverage a variety of ad formats so that they best serve your marketing goals.

Note: One way you can promote your business is by using a link in bio tool such as Hopp by Wix to direct users towards your website and specific social channels via one designated URL.

When choosing the best social media ad format, ask yourself who your target audience is and which platforms they use, as well as the characteristics of the action you’re trying to promote. Knowing the different features and advantages each social ad strategy can offer you will help you figure out where to invest your money for better results.


With over 2.7 billion monthly active Facebook users and more than 90 million small businesses using the platform’s free business tools, reaching your relevant public has never been easier. Using Facebook’s ad targeting tools you can reach out to three types of audiences:

  • Core audiences: this tool enables you to define an audience based on their age, interests and geography.

  • Custom audiences: helps you get back in touch with users who have previously engaged with your business.

  • Lookalike audiences: enables you to reach new people whose interests are similar to those of your best customers.

There are several ways to advertise using Facebook, with the most commonly used ones being image, video, story and lead ads:

  • Image ads are great for driving traffic to your website and improving your internet advertising by sharing collections of images.

  • Video ads are super popular as they are both visually captivating and are perfect for showcasing your product and brand.

  • Story ads are an interactive solution that enables you to combine between photo and short-form video content.

  • Lead ads allow you to capture lead information, whether for newsletter subscribers, event registrations, or follow-up services without directing users out of the Facebook platform.

To learn more about how to make the most of each of these formats, read through our guide on the best practices to creating successful Facebook ads.

online advertising on facebook


Instagram is the social channel with the second-highest ROI among marketers, and is particularly relevant for those targeting audience ranges between the ages of 18 and 34. You can advertise on Instagram through your professional business account, create ads for your Facebook Page and promote them on either or both channels, or create custom campaigns in the Facebook Ads Manager targeted specifically at your Instagram audience.

Similarly to Facebook, Instagram ad types include image ads, video ads, story ads and lead ads. However, the most innovative ad types on Instagram at the moment are Ads in Explore and Shopping Post ads:

  • Explore is a discovery surface for users searching for new content and exploring their interests helping marketers reach a new audience.

  • Shopping Post ads include a product tag and allow you to maximize the reach of your products by boosting shoppable posts or creating the ad from scratch in Ads Manager for more creative flexibility.


There are over 187 million global daily active users on Twitter, with stats showing that 77% of Twitter users appreciate a brand more when it responds to their tweet. While digital advertising is less common on Twitter since organic reach is still a major indicator of a brand’s performance on the network, ads can still help you reach your business’ goals, particularly if your target audience ranges between the ages of 35-65.

Many B2B companies and e-commerce brands have found success creating Twitter ads through influencer marketing campaigns. Rest assured knowing that the potential to monetize your efforts on the social network will likely pay off, as stats have shown that 40% of users made a purchase based on a sponsored tweet.

You can target a specific audience on Twitter and then leverage your advertising strategy across Pinterest and Instagram as well, or turn to Conversational Ads - which are tweets with CTA buttons promoting specific hashtags. This type of ad can help you fuel word-of-mouth promotion of an upcoming event or product launch, however, you’ll have to request access to this ad format by filing a support ticket on Twitter. For more tips, check out our full guide on how to use Twitter.


LinkedIn is the second-most popular social media platform among B2B marketers, ranking only behind Facebook, and it’s definitely the place to be if you want to promote your business. Its one-of-a-kind targeting capabilities allow you to target users by criteria the other platforms simply don't offer: including unique demographics, job title, job function, and industry.

LinkedIn’s Message Ads enable you to send direct, one-on-one messages to your audience so you can share an event registration, promote a free product trial and more. Message ads will help you drive more website traffic and generate more leads with interactive features like Lead Gen Forms, which help you reach a very specific audience, and automated calls-to-action.


As the fourth most-used social media platform by marketers, YouTube ads help you reach potential customers and have them take action when they watch or search for videos on the platform. Unlike other types of social media advertising, on YouTube you’ll only have to pay when users show interest in your ad.

Ads on the platform appear before and during videos or as stand-alone promoted videos displayed after a search is performed. You can choose to advertise on YouTube using different types of ad formats, as well as targeting specific demographics and interests.

youtube online ad example


With a strong focus on visuals, Pinterest boosts over 442 million monthly active users, the majority of which are female. The platform’s ads are pieces of content pinned by marketers and brands that have a dollar sign added to their description. Marketers can then link pinned items to their official pages to drive traffic.

With stats showing that businesses can reach more than 169 million people on Pinterest and that shopping is a top priority for 48% of the platform’s users, this is definitely a site to consider on your online advertising strategy.

Paid search ads

Paid search ads, also referred to as search engine marketing or SEM, help businesses reach people searching online for specific queries on search engines. This type of advertising works on a pay-per-click advertising model, meaning until someone clicks on your advertisement, you don't pay.

While organic results on search engines and other free ways to promote your website could in fact help your business grow, they don’t have the same effect paid search ads have. In fact, businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on Google Ads. Furthermore, advertising on search engines protects your brand from competitors setting out to buy your branded terms.

The most popular platforms for paid search ads are Google, Bing and Yahoo. Google is obviously the most used search engine with a whopping 3.5 billion daily search queries, and with stats showing that over 70% of the total searches worldwide are performed on Google. You can’t, however, afford to ignore its competitors.

In order to know where you should invest your money, check your brand’s keywords on Yahoo and Bing in order to verify whether they are actually making a substantial amount of traffic to your site or not. Once you’ve mastered one of the three search engine platforms advertising techniques, advertising with the other two will be straightforward and a lot easier. Check out our guide on how to advertise on Google so you can start building your online advertising strategy on search engines.

paid search online advertising

Native advertising

Native advertising matches and functions naturally in the media format in which they appear. The key to native ads is that they are non-disruptive and could in fact go unnoticed by readers. With that being said, studies have shown that even though readers may not even realize they are consuming a paid advertisement, 31% are still more likely to buy from a brand after viewing their native ad.

There are different types of native ads: “In Feed" ads that appear in the social network feed, search and promoted listings that appear at the top of your Google search results or in the sidebar, and content recommendations that appear after you’ve finished reading an article online.

This type of internet ads expose your products and services to huge amounts of potential consumers and create a close relationship between publishers and brands. Consumers look at native ads 53% more than display ads, which means that even though your ad may not look promotional, it’s getting the job done.

types of online advertising: native ad example

Display advertising

Display ads are usually text, image or video-based and are meant to encourage a click-through from the user in order for him or her to take a specific action, such as get to the following page, make a purchase, etc. Most of them are promoted on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, meaning that every time the user on a search engine clicks the ad, the advertiser gets charged an amount based on their overall bidding strategy.

There is no wonder then that display ads are notorious in the advertising world, having tricked users into clicking misleading ads. However, in the right platforms they can be used to leverage data in order to display your ads to the targeted audience you’re looking to reach.

Google display ads

Using the Google Display Network (GDN), advertisers can design visually appealing ads and place them on millions of websites and apps (including YouTube and Gmail) straight from their Google Ads account. The platform enables you to target your specific audience through demographic and geo-targeting as well as your targeted audience’s specific interests.

If you prefer, Google Ads will take care of the bidding process and will even figure out who your ideal audience is by using its automated targeting and bidding features. Clicks, impressions, conversions and Google Analytics can all be tracked from Google Ads, so you can see just how effective your ads really are.

Facebook’s audience network

Facebook's Audience Network uses the same targeting data from the Facebook platform in order to help you place native ads, banner ads, full-screen ads, in-stream ads, and rewarded video ads on the network’s websites and apps. This helps you monetize with high-value, boost your revenue and give every ad impression the opportunity for maximum earning potential with real-time bidding.

How to measure the success of online advertising

Key to understanding and increasing the impact of online advertising is knowing which metrics to set as KPIs and track, in order to understand the success of your online advertising campaigns.

There are many metrics to track, and some are more relevant for some types of campaigns than others. But some of the main include:

  • Conversion Rates: this is the percentage of users who take a desired action after seeing an advertisement. Often this is the most tracked metric for advertising campaigns and the real measure of how successful it was.

  • Click-Through Rates (CTR): CTR measures the number of clicks on an advertisement divided by the number of times it was displayed. A high CTR indicates that the advertisement was engaging and relevant to the target audience. It would also demonstrate that an ad is reaching the right audience, with the right content. A low CTR would need to be investigated and the campaign or assets optimized to raise it.

  • Cost per Action (CPA): CPA measures the cost of each desired action, such as a sale or sign-up, and is used to determine the return on investment (ROI) of an advertising campaign. This can be used to decide if it's worth continuing to run an ad or campaign based on how high or low the CPA is.

  • Bounce Rates: Bounce rate measures the number of visitors who leave a website immediately after arriving. A high bounce rate can indicate that the advertisement wasn't relevant or effective in capturing the user's attention. A low bounce rate would suggest the opposite. Monitoring bounce rate is important for understanding how to improve the optimization of ad landing pages and resources.

  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): ROAS calculates the return generated from an advertising campaign, divided by the amount spent on advertising. It's a useful metric for determining the overall effectiveness of an advertising campaign.

  • Lifetime Value (LTV): LTV measures the value of a customer over the lifetime of their relationship with a business. This metric helps determine the long-term impact of an advertising campaign on customer acquisition and retention. It's a long term metric and must be treated as such.

  • Engagement Metrics: Engagement metrics, such as likes, comments, and shares, can provide insight into the effectiveness of social media advertising and help measure the reach and impact of an online advertising campaign. They help advertisers understand what type of ads and what type of content resonates with their target audience and can be used to plan future campaigns.

  • Referral Traffic: An increase in referral traffic to a website can indicate that the advertisement was successful in driving traffic and generating interest. Referral traffic can also be a way to track and measure brand awareness.

  • Sales Metrics: Sales metrics, such as revenue and units sold, provide a direct measurement of the impact of advertising efforts on a business's bottom line. This may be less easy to track if you offer services or something less tangent than an actual product, but understanding the number of subscriptions an ad bought can also be considered a sales metric.

There are also a number of micro ad relevant metrics to track specific ads, depending on their type and goal. These include, cost per mille, cost per engagement, cost per cost per lead, cost per view, cost per install to name just a few.

Potential concerns around online advertising

While there is no doubt that online advertising is impactful. However there are a number of considerations to consider when deciding how to run an online advertising strategy:

Privacy: Online advertising often collects personal data to target advertisements, which can raise privacy concerns around how that data is shared and used. It also puts it at risk of being leaked from a cyberattack or similar.

Misleading Ads: There have been instances where advertisements are misleading or make false claims, which can lead to customers losing not only trust in a specific product or brand but in online advertising in general.

Ad Fraud: Ad fraud involves the use of bots or fake traffic to artificially inflate ad metrics, causing advertisers to focus on specific ads and assets that seem to be helping them meet KPIs, when the opposite is true. This leads to resources and ultimately money being wasted.

Ad Fatigue: Over-saturation of online ads can lead to ad fatigue, where users become desensitized to advertising and ignore it. This can then potentially make future ads less effective, or makes it harder to capture the attention of ad weary online users.

Ad Blocking: The use of ad-blockers has become increasingly popular, making it difficult for advertisers to reach their target audience. These can be installed as extensions on a computer or browser and allow users to block ads on web pages.

Ad Discrimination: Online advertisements can be discriminatory, excluding certain groups based on factors such as age, race, and gender.

Online advertising FAQ

What are the main types of online advertising?

The main types are, paid search ads, social media ads, native advertising and display advertising.

What are the pros of using online advertising?

What are some of the downsides of online advertising?

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