There’s no shortage of online advertising options available for your business. If you’re wondering where to get started, it can be confusing to say the least.
To help you out, the following post gives you the ten best online advertising platforms currently available, with an overview and summary of each so you know how they work and the types of ad format provided.
Top 10 Best Online Advertising Platforms
1. Google Ads
It’s fair to say that Google revolutionized online advertising when it launched Google AdWords back in 2000, enabling advertisers to show ads on search.
Google’s advertising platform is now a lot more comprehensive of course, enabling advertisers for example to also show ads on their vast display network and on YouTube.
It’s also one of the easiest ad platforms to use, most recently taking advantage of machine learning and AI technology to optimize ads for you via their Responsive Search Ads, saving advertisers huge amounts of time:#GoogleAds is one of the easiest online ad platforms to use, using machine learning and AI technology to optimize ads for you.Click To Tweet
Their different campaign types include the following:
- Search campaigns—text ads shown on search results that reflect what people are searching for (here's a guide to what the different keyword types mean when placing ads).
- Display campaigns—image ads shown on Google’s display network of millions of websites, as well as apps and Google properties such as YouTube. These enable you to reach people based on interests and demographics, as well as target people who’ve taken certain actions on your website (retargeting ads).
- Video campaigns—video ads shown on YouTube, with similar targeting options to display campaigns.
- Shopping campaigns—if you sell physical products, use Google’s shopping campaigns to advertise product listings on Google. These ads show in the search results and on the Shopping tab.
- App campaigns—if you’re an app developer, use app campaigns to grow users and sales, with options to advertise your app on Search, Display, YouTube, Discover, Play, other apps, and over 3 million sites.
- Local campaigns—if you’re a local business, local campaigns help attract people to your premises via ads that advertise in-store events and promotions, or otherwise promote your inventory, with ads shown on multiple Google properties including Maps.
2. Facebook Ads
Facebook—now under the Meta company umbrella—has also been one online advertising’s mainstays for several years.
Facebook’s main strengths include the following:
- Incredibly detailed targeting abilities, thanks to all the data they collect about users on the platform
- Its vast audience of nearly three billion monthly active users.
Privacy concerns, legislative changes and technical updates (such as Apple’s 2021 iOS updates that introduced increased privacy options) have made running effective ads on the platform more challenging than in previous years.
Nevertheless, Facebook Ads remains one of the best online advertising platforms available.
The ad types they offer include:
- Image ads—one of the most common types of ad on Facebook, this shows an image, some descriptive text and a call to action button.
- Video ads—you can run video ads that are shown in-stream (within organic video posts on the platform), or as standalone ads similar to image ads.
- Carousel ads—these involve multiple images that viewers can swipe through, with each one providing a different angle and potentially linking to its own landing page.
- Collection ads—designed to display a product collection within a post, with one main image or video, along with images of related products.
- Lead generation ads—rather than sending people to a different website from your ad, which can suppress conversion rates and increase lead costs, lead gen ads mean the user stays on Facebook when they tap on the ad. They’re shown a form with their info prefilled and ready to send.
Closely connected with Facebook Ads are Instagram Ads—you can run both through Meta’s Ads Manager, as well as create ads through Instagram itself.
With multiple ad formats, sophisticated targeting as with Facebook, and an audience of 2 billion monthly active users, Instagram is one of the best online advertising platforms available.
The types of ads available on Instagram include the following, many of which work in a similar way to Facebook:
- Image ads—your image in the ad can show in a square, landscape or vertical format.
- Video ads—the video might appear in the square or landscape format. In-stream video ads are also available for videos up to 15 seconds long.
- Stories ads—can show a single image or a video up to 120 seconds in length.
- Carousel ads—similar to Facebook above.
- Shopping ads—ads can show as a single image, or in the carousel or collection format, with ads appearing as square 1:1 images linked to your product’s page.
- Reels ads—requires a fullscreen vertical asset.
Ad objectives for Instagram ads include:
- App installs
- Video views
- Lead generation
- Catalog sales
- And more
4. LinkedIn Ads
LinkedIn provides one of the best online advertising platforms for B2B businesses, with their professional, affluent, business-focused, work-minded audience of over 800 million users worldwide.
Ads on LinkedIn are generally seen as more expensive than on other ad platforms, often working out at a higher cost per lead.Ads on #LinkedIn can be more expensive than other platforms. But leads are often higher quality and the actual cost per sale lower than elsewhere.Click To Tweet
However, because those leads tend to be higher quality and can be easier to convert (with the right offer) than those from other platforms, the cost per sale can actually end up comparable or even working out lower.
While not as sophisticated as Meta’s targeting options, you can target people on LinkedIn effectively based on multiple factors including:
- Company size
- Company revenue
- Job title and seniority
- Age and gender
- Interests and some behavioral traits
- Lookalike audiences
- Behaviors on your website or on LinkedIn
For their lookalike audiences, as with other platforms, you can for example upload an existing list of contact information.
However, whereas with Meta you’re able to create a lookalike audience with as few as 100 contacts (though uploading more will improve results), LinkedIn recommend uploading at least 10,000.
For conversions, you’ll need to use the LinkedIn Insight Tag—click here for a full guide on how to use it, or watch this summary:
5. Twitter Ads
We’ve covered how to use Twitter Ads previously—it’s a growing advertising platform, with ad spending nearly doubling between 2016 and 2021.
People can be more receptive to advertising on Twitter than some other platforms. According to Twitter, people spend 26% more time looking at ads while on the platform than other networks.
At the same time, ads here can work out a lot cheaper than on other network, with the average cost per click just over a third that of Facebook, and around a quarter that of Pinterest.
You can be charged for ads on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis, or per result, such as a ‘link click’ or a ‘follower’.
Targeting options include the ability to for example target people based on who they follow on the platform, or create lookalike audiences based on the followers of specified accounts.
You can also target people based on what they have searched for, or otherwise indicated an interest in based on the Tweets they’ve posted or engaged with.
The type of ads you can place include:
- Promoted ads—these are essentially promoted Tweets, which behave in the same way as ordinary Tweets save for the appearance of a Promoted flag.
- Follower ads—these can appear in search results, in the timeline, or in the sidebar on desktop, and display your profile with an invitation to follow.
The ad objectives you can choose from include:
- Video views
- Website clicks
- App installs
- App re-engagements
For a full guide on how to use Twitter Ads, click here, or watch the summary below:
Pinterest is still growing in popularity, and has around 500 million monthly worldwide users, which means it has more reach that Twitter.
And users are often on Pinterest to buy. It’s more search engine than traditional social media site, with people searching for ideas and inspiration on products to buy.
In fact, half of Pinterest’s US users are using the platform to shop, around 90% are there to plan or inspire their purchases, 85% of users have purchased something as a result of Pins from brands, and around half of them have six figure incomes and beyond.
So if you’re in ecommerce or otherwise sell physical products, Pinterest is one of the best online advertising platforms available.
Pinterest also claims you’ll see 2.3x more efficient cost per conversion than ads on other social media platforms, with retail brands seeing a 2x higher return on ad spend.Pinterest is one of the best ad platforms available for ecommerce, with 2.3x more efficient cost per conversion and 2x higher return on ad spend. #pinterestmarketingClick To Tweet
To be able to run ads, you do however need a business rather than personal account on the platform.
You can find full details on how to set that up in this post, along with other information on using Pinterest for marketing.
Their ad types include:
- Standard—similar to a standard Pin, with your content shown in a vertical or square image format.
- Video—similar to Standard, but with a video rather than an image.
- Carousel—show multiple images in a single ad that people can then swipe through.
- Collections—a similar format to Facebook collection ads (see above), consisting of a main image with additional smaller images shown beneath.
7. Amazon Ads
Amazon is unlikely to be one of the first places you think of when it comes to online advertising platforms, but in fact it’s the third-biggest platform for digital advertising behind Google and Facebook.
Amazon hit $31 billion in ad revenue in 2021, up $10 billion on 2020, and one of the company’s fastest growing sectors. This part of the business was only launched in 2018.
Their ads are designed for businesses that sell products on Amazon (including books from self-published authors), offering the following main ad types, all on a cost-per-click basis:
- Sponsored Products—designed to promote individual products, these ads appear on relevant product pages, and on search results pages within Amazon for relevant queries.
- Sponsored Brands—designed to promote multiple products from the same brand, these appear in the same places as for Sponsored Products.
- Sponsored Display—provides advertising both on Amazon and on other partner websites.
In addition, Amazon also offer:
- Video ads—these can be shown on Amazon subsidiaries like IMDb.com, Fire TV and sites across the web.
- Audio ads—10- to 30-second ads played to free users of Amazon Music.
You can get started on Amazon’s ad platform for as little as $10 a day.
Previously known as Bing Ads, advertising from Microsoft now comes under a wider umbrella, enabling visibility not just on Bing but also other Microsoft properties including:
- AOL.com and related sites
- Yahoo.com and related sites
You can choose for ads to appear on search websites and/or on other parts of their network. The overall reach is around a billion users.
You place ads on a cost-per-click basis, with no minimum budget required to get started.
Ad types include the following:
- Expanded Text Ads—the usual text ad you might expect to see on search engines, like in this example:
- Dynamic Search Ads—like Expanded Text Ads, but dynamically created in order to adjust to what the user is searching for
- Microsoft Advertising in Bing Smart Search—for display on Windows 8.1 Smart Search results, these are described as similar to text ads but designed for touch screens, often including a preview of the landing page.
- Microsoft Audience Ads—a type of visually rich native ad designed for placement within articles and other page content on sites like MSN, Outlook.com and other partner sites.
- Multimedia Ads—ads with large visual imagery, placed in prominent mainline and sidebar ad positions on Microsoft properties.
- Product Ads—similar to Google’s shopping ads, designed to advertise physical properties on search.
- Responsive Search Ads—as with Google Ads’ Responsive Search Ads, you supply multiple versions of your headline and description, which Microsoft then programmatically mixes to find optimal combinations for your advertising goals.
- App Install Ads—designed for users wanting to drive app downloads rather than website traffic
9. TikTok Ads
For an app that was only launched in 2016, TikTok has rapidly become one of the best online advertising platforms thanks to its massive audience size of over 1 billion monthly active users.
It’s not known how much of this relates to advertising, but it’s likely to be considerable. In China, ByteDance is second only to Alibaba in the advertising market.
It’s easy to get started with advertising on TikTok, with creative tools making it easy to create engaging ads, including AR effects, transitions, filters, and integration with Canva and Vimeo.Ever tried TikTok ads? Creative tools make it easy to create engaging ads, including AR effects, transitions, filters, and integration with Canva and Vimeo. #videomarketingClick To Tweet
The process involves:
- Selecting an objective—either awareness, consideration or conversion
- Setting your budget, targeting and bidding strategy. Your daily budget must be at least $50.
- Creating your ad by uploading a video or photo, adding ad copy and creating your CTA. You can also repurpose your existing content on the platform.
- Reviewing your settings, and then submitting your ad.
As with most other online ad platforms, you can use custom audiences to target existing customers, and target users who are already engaging with your content.
10. Snapchat Ads
Although Snapchat has been forced out of the limelight to some extent by TikTok, its advertising platform continues to grow strongly, reaching over $2.5 billion in 2021.
Plus, unlike TikTok’s daily ad budget requirement of $50, you can get started on Snapchat for as little as $5 a day.
Snapchat’s demographic is mostly in the 18- to 24-year-old range, with 50% on the platform under 25, and 23% not yet out of high school. Around a quarter of their audience are in the 25- to 34-year-old range.
Most of their audience are from North America and Europe.
So if that matches your demographic and you market to consumers, Snapchat is likely to be one of the best online advertising platforms for you.
Their ad types include:
- Single image or video ads—appears as a video or still image. Add an attachment such as a website, app, long form video or AR Lens and enable users to swipe up and take action.
- Collection ads—designed for ecommerce sites, includes four tiles users can tap for more information.
- Story ads—comprises a series of between 3 and 20 single image or video ads that can be delivered in between other content.
- Lenses AR experiences—augmented reality experiences created via Snapchat’s Lens Web Builder that users can engage with and forward to friends.
- Commercials—either 3 to 6 second, or 3 to 180 second ads. The former are non-skippable, the latter non-skippable for the first 6 seconds only.
- Filters—provided to users to appear after they take a Snap and swipe left or right, providing you with branding as an artistic overlay on user content.
Advertisers are charged per impression, with the amount you pay based on factors such as your budget, targeting, bid, bid goal and performance.
You can set ads to optimize based on your goals (such as an app install, purchase or sign-up), using the Snap Pixel on your site to tell Snapchat when an event has taken place.
So that’s an overview of the 10 best online advertising platforms currently available, including the main players in search and social media.
While it’s likely that over time you’ll want to experiment with a few of these, if you’re just getting started with online advertising, it’s generally advisable to pick just one to start with and get that delivering positive results before starting to work with any others.