What Is Digital Advertising? (With Examples)

Woman holding credit card shopping on laptop.

If you’re not doing digital advertising, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to get in front of your target audience when they are looking for your offer. In this blog, I’ll explore common questions and basic concepts around digital advertising and share some examples.

What Is Digital Advertising?

Digital advertising is a strategy that promotes products, services, or other content online through digital ad networks. It is a highly effective method for businesses to reach their target audience with marketing messages.

When Did Digital Advertising Start?

In 1994, the first online banner ads appeared as part of the present-day “Wired” magazine’s digital marketing arm. One banner ad famously garnered a 44% click rate, which is astounding by today’s standards.

We’ve come a long way in more than 25 years. Analysts expect global advertising spend to hit $1 trillion in 2024 with digital ad spend in the U.S. alone growing to $217 billion in 2023.

Why Digital Advertising Is Important

Globally, internet users have increased from 413 million in 2000 to more than 3.4 billion by 2016. And that number continues to grow. Data shows that an average of 640,000 people go online for the first time daily.

Needless to say, your target market is online. Perhaps more than ever. Digital advertising is an important way to reach that market. It can be highly targeted, reaching only the people you want to reach (and not paying for wasted efforts).

Plus, you get access to data that shows you how effective your digital ad campaigns actually are. This is in contrast to traditional forms of advertising that are much harder to measure.

At the end of the day, a digital ad strategy is a key part of a business’s marketing strategy. This includes other channels like search engine optimization, social media marketing, etc.

Is Digital Advertising Effective?

Yes. Some digital advertising channels yield stellar results. For each dollar a business spends on search advertising, for example, the business gains about $11 dollars in return.

Aside from actual ROI, digital advertising is highly targeted and measurable, as mentioned earlier. So, compared to traditional ads, it’s a win for many businesses.

Each ad network, ad format, and industry/audience you are targeting will have different fees and yield different results. For example, the average cost per click for Facebook in 2020 was $0.39, and the average cost for Google search ads in 2020 was $2.69.

What Are Digital Advertising Channels?

There are several ways you can advertise online. Let’s look at the different advertising channels.

Search Advertising

Search advertising allows you to show your ads to people using search engines like Google and Bing and search for what you have to offer. Search ads include those found on the search results page and can include text ads from Google Shopping, Google Play and Google Maps. Search ads run on a pay-per-click model, where the advertiser pays when a person clicks on their ad.

Display Advertising

Display advertising lets you show your ads to your target audience as they browse relevant websites or apps. Display advertising includes graphics, text, or video ads and is typically a pay-per-click model. If, however, the display ad is a video, the fee structure can be based on everything from impressions to how many seconds of the video was watched.

Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising occurs within a social media platform and is a highly targeted way to reach your audience. Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn — all major social media channels have an advertising program that any advertiser can join. Each social media platform charges for ads differently, including for clicks and impressions.

Video Advertising

Video advertising typically refers to ads created for YouTube or display advertising. YouTube advertising, for example, allows you to show your ads to your target market while they are on the YouTube platform. Since Google owns YouTube, you can also use YouTube video ads across its display ad network, as explained here.

According to Statista, when writing, social media ad spending tops the charts, followed by video ads, display ads and then paid search ads (aka search advertising).

(As a side note, we provide these services, so head to our SEM section to learn more!)

Examples of Digital Advertising

Each digital advertising channel offers different ad formats for advertisers. Let’s look at some of those now.

Search Ads

Search ads appear on a search engine results page (SERP) when someone searches for what a website offers. They can appear at the top, bottom, or side of the SERP. Depending on the ad format, they can be made up of text or images. For example, Google Shopping ads include images.

Here are examples of search ads that show up for the query “protein shakes,” including Google Shopping ads at the top:

Google search engine results page for the query "protein shakes."

Display Ads

Display ads are text, images, or videos on websites, apps, or even within email accounts (like Gmail). Many businesses use display ads to start generating interest before someone starts searching for what they have to offer. Display ads are also used to remarket those who have visited a business’s website or app.

Here’s an example of a display ad for supplements that shows up on a third-party recipe website:

Example of display ad for supplements that shows up on a third-party recipe website.

Here’s an example of a display ad for Adobe in the form of a banner ad:

Example of a display ad for Adobe in the form of a banner ad.

Native Ads

Native ads are designed to seamlessly integrate into the platform they show up on — so much so that sometimes they are not easily detected as ads. Native ads are often used on social media platforms but can also appear as recommended content on third-party websites.

Here is an example of a native ad on Facebook:

Example of a native ad on Facebook.

Here is an example of a native LinkedIn ad:

Example of a native LinkedIn ad.

Video Ads

Video ads come in different formats, including:

  • Skippable and non-skippable in-stream ads that play during a video.
  • Bumper ads that can’t be skipped before, during, or after a video.
  • Discovery video ads, which show up in YouTube search results, for example, and more.

As mentioned, you can also use video ads in the Google display network.

Here’s an example of a GoDaddy skippable in-stream ad that shows up for a search for squat lifts:

GoDaddy skippable in-stream ad displaying for a search for squat lifts.

Here is another example of a video discovery ad to the right of a video on YouTube:

Example of a video discovery ad to the right of a video on YouTube.

The categories mentioned here — search, display, native and video ads — are the most common ad formats. It’s worth noting that once you get into a specific advertising network, each will offer different ad formats, including those mentioned in this section.

Ready to take your digital advertising to the next level? Schedule a free consultation and let’s discuss how our SEO experts can help.

FAQ: How can digital advertising benefit my business?

Digital advertising can be an invaluable way of building your online presence, and here is an overview of its many advantages for you and your business.

Reach a Global Audience

Digital advertising allows your business to transcend geographical boundaries. With the right strategy, your message can reach potential customers worldwide, breaking down the limitations of traditional marketing methods.

Precise Targeting

Digital ads give advertisers a powerful way to target specific demographics, interests and behaviors. This precision ensures that your advertisements are shown to those most likely to convert into customers.


Digital advertising can often be more cost-effective than traditional channels like print or television ads, enabling you to allocate resources more efficiently with an improved budget.

Real-time Data Insights

Digital advertising provides instant access to data and analytics. Monitor campaign performance in real-time to make quick decisions and modify your strategy as soon as it occurs.

Improved ROI

Combining precise targeting with data-driven insights leads to higher returns. You can track the ROI of each ad to optimize your campaign and ensure maximum impact.

To take full advantage of its benefits, digital marketing must be understood as a solution tailored specifically for each business objective and target audience. The strategy should be tailored to business goals and target demographics for optimal performance.

Choosing the Right Platforms

Selecting the appropriate digital advertising platforms is crucial. Search engines, social media and display advertising offer unique strengths to their respective audiences.

Crafting Compelling Content

Content that resonates and engages your target audience is crucial for successful marketing campaigns. Focus on creating videos, images and compelling text copy that speaks directly to your target market.

A/B Testing

Regularly test different ad variations to identify what works best. A/B testing allows you to refine your messaging, imagery and calls to action for optimal results.

Ad Scheduling

Consider when your target audience is most active online and schedule your ads accordingly. Timing can significantly affect click-through rates and conversions.

Monitor and Adjust

Continuously monitor your campaign’s performance and adjust your strategy as needed. Make informed decisions by analyzing data and adapting marketing efforts accordingly.

Digital advertising can be an immensely practical and versatile marketing strategy. Understanding its benefits and devising an effective plan will allow your business to succeed more.

Step-by-Step Procedure

  1. Assess your business goals and target audience.
  2. Research and choose the most suitable digital advertising platforms.
  3. Set a realistic budget for your digital advertising campaigns.
  4. Develop engaging and relevant content for your advertisements.
  5. Create multiple ad variations to perform A/B testing.
  6. Schedule your ads to align with your audience’s online activity.
  7. Launch your digital advertising campaigns.
  8. Monitor campaign performance through analytics and tracking tools.
  9. Analyze the data to identify areas for improvement.
  10. Adjust your advertising strategy based on the insights gained.
  11. Continuously optimize your campaigns for better results.
  12. Regularly review your budget allocation and ROI.
  13. Stay updated on industry trends and changes in digital advertising platforms.
  14. Seek expert guidance or consult with professionals if needed.
  15. Adapt your strategy to evolving customer preferences and behaviors.
  16. Maintain a consistent and compelling online presence.
  17. Social media and digital channels can help increase brand visibility.
  18. Monitor and adapt to the strategies of competitors.
  19. Build relationships with your audience via social media and other platforms.
  20. Evaluate the effect of digital advertising on your company’s growth and success.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent Digital Marketing Optimization posts is better than the last!
Bruce Clay on January 22, 2024
How To Optimize Content for Facebook and Instagram
Bruce Clay on December 14, 2023
SEO vs. PPC: How To Choose
Bruce Clay on October 16, 2023
7 Proven Strategies To Increase Website Traffic for Your Business

5 Replies to “What Is Digital Advertising? (With Examples)”

Great blog
An excellent way to encourage reading and share important information.

Thanks for helping me understand how digital marketing services can help you navigate your business around the digital world. I can see how this could help startups attract customers to try out their products. I will keep this in mind if I need something similar in the future.

Learned something new. Would use it on my website. Let’s see whether it works.
Thank You

44% click rate is wild. Bring back those days.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919