It does get a little murky sometimes, but generally speaking, an advertisement is something you pay for to be placed on someone else’s property. Off-line that could mean a billboard, a newspaper, or the side of a bus. What you’re paying for is to put your ad in that visible space. Online, the rule is basically the same, but gets confusing because you can advertise and market on the same platforms.
For example, you can pay Google to place your ad at the top of a search results list. But when your website is on the first page of results “organically” (because of search engine optimization), that’s marketing.
On Facebook, your own page, what you post on that page, and your conversations with customers, is marketing. You can also pay though, to place an ad on Facebook that will show up on other people’s pages.
Things are a bit more transparent than they used to be, with Google placements marked as “Ad” and Facebook ads marked as “Sponsored,” but the point is that your ad shows up where a lot of people will see it, and you can target your audience to those most likely to be interested in what you’re selling.
You can also place ads on Twitter, YouTube, on news pages and in digital publications, as well as in game apps, to name just a few. Publishing a series of “How to…” videos on YouTube is marketing. If those videos become extremely popular, you’ll likely start seeing other people’s ads at the beginning and end of your video.
The other difference between advertising and marketing is that a marketing campaign will often use a variety of different ads placed on different platforms. Strategically, the combination of ads, the order that they appear, and where they appear, is thoughtfully planned to generate more attention than any single ad could.
Your own website is kind of a hybrid. While it is your property, you pay for hosting and a service provider. Whether your website is an ad or marketing isn’t really important though. What matters is that you recognize your site as the core of all of your promotional efforts.
The most important part of any ad is the “call to action.” In online advertising, the action that you most often want potential customers to take is to visit your site. It’s your site’s responsibility to persuade visitors to take the next step – make a purchase or set up an appointment for your services. Web optimization is the process of creating that persuasion.
In the ideal scenario, you’ll have a great website, and implement a strategically designed marketing plan that includes several forms of advertising. When you put all the pieces together, you get more customers.