Paid Media:
A Marketing Tactic with Payoff Potential

Inbound marketing subscribes to the principle that good content and careful nurturing will attract visitors and eventually turn them into customers.


Paid media takes this concept a step further by expanding the opportunities for these potential customers to find and engage with your brand.


Paid strategies don't replace inbound. Instead, they provide a powerful companion to drive leads to your website and its content.

The Digital Trifecta

Earned Media

Earned Media

Owned Media

Owned Media

Paid Media

Paid Media

The Digital Trifecta

The three content strategies marketers use to promote their organizations are earned, owned, and paid media. This digital trifecta delivers a powerful punch in attracting, nurturing, and closing business.

Earned Media

Earned media is the attention and audience you draw from others recognizing and praising your organization. This word-of-mouth approach includes people sharing your content, likes on Facebook, positive online reviews, mentions by press outlets, and happy customers simply telling their friends and family about you.

Owned Media

With owned media, you fully control the content and the conversation. Blog, e-books, infographics, video, social media posts, and other content are designed and distributed with the goal moving prospects and leads through the Buyer’s Journey.

Paid Media

Paid media is just that—a strategy in which you pay for your marketing message to appear on online media sites, from social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to search engines such as Google, and to more hyper-focused options such as industry publications.

How Paid Media Turbocharges Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing typically combines earned and owned media to draw in and nurture a target audience. Paid amplifies this strategy by providing adding visibility for people looking to find that content in the first place. 

Although inbound doesn’t directly focus on initially promoting your brand, a careful paid media strategy helps brings people into your sales funnel, where your inbound ideally can do the rest.


Paid Media Basics

A proper paid media strategy involves plenty of moving parts and decisions to make for the best-performing campaign possible. These elements include:



Budget should be determined first so that it can dictate your paid planning. If you're working with a smaller budget, focus your efforts on 1-3 channels so that they're managed well, rather than spreading yourself too thin across several channels.



The most popular paid media channels offer products that match your particular goal, along with tracking abilities to see what is working and what isn’t. Similar to budget, your goals should dictate the channels and products you choose to promote within those channels.


Creative Assets

The assets you use in your paid channels encompass all manner of promotional tools, including keywords, text ads, image ads, sponsored content, and rich media ads. Use a simple, clean design, and include copy that tells your brand’s story.


Landing Pages

Good landing pages are critical so that when people click on your paid media, they arrive on your website and become impressed. Your landing pages should tell your story in a meaningful way and effectively incorporate bullets, white space, and a call to action.



All paid media channels offer extreme levels of reporting so that you can respond to performance easily and quickly. Regular monitoring and agile updating are essential for optimal performance and goal achievement.

Paid Media Channels

Paid media offers a strategy and a channel for every marketer and every organization. Whether you focus on just one channel or a combination of a few, the following options give you the flexibility to strengthen your existing and future inbound campaigns:



Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is the paid version of the organic search results that inbound marketers know and love. PPC ads sit above the noise and clutter of organic results and offer a unique opportunity for advertisers that struggle with SEO on certain webpages.


Paid Social

Dozens of social channels are available for advertising, and most provide multiple ad product options. Paid social channels offer self-serve options that allow you to set budget, create campaigns, and analyze—all within the platform. The three most popular channels for paid social are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.



Retargeting uses a cookies-based technology to follow your audience (historical website visitors and email addresses) around the internet and show them relevant advertising—including your ads. This strategy works best when paired with a larger digital strategy that is driving users to you. Retargeting can be applied to both awareness and conversion campaigns.


Google Adwords Shopping Ads

Google AdWords is a well-established paid option that displays your business’s listing on search results and webpages. When you use an AdWords Shopping ads campaign, prospects encounter much more than just a listing—they see a detailed description of your product or service, which may include images, videos, prices, and even interactive elements.


Display Ad Networks

With display ad networks, marketers buy ads across millions of publisher sites and apps and advertise to an audience that is basically the size of the internet. There is an ad network for every advertiser based on your goals, budget, personas, and knowledgebase.


Niche Publications

Sometimes, marketers can target their audience simply by choosing to work with a publication whose persona matches theirs. There are thousands of publications available with specific audiences, and they often have multiple ad products that can suit your exact needs.



Account-based marketing (ABM) targets specific personas with sales-focused content—as if each persona is its own unique market. For example, if you have a group of prospects with a certain pain point, you can deliver paid media ads that directly address that pain point to just those specific prospects, ideally driving them to click and move deeper into the sales funnel.



Incorporating video into paid media efforts delivers an even more impactful message to potential leads. Facebook Live, YouTube ads, and Wistia Turnstile offer powerful tools for taking paid to the next level.

Measuring Success

Tracking the success of your paid media campaigns can be a tricky task. Although some campaigns are directly measurable by the amount of conversions or leads generated, goals such as brand awareness and driving traffic can be more difficult to quantify.

In order to measure the success of your campaigns, you must measure metrics directly related to each of these three goals:


Traffic & Brand Awareness

Quantifying ROI for brand awareness campaigns is important for optimizing those campaigns. For example, referral traffic and website visits can measure the effectiveness of a guest-blogging campaign, and viewers and social engagement can track the success of Facebook Live videos.


Lead Generation

Driving leads to your website is probably the most common goal of paid media. The success of your lead-generation campaigns is not just measured by quantity—quality plays an important part, as well. The number of attendees to a webinar, form submissions for a sponsored LinkedIn campaign, or leads generated by a Facebook ad are examples of metrics for measuring lead-generation effectiveness.


Lead Nurturing

Some methods of nurturing can be easily measured, but others not so much. An easy metric is gauging the number of leads who converted on a retargeting ad and made a purchase. You can also use filters on LinkedIn’s paid updates to specifically target people or companies that you’ve been in contact with.

Master Paid Media

Want to learn more about how paid media complements and propels inbound marketing? The experts at SmartBug Media have created a comprehensive guide to paid and how it can benefit your organization.

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