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The difficulty of advertising online

There's a lot of problems with the internet. One of those problems is how difficult it is to advertise online. So much of the web is funded by advertising that it's hard to get away from it - unless you install an ad-blocker. So you might think, well, I'll take advantage of that in my business. But it's not that simple. Unlike a regular newspaper or billboard, where you put the ad up and then you're done, online advertising is more complicated. First you've got to choose where to put your money. Is it google ads? Bing ads? Facebook or even spotify ads?

Once you've chosen a platform, you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that if anything goes wrong with the advertising, there is no recompense. You're dealing with large, multinational corporations that don't care about you and are unlikely to refund short of a court order. Once I had an incident where an advertisement I displayed on facebook did not match what was showed in facebook's ad manager; the actual ad was missing key information which led to many people accusing the ad of being a hoax. Several complaints and a laundry list of excuses later, their out-sourced Indian support center did nothing to resolve the situation.

Which leads me to my next point; in social media each advertisement can be viewed as a giant billboard which everyone is invited to put graffiti on. Anyone can post a comment, and that comment gets viewed by other people who view the ad. This can work out well if you have an established brand presence, supporters and followers, and the people commenting are in support of you. In the worst case scenario you can get targeted by the angry mob in a way that isn't possible with traditional advertising.

In my experience, advertising on Google Ads and Bing Ads is virtually pointless unless you are very dedicated. It is possible to do well, and there are people who do this for a living, but it is a fine art. These people adjust ads on the fly, comparing the metrics of different variants of ads they've put out and pushing the ones which perform best with more money. It takes time, effort and understanding to do, and unless you're committed to it, I think it's a waste of money.

In terms of social media platforms like Facebook you're better off growing an audience organically, and this also takes time and patience. Over the years it's become apparent that Facebook has intentionally lied about it's advertising, inflating metrics of views by up to 900% in some cases. There was class action lawsuit in 2016 as a result of this. Anecdotally, my experience and the experience of many others has been that they also have a bank of fake accounts that they show ads to. So if you want to advertise using them, it may pay to hire someone who specialises in this.

Overall what I recommend is what I personally practice - word of mouth, organic growth. That depends on your business of course, but steer clear of throwing money down the hole of online advertising, unless you have an expert to advise you. It may be the only way to reach the generation that doesn't read newspapers and local flyers (and who are leaving Facebook in droves), but it's one hell of a job.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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