With the wide variety in paid advertising platforms available on the web today, it can be difficult to know where to start. Between Google and Facebook alone, there’s everything from AdWords text ads, Display, retargeting, Google Shopping, YouTube Trueview video ads, promoted content ads, Facebook page promotions, and more. Each of these platforms and tactics has its own unique set of benefits, and all can be highly effective when managed correctly. However, without organizing each according to a deliberate strategy, it’s hard to know whether any of these tactics are really contributing to your organization’s goals.

So, rather than dividing your paid media strategy by entity – for example, Google, Facebook, or Twitter – it makes more sense to organize each step based on what you know about your customers’ purchase cycle. Each individual tactic, regardless of platform, operates within its own spectrum of customer intent, and sorting them accordingly will help you devise a strategy that accurately reflects the behavior of your users and serves them the right advertisement in the right format at the right time in their buying journey.

The “AIDA” Model Of Buyer Behavior

There are a number of schools of thought on the best model for buyer behavior. Ultimately, the exact details will depend on your industry, but we start by organizing customer intent according to the “AIDA” model – Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.

Customers in each stage typically display the following attributes:


  • No direct knowledge about your product/service or how it relates to their needs
  • Web behavior that otherwise reflects potential to be a customer
  • Fits the profile of your target audience, but is not currently seeking out your brand


  • In the market for your product or service
  • Has demonstrated awareness about your brand
  • Displays signs of purchase behavior, such as browsing product pages


  • Has shown repeated interest in your product or service
  • Web behavior points to a strong purchase intent
  • Displays a preference for your brand or product/service


  • Has taken one or more conversion-type steps (e.g., made a phone call, added to cart, downloaded gated content)
  • Web behavior reflects “immediate” intent (e.g., uses “buy” or “where can I find” modifiers in search)
  • Has engaged with your brand or site directly, whether through contact or website actions

Designing A Paid Media Strategy Around Buyer Behavior

With each of these tactics in mind, I’ve now sorted each one into its respective stage in the customer journey, with rationale as to why each belongs there.


In this stage, reaching a high volume of new users is usually the primary goal. There are potential customers who may be in-market for your product, but in order to attract them you need to make them aware of your brand and what you offer, especially as opposed to other brands. Generally speaking, the most effective platforms and tactics will be:

  • Head Term paid search campaigns, intersecting with user searches that demonstrate a broad range of intent within the overall category of your industry and products/services
  • Display ads, utilizing visual media across hand-picked placement sites in order to intersect with potential customers – using the placement sites as a proxy for their interests
  • YouTube Trueview ads, introducing users to your brand through a brief video that captures your identity and what you offer
  • Facebook Ads: Content Promotion, Brand & Local Awareness, Page Follows, Website Visits
    • Content Promotion in the form of boosted posts or ads specifically promoting a certain piece of content help familiarize users with your brand and the types of information or media you share
    • Brand Awareness, introducing new users to your page presence on Facebook, targeting potential prospects according to interest categories you select
    • Local Awareness, reaching out directly to users in your geographic area, if this is an effective channel for leads or sales in your industry
    • Page Follows, introducing Facebook users to your brand and encouraging them to follow you for regular updates
    • Website Visits, asking users to learn about you by visiting your website directly – where you’ll have more control over the message and feel of your brand, as well as the pages they are sent to
  • Instagram Placements, using eye-catching visual media integrated with users’ feeds to familiarize them with the aesthetics of your brand and encourage them to find out more


Now that you’ve got your users’ attention, the main objective is to build interest, and to help persuade users that your offering is worth their time and money. Here, taking advantage of formats that help you form and strengthen relationships with potential customers and build your authority as a brand will drive the most progress toward converting these users into customers – and if you’re lucky, brand loyalists for the future.

I recommend the following platforms and formats:

  • Paid search campaigns targeting “chunky middle” terms and branded modifiers
  • Display Retargeting campaigns
  • Facebook: Interest-based and Remarketing targeting using the Content Promotion, Page Follows, Traffic, Engagement, App Install, Video Views, Website Visits, and Lead Generation objectives


The focus becomes a lot narrower once users have demonstrated a desire to purchase, which makes the task of marketing to them easier. In this stage the most effective advertisements take into account a user’s brand preference and focus more deeply on the unique benefits of their product or service, possibly including promotions as well to incentivize action

  • Paid search campaigns targeting long-tail keywords, including specific products or services
  • Display Retargeting campaigns addressing a particular product or service directly, and including calls to action
  • Facebook Ads using the Offers, Website Visits, and Lead Generation formats
    • Offers will intersect with a user’s purchase intent and offer them an easy route for action, using the extra incentive of a discount to motivate a quick sale
    • Website Visits may direct users to a particular product page or other piece of content intended for users who already know what they intend to buy, and are still on the fence or need to be completely sold
    • Lead Generation ads work very well in industries where the primary conversion type is a lead (i.e., contact information), and can use specific targeting to focus primarily on users who have demonstrated interest in your brand (and corresponding purchase intent)


This stage is the most straightforward, and requires ads and formats that are as direct and easy to use as possible. Once a user displays intent to act, the only thing in the way of a conversion is substandard advertising or problems with the conversion point itself. Investing in conversion rate optimization (CRO) for your website is an important consideration for this reason – but since we’re sticking to the advertising front for now, here’s where to focus:

  • Paid search campaigns targeting specific purchase-intent keywords and modifiers, along with other long tail terms that reflect a specific intent toward the bottom of the buying funnel
  • Display Retargeting
  • Facebook Retargeting, including Website Visits targeting product pages, Offers, and Lead Generation
  • Conversion
  • Catalog Sales
  • Store Visits

In Conclusion

Regardless of your budget or the tactics you choose, the most important part of a paid media strategy is ensuring that it aligns with your exact goals and will help make the most of your available spend. For some organizations, awareness may be the primary goal – and for others, it’s making the end conversion happen as quickly as possible that matters most.

Planning a strategy that divides tactics to the customer intent most valuable to you, and using this to develop a coherent and (somewhat) linear model that accounts for all stages of the purchase cycle, will make it much easier to choose from the many advertising options available today, and can help you make sure you’re allocating budget where you need to – and avoid investing in a given platform or tool simply because it can be profitable in other industries.