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6 ways to use mobile advertising for your small business

Mobile advertising: entrepreneur on her cellphone

Key takeaways

  • Mobile advertising allows you to pay for optimal placement on mobile websites or mobile apps
  • You can pay mobile ad networks to display your ad on multiple third-party websites or apps
  • Set clear objectives before running mobile ads to choose the ad formats most relevant to your goals

Mobile phones have become an irreplaceable part of our lives. In the U.S., 83% of adults keep their smartphones nearby during waking hours. If you want to reach your target market where they’re paying the most attention, it’s time to create ad campaigns for the small screen. Here’s what you need to know so you can build an effective mobile advertising strategy.

What is mobile advertising?

Mobile advertising refers to paid advertising campaigns displayed on mobile devices. Mobile ads can appear while people are using mobile apps or browsing the web on their smartphones

Like other forms of digital advertising, mobile ads help you reach a specific target audience by displaying your business in a highly visible place—for instance, right above the platform’s search results or on their social media feeds.

How mobile advertising works

Mobile advertising: two friends smiling at ad on smartphone

Mobile advertising platforms use the data they have on users to display your campaign to those who meet your target audience criteria. The cost of user actions—like clicking or viewing your ad—can fluctuate based on how many other businesses are bidding for the same ad placement. However, you can typically set your own advertising budget and timeline, which gives you control over your ad spend and overall campaign.

The simplest way to run a mobile ad is by directly paying platforms like LinkedIn or Yelp for placement on their app and/or site. However, you can also pay mobile ad networks (like SmartyAds) to display ads on a variety of third-party websites or apps, which can include news websites and mobile games.

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6 types of mobile advertising

There’s a variety of mobile ad formats to choose from when building your next campaign. Here are six common types of mobile advertising to consider.

1. Banner ads

Banner advertising is the most traditional form of mobile advertising. These ad units are clickable, rectangular images or graphics that appear at the top or bottom of a website or app. They help draw attention to your message without fully disrupting the user experience.

Banner ads are simple to create with a free design tool like Canva or Adobe Express. All you need to do is put together a design that fits within the platform’s suggested dimensions.

Mobile banner ads, often offered by ad networks, are usually low-cost. In most cases, you’ll only need to pay a few cents each time a user views the page where your ad is displayed.

2. Native ads

Native ads include content that looks and feels like an organic part of the user experience. For example, if a mobile user is scrolling through a news app, they might see a sponsored article titled “5 ways to improve your sleep” that provides legitimate tips. However, it might also promote a specific mattress company throughout the article. Boosted social media posts—which are normal posts promoted to relevant users’ feeds—can also be considered native ads.

The cost of native ads can vary greatly. While they can be cost-effective cost-per-click campaigns, some publishers (usually bloggers, influencers, or media outlets) take care of the content creation on your behalf, which can increase your campaign’s final price.

3. Yelp Ads

With Yelp Ads, your business listing is displayed in a number of key places on the site and app, including above relevant search results and on your competitors’ pages—helping you get seen by more customers, resulting in more leads. In fact, businesses with Yelp Ads get 2.5x more leads.

You can run Yelp Ads for as little as $5 per day and adjust your budget at any time. Since you’ll only pay when your ad is clicked, you can get hundreds of impressions (or ad views) for free, which can drive brand awareness even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a click or a sale.

*monthly average in 2022

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4. Video ads

Woman on her mobile phone watching video ad

If you want to run a more engaging and rich media type of mobile ad, video advertising can be a great option for your brand. There are many subcategories of video ads to consider, including:

  • In-feed video ads. These standalone videos show up in users’ feeds, like social media ads and promoted YouTube videos that appear as recommendations. Mobile users can actively choose to engage with these ads.
  • Skippable in-stream ads: These are video ads, which can be skipped after five seconds, that appear before, during, and after content on video platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and streaming services.
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads: These appear in the same places as skippable in-stream ads, but mobile users must view them in full.

Platforms often charge businesses for in-feed and skippable ads when they get a click or when a user watches their video ad for a certain amount of time. To display non-skippable ads, you’ll usually have to pay for every view since users are already required to view your entire ad.

5. Audio ads

Audio ads function a lot like in-stream video ads. They appear before, during, and after audio content, like podcasts and music on Spotify and Pandora. You’ll usually pay when a user listens to your ad, but some audio streaming apps have fairly high minimum advertising spend. For instance, Spotify requires brands to pay at least $250 to start running ads on its platform.

 6. Interstitial ads

Group of friends on their smartphones

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that pop up while users are scrolling through an app or playing a game. These in-app ads are impossible to ignore. Mobile users can either tap to learn more or close out the ad, which is often only possible after viewing it for five seconds or longer. This can help you achieve a high click-through rate, which is the percentage of views that lead to a click. However, interstitial ads are a costly type of mobile advertising that can feel disruptive to the user experience.

The most effective interstitial ads are interactive ones that deepen users’ engagement with the ad. However, playable ads require professional development skills to create them, so you might need to hire someone who’s up to the task.

3 tips for running effective mobile ads

Mobile advertising platforms offer a number of perks traditional ad platforms don’t. To make the most of your mobile campaigns, follow these three tips to optimize your strategy and reach more potential customers.

1. Set clear objectives

To home in on the right type of mobile advertising for your small business, first identify what you want to achieve. Set objectives for your mobile ad campaign, like increased revenue or more web traffic. 

Be clear about what metrics you’ll use to track your success. For instance, if you want more SMS text message marketing subscribers, you can aim for a 25% conversion rate—meaning that 25% of people who view your ad should provide your business with their phone number.

Once you know your objectives, you can choose an ad format that will get you the type of engagement you want.

2. Target a niche audience

One of the biggest perks of digital advertising is the ability to target users based on a highly specific set of characteristics, including their demographics (like age or income level), operating system (like Apple iOS or Android), and interests. Choosing a niche audience can help you cater your message directly to their needs.

Identify a specific market segment you want to reach with your next campaign so you can develop more personable mobile ads. For instance, an e-commerce clothing boutique can target Gen X women in mid-level careers with an ad about taking the next step in their professional lives. Similarly, a local brewery could create a location-based ad campaign for upper-middle class millennials in Detroit. Then, choose the mobile advertising platforms your audience is using to optimize your reach.

3. Track key performance indicators in real time

Once you launch your mobile ad campaign, it’s important to keep track of your key performance indicators (KPIs), which are the metrics you’ve identified as evidence that you’re achieving your goals. This allows you to proactively make changes to your campaign if it’s not hitting your predetermined milestones. Most mobile advertising platforms make this process simple by providing easy access to real-time metrics.

Expand your reach with mobile ads

Mobile advertising is a form of paid digital marketing displayed on smartphones. Each mobile ad format—like video ads, banner ads, and native ads—can help you reach members of a specific target audience so you can quickly hit your objectives.

Once you successfully launch your next mobile ad campaign, learn about more digital ad formats you can use to reach internet users on any device.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.