What Paid Advertising Mix Is Right for You?
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What Paid Advertising Mix Is Right for You?

Nick Joseph
October 11, 2023
Aug 15, 2020

Paid media, earned media and owned media—is there a differentiating benefit between these media channels? Should your company be using paid media solely, or a healthy mixture of the three?

First of all, why consider a mix of paid advertising? Why not allocate your entire advertising budget to a single channel (Google Adwords, PPC, or Facebook ads) and forget about earned media and owned media? If you concentrate your dollars on PPC advertising or Facebook Ads, won’t that maximize your ad reach?

No, not necessarily. The best paid media strategy is one that capitalizes on multi channel media at once. Otherwise, you’re limiting your reach—and quite frankly, you can’t have successful paid media without owned media. 

It’s about being savvy. It’s about allocating your marketing dollars the most effectively and efficiently. 

The Difference Between Owned, Earned, and Paid Media Strategy

The difference between each media channel is in the ownership. Who owns the media channel—is it a separate third party, your own company’s efforts, or one of your consumers?

The approach your company takes, the type of resources allocated, and the number of resources allocated will differ within each media channel. 

Understanding how to blend all three media channels to gain the maximum benefit while expending the least amount of money or resources can increase your company’s brand awareness, brand recognition, and lead generation or conversion rates, and minimize your costs.

To grasp the true benefit of utilizing multiple media channels for advertising and augmenting your paid media specifically, let’s break down each channel—owned media, earned media, and paid media.

What is owned media?

Owned media is media that you, as a business, own yourself. You use your own resources and platforms to market yourself. 

Owned media goes hand-in-hand with your content marketing strategy. Your brand message, the type of content your company shares, the search engine optimization (SEO) of your content, the conversion content and calls-to-action—they all comprise your owned media. 

Any piece of content that your company doesn’t pay for directly or separately, but creates and disseminates using owned resources with the intent of driving conversions or lead generations, is your ‘owned media’. 

Examples of owned media:

  • Your business website
  • Your website landing pages
  • Your social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube
  • Your blog or article platform
  • Your email marketing strategy

Ways to maximize owned media:

  • Optimize your website through an effective SEO content strategy that targets keywords and keyphrases relevant to your product, category, or service. 
  • Post valuable, branded content to social media platforms, through regular Facebook posts, tweets, Linkedin posts, YouTube videos, or Instagram posts.
  • Develop an email marketing strategy to disseminate your own content: company newsletters, blogs, invitations, recent posts or updates.

What is earned media?

Unlike owned media, earned media exists separately from your company. Earned media is sometimes considered “free media”, because it’s the ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing that comes at no direct cost to your business. 

An estimated 25 to 40% of all traffic and lead generation comes from earned media.

Any media coverage your company receives that it did not pay for, whether it be through consumer testimonials on your social media accounts or a featured story on a local or national news outlet, is your ‘earned media’. 

Your company has the least control over your earned media channels because it requires an outside consumer, other company, outlet, or organization to provide media coverage and bring awareness to your company name. You can’t control the message that your earned media channels are communicating, which makes this media channel a more genuine source than owned and paid media, but also a riskier source that requires some accountability on your company’s end. 

Examples of earned media:

  • Patient, customer or client reviews on your social media accounts
  • Consumer recommendations to other consumers
  • Consumer retweets, reposts or shares of your social media posts
  • Consumers ‘mentioning’ or tagging your company on social media

  Ways to maximize earned media:

  • Cultivate exceptional customer experiences or patient care that compels consumers to recommend your company to others.
  • Post visually-appealing, easily-digestible content on social media to encourage users to repost and share your content.
  • Write quality, SEO content for your website to increase the chances of users finding your content on search, and sharing it on social media. 

What is paid media?

Paid media is the media your company pays for outside of the media you own on your company website or social media accounts, and the media you earn through testimonials, spotlights, and reviews. 

Any paid lead generation or conversion tactics your company uses to reach its target audience are considered paid media. These digital marketing tactics include paid media campaigns, in the form of social media advertising, Google advertising, print advertising, and TV advertising with the goal of reaching a specific audience. 

Examples of paid media:

  • Facebook ads
  • Ad retargeting
  • PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements
  • Influencer marketing
  • Display ads
  • Targeted pop-up ads
  • Google AdWords
  • Video ads

Ways to maximize paid media:

  • Run highly-targeted Google ads, Facebook ads or YouTube video ads with strategic, research-based ad spend to prevent ineffective use of advertising dollars.
  • Pay influencers to promote your product or service to their followers through social media ad campaigns. 
  • Develop an ad retargeting strategy to encourage previously-interested users to return to your site, before they turn ‘cold’. 

Pro tip: Don’t underestimate the power of video ads. Videos are shared 1,200% more often than texts and links combined!

Is a paid advertising mix best for your company?

Paid media enables a company to narrow their target audience and increase the chances of a lead converting to a sale. With paid media channels, ad spend is intentional. The demographic, location, income, or interest niche of the ad reach is purposeful and (typically) driven by insights and analytics derived from market research.

Because many paid media channels enable companies to target their audience through a customized, narrow, data-driven lens, paid media can be incredibly effective for targeting potential customers at the right time, in the right place.  

Google Ads:

Google can be one of the most rewarding paid advertising channels for your company. Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. The chances of at least one of those 3,780,000 searches per minute about your company is highly probable.

PPC (pay-per-click) ads are a popular type of Google ad that can prove cost-effective for your advertising budget. These ads may be displayed on Google, Bing, or other major search engines, and they only cost when a user clicks on the ads. This means you’re not paying for aimless advertising with little promise. PPC advertising allows you to be flexible with your ad spend, to target specific audiences based on custom demographics, to retarget users, and to optimize and adjust your ad copy as you please. 

Facebook and Instagram Ads:

Facebook and Instagram are popular paid media platforms for several reasons:

  1. The majority of your prospective customers are actively using Facebook and Instagram. 
  2. Facebook and Instagram use the same audience targeting feature that’s even more capable than Google targeting.
  3. The CPC (cost-per-click) for Facebook ads is considerably low. 
  4. Instagram and Facebook algorithms favor visually-appealing advertisements and content. 

Most of your prospective customers are already scrolling through their Facebook and Instagram feeds daily, so it’s not a matter of hoping your customer sees your ad; it’s a matter of refining your targeting strategy to display your ad where your customer is already present. 

Whether your advertisements thrive on search engines (like Google) or social media platforms (like Facebook and Instagram) will depend on your industry, the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling, your specific market audience and their interest and behaviors, and the money you’re willing to allocate toward your budget.   

Incorporating a mixture of social media and search engine paid advertising, alongside earned media and owned media, may be best suited for your industry and business goals. 

Why optimize your digital marketing strategy mix?

Would it matter if your company was limited to a single media channel for advertising? 

The truth is, each media channel comes with its unique benefit that you’d otherwise be lacking if you don’t take advantage of it.

  • Without paid media, your advertisements may not get in front of the right audience. Sure, your website content is still optimized for search engines and users may be finding your website, but if these users aren’t viable buyers, what’s the point? Your website traffic may be high, but if users aren’t converting to sales or choosing your brand, do your website traffic numbers hold much value? Not to mention, without the ideal consumer purchasing your product or service, your audience isn’t likely to feel emotionally charged enough to build your earned media channels.

Paid media enables you to reach a much larger audience than you’d reach organically. Paid advertisements on Google or social media can be blasted to hundreds of thousands of consumers in your market niche at once. You’re not relying on the search engine crawlers to index your newly optimized website pages. You’re deciding where, when, and how your media reaches your audience.

  • Without earned media, your brand is lacking authority and trust. Earned media is all about testimonials, reviews, and publicity. If all of your website traffic is coming from paid media and you don’t have anyone vouching for your brand, buyers are likely to leave their consumer journey before purchasing your product or signing up for your service. Building a trusted brand means earning those positive reviews and testimonials that encourage other users to choose your brand too.
  • Without owned media, your brand doesn’t have a place of its own. Consumers are talking about your brand and your paid advertisements are gaining traction, but where do users go to convert if you don’t have a website, social media accounts, or a single landing page of your own? All of your paid media and earned media efforts can’t come to fruition if you don’t own a platform for your buyers to… well… buy.

Finding Your Paid Media Mix

To lack in one media channel is to lack in your entire advertising strategy. Successful businesses take advantage of multi channel advertising, using the ideal combination of each channel for their unique brand. 

Generally speaking, paid media and earned media aren’t effective without owned media, because the goal is to get users to navigate to your owned media in the end. Whether you choose social media advertising or PPC advertising on Google, you still need to build the owned media foundation.

When it comes to determining the perfect digital marketing mix for your brand, you have to think about your business objectives, your target audience, your industry, and the amount of money or resources you’re willing to allocate to your marketing strategy.  

Where are your efforts best spent, with the consideration of your exact industry, at the exact time you plan on advertising, with your exact conversion goal in mind? 

If your company is attending a weekend conference or marketing event to promote your brand, and your prospective clients are using social hashtags to document the event, deploying a targeted Facebook campaign to reach certain audiences may produce twice the return than your earned media that weekend.

If you have an eCommerce website, and you’re on a mission to increase sales, maybe maximizing your ad reach through strategic SEO and Google PPC advertising is best for the time being. 

Once you strengthen your owned media and it starts to pay off with higher search rankings and increased website traffic, you can shift your focus to paid media (alternating between paid media channels) to start attracting the right niche of prospective customers to your owned media. 


Your digital advertising strategy is meant to be dynamic. The experts on your marketing team should be considering all factors (following recent trends, conducting market research and analyzing past data) to determine the best allocation for your advertising budget at any given time.  

The best digital marketing strategy is one that utilizes all possible media channels to maximize the reach of your website and marketing campaigns—and that means capitalizing on owned, earned, and multiple paid media channels.  

As time goes on, and your marketing focus shifts between media channels, you’ll have the data you need to determine which channel is proving the most beneficial for your business.

But for now, until you gather the data you need to make informed advertising decisions, take this quiz to find out which paid media strategy is right for you!

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