Online Advertising Answers: January 2022

Happy New Year! I’m starting 2022 as I mean to go on – eating Christmas leftovers and answering questions about digital marketing.

This month I help a local newspaper go online, calculate Week-on-Week changes, and explain how to track Facebook Ads in Google Analytics.

Send me your digital marketing questions, and maybe you’ll see yourself (and my answer) featured here next month.

Let’s dig in.


[Have a question about digital marketing? Ask me on Quora or email me at]


This month’s questions are:

[Click these links to skip down to the question]


Online Advertising Answers: October 2021



Q: “How can I take my local newspaper online?

Hi, I was browsing on the internet and came across your page and went through it. I am the owner of a local newspaper in South Africa. I’ve been working on this for 9years. I am working on going online next year when I am reaching 10yrs. My problem is I don’t have enough knowledge on how to do it. Still learning though. How can you help me?


A: “Hi Moitheri,

Congratulations on almost hitting a decade of publishing!

As for going online, we have a series of guides that can help you – with the Digital Marketing Basics one probably being the most relevant to getting started. We’re still adding to the basics guide so hopefully, it will grow as you do.

On top of this, here are some of the most important tips I can give you before you get in too deep.


Have dedicated staff

There is going to be a lot of work to do online. Some of it will be publishing content, but some of it will be admin and some community management. I would therefore recommend having at least one person with their job dedicated to working on it.

Running a paper is a lot of work already, and so it’s not really something you can just add onto someone’s job. Eventually, you will want whoever writes for your paper to be able to post their articles themselves. But to start with there will need to be someone to help publish online, and after that initial period, it would still be ideal to have someone who is an expert in how it all works.

Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console on your siteYou need to be able to measure how you are doing. These two tools are free and will help you. Install them early.

Google Analytics shows you how many people have visited your site etc.
Google Search Console tells you how people found you on search.


Start with Email Marketing

Email marketing is still the most powerful form of online marketing. This is because it’s relatively cheap, and the audience you build up are typically much more interested in what you have to say than on other platforms. People who have subscribed to your newsletter are saying “I want to hear more from you”, so you know they are a good audience.

On social media (like Facebook), the social media platform does everything it can to keep people on their platform. With email marketing, however, once they click into your email there are no distractions. You can talk directly to your readers, and give them links to send them to your site.

So I would highly recommend building an email list as early as possible (as it can take time to get a lot of subscribers). A good platform for this is MailChimp as it’s free to start with and it’s easy to use. You should add ways to sign up to your emails in prominent places on your website – such as on the homepage, within every article, and on a specific page that can be found in the menu. You can also add a signup link on your Facebook page and other social profiles.

Be specific about what people are signing up to – if it’s a daily or weekly or monthly email that they can expect then tell people that. Whatever you say – you must stick to this. Do not send extra emails unless you have said you will. Do not sell their data (you won’t make enough from this for it to be worth it anyway). An email list is to be nurtured and grown so you shouldn’t risk it. These are your most valuable audience.

Similarly, do not buy an email list from somewhere else and contact them. People who haven’t asked for emails from you won’t be happy to get your emails and this is essentially a waste of money.

Make your emails look good, and be consistent with them. Send them on the schedule you decided – weekly might be good as it’s a reasonable amount of work. This is another task your digital person can focus on.

Here is our email marketing guide if it helps.


Social Media is great, but it takes a while

You need to build a following on social media before it really pays off and that can take a while. So, again, it’s a good idea to start early. To begin with, you will be more or less talking to yourself as you won’t have many followers, but don’t let that stop you. Use hashtags as appropriate to increase your reach, and put links on your site to your social profiles to encourage people to follow. Look at which posts do well and do more of that type.

Social media takes up a lot of time to manage – which is another reason I say it would be a good idea to have a dedicated online person. You need to make sure you reply to people promptly (but don’t argue with them).

Video works well on social media, so if you have the capacity then make video content when you can. In general, it’s a good idea to treat social media as a way of making people like your brand rather than a way to send people directly to your site. So while you can post links, also make sure your social media channels are valuable in and of themselves. If people follow you on Facebook but never visit your site, they should still have a good and informative experience. Ideally so much so that they will tell people that they like your brand – and in that way encourage people to buy your paper or go to your site.

Here is our social media guide if that helps.


Put ads on your site early

Honestly, you won’t make that much money from putting advertising on your site, especially when not many people are visiting it. I would still recommend putting ads on your site early, however, just so that people are used to them. If you build up your site to have a lot of visitors and then add ads to it, then lots of people will get mad and stop visiting. The thing that is most important to your website is user loyalty, so the last thing you want to do is drive people away.

So I would recommend starting with an ad network like Google AdSense as they allow small websites on them. When you get to about 50,000 page views per month, then look around for a bigger ad network. But AdSense is great when you’re small as it’s very low effort and pays quite well.

Also, and this is very important – more ads do not equal more money. People are likely to click on one ad on a page at most, so adding more ads to a page won’t increase your revenue (at least not by much). And adding too many ads will drive people away from your site, so will ultimately lose you money. Best practice is to have 3-5 ads per page. Google says that ads should take up no more than 20% of a page, but that’s hard to measure.

So I would recommend putting three ads per page – a leaderboard (728×90) at the top, an MPU (300×250) at the top on the side, and a Monster MPU (300×600) below the MPU.

You can find out all about placing ads on your site here.

I would not recommend having pop-ups ads of any type on your site as they drive people away and don’t earn that much money and people hate them. If you put ads before your videos (and you should), try to limit it to one ad. Your focus should always be on not annoying people with your ads, as that will make you more money in the long run.


Monetise your site in other ways

As I mentioned, online advertising won’t make your site that much money. It’s a good source of revenue, but not enough on its own.

As a newspaper, if you can run classified ads, a jobs board, educational webinars or forums, or conferences then those things can all bring in more money. Each requires a fair amount of work too though, so don’t just jump in without making a plan!

And of course, have a way to subscribe to your physical newspaper on your site.


SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Search engines (such as Google) are an excellent way to get traffic to your site. SEO is a very deep and complex topic that can put people off, but the basics are easy enough for anyone to do. At its core SEO is just about making your web pages enjoyable and easy to use. If you learn the basics you can greatly increase your web traffic. It is important that you make every page with SEO in mind, so it’s good to learn this early and build it into your way of working.

Before I link you to another guide (which I recommend you read about on-page SEO at least as everyone needs to know a little), here is a warning. SEO as an industry is filled to the brim with scam artists. People will contact you all the time saying “your site has this SEO problem” or “we can help you get to page one of Google”. Do not reply to these emails. If you want to find a person to work on SEO for you then ask people you know for recommendations or do some Googling to find a real business. Do not ever trust people who get in touch with you! Honestly, it’s a huge problem.

Anyway, here is our SEO guide.

Also, note – SEO takes a while to kick in. You have to keep working away at it and eventually, it will bring in lots of traffic. However, you can’t make a change to your site and immediately see improvements (individual changes can take up to 6 months to really make a difference).


Paid Advertising

I would recommend, at least to start, not running paid ads in any serious way. Google Ads will cost you more than they can bring in if you are just relying on ad revenue.

The exception is paid social. If you have a post that does particularly well or an article that you think is really important, then boosting a post is a reasonable thing to do.

You don’t have to spend a load of money on it, and it probably won’t earn you money back directly – but as mentioned above the point of social media is to increase your brand value, and this will do that.


Keep up to date

One final thing – whoever is focused on working on your website needs to have a way of staying up to date with random digital developments. Things change all the time, and there may be things they need to know. I like email newsletters myself, but Twitter is also a good place.

We do have a newsletter which I of course recommend, but there is also a site called “What’s New In Publishing” which might be more appropriate for you. I don’t know them personally, but they do write a lot of smart things though, so they are probably worth your time.

I hope this all helps! There are infinite things you can potentially do online to promote your business, so you will need to chart your own course. I would always recommend finding things you like doing and that work for you. If you don’t like it, that will shine through and you won’t do it so well. The things I listed above are things that every site should do though.

Let me know how you get on.


[This question was sent in by email]



Q: “What is WoW calculating and/or what is the formula?

I assume it’s over a week but what’s the W? Google keeps telling me it’s the “wow factor” and it’s not a calculation.


A: “WoW stands for Week over Week (or Week on Week if you prefer). It means the amount increased from last week.

The Week-on-Week equation is:


Week-on-Week Equation: ((Any Metric/Same Metric from previous week)-1)x100

Week-on-Week Change = (Week2 ÷ Week1) – 100%

(Or if you don’t like equations do this Week2 ÷ Week1 then subtract 100%. Or use this WoW calculator)

This is expressed as a percentage so if you put this in a spreadsheet it will work fine as it will turn the cell into a percentage.

If you are doing it on a calculator you need to do it a bit different: ((Week2÷Week1)-1)×100

(If you don’t like equations that would be Week2÷Week1 then minus 1 then multiply by 100).

Then add a per cent sign on the end when you write it down.

If you’re wondering why you subtract 100% (or 1) that’s because it’s only looking at the increase – and so removes the original amount (ie Week2) from the equation.

For example, the WoW increase from 5 in Week1 to 10 in Week2 is 100% as there is the same amount again in Week2 (an additional 100%).


[This was originally written for Reddit]




Q:UTM tracking not working between FB & GA.

Hi, i tried building a UTM link through Facebook ad manager & chose dynamic values for most of the fields but I think the ad traffic generated from Facebook is being classified as direct in GA > Traffic sources.

I haven’t setup any goals in Google Analytics. Should I setup some stuff in GA as well?


A: “Facebook Ads (like all ad platforms) generally overstates its effectiveness. Not for nefarious reasons, but because from its point of view the things it says happened.

Someone clicks an ad so it records a click – but if that click doesn’t make it to your site then GA will record fewer sessions than you expect. And fun fact – this sort of discrepancy always happens.

With conversions Facebook ads can only see Facebook ads activity – so of course it claims any conversion it had a hand in, even if any reasonable person would disagree.

Because of this, I would always recommend setting up Goals in Google Analytics. It’s not perfect, but it can track across channels so you’ll get a much better view of what marketing activity causes what.

As for UTMs from Facebook ads sending traffic into Direct – if you’re talking about the Default Channel Grouping then yes it probably is. Direct is Google Analytics catchall for “I don’t know what this is” and if you’ve used a non-standard utm_medium then it won’t know what your traffic is.

You can probably find your traffic in source/medium – especially if you set Ad Content (for utm_content) or keyword (for utm_term) as your secondary dimensions.

When you do this you may see that your dynamic variables set in Facebook Ads haven’t worked every time. That’s pretty common. I would highly recommend setting your source and medium as non-dynamic things ( and paid-social) to make your traffic easily findable.

Also – consider setting up your own custom channel groupings in GA. It’s really helpful to be able to define channels yourself (and using custom channels is better than editing the original default channel Grouping so you don’t break something accidentally). You can do this in the settings of your view and it means you can set up a Paid Social channel. Just copy the Default Channel Grouping, but add paid social (with appropriate filters) and make sure to exclude this traffic from your organic social channel.


[This answer was written for Reddit]



See you next month,