The 2014 World Cup is fast approaching, but unlike previous competitions, which have been dominated by a small group of traditional advertisers using traditional distribution means such as television and newspaper advertising, this World Cup will be marketed by a wide array of businesses in Nigeria.

Just like Libya who disrupted the traditional order and beat Ghana, one of the favourites, to win the recently concluded Orange African Nations Champions, so smaller businesses in Nigeria will be able to disrupt the normal state of affairs and play a major marketing role in the lead up to the next World Cup. And the reason is digital marketing.

Digital marketing, through online advertising platforms such as Google AdWords, has levelled the marketing playing field for all businesses by providing them with an affordable way to reach consumers as they conduct searches and browse different webpages on the internet.

An advertiser can sign up for their Google AdWords account, choose the locations they want their ads to show, upload basic text ads or more sophisticated banner and video ads and then choose the price they are willing to pay when a consumer interacts with their ad.

Because an advertiser only pays when consumers see or interact with their ad, it is an extremely efficient and measurable way for advertisers to market their products. And advertisers can choose a daily budget to make sure their costs are always within their control.

A decade ago, the only way to reach a large proportion of the Nigerian population was through traditional media such as terrestrial TV, newspapers and community radio stations. Today, as more and more Nigerians go online, the opportunities to reach more and more consumers from the comfort of a computer terminal or even mobile phone increase.

Advertisers want to be seen and reach is everything. In days gone by, if you could not afford to market your business on television, the radio or in newspapers then you had to rely on consumers walking past your shop, seeing something of interest and walking in to buy something.

Today, with Google AdWords an advertiser can increase their reach by serving relevant online text ads that appear next to relevant user searches on Google.com.ng or they can really expand their reach by serving their ads on lots of carefully targeted webpages that make up the Google Display Network.

Google has teamed up with hundreds of thousands of high quality websites, news pages and blogs that partner with Google to display Google ads. These partner websites make up the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network reaches 80 percent of global internet users – making it the world’s number one ad network.

It is made up of diverse international websites such as the New York Times but also includes Nigerian players such as punchng.com and bellanaija.com. These websites dedicate some space on their webpages to Google ads, called “placements” and then Google serves them the most appropriate and relevant ads to put in those spaces.

When uploading their advertising campaigns on Google, an advertiser merely has to tick a box labelled the ‘Content Network’ and then Google will do the rest, contextually matching their ad to the content of webpages.

For example, a Nigerian travel website on the Google Display Network could show some Google ads for a Lagos bed and breakfast. Advertisers can even use AdWords to choose specific Google Display Network websites they would like their ads to show on.

Through the ‘Managed Placement’ tool, a florist in Victoria Island might want to specifically target the homepage of a popular online gift store, especially around Valentine’s day! At the same time, an advertiser may want to be more careful about their reach because they only have the ability to sell their produce to a certain area.

With Google’s ‘geo-location’ tools, an advertiser can make sure their ads on the Google Display Network are only seen by users who are in areas they can sell their produce to. Just as AdWords gives advertisers control over their costs, so it gives advertisers control over where their ads appear, helping to cut down on waste and improve efficiency.

There is no point paying for ads if an advertiser has no idea where they have been seen and how successful they have been. That is why advertisers using the Google Display Network can access free reporting tools that tell them which websites the ads have been placed, how often they were seen, how many times they were clicked on, the conversion rate and the cost per conversion.

With this information, advertisers can make informed decisions about their ad campaigns and whether there is any room for improvements such as allocating more budget to high performing websites or excluding your ads from Google Display Network websites with very low performance.

Google also provides an advertiser with tools that enable them to measure the effectiveness of their website. Google Analytics is a free tool which helps an advertiser better understand where their users come from and what they do on their website once they are there.

It helps to answer questions like ‘where do most my visitors come from?’, ‘How do my visitors find my website?’, ‘how long do they tend to stay on my website?’, ‘which are my most popular webpages?’, ‘which webpages do users leave really quickly?’. The information an advertiser receives can help them improve their web layout and design, identify visitor preferences and track referral sources.

Nigerian businesses of all sizes no longer need deep pockets to afford advertising campaigns. Through AdWords they can compete fairly with advertisers of all sizes and always keep their costs under control. And through the Google Display Network they can increase their reach like never before. Physical presence is no longer the deciding factor in how successful a business will be.

Not only can Nigerian advertisers use Google to reach out beyond their local town, but they can reach across countries as well. An Art gallery that in Ikeja can use the Google Display Network to advertise artworks to foreigners browsing the web to research their holiday to Nigeria. It’s time for Nigerian businesses to get on the ball ahead of 2014 and make the most of the Google Display Network.

This article was originally published in BusinessDay > Read Here