When it comes to online advertising, the small things matter. It is a very common mistake to underestimate the effect tiny details have on potential clicks. Webmasters get caught up in building strong SEO campaigns to attract traffic to their sites. This is indeed a very important aspect of online marketing but if the site, ad or content are not appealing, users are not going to proceed beyond the front page. Here is a small list of some of the integral parts of a webpage or advertisement on said page that people tend to overlook.
Google created this industry and are privy to information that they have been collecting since AdSense started.
- Font size, type and color. Yes, the type of font you use on your website or blog does matter. If it is difficult to read, people won’t read it. If the color is too light, people wont read the content. Internet users like color and usually want to see it incorporated into the text of websites.
- Images; Users love images. We are a fast paced society that is constantly connected to the internet. If an infographic can explain something that a paragraph would normally be used for, then use one. Major search engines love images too, so it will help with the SEO efforts as well as please visitors of the site or blog.
- Phrases matter; The difference between “closeout sale” “closeout merchandise” “end of year inventory blowout” etc. is huge. Phrases that mean the same thing to the advertiser don’t necessarily translate the same to potential customers. These small intricacies can account for a difference of 50% or more in CTR. If an add isn’t working, change the wording.
- Ad placement; is probably the most important aspect to online advertising. Webmasters can’t slap ads wherever they think the images look best. There are certain areas of pages that provide better returns and these locations change on whether it is a front or internal page.
- Blog and site design; imagine your site or blog as a person. Whenever you meet a colleague or peer, there is the introduction period and first impression. Whenever someone visits your site or blog, the front page is their first impression of your hard work. If the layout is not pleasing to the eye and uninteresting this first reaction by visitors will reflect how they interpret the content of the site. Bad design = bad CTR.
CTR is a term that can be applied to many different aspects of the internet, it does not have to relate solely to advertising, but most people think of the figures in marketing terms. I think a large reason for this is because Google has integrated CTR information into their AdSense program, the premier form of internet advertising on the web today. Because Google created this industry, they have been privy to information that they have been collecting since AdSense started.
Advertisers were not really aware of what techniques would work and what details were important. But as Google collected more data they have been able to isolate some of the best methods for converting with their AdSense model. In fact when advertisers reach a certain amount of traffic or rank well for highly competitive keywords, Google will often approach the webmaster and provide advice on how to increase CTR. Don’t forget, if Google is not providing their customers with quality conversions on AdSense clicks they will go elsewhere for their marketing needs. The more successful Google’s publishers are at creating relevant clicks, the more potential clients are interested in using AdSense. The most useful advice that Google gives its publishers is in regards to ad placement. This is their official advice for publishers starting their first AdSense campaign. (Note that they are concerned with many of the issues discussed up top.)
“The best location for Google ads varies from page to page, depending on content. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering where to position your ads:
- What is the user trying to accomplish by visiting my site?
- What do they do when viewing a particular page?
- Where is their attention likely to be focused?
- How can I integrate ads into this area without getting in the users’ way?
- How can I keep the page looking clean, uncluttered and inviting?” – support.google.com
The last question that Google poses to the user is interesting. They acknowledge the fact that websites and pages that are too cluttered chase users away. I agree with this premise but the amount of advertisements they recommend publishers place on their pages often creates an overwhelming user experience. But they have the data, we don’t so lets take a look at where they say the highest click through rates occur.
The darkest boxes represent the highest CTR locations and the lightest are the lowest. The information is not all that exciting as most people would assume the top left location of the screen is where most internet browsers read and click first. However this allows for some psychological mind games that Google has no problem promoting.
- Text Ads directly below the navigation bar. If the ads are working properly the text should correlate to the content on your front page. Visitors will commonly click the Google ad thinking it is a category. This seems like misdirection, but is perfectly acceptable.
- Text ads in the sidebars work similar to those below the navigation bar. Internet users expect to find links in the side bars and commonly mistake Google text ads for links to articles or categories.
- Information encourages users to place ads above the fold. If webmasters used their allotted AdSense ads in the majority of locations that the CTR is highest, most of the content that is used to attract visitors is not even visible. Google says they want content above the fold so users can benefit from sites, but their advertising advice points in other directions.
They don’t want the same problems associated with many CPA companies to plague their model of online marketing.
It is a common misconception that Google does not approve of confusing advertising methods. They do not allow blackhat techniques such as cloaking of information or misdirection of potential consumers. No advertisements are to be altered by publishers as they represent the integrity of Google. They don’t want the same problems associated with many CPA companies to plague their model of online marketing. However, if one reads the terms of service there are a number of tricks that can be employed to increase CTR that Google has no problem allowing.
When determining where to place advertisements on your homepage just think about where your eye usually rests after opening a webpage. That should be one location you place an image ad. Images tend to engage readers much more quickly than text. I think text ads are best used to blend with other related content in the sidebars or below the navigation bar. The majority of highly trafficked homepages only use image advertising and reserve text ads for the inner pages. Take Mashable.com for example, they don’t even use text ads, they rely on massive imagery to keep their visitors engaged and possibly click on an advertisement.
I try to use successful blogs and websites as examples to follow. The resources are available for anyone to get involved with online advertising, the problem is people don’t know where to look for help. Sites and blogs that make large sums of money are a good place to start as they must be doing something well to earn that revenue. Google also provides great advice for anyone starting out, so anyone trying to monetize their site or blog should begin with the AdSense basics.
Users have different expectations of what they will find on articles and blog posts as opposed to what is on the front page.
Previously I touched on the fact that the homepage is a completely different entity than the inner pages. It is an enormous mistake to model the inner pages after the home template. Users have different expectations of what they will find on articles and blog posts as opposed to what is on the front page. I am a big fan of text ads on the inner pages as they fit nicely along side content, but images and media are the way of the future so it could be beneficial for people to adopt this method as soon as possible. To give people an idea of what advertisements should look like on a blog post or web article, I have added some more Google advice.
Once again, the maximum amount of advertising allowed is recommended. Depending on how long a particular post is, this format can look more or less cluttered. Imagine a 300 word article versus a 1,500 word post, obviously the more space on a page, the more natural the advertisements will look. So it is understandably difficult to give a universal guide for ad placement, but I think this gives many people the wrong perspective on how to market to their readers.
there is no reason webmasters should not use the tools they are given.
This post originally began as information regarding online advertising in general but has turn pretty AdSense centric. I am going to attempt to illustrate a change in ads that has been occurring over the past few years. As more people are becoming connected to the internet, the potential for more online exposure grows. Many people are not well acquainted with the world wide web and can fall prey to some pretty shady tactics.
- Email marketing; email marketing is not illegal, but there are many scammers that exploit peoples willingness to respond to messages and participate in limited trials and offers. Some internet users do not understand how to filter their email properly and treat every message as something that demands reading.
- Advertisements that look suspiciously like some type of instant message. Or a request from a real person that requires an immediate call to action. New internet users feel obligated to respond to a call to action and click boxes without thinking. This is not illegal, just an intelligent way to market a product.
- Ambiguous images that encourage visitors to click advertisements simply to find out what the picture is. I really like this strategy. Google uses it for some of their AdSense images.
There are thousands of intricacies that can be tweaked and changed with online advertising. Webmasters and bloggers should change different aspects of their sites and see how they effect CTR. If something doesn’t work as intended it is very easy to change back. Some people don’t think the aggressive advertising techniques commonly found online are ethical. In some cases this is true, and many fraudulent online businesses have been shut down. But as long as Google and the judicial system find the majority of online marketing practices acceptable, then there is no reason webmasters should not use the tools they are given.