15 Jul

Are Display Ads Worth It? Only if You Buy Smart And Measure Carefully


Considering online display ad networks or exchanges? They might not be worth your time.

Recent research from comScore shows that overall, only 54% of display ads are even seen by website visitors in the first place.

Keep in mind this is from the unfortunately very loose standard of having even half of the pixel area of an ad displayed to a visitor for half a second – not much! The actual situation for online ads in the “real world” is likely to be even more dire.

As you might expect, there are big differences between types of display ads – this isn’t a one size fits all blanket statement. As comScore explains:

“While the definition of an ad network or exchange is well understood, there is no industry definition for premium sites. For the purposes of this analysis, we defined a premium site as any site having an average CPM of USD $5.00 and monthly ad revenue of $100,000″

In other words, there’s a degree of “you get what you pay for” involved in buying online display ads. Purchasing from generic networks and exchanges (Google anyone?) will be cheaper, but don’t expect the results to be great.

In my experience, this bears out. I no longer invest in any of the lower-tier types of exchanges – or keyword text ads for that matter, since almost all of the positive results I have seen come from careful investments in targeted industry sites, hand-picked and designed to function far differently from the ad blocks that some are used to buying. Who knows, they must still work for some products, but I can count the number of people I personally know who have bought from an ad network display ad on one hand.

From comScore’s breakdown of the ranges in viewable ads, the best placements were seen upwards of 90% of the time, while the worst close to never, only a few percent at best.

Of course, when your ads aren’t viewable, visitors aren’t taking action on them. Surprisingly, increases in viewability do not seem to create a linear improvement in results, but even better than that, as Jack Neff writes in AdAge :

Experience at Kellogg shows viewability matters a lot: a 40% improvement in ad viewability produced a 75% increase in sales life from digital advertising, said Aaron Fetters, director of Kellogg’s Insights and Analytics Solutions Center.

Of course, we aren’t all huge consumer brands, so results will vary. And by the end of 2013, we may be able to buy online ads based on their viewability metric – at least if the Interactive Advertising Bureau (iab) has their way.

For now, the bottom line here is that if you are going to invest in online display, make careful, conservative buys and measure the results closely, dropping those that underperform. It’s better to purchase ads at one or a few sites that your target audience really reads and you know the ads will be seen than to simply buy up tons of placements that won’t have any effect.

03 Jul

Declare Your Social Media Independence this July 4th

New Year's 2013 - San Francisco

Image Credit: Anthony Alvernaz

“You have to do this, you have to do that… you MUST follow these seven rules or your social media strategy will fail!”

The truth is, a winning social media strategy can be different for every individual and every business. There is no “one size fits all” solution except for the common thread that all paths to success include investments of time, effort, planning and measurement. Even the very definition of what “success” is changes from company to company.

Declare your independence from online hucksters and the “get rich quick online!!” type schemes that seem to be on every other website these days. Make your own plan based on your organization’s needs, your available time investment and your skillset. Go out there and execute, see what your results are, and adjust if necessary. Want to only concentrate on Twitter? If it works for you to do so, fine. Want to engage only with email and Facebook? No problem! Is Instagram the avenue that you believe will work best for reaching your customers and prospects? Great.

Just be prepared to constantly adjust based on the results you are seeing, and don’t get tied down if your strategy doesn’t work after all. Be flexible and concentrate on building relationships, and you’ll do fine. You might find you were right all along, in which case congratulations – keep doing it! If not, then reassess and look at your options.

Create your own path to online success – get out there and be social!

02 Jul

Elegance Counts – in Marketing As Well As Product Design

Attention to detail sometimes makes all the difference, whether you are designing the next great mobile phone or laptop, or putting together a new email and landing page for an online marketing campaign. Regardless, one must pay attention to all facets including presentation, ease of use and the overall customer experience. Let’s look at some illustrative examples:

dell laptop power adapter

Dell laptop power adapter. Image Credit: Dell, Inc.

Consider the design of the laptop power adapter above. A generic PC experience that is familiar and comfortable – everyone has seen and knows how to use one – although boring. Remarkable only by its ubiquity in the industry.

apple macbook magsafe power adapter

MacBook power adapter. Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

The second example here almost needs no introduction, as it clearly stands out amongst the sea of generic laptop chargers – Apple’s “MagSafe” power adapter. The smooth edges and white polycarbonate plus a touch of aluminum look are iconic. Above all, however, is the functionality provided by simply switching the connection between laptop and power source to be magnetic.

Imagine your laptop connected to each type of adapter, sitting alone on top of a desk when someone casually walks by and runs into the power cord. In the Dell scenario, your laptop comes crashing to the ground, cracking its screen and transforming itself into an expensive paperweight. For the MacBook, though, the story is completely different – the magnetic adapter falls away harmlessly and the laptop does nothing more than perhaps shift an inch or two on the desk.

Sometimes the smallest details make the biggest difference in customer experience.

It’s the same in online marketing as it is in physical product design - you have to pay attention to the details to get the best results!

Look at the following examples of marketing landing pages for enterprise accounting software:

acumatica marketing landing page screenshot

Acumatica landing page.

This landing page for Acumatica isn’t bad, really. The design and navigation are fairly well focused and the layout is simple. I especially like the “Award Winning Cloud ERP Software” headline and the live chat option for quick answers to questions without leaving the page.

netsuite marketing landing page screenshot

NetSuite landing page.

But this landing page for NetSuite is much stronger just with a few key changes. Let’s compare:

  • The CTA (call to action) button on the NetSuite page is much larger and the color stands off the page well, plus the conversion itself makes more sense than the corresponding text on the Acumatica page. I know exactly what I will get when I click a button labeled “FREE PRODUCT TOUR,” but I’m not so sure about “Custom Demo” (note even the difference in the capitalization on the button text itself that makes the NetSuite button that much stronger!).
  • The addition of the subhead “Trusted by 16,000+ Organizations worldwide” which is then backed up by actual customer quotes on the right make the message very cohesive.
  • Also notice how the bullets on the NetSuite page convey concrete benefits, while the Acumatica page lists features instead. If I’m buying, I want to know what the actual end result of my software implementation could be to my organization.

These aren’t huge changes, but I will bet that the NetSuite page converts at a higher rate than the Acumatica page. In these examples of “sweating the details,” you end up with a power adapter that either leaves your laptop crushed on the floor or saves its life, or you end up with a landing page that works somewhat, or you get one that works well enough to bring in that extra percent of prospects your sales team really needs.