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Online Display Ads Work Best With These 4 Steps

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Online display advertising

Online display ads deliver both branding and response, but only if they follow certain tactics to maximize results.

But: “Online display advertising is a failure because the average clickthrough rate is less than 0.2 percent.”

I have run into the above comment many times. And many times I have tried to explain that it’s just not that simple. In fact, that number is largely meaningless.

First, let’s tackle the low-hanging fruit.

A click rate under 0.2 percent is fewer than two clicks for every 1,000 impressions. And yes, that’s quite low.

That often-quote national average covers all display ads in all positions on all sites where it is possible to track the click rate.

So it includes bad positions on bad sites and even bad ads.

It includes advertisers who pump out huge volumes of ads that get horribly low click rates. They get low rates because everyone has seen those ads a hundred times and because the advertisers are paying rock-bottom CPCs and CPMs.

It includes sites that pile seven or eight ad positions on a page and make themselves as annoying as possible for the visitors by including pop ups as well.

The pages become so bogged down and slow that some of the ads don’t even display before the visitor has left the page.

Solution #1: Focus on Quality

A focus on quality means putting only good online display ads on the site from reputable advertisers.

It also means limiting the number of ads on a page so that only the best ads appear there.

Make sure the ad itself doesn’t exceed a reasonable limit for file size, which will slow the loading of it.

Don’t allow just any ad to run on the site in a desperate attempt to generate any amount of revenue.

Solution #2: Focus on Position

Click rates for both ads and content clearly are higher for anything appearing above the status bar at the bottom of the browser. People simply don’t scroll that much.

People go to content Web sites to read the content. Their eyes therefore go straight to the content on the page.

That means the ads should be placed as close as possible to the content.

It seems like a simple and logical statement to make, but many sites push their ads to the top of the header or at least partly below the status bar. Click rates drop as a result.

Solution #3: Focus on Strategy

Sites that do direct sales — selling their ads directly to clients rather than using the likes of Google AdSense — can address the issue of click rates by developing a sales strategy that bypasses the problem.

When people watch a TV commercial, do they drop everything they are doing, rush out the door, drive 50 miles away to that Honda dealer that just aired the commercial and buy a new Honda?

The answer is, probably not. But they might go next week, next month or next year.

On a commercial shopping network, if a great sale for something you want suddenly appears along with an 800 number to make the buy and ship it to your home, is it at least possible that you will pick up the phone?

Yes, it’s definitely possible.

Online advertising strategy recognizes a combination of branding and response. The response can be either delayed or direct.

Solution #4: Focus on Branding and Response

Branding is actually another word for delayed response. The idea is that you see an ad, remember it and act on it later.

The downside to branding is that a delayed response is hard to measure. The customer might see the ad and visit the store later. How will the store know that the visit came from the display ad?

The better solution is direct response. Direct response usually means an immediate or near-term reaction that is measurable.

“Clicking on an online display ad is an immediate and direct response. But it is not the only possible response.”

Clicking on an online display ad is an immediate and direct response. But it is not the only possible response.

Whenever possible, place a phone number in the ad. The ad now has two immediate direct response triggers — the click and the phone.

If the ad includes HTML, put a link that says “Email.” Now the ad has three triggers.

Give the ad an ID number and a line that says, “Mention this ad number,” and now it’s up to four possible responses.

Anyone who focuses solely on clicks as the only value or benefit from online display ads is limiting its ability to serve customers.

Be creative with it, and it will do much more than deliver clicks.

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