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How to avoid the 3 critical mistakes of online advertising

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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$15.9 billion. That’s what eMarketer projected was spent on U.S. online advertising in 2006. For a dose of perspective, that’s more than was spent on local radio ads, cable TV ads, billboards, and B-to-B Magazines like Solid Waste & Recycling.  In truth, online advertising trails only network television, local newspapers, and consumer magazines in total ad dollars spent.

What this means is that unless you run a Mennonite supply company, if you didn’t advertise online last year, chances are good that you’ll do so in 2007.

When you get into the online ad game, it’s important to realize that while it can work wonders, it’s not immune to the laws of marketing. Online ad campaigns can and do suck, and when they do it’s typically because one of the three critical mistakes was made. Let’s see if we can avoid that tragic scenario.

No Call to Action

People don’t want to click on your ad. The fact is, if the viewer wanted to be on your Web site, she would be there already. Instead, she is on some other Web site, and your challenge as a marketer is to get her to stop what she has chosen to do, and pay attention to your message.

And attention isn’t usually enough. What you really want is for the viewer to actually click on your ad. The critical mistake is to not explain the specific benefit of clicking. To get a person to instantly shift from their planned behavior to an unplanned behavior solely through the power of suggestion is not easy. Before you sell your services, you first have to sell the click.

Make sure all of your online ads have a distinct and concise call to action, and wherever possible keep the call to action present throughout the ad (don’t just show it on the fourth panel of the animation). Show your proposed ads to friends. Ask them to describe the benefit of clicking in five words or less. If they can’t, get back to work on your call to action.

No Post-Click Plan

Once someone clicks on your ad, you’ve won the battle but not the war. Don’t hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner in your office just yet. Far too many online advertisers still send clickers straight to the home page or some other generic place.

For maximum effect, send clickers to a special landing page or microsite that ties directly to the banner, with the same look and feel, messaging and offers. Remember that online advertising is a series of steps with the banner being first, and the click being second. Don’t overlook the third step which is driving clickers to act through a clear and persuasive post-click experience.

To this end, you should also distinctly measure post-click behavior using a Web analytics package. Since a click by itself doesn’t make you any money, make sure you’re measuring how many of those clicks translate into sales, leads, calls, etc.

No Creative Testing

One of the reasons for the explosive growth of online advertising is its easy measurability. It’s simple to determine how frequently a banner ad is clicked upon (the click-through rate) and to not use that critical information to improve your results is like signing a top free agent running back but keeping the same bad offensive line…

Like Britney Spears offspring, once you have one banner ad, it’s comparatively easy to create another. Consequently, when making online ads don’t make just one. Build three to five ads each with variations of graphics, offer, call to action and other factors.

Run all of your ads in rotation and carefully monitor the results. If one or more ads disproportionately yields more clicks than the others, ask your ad sales representative to allocate the impressions solely to the best performers. Even small changes can have a meaningful impact on click-through rate.

Also, if time and budget permits, test “rich media” versions of your ads. “Rich media” includes all the new-fangled ad formats like Flash, Pointroll, video ads and audio ads. Basically, any online ads like feature video, audio, complex animation, or fly across your screen are categorized as rich media.

While these ads can be a bit bothersome, one man’s annoying is another man’s successful ad campaign. Rich media ads are becoming more and more numerous because they work. A recent campaign for one of our clients tested traditional animated online ads against rich media versions, with the rich media ads delivering approximately 400% more clicks.

These days, the Internet is a lot like Hollywood in its mentality of conformity. I’ve taken my kids to at least a dozen movies about some form of animated creature in the past year. It’ll be “The Adventures of Lichen” soon if execs just keep playing follow the leader.

Go against the grain and try a rich media campaign. See for a good library of samples.

Riding the wave of Internet advertising growth is exhilarating, and it’s rewarding to see clients have success with this emerging medium. But the worst fate that could befall the industry is for first-time online advertisers to fail and lose faith in this unique and effective marketing tactic.

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