Why Niche Banner Ads Fail
The following is an opinion piece on the state of niche web design/development banner ads. Have your own thoughts? I welcome you to discuss them in the comments!
Successful advertising campaigns are not produced by the publisher. The publisher just provides the real estate. It is up to the advertiser to fill that space with something worthwhile. Lately, it seems like advertisers have been slacking. They count too much on the sheer volume of impressions rather than the genuine appeal of an ad placement.
So what can be done to improve this rapidly sinking ship of mis-marketing? It starts with a mentality of being valuable.
Be Compelling, Not Just Present
Impressions for a website are an indicator of many potential visitors could click an advertisement. But high traffic can mask actual effectiveness. A truly effective advertising campaign should not have to rely on high traffic alone to reach a benchmark. Click through rates (CTR) are largely unaffected by overall traffic, but a much better metric of success.
“With such high traffic, we have a much higher chance of someone clicking our advertisement!”
This type of shotgun mentality is lazy. Do no pay extra money in order to avoid making truly effective campaigns. Do not think that success relies on volume of exposure rather than genuine appeal. That is backwards.
If you’re having problems catching fish, don’t just dilute the pond — pick better bait! This concept applies to online advertising. If an ad can perform well on a small scale, it should only improve with larger numbers. The reverse is not always true. Appeal to a target audience and not just a large one. If your ad was on a blog read by only ten people, would anyone click it?
Getting a high CTR on an advertisement may not be easy, but there are things that can help improve the odds. Too many banner ads have a weird way of embracing cheesy “Make money” flashing graphics. The problem is that we’ve seen these all over the place, and most of the time it’s uninvited…
Hauntings from a Pop Up Past
People still remember the days of pop up ads. Even though they still exist today, there are many more options for prevention. Pop up ads are junk. Don’t circulate ads reminiscent of one. Especially if it’s a long term commitment like the ones formed through BuySellAds. Don’t be a banner placement for spam.
Do visitors buy into the blinking promises of wealth, women, and fame for almost no effort? I would hope that few people click through looking for a legitimate business opportunity.
It’s a Niche Problem
The typical contextual ad is less than compelling in the web design/development niche. Google’s Adsense has a tendency of serving up some incredibly bland or gimmicky contextual banner ads for many basic keywords. This is not a fault of the system, but by the quality of the advertisement pool itself. This gap in quality isn’t the case for every genre however.
We’ve recently helped our friend Chris Collins launch a blog oriented to artists, musicians and writers. The Nonsense Society has some of the best contextual Adsense ads I’ve ever seen. They are unobtrusive, relevant, and blend extremely well into the layout. It is extremely rare to find a featured advertisement “gimmicky” on the site. Take the screen below for example:
That is one attractive advertisement! There is no text. It’s purpose is a mystery. I would have to click to find out more. The appeal is in a combination of curiosity and aesthetic.
Original is Attractive
One of the most clicked ads that we’ve run through BuySellAds on this blog was for a caricature artist. That’s impressive, considering that every other ad running at the time was far more relevant to a web design audience. I can’t say whether any of those clicked turned into sales, but the important point is that this ad was successful in motivating this blog’s audience to click through.
It was something unique, and genuinely interesting. As Seth Godin points out in his TED talk on marketing originality, it is the extraordinary that grabs attention. When reading fellow niche blogs I am rarely drawn by ads offering WordPress themes and XML management tools anymore. These are commonplace, and therefore often unspectacular. It’s the state of the blogs. Phrasing like “WordPress Themes” have to shift to something specific, fresh, and intriguing if these sites want continued traffic from their ads. You’re not going to win people over with buzzwords anymore.
A More Effective Solution
Advertisers should welcome originality. Embrace that most niches have interests that are not so simple as tag lines of “Make MONEY!!” inside of blinking squares. Exclamation points have a range of effectiveness, and it usually expires after one.
Believe it or not, there are good examples of online advertising. College Humor runs campaigns in a particularly unique way through skinning the site’s background.
The screen above shows the site during a movie promotion campaign. The core content remains the same, but a very targeted theme has taken control of the page’s visuals. The content remains the same, but even regular visitors are quick to notice the not-so-subtle changes to the design. Notice how the advertisement molds to the site’s design, rather than the other way around.
What Would You Click?
This was a long post, but I leave it as a conversation starter. After all, it is the readers of a website that ultimately determine the success of an advertising campaign. What are your thoughts? Online advertising won’t be going away anytime soon, but what would make it more effective? Have you ever run a campaign of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below.