Of all the ways to attract visitors to your web site, advertising may be the most interesting. The advantage of advertising is the fact that you can directly control it. Unlike resonance
and (to a lesser extent) links
, advertising is completely under your control.
Unfortunately, advertising may also be the least interesting because it can be expensive.
There are many, many cases, however, where the "expense" of advertising is acceptable, and that is what can make the use of advertising a key feature of your web strategy. If you have a web site that is making money, and if you can control your advertising costs precisely, you can ramp your traffic up quickly with an advertising campaign. For example, if you know that you make, on average, 20 cents in profit every time someone visits your site, and if you can attract a new visitor to your site for a dime through advertising, then you may be willing to advertise extensively. More on this approach in a moment.
One of the splashiest ad campaigns for a Web site in recent memory is the GoDaddy.com ad that ran in the last Super Bowl (see the ad here
). If you go look at Alexa's traffic statistics
for GoDaddy in the February 2005 timeframe, you can see the spike in traffic that came from the ad, along with the fact that the ad created a new traffic plateau for the site. Obviously ads can drive traffic to a web site.
There are a number of different ways to use ads with a web site, depending on the type of site:
- If you are running a retail site, you use ads to attract visitors who you hope will buy things. The key here is to make sure that you can track the traffic coming in from the ad precisely, so you know exactly what the visitors from the ad do and how much money you make from each one. If you spend money on an ad but the visitors from the ad don't buy anything, then you are wasting money.
- If you are running a business brochure site, you will generally piggyback your URL in your normal advertising campaigns. As we will discuss in a moment, you want to make sure that your ads and the web site are synchronized.
- If you are running a content web site of some sort, you can quickly bring new visitors to your site with ads. This can be especially important in the early days of a site because these visitors can accelerate the resonance and linking processes. With an ad campaign like this, you want to track the visitors who arrive from the ad. If they look at one page and leave 10 seconds later, then either your site is not resonant or the landing page is wrong for those visitors. In either case, you want to stop the campaign and figure out what you are doing wrong.
Several weeks ago, a realtor's ad campaign in California made the news (click here
for stories). Wendy Heath created a billboard ad for her agency that featured a picture of her in a bikini. She got a tremendous amount of (probably unexpected) publicity when the story of her billboard became a news event. You can also see a spike in the "reach" graph for her site (teamheath.com) in Alexa.
However, she did not have her ad campaign synchronized with her web site. If you are going to run billboard ads like that, then your web site should help people who arrive from the billboard to feel comfortable. You also want to help visitors easily find the information they are looking for. Something as simple as, "Seen the billboard??? Learn more!" (along with a photo of the billboard) is better than nothing. My feeling is that Wendy could have also had some fun with the media coverage, for example by listing every story that reported on her billboard. The coverage of her billboard made her a mini-celebrity (her 15 minutes of fame). She might as well take advantage of it.
But it can go much further than that. For example, the colors, images, icons and feeling of the ad campaign and the web site can match each other. In that way, visitors coming in from the ad know that they have definitely arrived in the right place. You can also direct visitors and show them where to look to answer questions that the ad generated. Obviously, if the visitor has arrived at your site from an ad (whether it be an ad on TV, in the paper, in a magazine, on the web, in a brochure or wherever), the visitor is curious enough about your product or service to type in your URL. Your job is to help that visitor in every way that you can. By synching the ad campaign and your site, and by tracking visitors who come in from the ad, you can make the most of every ad-generated visit.
I mentioned above that content web sites can benefit from ads, especially in the early stages. You can use ads in at least two different ways: 1) to test resonance quickly, and 2) to fuel resonance. Here's how.
Let's say you have created a new web site. You think the site is perfect, but, because it is new, it has no visitors. In that case, what I would do is go to Google AdWords
and/or Yahoo Search Marketing
and buy some ads (this article
offers a comparison). Both systems are easy to use -- you pick keywords that are appropriate to what you are advertising. You create an ad. Then the ad starts running and you pay per click (in other words, per visitor who clicks on your ad and arrives on your web site).
Different keywords have different costs and they will also deliver different amounts of traffic per day. I would tend toward keywords where I could place my ad for a nickel or a dime, and I would run the campaign long enough to deliver 200 or 500 or 1,000 visitors to my site (depending on my budget). I would then analyse what happened with those visitors. Do they leave after the first page, or do they go deeper into the site? Do they go where you want them to go in your site? How long do they stay? How many page views do they see, on average? On what pages are they exiting your site? What is a typical path that they take through your site? With this information, tune your site.
Also, after running the campaign for several days, pause the campaign. Do you see any sort of uptick in visitors when you compare "before the ad" with "after the ad"? If so, then that is a sign of resonance. If you find that your site is resonant, you may want to invest in an ad campaign early on to help the site's traffic grow more quickly. In essence, you are fueling the resonance cycle.
There are certain cases where an ad campaign reaches a perfection point. You know when this happens because suddenly the ads are EVERYWHERE. For example, several years ago you may remember seeing ads for X10 cameras all over the web. Right now you see a lot of "IQ Test" ads from Tickle. What is happening here is nirvana.
Let's say you can create a web site where, for each visitor in the door, you make $1.00 in profit on average. And let's say that you create some type of ad campaign (e.g. banner ads, popup ads, AdWord ads or whatever) where you pay 40 cents on average to attract one new visitor to your site. In that case, what are you going to do? You would probably be inclined to run those ads everywhere you possibly can. That's when you see the web blanketed with ads from a certain company. Of course that can only last so long in most cases. There comes a point where the market is saturated, so either your cost per visitor goes up (fewer people click on your ads, on average) or your profit per visitor goes down (people who do click on the ad are less likely to buy -- you've finished picking the low-hanging fruit). At that point, the ads go away.
Here are some tips if you are planning to use ads to drive visitors to your web site:
- Start small. Don't start with a blow-out ad campaign costing thousands of dollars on your first foray. Run small test campaigns and see how the visitors react to you site. Tune the site before scaling up the ads.
- Tune the ads as well. You may be amazed to find that, especially with web campaigns, very subtle things like fonts, colors and arrangement can change the click-thru rate on an ad dramatically.
- Track visitors through your site. Make sure they are going where you want them to go, and doing what you want them to do. Tune the site accordingly.
- Synchronize your site with your ad campaign.
If your goal is to bring new visitors to your site, and if you can afford to advertise, then advertising may be the easiest way to get the new visitors to arrive.