It is a commercial reality that online advertising is a necessity for many organisations. As any digital marketeer will tell you, the click-through rate on online advertising is staggeringly low (think of a low number, add a decimal place and a few 00’s kind of low). To counter the low click-through rates in most situations marketeers play the numbers game and place dominant advertising on pages which attract the biggest number of visitors, typically the website homepage. The result is yet more visual clutter on a page that is typically fairly cluttered to begin with.
All fine and good eh, the organisation derives maximum profit from advertising?
I am convinced that there is a compelling commercial argument to not having advertising on pages, such as the homepage, where people need to be able to navigate clearly. Here are a couple of counter arguments…
What is the impact of advertising on the 99.99% of us that don’t click on the ad?
Homepage drop-out rates are a big issue on many websites. Now I don’t want to blame this entirely on advertising, but certainly dominant advertising doesn’t help people complete the task that brought them to the site in the first place.
Adverts frequently employ highly distracting tactics, such as animation, which make it very difficult for a person to focus on the rest of the site for a sufficient time to click on the best link to help them nearer towards their task. During usability testing I have frequently heard people say that they’d click on something quickly just to get off a page with overwhelming adverting.
The upshot of this is that people end up at the wrong parts of the website where they can’t complete their task. This results in people either turning to alternate service channels that are more expensive for the organisation, such as call centres, or worse still, people giving up and seeking out a competitors site to satisfy their needs.
What is the cost of this to the organisation? It is a complicated calculation, but my feeling is that it certainly cuts into a significant slice of whatever revenue is derived from homepage advertising.
Wouldn’t click-through %’s be higher with more targeted advertising?
Why not place adverts in places where you know more about why a person is visiting your site, i.e. anywhere other than the homepage? Better still, place the advertising on pages after the person has completed their reason for visiting the site. This is when people are more susceptible to distractions.
Sites with sophisticed approaches to monitoring web metrics, such as Amazon, target these seducible moments to great effect. For example, on Amazon directly after adding an item to my shopping basket I am taken to a page that provides me with recommendations based on the item I’ve just added to my shopping basket.
Applying the principle of seducible moments to a site such as News.com.au would mean uncluttering the homepage with take-over advertising and instead placing adverts for things such as credit cards in the Money area of the site, or alongside news articles about financial related topics.