Most online advertisers are failing to gain anything as a result of their efforts. It has been known for some time that the average click-through rate of the typical display advert on a web page is around 0.2%. Now, a new study shows that Pay Per Click advertising, such as Google AdWords, is also largely a failure.
The research from Forrester looked at pay per click advertising throughout last year and, according to the researchers “the majority of ads failed”. There are some startling discoveries. Half the adverts – which are text-only – failed to include the keywords people had typed in, which resulted in the advert being displayed. And, worse, even if the advert was clicked on, most adverts had landing pages which were unrelated to the content of the advert, or which had confusing copy. Worse still, the adverts frequently did not screen out the wrong kind of visitor – for instance, if a product was targeted at women only many adverts failed to mention this, meaning that many clicks were from men.
This new study helps complete a picture of online advertisers. Display adverts are ignored by 99.8% of Internet users and now we discover that text adverts on search engine results pages are poorly targeted, don’t include keywords and lead to irrelevant pages.
Startlingly, many online advertisers are paying agencies and so-called experts to produce this result. It’s a bit like having a disease going to an “expert” doctor, paying them for their advice and treatment only to discover that the medicine they gave you was ineffective, not for the condition you actually had and was full of stuff you didn’t need anyway.
Two warnings should come from this research. Firstly, the advertising industry needs to realise the game is up; it simply has to become more professional, capable and answerable. How many advertising agencies only get paid on results? Not many. Secondly, advertisers themselves need to realise that part of the job is up to them. Asking advertising specialists to produce adverts for you, when your website landing pages are inadequate is like asking a sculptor to produce you a lovely bronze when all you give them is papier maché. Even though the advertising industry has a lot to answer for, it’s not all their fault; their clients are often poorly prepared to benefit from advertising in the first place.
So, what can you do about it? If you are considering pay per click advertising there are three key things you need to do:
- Prepare: Have a specific objective for each advert you wish to place. Don’t just say you “want to generate leads”, say something like “I want to produce four leads a month from businesses that emply 50 people who are all based within the county of Kent and which started up within the past five years”. Prepare your target, your desired objective and your website landing pages for each of your specific requirements. Do not consider online advertising until you have done this.
- Keyword Research: Check the keywords that people are searching for. Google has its own keyword tool, but remember this is only for around two-thirds of search. Other search engines can produce different results because different kinds of people use them. Hence you need to look at keywords across a range of search engines, using a tool such as Wordtracker can really help you get your keywords right. Use the keywords in the advert headline and again in the advertising copy.
- Analyse: Check your advertising success rates and perform things like split testing to ensure you are actually getting the results you want. Far too many advertisers appear to rely on a strategy of “hope” rather than getting data and seeing the impact of changes.In the past, working out the impact of specific adverts was difficult or expensive. Nowadays, thanks to the online tools of pay per click services, like Google AdWords, you can get the information you need to make the necessary changes. Don’t neglect this information. (Get my free report on split testing.)
Overall, though, the real issue is our attitude to advertising. Recipients of adverts do not like them – they are perceived as unnecessary interruptions. Even though Google made $24bn from Pay Per Click last year, three quarters of people who use Google NEVER click on an advert. With almost no-one clicking on display adverts it simply suggests that we, the consumers, do not like advertising. That in itself should be a signal to business owners that there must be a better way of connecting with their potential customers. You can spend hours planning and organising your advertising campaigns, but the chances are that no matter how well you do, they will only reach a minority of your potential marketplace.
It’s time to realise that the only people who actually, really, completely benefit from Pay Per Click advertising are the people who work at Google. Your online advertising failures are paying their wages.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+