Google AdWordsDid you watch TV last night? Can you remember the adverts? Often, we can’t actually recall anything the advertisers spent millions on. What a waste of their money..! And if we can remember the advert it is usually because it was hugely creative – and then we can’t recall the product it was trying to sell…! Another waste, perhaps.  Advertising is famously difficult for us to remember – yet an entire industry spends billions of pounds each year attempting to convince us to buy things. Advertisers have relatively poor measures of how well advertising works. For instance, they spend £10m on TV ads and sales rise. They therefore “confirm” that TV advertising “works”. But what they are failing to take into account is the fact that when they launch the TV campaign, they also change their own behaviours. Sales people take on enhanced activities in order to “back” the campaign. It may well be that the advert merely motivates staff to sell more and has no impact on us as consumers. Who knows? No-one really, because the research is conflicting.

Meanwhile, over on the Internet, Google is busy snapping up BILLIONS of dollars thanks to our clicks on adverts – sponsored links. Last year Google earned $28bn from sponsored links and this year is seeing a 33% growth on that. Vast amounts of money are being spent on advertising online – but does it really work? Several studies have shown “banner blindness” the fact that we ignore most online adverts. Indeed, the average click-through rate on a typical banner advert online is less than 1%. In other words, 99% of us ignore such adverts. Google themselves point out that only a quarter of users ever click on a sponsored link. And the average conversion rate for the advertisers is a woefully low 2% online. Again, the vast majority of Internet users are ignoring sponsored links – and even when we do click on them, few of us actually buy anything. What a waste.

Now a new eye-tracking study has looked in depth at our behaviour in terms of online advertising – and it has provided some interesting information which we can all benefit from (including Google..!). What the study reveals is that we do glance at the adverts, but that’s about it. We are mostly aware of their presence. But engagement with the adverts and memory for them is pretty low – except in two particular circumstances.

  • If the adverts are highly specific to the page on which they are presented then we are much more aware of them and are more likely to engage with them and remember them
  • If adverts only appear irregularly – if they are not on every page – then we are also much more engaged with them

So, if you carry adverts on your website there are two things you need to do to enhance the income they generate:

  1. Only include adverts that are highly specific to each page (thereby avoiding automated advertising systems and placing adverts individually)
  2. Do not have adverts on every page of your website (therefore not including them in a sidebar, for instance)

For Google, they are losing money because their advertisers themselves are not always specific enough for the search results. I searched the other day for “marketing consultant birmingham uk” and got adverts for several London-based companies. Not what I wanted, not what the organic search results were about either. Poor advertising based more on hope than anything else it seems. The result, for Google, though, according to this new study would be lower engagement with the adverts.

Also, for Google, their problem is that their sponsored links appear on every page. This study suggests they’d make more money if they didn’t do that – we would notice the adverts more and engage with them more.

If you are an advertiser on Google, though, this study demonstrates you need to be much more highly specific as to the keywords you advertise against, so that you appear on the “long-tail” keyword pages. That way people will engage with you much more. Plus you need to switch off your adverts every now and then – don’t advertise all the time; you become less visible if you do.

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