Online ads come in different shapes and sizes, but one thing they all strive for is to get the audience member to click on them and be whisked one step further along the sales cycle. To understand the psychology of the click, Robert Lerose spoke with Wendy Montes de Oca, president and managing partner of Precision Marketing and Media, a West Palm Beach, Florida full-service marketing firm, and author of Content Is Cash, an Amazon best-seller. Some edited excerpts from the interview:
RL: What are some different kinds of online ads?
WM: On the paid side, there are banner ads or display ads that could be flat, which means they're not Flash or video or involve graphics. Some popular sizes include a rectangle or a square. Other paid ads are text ads or text links. They can vary in word count from a short sentence to a small paragraph, usually going to a call to action which links to a landing page. On the free side, there are classified ads on sites like craigslist, and also on directory and local listings such as yellowpages, GooglePlaces, and YahooLocal.
WM: A pay per click, or cost per click, ad is basically a text ad with about 90 characters including a link to a URL. The party who purchased the ad pays for each click that the ad gets, as opposed to a cost per thousand where you're paying for the thousands of potential eyeballs each time that ad is shown.
RL: What are some first steps a small business should take to decide which online ads to use?
WM: First, it's important to decide on the budget because this will basically dictate what percent of the advertising is going to be free versus paid. Second, understand the target market and which delivery method they would respond to best. Some demographics respond better to contextual ads versus visual ads. Third, think of what you're selling. [The amount of] copy to sell the product might help define the venue. For example, if it's something that involves more copy, then a text ad might be better than a banner ad.
RL: Are there some features that successful online ads share?
WM: Yes, there are certain things that are pretty much consistent across the board. First, if it's a banner ad or something that involves graphics, it usually has a strong visual element or even a headline that captures your attention within three to five seconds. Second, [placing the] ad above the fold, which is the top part of the computer page. Eye-tracking studies show that the upper-right corner of the page is best for ads. Third, strong, persuasive copy on both the actual ad and the click-through landing page as well as a strong call to action. Lastly, [the ad must have] relevance to the target audience you're shooting for.
RL: How do you even define success for online ads?
WM: It's different for different industries. One benchmark is the click-through rate. Basically, you divide how many clicks versus how many impressions you get between the front-end (which is the banner ad or text ad) and the back-end (the landing page). The conversion rate would be the number of people that went from your landing page, took the next action, and clicked submit for the offer. That could vary based on whether your offer is sales related or lead generation, meaning you just want to get an email address.
RL: What do you look for in these results?
WM: If your ad has a strong click-through rate but a poor conversion rate, it means generally that you're getting the initial eyes, but you're not closing the deal. In other words, your banner ad or text ad is good, but you might need to refine the landing page, such as the copy, the offer, the price point, the call to action, or the guarantee. If an ad has a bad click-through rate and a bad conversion rate, you need to revamp both your front- and back-end creative.
RL: What are some of the different pricing models for online ads?
WM: In general terms, the rates for CPM (cost per thousand) models are going to vary by industry and by site. If it's a very popular site that has a lot of traffic, it's going to be different from a site that has a little less traffic. I always advise people to do their due diligence when they look at rates. A savvy media buyer never ever pays what's on the rate card because obviously the account executive always has inflated the prices, so it's really important to do your competitive analysis. Ad networks sell ad units at a cheaper rate than if you buy directly from a site. They usually buy their ads in bulk and can pass down the savings. Clickz has ad networks that are current, and Burst Media usually offers pretty good rates.
RL: What else?
WM: To save money when buying ads through a network, ask for remnant space. Remnant space is basically excess ad units that a network or a publisher needs to unload. They try to sell them at reasonable rates, so you're still getting great exposure. For somebody buying ads for the first time, it's actually really good. They can get the job done, but get it a lot cheaper.
RL: Do you have any examples of or links to ads that work?
WM: The Street.com, iVillage, and Fox News are all pretty good sites for anyone who wants to get an idea of either type of ad, how they're written, and the visual element. One thing that's really important for people to know about is the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They have all the ad types out there, along with research, best practices, and guidelines, so they're a really good reference.