Is Content King for the Advertiser?

A senior agency buyer recently confided: “I love advertising on that site: The content is so terrible that users have nothing better to do than click on the banners!”

There’s no better way to gain an insider’s view on what makes a site a winner with advertisers than to work for a new media sales house. Most of the bigger operations tend to represent an expansive range of online properties and afford the keen observer a sense of what advertisers look for. Having worked as an account director at two U.K. sales houses, I’ve learned to see things from an advertiser’s perspective.

For many, online advertising remains a numbers game founded on the premise that the more Internet users you lure to your site, the higher your chances of shifting your products and services. Many advertisers argue that the two most important variables a site should offer are a substantial base of individuals and a high click-through rate.

But beyond a simple branding campaign, where does this leave the value of good site content in terms of tangible results? Scant content combined with a base of newbie or intermediate users does tend to deliver exceptional click rates. Often, the less advanced user is keen to click on banners and to experience new sites. As content is increased and users become more discerning, click rates can fall.

While this approach is effective in getting traffic to a site, the quality of that traffic and its ultimate sustainability will never be as lucrative as it could be with advanced users. Among this group clicks might be fewer, but the higher quality of respondents translates to a response that invariably outperforms the response generated from the more click-happy newbies.

The advanced users are to be found on sites that are rich in content. Often these are the sites that deliver higher levels of sustainable impressions, as they attract loyalty either as a user’s browser home page or a bookmarked site. The average U.K. click response stands between 0.7 percent and 0.9 percent. Yet if a banner is well targeted, such as through themed content channels or keywords, click rates can reach up to 30 percent.

Experienced users need the information they surf for as quickly as possible and are particular about which banners they click on. Fletcher Research reports that the advanced user is up to 90 percent more likely to click on a banner where the products or services being promoted are of interest to them.

Creative treatments can make a big difference, with HTML search box banners and video streaming delivering excellent click rates, but they, too, are subject to limitations. Video will work only if the user has the relevant software switched on, and the chances of this happening can be as low as 30 percent.

Meanwhile, HTML banners make larger demands on adserving systems and can take longer to download. Only the new and intermediate users will hang around, unlike advanced users who are on a mission to find what they want and move on. Some advertisers try to dupe users into clicking by using fake HTML search boxes, but unless they have a strong brand to meet requirements after the click, this ploy becomes frustrating for the user.

Sites that offer rich content also provide the most valuable users in terms of ROI, and the only way to measure this is to set less onus on click-through rates in favour of measuring beyond the click. But despite this glaringly commonsense approach, the obsession with click-through rates remains; in the U.K., click-through is still deemed the crucial test for measuring the success or failure of a campaign. As a result, a highly valuable audience on the web is often ignored while the full potential of the medium remains unrealized.

Meanwhile, advertisers who are leaders in the field are using post-click tracking to gain a full evaluation of every site they test in terms of ROI from each visitor. The reduction of wastage means that these are the advertisers who are laughing all the way to the bank.

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