Making Advertisers and Users Happy: A Case Study

If you have followed the debate about pop-ups, pop-unders, and other intrusive advertising, it’s easy to believe the needs of advertisers to create noticeable Web advertising and the desire of users to surf the Net without annoying ads are at odds.

Research indicates that publishers can find a balance between the interests of advertisers and users. Rory O’ Flynn, senior sales information manager at Lycos, told me how his company redesigned its site with the objective of increasing user satisfaction and making advertising more effective on its network.

Lycos wanted to improve the performance of the traditional 468 x 60 banner, the bread and butter of its business, while making its sites cleaner and more enjoyable to use.

Lycos’s first step was to conduct eye-tracking studies to explore what people look at when they use its sites. By moving its content/results page banner from the top of the page to a spot between the search box and the site’s content, it increased the time people viewed the ad by 588 percent.

Naturally, the Lycos team made sure the banner repositioning was part of the final redesign. Then, using feedback from hundreds of Lycos users on site layout, Lycos created a final version that was preferred by users three to one.

Confident that users preferred the new approach, Lycos wanted proof its site redesign was more effective in meeting the objectives of its advertisers for branding and direct response.

The company commissioned a blind study (conducted by Dynamic Logic) to measure the impact of the redesign on branding effectiveness. The study recruited three user groups: one that saw an ad on the old content/results page, one that saw the ad on the redesigned page, and a control group.

Both designs helped move the needle on the key metrics, but the redesigned site’s results were dramatically higher. The redesign showed a 17 percent lift in brand awareness, a 126 percent lift in message association, and a 12 percent lift in purchase intent when compared with the control group.

With this evidence in hand, Lycos launched the redesigned site. Because some of its advertisers are still interested in CTRs, the final step in the research process was to analyze click rate data pre- and post relaunch. Lycos compared data from two weeks prior to the relaunch with the two weeks after — click rates increased by an average of 76 percent.

There you have it. A redesign that pleases advertisers and users. The lesson: Effective advertising and user satisfaction are not mutually exclusive goals.

This column ran previously on ClickZ.

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