It’s a powerful question. The fact is that the number of people using ad blocking is continuing to grow, and the issue cannot be ignored just because it is inconvenient. At this point, about 5% of Internet users have jumped on the bandwagon and regularly block ads, which translate into billions of dollars. But does that mean ad blocking is the enemy?
The Ugly Side of Ad Blocking
Ad blocking costs us all money. Then again, we created this problem. So basically the marketing industry is reaping what it has sown. People use ad block for one of several reasons:
- Too many ads
- Ads in the wrong place
- Ads at the wrong time
- Poor-quality ads
- Ads are stuffed with malware
The blame stretches across the entire industry and beyond. It becomes a “what-if” game. What if we produced better ads? What if publishers didn’t make the ads so intrusive? What if the whole industry was honest, and no ads triggered malware downloads?
What Ad Blocking Has Taught Us
If we have learned anything from ad blocking, it is that we need to allow users to enjoy their Internet experience. Ads that are less intrusive, more natural, and genuinely engaging are less likely to drive users to block them.
The other thing that needs to be addressed is transparency. We need to be able to trust ad networks not to run shady ads containing malware. Before we all point the finger at each other, we have to look at ourselves and ask, “What role have I played in perpetuating the problem?” Then we can all start working together to create a world where ad blocking is for the relatively few who simply can’t be pleased.
Where to Start
For marketers, the starting place is content. We have to look at our strategy for developing content. It can’t just be high volume churned out at a cheap rate. Focus needs to switch to quality. After all, if we can erase some of the $40 billion or more that ad blocking costs the industry, we can spend a lot more on content, and still achieve a greater return.
It’s time to convince users that blocking ads causes them to miss out on stunning content.
The FTC has targeted native ads with their latest regulations. What does this mean for your business?
As more companies fight the ongoing challenge of ad-blocking software, native ads offer the promise of greater visibility. But with greater visibility comes greater responsibility.
Here’s the short version: The user should be able to recognize your content as an ad before clicking.
“Wait,” you say, “isn’t that the whole point of native advertising? To create ads that fit right in with the user experience?”
Why It’s Not Quite That Simple for the FTC
The FTC is really trying to guard against what it terms “deceptive ads.” However, even in that blanket term is a great variety of options for the marketer because ads are not compared to a single set of guidelines, but are taken in context. That’s why things get muddled when we talk about placing sponsored ads in a native environment. What would normally be an obvious ad, now suddenly becomes part of a news feed.
But is it an attempt to be deceptive or just good marketing not to pull consumers out of their little digital world?
It comes down to the details. Will the ad have to be a different size to stand out? Does it have to be labeled as sponsored content? Is placement of the ad the issue (this would be the biggest concern)?
In some ways, the issue is how much credit are we willing to give to consumers. At the same time, the FTC’s answer seems to be “not much.” That’s why our PPC ads on Google appear first or off to the side with that little yellow box that says “Ad.”
In the meantime, it means some trial and error for advertisers because, in the end, we’re the ones the FTC will hold primarily accountable. Unfortunately, the FTC guidelines also point out that everyone who even has a share in creating the ads will be considered culpable to some degree.
This leaves us with an even bigger question. Is it better to keep getting our ads blocked or to take our chances with the mysterious new FTC guidelines? As with so many things in the marketing world, it seems that only time will tell.
We can all agree that every business, regardless of size, should have a website. That’s simply how the modern business world works. The question is: should your small business (SMB) spend thousands on a professional website when you could make one yourself? A host of companies are advertising their product/service everywhere, from Hulu commercials to ads during the Super Bowl. And there’s always your nephew who is taking that web design course online, right?
Without sounding inflexible, not getting a professional website is a mistake 99 times out of 100 (and maybe more often). Here are a few reasons:
- There’s no such thing as a free website – Even making your own site will cost you a good deal of time and money. Services that help you create a site always have monthly or annually fees for everything from domain hosting to personalized email and stock images for your site. Making your own site can cost hundreds of dollars per year, and that’s in addition to the cost in time to create content.
- First impressions are huge in business – When someone finds your website, he or she will instantly pass judgment on your company based on what is seen. Are you sure you want that perception to be based on an amateur site?
- Who will perform site maintenance? – Keeping up a site takes much more time than just the initial setup.
When You Decide on a Professional Website
Once you decide to get your site professionally done, consider these things:
- Budget – How much can you afford to spend? Remember, a site will cost you hundreds a year to do yourself, so don’t set your budget at $500 and think you can get what you want.
- Audience – Who are your customers? The type of company you run, and the people who use your service or buy your products will determine what your website needs to include.
- Goals – What is the purpose of your site? “We need one,” isn’t an answer. Are you going to sell products online? Are you collecting leads? Do you want to become an authority site?
Unless your business is a professional web design company, going DIY with your website is probably a bad idea. Even if you are a web designer, sometimes a brand needs a fresh set of eyes and ideas.
A lot of finger pointing occurs when it comes to online advertising. It’s always someone else’s fault that ads are blocked, impressions are outside of the viewing range, or fraudulent traffic eats up ad dollars. In an industry that faces scandal after scandal, let’s look at an ongoing issue — how media buyers can build confidence in online advertising.
The burden should not rest completely on vendors to make transparency a priority. The worst thing a media buyer can do is to perpetuate the problem by not asking for the right information. For example, every media buyer should know and have access to three things:
1. NHT (non-human traffic) Percent – If a vendor doesn’t know the percentage of non-human traffic viewing your ads, it’s time to shop somewhere else.
2. Viewability – How often is your ad spot located on a viewable part of the page?
3. Placement Performance – The vendor should share information regarding how ads perform based on page placement.
Which Metrics Matter to You?
• Cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM)
Focus on Quality, Not Price
The big mistake media buyers make is in focusing only on CPM. The result: we go after the cheapest media possible, forgetting that sometimes you need to spend money to make money. Focus on getting a high return from purchasing high-quality media.
Don’t Retarget Consumers to a Point of Annoyance
Retargeting is a great way to remind a consumer to return and actually buy those items he was looking at, or even left in her cart. But no one wants to see the same ad on every site she visits for the next two weeks. This is a sure way to send a consumer searching for the “Clear Cookies” button, or worse, it may drive him to ad block. Definitely use retargeting, but couple it with these techniques:
• A frequency cap on how many times the consumer will see the same ad
• A time frame based on the product (short times for impulse buys, and longer times for long-term decision items)