The 3 worst on-site ad fails

Advertising messages can form an essential part of an effective online strategy for a website. But ads are often used in ways that hinder rather than promote success.

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Advertising messages form an essential part of an effective online strategy for a website. They can generate revenue, increase conversions and grow mailing lists.

They have evolved from static banners restricted to sidebars to dynamically served content that can make or break a visitor's experience. From interstitial ads to pop-up messages to scroll boxes, ads are being used in an ever-greater capacity to drive results on websites.

Yet many businesses are using ads in ways that hinder, rather than help their success. Make sure you aren't alienating your visitors with any of the following three misuses of on-site ads.

1. Disrupting the user experience

Bombarding your visitors with ads that constantly interrupt their interaction with your website is a surefire way to send them packing.

It's important to remember that ads are perceived to serve the needs of the website owner, rather than the visitor. In fact, visitors dislike on-site adverts so actively that over 198 million people now use ad blocking software when browsing the web.

Think carefully about the most opportune times to present an ad to a visitor. Popular choices for first ads include on immediate arrival (before they have started reading) or after a few seconds (allowing them to get sufficiently interested in the content they were looking at to return to it after closing or acting on the ad).

Avoid serving subsequent ads rapidly after the first ad has been closed, or running multiple campaigns that serve different ads simultaneously.

2. Serving ads without personalization

Delivering ads with content that is personalized to each visitor is the key to higher clicks. Studies show that relevance can help to combat banner blindness. This is becoming more and more important as internet users are bombarded with advertising messages at every turn. Irrelevant messages aren’t just ineffective, they run the risk of conveying a message that you don’t know (and therefor don’t care about) your website visitors.

Using marketing automation software such as Marketo, Hubspot or SumoMe greatly simplifies the process of customizing when and how ads are served, and who they're aimed at. They allow you to design detailed campaigns that can target niche groups of visitors based on demographics and behavior. However, they come with a price tag which might put them out of reach of many businesses.

Not having the power of an ad delivery tool is no excuse for lazy marketing strategy though. Your on-site ads can still benefit from more generalized personalization. At the very least, you should ensure that ads are relevant to the page where they are being served. You should also aim to serve different ads to existing customers and new visitors.

Consider these typical mistakes in ad personalization:

  • Serving a “Subscribe Now” ad to someone who arrived at your site after clicking a link in the newsletter.
  • Displaying ads for new customer discounts to visitors who are already logged in to their accounts.
  • Pop-ups that promote your new products area to visitors who are already browsing that section of your site.

3. Not customizing ads for mobile delivery

Mobile advertising is big business, with ad revenues expected to exceed $80 billion by 2018. Yet conversion rates for on-site ad campaigns from mobile devices are still much lower than desktop conversion rates. This is often due to poorly designed ad campaigns that fail due to some common reasons such as ad size, layout or placement.

Mobile users who can’t see the whole ad or can't easily enter information miss out on your marketing message, and also have the frustration of needing to scroll around to try and view the whole ad. Rather than do this, they are more likely just to look for that “X” button to make it disappear. Which brings us to the next mobile ad fail: the inability of a visitor to get rid of it.

Of course your ads are important to you. They are designed to help you build your mailing list, make sales and increase the average purchase value. But realistically, only a tiny fraction of visitors will engage with your ads. At the end of the day, people have visited your site for the content on the main page. Not allowing them to easily get rid of ads in order to view that content is a huge mistake. Not only is your ad not performing, but you are losing visitors.

Think carefully about these three common pitfalls and see if you can make improvements to your on-site ads to enhance performance for visitors and ultimately improve your ROI.

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