The Gentle Art of
By Michael Bloch
There's a lot of competition for web site visitors. We "small-time" web masters don' have the advertising budgets of the multi-nationals to increase web site traffic. The more ethical amongst us don't
utilize gutter level tactics in order to get people to our sites.
Every web site visitor, just like a "real-world" shopper, is a privilege and they need to be treated well to ensure that they return. Return visits to an e-commerce based site greatly increases the chance of sales. Web site visitors do not have a tendency to purchase goods and services online on their first visit to a site.
First (Page) Impressions Count
It very difficult to judge the impact of a web site on a first-time visitor. In the 'real-world' of commerce, we are able to observe people's reactions as they walk into a store. If a potential customer walks into our store, takes a few steps inside, screams, turns and runs we take notice! If a hundred potential customers repeat this behaviour - we take action, discover and rectify the cause of the problem. In our virtual stores and online destinations, we don't have this privileged information - we can only guess until an irate visitor sends us an email or an associate points out problems on our pages.
But there are some tried and true strategies that will prevent you from increasing web site traffic!
Banner Shooting Galleries
One of the best ways of turning people away from your web site is "Banner Overload".
Banner advertising is a way to raise revenue from your site, but can also be very distracting. Originally on Taming the Beast.net, I refused to have banner advertising. But as the costs of hosting increased due to rapidly increasing web site traffic we found it necessary to subsidise this expense through banner ads.
One of the problems of banner ads is that they distract from YOU, from what your site is about. Remember that the whole purpose of banner advertising is to encourage people to click on the ad. If visitors click on the ad BEFORE they read your page, you may never see them again. To combat this, you may choose to put the banner ad further down the page. A word of caution - if you are a part of a banner advertising network, read the terms and conditions carefully as some networks demand that the banners are displayed above the first "fold" (screen) of your pages.
If you already engage in the use of animations on your pages, banner advertising can create confusion as many ads contain animated elements. Too many moving elements will make your pages look like a shooting gallery.
Some banners can really slow down your page loading. It's not unusual for a banner ad to be 15kb +. This adds up to 5 seconds on the full download time of your page for someone on a slow (28.8k) modem connection. Not all of the world has ADSL or cable connections yet. In Australia, basic ADSL and cable is still very expensive, service providers charge exorbitant rates for excess and coverage is still fairly limited. As of April, 2002, only 5 percent of households have broadband access. Many other countries are in the same boat at this point in time. I am sure that visitors to your site do not want to spend their time (and money) on downloading media-rich advertising.
If you do decide to use banner ads, examine your options carefully. Choose ads that look good, but are economical on bandwidth. Some advertising network agencies give you a great deal of control over the ads in their inventory which will be displayed on your site.
Text Links are King
Instead of banners, you could experiment with text links. Most affiliate/merchant programs offer these. A text link, along with a thoughtful description of the product can make your visitor's site experience more pleasant and not induce shell (sell) shock. And because you have gone to the trouble of describing the product/service, it makes it a more personal and therefore attractive offer. If you are advertising quality services, the use of descriptive text links will also build your credibility. Added to this, text links with description also act as content - and content is what search engine spiders love!
If you must use a number of banners, try static ones that fit in with the tone and theme of your site..... consistency is the key. Something that looks out of place will have no place.
Multiple Pop-ups do not equal multiple dollars
Another excellent way to drive visitors away from your site are multiple pop-ups. Many site owners use these to "push" in-house offers to clients or to advertise another site. Pop-ups pay out a great deal more than banner ads, so the temptation is "hmmm... if I can make x dollars by implementing one pop up, then I can make xxx dollars with 10!". This is definitely not the case. As part of most ad agencies terms and conditions, a pop-up has to fully load before it is considered a payable "view". Internet surfers are quite accustomed to closing pop-ups before they fully load - so nothing is gained. Not only have you distracted the visitor, you've also probably annoyed them and made nothing out of it - it's a lose-lose situation. Pop-ups do have their place, but should be implemented with the utmost caution. If you are looking for a way to gain more income through advertising, consider using (one) pop-under instead.
If you provide free resources to your visitors, then there is nothing wrong with using advertising to repay some of your efforts or cover the costs of your web site hosting. But remember that your visitors are like gold, rare and valuable. Treat them as such - while you won't get rich quick, you will reap the benefits in the years to come.
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