There are few prevailing myths about advertising on the web that keep advertisers and marketers hamstrung. Do you count the number of people who view a page on your website? It turns out that counting clicks, though it may be one of the most common metrics, doesn't work that well if you want to know how many people you are truly reaching. Pageviews are out, folks. And real engagement is in. But how do you know that you are really engaging people? Here are three truths about advertising on the web.
Truth 1: People don't necessarily read what they click on.
Social media marketers and publishers are always chasing pageviews. Counting clicks. It the metric that writers get paid for. And the metric that a lot of advertisers care about, too.
There is an assumption that people are reading the content that they click on. But in fact, 55% of views last fewer than 15 seconds. Those clicks really shouldn't count.
"The data gets even more interesting when you dig in a little. Editors pride themselves on knowing exactly what topics can consistently get someone to click through and read an article," writes Tony Haile of Chartbeat. He says that a lot of editors have posts that serve as "evergreen pageview boosters" that can be used to meet traffic goals. Unfortunately for editors, it turns out that if you are going for actual engagement (or reading) rather than clicks, these evergreen topics don't do as well as topical news content.
Articles about topics like Obamacare or Edward Snowden or Syria get read. Articles that have words like "Top, Best, Biggest" in the title tend to get clicks, but few reads.
So what is your strategy? To get clicks? Or to actually have people read your content?
Research shows that if you can hold a readers attention for 3 minutes, they are twice as likely to return to your site when compared to holding their attention for 1 minute. A returning audience is the most valuable one. "Those linkbait writers are having to start from scratch every day trying to find new ways to trick clicks from hicks with the 'Top Richest Fictional Public Companies," writes Haile. "Those writers living in the Attention Web are creating real stories and building an audience that comes back."
Truth 2: People who share more don't necessarily read more. Indeed, they read less.
If pageviews aren't a great metrics, what about social shares? Facebook likes? Retweets?
Social sharing suggests that someone has not only read the content but recommends it. People publicly recommending content has got to mean that people are reading and engaging with it, right?
"Caring about social sharing makes sense," writes Haile. "You're likely to get more traffic if you share something socially than if you did nothing at all: the more Facebook likes a story gets, the more people it reaches within Facebook and the greater the overall traffic. The same is true of Twitter, though Twitter drives less traffic to most sites."
It turns out though that people don't share that much. Indeed, for most content, there are only 9 social shares per 100 visitors to the content.
It also turns out that pieces of content that are widely socially shared, aren't necessarily read. Chartbeat looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles "and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content."
The articles that were actually read the most-and engaged with-tended to have fewer than 100 likes and fewer than 50 tweets. The stories that had the most shares only got about 20% of the reading time that the most read articles got.
Truth 3: Banner ads work. We know you thought they didn't.
The banner ad is dead, long live the banner ad! We've all heard the news that click-through rates for banner ads now averages less than 0.1%. You've heard of banner ad blindness.
"However, for brand advertisers rumors of the banner ad's demise may be greatly exaggerated," writes Haile. "Research has consistently shown the importance of great ad creative in getting a visitor to see and remember a brand." And banner ads do that. They might not a clicks, but they do make an impression. If a viewer looks at a page with a banner ad for 20 seconds, they are are likely to recall that ad afterwards.
The recipe for an effective banner ad is simple. You need great images and text and you need to find a way to have them in front of a viewer for long enough to make an impression. Or long enough that a viewer can really see it.
Where on the page are people most likely to "really see" a banner ad? It turns out that 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold. "That leaderboard at the top of the page?" writes Haile. "People scroll right past that and spend their time where the content not the cruft is." So get your ad below the fold, folks!