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What's wrong with online marketing and advertising?
Is this just how it works?

 2:25 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

My marketing experience is exclusively online, so I have no "real world" reference points, but....

after being around for a while in the net arena, it seems the bigger the company the less effective their advertising and the more money flies out the door.

Search engine positioning and placement are often overlooked in favor of banner campaigns. Companies that are ripe with numerous web sites that if structured in the right way could dominate their niche in the SERPs opt to spend staggering amounts of money on placements that yield $100.00+/conversion (sometimes a click) (conversion = request for more information - never dealt with e-tailers). 50-60% of visitors enter and exit on the same page. IMHO, these are abysmal numbers - the question is why.

1) Poor targting of banner placements

2) A disconnect between the content and context of the ad, and that to which it leads.

3) Companies have budgets and just want to spend them so they feel like they are doing something and keeping up with everyone else.

4) Companies want to say what they want to say in their own language and are to stubborn or naieve to realize what a little user centered thinking can do when architecting a site - not only in using the site, but arriving on the site.

5) When buying banners, doing PPC, cloaking or whatever, the URL to which the placement leads is usually the company home page or something to track results but not user centered.

A hypothetical example would be sony buying "cd player" on GoTo and setting the click through URL to the Sony homepage.

6) Tracking search engine referrals and stats is harder than banner placements with spotlight tags in a system like DART (more confusing?) so people just don't recognize the benefits.

Any thoughts?



 2:44 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)


You may want to look at this thread [webmasterworld.com...]


 2:48 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

after being around for a while in the net arena, it seems the bigger the company the less effective their advertising and the more money flies out the door.

No lies there. You have been in the biz.

I would add to that, big companies also have a tendancy to tie a the hands of the SEO person behind their back by DEMANDING that descriptions in search directory say a certain thing: even if keywords are not listed in them. "It has to comply with our 'brand'"

I said "NOBODY looks for keyword...how do you expect me to drive traffic to your site when you refuse to put keywords on the page people actually look for and use?"

It is a huge control issue.

I have also noticed large companies don't move at 'internet' speed. They refuse to change the content on their site to make it more compliant with search engines basically forcing you to cloak. It is incredibly frustrating.

I was once told by a large company I worked for, that they were upset that the search engine description didn't comply with their branding initiative. The example they showed me was a "description" from Google SERPs.


 2:53 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I agree with you.

I think some company just did not adapt to online mkt. It is sometime hard for me to reach decision makers. The information I provide, yet vulgarised, seem to distort or vanish in thin air when it reaches them.

Mkt decision makers are often not inclined to go into "details".


 3:05 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Maybe the solution is to hire an intermediate who can translate for us. Specifically, a person who professionally writes/produces commercials for television. The companies may just understand them. Remember, we're new school - they're old school. Except for things like e-commerce or directories, aren't web sites really just one big commercial?


 3:48 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

"aren't web sites really just one big commercial"

Yes and no. Commercials can say anything and people have no choice but to get hit by them. Branding, the company image, e-jargon that people don't understand can be broadcast in a commercial.

On the net however, if the commercial is constructed in the same way noone will ever see it in SERPs, and most other methods are very expensive. A regular commercial is a stand alone production that serves as a reminder, an attempt to grab a word, placement, a position in the mind of a consumer.

On the web, the commercial has to cut to the chase or the visitor will probably start to smell the stench and leave. Even if it isn't selling something it's got to be honest? and not full of hoopla.

It seems there ought to be a few core reasons keeping online advertising from being more effective both in the planning and execution, and the people and communiction part. Sometimes a client with a site with tons of potential comes along, and it is so frustrating to be locked up at to what one can do.


 4:02 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)


Maybe I phrased it wrong. In the back of my mind I was thinking how specialist in commercials works at finding the target market for a company, say 20-30 year olds, then finds the appropriate show to place the commercial in. If the concept of targeting for web sites can be explained without getting too technical, companies may begin to understand the need for ranking. In other words, SE's age age specific so neither can a web site be insofar as getting the visitor there. The visitor, not the SE will then determine if it's appropriate to their needs. But the companies have to be made to understand that you have to get the visitor's foot in the door and that the door has to be very wide. Make sense?


 9:35 am on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

<<I was once told by a large company I worked for, that they were upset that the search engine description didn't comply with their branding initiative. The example they showed me was a "description" from Google SERPs.>>

Ha Ha Ha.....class :)


 12:28 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I was once told by a mkt. director who came up with a list of 213 keywords, "just put them in the metatags, it's your job!"

He felt something was wrong from my body language.


 12:37 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've been very lucky...I've never had to work long term for anyone who wasn't well aware of their ignorance about the web...though that is probably because my background is marketing

it seems to me that faced with a new medium, large companies mostly took fright and relied on design and advertising agencies that they had already had a long term relationship with...which means the pattern has been set by people who have little or no experience of or interest in the web

that isn't going to change soon


 12:45 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

>"just put them in the metatags, it's your job!"

Macguru, what was your response to that?


 12:45 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

The best answer is not optimization of a site that already exists, but rather hiring a design team that includes an SEO consultant in the first place. Most design teams don't. Granted, most companies already have websites, but many could still benefit by starting from scratch.


 12:54 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

>relied on design and advertising agencies that they had already had a long term relationship with...

This is why I try to reach Web and advertising agencies as customers. Beeing part of the developpement team is essential to control everything from scratch. The SEO agency I was working for took promotion of existing Web sites. Most of these sites had severe incompatibility with spiders. And expectations where way too high for the money.

Sitting between the client and the Web design agency is an uncomfortable spot, when the whole has to be reviewed.

It will change progressively. The Web agencies I have as clients differenciate from others with SEO arguments.


 1:01 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Bad advertising isn't unique to the Internet. Every year, I try to watch the commercials aired during the Super Bowl. There are usually some great ones, but there are always some that leave you scratching your head wondering what idiot spent a couple of million bucks to air THAT. Accenture's perplexing "now it gets interesting" campaign is a great example of money that might as well have been thrown in the dumpster.


 2:26 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Macguru, what was your response to that?

A little context sensitive informations:

I was at some tensed meeting with 9 other persons.

I am a 6'4" 265 lbs guy and was the only one not wearing a tie and a fake smile.
The guy was some 5'4" mid 20's new dictator on the block.

My first response was physical. I slowly stood up, smiled and then pressed two figers into my eyes making a sound like if my eyeballs crushed. People aroud the table started laughing to relieve some tension. I picked the list from the conference table, shut the lights down, fired up the projector and went to computer plugged in it. It was some pretty arrogant way to take control, I did not care to work with them for a long list of reasons.

I picked from his 213 keyword list is "best" shot: computer

I played with Google for this single keyword highlighting some numbers. It was soon found that we had millions of competitors for this keyword and that we needed a little more than 200.000 inbound links to get on first page for an approximate cost of 4 million.

Shut down the machines and turned the lighs on. Some big guy had problems hiding that he was laughing.

Now Mr. X, I believe that before I do a real market analysis we should agree that I am here as a consultant for the benefit of this company. I know what my job is about, and my first sugestion is for you to stop waisting everyones time with thoses useless brainstormings. Thanks for your efforts, but I am not working with your list.

If you retain my services, I will bring this group a list of relevant, realistic and profitable keywords.

I smiled, he was in sweat.

To my surprise, he agreed. When I came back a week after with the list he was replaced.


 2:37 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Ha Ha...I wish I could have seen it Macguru :)

Way to stick it to the man !

Yes the list of keywords that you are given by the clients at the initial stage before any research has been done is always good for a laugh.

Amongst the latest was the keyphrase 'oil'


 4:00 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Managers do not understand Technicians.
Technicians do not understand Managers.

If you try to be both of these you are probably neither.

Some Managers have a need to be in control - which makes it difficult for them to say to the Technician 'Tell me how this works'.

Some Technicians can only be interested in the technicals - which makes it difficult for them to see the whole picture.


 5:32 pm on Sep 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Great story, Macguru. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting!

To me, the real problem with typical online advertising is outlined very well by skibum's first post. Advertisers want performance from their ads, but they use conventional thinking in execution of ad marketing. The banner, or ad, or pre-sell can't perform if it falls under one or more of the 6 points. It's as if the advertiser offers a "branding" system for publishers to use, and then expects immediate, click trackable performance from it.

I feel this is why affiliate programs work better than bannerbrokers - affiliates are (usually) allowed to work with their own creative, do their own SEO, and tailor the presell themselves. They do what traditional banner brokers/advertisers haven't been able to.


 10:21 am on Sep 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

I also get 'we just need to add Meta Tags' response from people who have read a generalist article in the press or a magazine.

This is closely followed by 'we need to submit to 1000 engines'! This can be an opportunitiy to differentiate yourself from those that push this kind of approach, usually from people that see SEO as a 'lost leader' for their core design, e-commerce or software/hardware sales services.

It gets slightly more complicated when a 'cloaked' page appears near to the top of results for a targeted search phrase which 'visibly' doesn't conform to good optimisation prinicpals!

On the subject of the much maligned banner ad, I think that it is important to set clear objectives and expected outcomes for any kind of marketing activity - on or offline.
Many use the low number of 'click throughs' generated by banners as the benchmark for the success or failure of a banner campaign.
This pre-supposes that the objective of the campaign was 'direct response' - or in effect 'click throughs'.

If the success of offline advertising or marketing was based purely on 'direct response' then almost nobody would continue to advertise. A conventional direct response/direct mail marketing campaign is doing extremely well if it receives a 1-2% response rate, and if advertising efforts were judged purely on the amount of sales calls/communications received, then many would cut back their spending.

For many clients, objectives can be connected to raising awareness of their organisation with their target audience(s), promotion of their brand (including positioning them as a user of 'new media' marketing techniques), to achieve a 'share of voice' online or offset competitor activity, rather than a 'direct sales'objective.

This is particularly the case if the client supplies high value products which have a long sales cycle.

If this is a clients objective, they can do this (just) more economically online than offline, with the added benefit of precise targeting of an audience who has a specific interest in their products or services.

I totally agree that where almost all banner advertising fails is in the 'fulfilment' of the interest generated by a targeted banner messages. How many banners generate interest on a specific theme or topic only to link to a company's home page!

I also agree that an 'online promotional mix', with some lateral thinking extending beyond banners, is required to meet any objectives effectively.

Sorry for the long post!

cyril kearney

 5:28 pm on Sep 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

Internet marketing is immature and will improve over time.

Some advertisers are approaching it as they would a national radio or TV campaign. They are developing content and trying to attract the widest possible audience. Others are approaching it as a direct marketing campaign and trying to spread the word using targeted marketing.

The national radio and TV approach takes vast resources and works for the Amazons, Yahoo, CNN, MSNBC kind of folks.

Most of us are over working the hybrid direct marketing approach but we have major problems.

Most of the stats being gathered are by webmasters in support of capacity planning not in support of marketing.
Was the Head of Marketing involved with stat gathering on your site?

Since the stats are meaningless to the marketing peple, very little test marketing is being done. Do you routinely sample banner placements before buying? Mom and pop operations might, but not the retailer trying to do eBusiness. No timely stats are available so why test?

Detail Advertisement ROI is generally unknown to retailers. They are throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. If snow shovels sold in January they are still pushing them in July.

Tiny but very vocal groups of activists are seeking to thwart information gathering by advertisers. Information is vital for cost-effective selling.

As noted before content is often poor and potential buyers are bouncing off entry pages. Again most marketing people and content people don't know their sites bounce stats.

Unpaid search engines placements are generally only effective in marketing to well defined vertical markets. If you sell anchor ropes spend time and effort with it. If you are a retailer sell blue jeans either buy your search engine placement or don't waste your time.

Don't underestimate either the value of content or of branding. Over time both work.

In the short term, if you aren't pulling, try adding a sweepstake to your advertising mix. Free still works.


 6:36 am on Sep 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Cyril - I think you hit the nail on the head with

"Most of the stats being gathered are by webmasters in support of capacity planning not in support of marketing."

That is slowly changing but until stats are gathered in such a way that the technical marketing folks are provided with useful information we've got a way to go.

When it comes to testing banner placements before embarking on a campaign, the meaningful numbers ie conversion rates are so abysmal that it takes hundreds of thousands of impressions to get enough data to make any kind of valid conclusion.

Click through rates for virtually anything are in the neighborhood of 0.05%. We can test all kinds of things. When it comes to banners the data is sooo miniscule and the variables so great for any banner placement that is is virtually impossible to draw any real conclusions except for the very largest campaigns.


 6:52 pm on Sep 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Clickthru rates are not generally in the .05% range. Banners such as error banners and punch the monkey ones designed to garner clicks often get 3 - 5% consistantly. Banners designed for branding or ill designed or targeted often do get .05% clickthru rates though.


 7:06 pm on Sep 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

I don't think it's fair to equate an "error banner" as advertising. I seem to remember a study regarding deceptive advertising and if I recall correctly most naive surfers hit their back button immediately after clicking on the "error message". Branding aside, click thru rate alone is of little value if they are not converted into viable leads.


 7:32 pm on Sep 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Call me cynic, but I believe the problem is that managers do not know how to click.
They simply did not take the class about on line marketing or on how to measure traffic quality - because there where none.

I have been in off line business and it is scary how little they know about internet in advertising agencies, media planners or even web agencies. It is not uncommon that managers have their secretaries to print out their e-mails!
We need more power users, like you and me in the board rooms. Do not underestimate the fact that you take on all the power applications as they surfice. You (I mean you that read this, just by being in this very forum qualifies you), where the first to use e-mail, ICQ, web radio, MP3, search engines, price agents, forums etc.

You have to use the internet to understand it.
PPC programs, SEO etc is all very confusing if you do not have an online life.

Banner ads do work if you place them in the right context. But you have to follow up and measure quality - otherwise you do not know what you are doing, or rather buying.


 10:00 pm on Sep 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Keymaster if one equates online advertising effectivness with clickthrus then error banners are the most effective and should be discussed.

To get high click response from regular banners online either requires trick creative or extreme targetting preferrably page specific targetting.

The highest clickthru rates occur in page specific advertising, which is usually text based and used to promote highly targetted affiliate programs.

cyril kearney

 5:45 pm on Sep 26, 2001 (gmt 0)

Click-through rates can be a meaningless statistic. If you doubt it spend about a thousand dollars and buy into a sweepstake. You can run banners advertising the sweepstake for 3 months and the prize is typically a really attractive car. (I'm talking about a 'no scam' sweepsstake from a legitimate company.

Run your banners on the same sites that you've been running them. Your click-through rate should soar but your sales will not increase in line with the click-throughs

If you get enough sales to make it worthwhile then you've found a money-maker.

If you don't then you've learned that you have a different problem. It might be targeting or your site needs rethinking or your price is wrong, etc.

If your banners run on several sites you will also have the problem of identifying which sites produced and which didn't.


 5:22 am on Sep 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Cyril what you say is true. Clickthrus are just a metric. They can be manipulated more than any other metric with ease, yet people complain of banners generating low clickthru rates. If banners are designed for clicks then any site can get lots of visitors via banners, the quality of which is minimal.
If you design online advertising with a goal beyond getting just large amounts of untargeted minimally interested traffic then a whole different metric than the click is needed to measure what you desire be it sales, profits or "branding."There is no low clickthru problem on the internet, it can be about as high as you want it to be via trickery.

cyril kearney

 4:37 pm on Sep 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

firstmark, the easiest metric to understand is 'sales'. If you spend money putting banners on a site like Yahoo, the measure you want to use is 'sales'

If the ROI (Return On Investment) is good then you should continue using Yahoo. If you put banners on CNN and the ROI is better than Yahoo then you may want to move some or all your advertising dollars to CNN.

At large sites several ad campaigns may being running at the same time. The 'Sweepsstake' campaign may be great on Yahoo but the Free Shipping campaign may be in the pits. The metrics collected must be detailed enough to separate campaigns and perhaps even banners.

If I spend money with a Search Engine Optimizing company I need to know what sales result from my placements on the Search Engines. SEO is just another way to advertise.


 4:42 pm on Sep 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

f I spend money with a Search Engine Optimizing company I need to know what sales result from my placements on the Search Engines. SEO is just another way to advertise.

Sales and SEO are two different things. Sales are not the target of SEO......traffic and visibility is.

For sales to increase there needs to be a general interest in your product or service, your site needs to have a good design while sticking to usability standards and being easily navigable and fast loading.......many factors.

The sales aspect depends on the site.....not the SEO.

The SEO will bring the potential customers to the site, and the site has to close them


 5:21 pm on Sep 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

>> Sales are not the target of SEO......traffic and visibility is.

Yep. That's why I call what I do Search Engine Marketing. Targeting and response-generation are so often missed by companies in their haste to get content on the web.

I've got to agree that off-the-web is not a rosy picture either. Only direct marketers seem to have a firm grip on measuring results. So-called "image" advertising, "branding", etc, often take the top concern in major companies. Effective targeting and measured results are often a mere afterthought. Classic example is the fall of the top American jeans company a few years back -- they just went pure image and ignored their results for many seasons. Now they're in a scramble to re-gain market share.

Also, many print designers are trying to create art and win awards instead of get results. Somehow they survive in the print world, where results can be poorly defined. But the web is above all measurable, and the "artiste" falls flat on their can! Direct marketers, on the other hand, have been making the transition rather smoothly, because they've always measured results.

This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >
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