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How to get the best ROI out of online advertising in 2011

How to get the best ROI out of online advertising  in 2011

By David Donnan, Managing Director, Igentics.

With the economic gloom still hanging over the business world, marketing departments are under more pressure than ever. It is vital that businesses get their name out there – getting in front of potential customers as much as possible.

However, it is also important that any marketing and advertising spend achieves the maximum return on investment. No business can afford to pour money into a campaign only to see it fail to attract new customers or raise brand awareness.

With that in mind, more and more marketers are turning to the web as a way of attracting customers. Whether that is online advertising or more advanced web activity such as online video, the Internet is seen as a cost-effective marketing option that has the potential to attract a huge amount of business.

However, with so many options available, how can marketers know which website is worth advertising on, or partnering with? What should they be looking for in a website? Is it all about the amount of hits that site gets or is it the number of unique visitors?

There are many things to consider but, in essence, there are three things a website should offer if it’s going to be of use to your brand as a marketing channel: the right readership, a proven background and a fresh / innovative approach.

Does the website attract your target audience?

The first and most important thing to consider when you're looking to advertise online is that your chosen site must have a core visitor group - preferable a large one. Of course the bigger the audience, the more potential customers you’re being seen by. However, it's not always about numbers.

The first thing any marketer should consider is, no matter how many visitors a site gets, is it attracting my target audience? If it’s not, look elsewhere as you’re brand name will not get any benefit. For example, you might be a University looking to advertise with a great video about student life in London.

If you place that video on a website with a high visitor rate, but aimed at high-earners living in London, you’re unlikely to get much ROI.

Most websites selling advertising space, or looking for marketing partners to spread games or videos, will have a breakdown of their audience. This will tell you everything from the age-range; geographical location; gender and, if it’s a subscriber-based site, how many times each person visits and what they look at while on the site.

Marketers should ask for this visitor breakdown, which most well run websites will have. Be aware that sites looking to sell space will tell you exactly what you want to hear if you simply ask ‘who their site is aimed at’. So asking for this breakdown should give you a much better, and in-depth, understanding of whether that site is the right one for you.  

Does the site have a proven track record?

Once you have decided that the website you’re considering working with will put you in front of the right audience, the next step is checking that site will be an ongoing success itself. Many websites, from blogs to e-commerce sites, are launched everyday and the majority fail to really take off.

Although a website can garner a lot of buzz initially, modern web users are very fickle and will quickly move on unless the site evolves further and keeps their attention.

A website won’t survive for long if it relies on new visitors. It needs to hook its audience in to make sure they come back. If it does this, the site will develop and prove a huge asset to marketers and advertisers looking for click-throughs or an increase in direct sales.
You’ll be able to tell simply by looking at the site whether it is a flash in the pan, or a truly successful online brand in its own right.

Check archives or previous posts / articles that have been published on the site. If it’s a blog, you could check posts from a few months back and see if people were commenting.

Basically, you want to be sure that the site has been running for a while and that it is holding onto its readership. The success of any website depends on not only hooking people in initially, but also keeping the attention of those site visitors. Content is a core part of that.

It's also vital that the website itself looks good and is designed to make browsing as easy as possible. The homepage should be un-cluttered and easy to navigate. The first thing a visitor will see when they visit is the landing page.

If that is not appealing, any marketing you do on that site will likely prove pointless as people will simply navigate away from the site because of the poorly designed homepage.

Is it innovative or dated?

Another step is to ensure the website content is updated regularly so that people visiting are not seeing the same information as they did the previous week or month. Alongside the design of the site, its content is what will both draw people in and keep them engaged.

If the content is fresh and interesting enough, visitors will keep coming back for more and you'll be more certain that your online marketing and advertising is reaching audiences on an ongoing basis.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the site needs to be uploading a plethora of videos, music, or any other multimedia. It completely depends on your brand. As long as the content – whether that’s written articles, video or photography – is appealing and is updates regularly, you can be confident that the website is well-managed and will therefore be an asset.  

Once these three basic steps have been considered, you should have a clear understanding of who the website’s audience is and therefore what it offers you as a marketer. If all the specifications tally up, your decision should be an easy one.

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