When running any display campaign, there is always that moment when I simply just want to know, basically, how it's going? I love the creative, and I think the concept is solid. I know that the ads launched only about an hour ago, but I just can't help but log in and witness the real-time action of the most successful campaign ever. My heart sinks when I log in and see a 0 percent click-through rate (CTR).Now, I know that there just isn't enough data to extrapolate that early on in a campaign. So I try not to overreact. I choose to wait, impatiently, because I know that the team has considered -- or will consider -- the points that I outline in this article.
Could your campaigns benefit from one or more of these tactics?
I wanted to cite this as tactic No. 1 because it should be at the forefront of any advice or recommendation that I outline. While there are "best practices," we've concluded through experience and testing that things are always changing and each case is unique. You have to establish appropriate rules for testing to give everything a fair shake. But once you've done that, establish a hypothesis and go.
Rule nothing out. You will be amazed at what is successful. But beware: Don't let any finding become your secret sauce that you turn to for everything. Every campaign, client, product, placement, and timing causes your targets to react differently -- so be on your toes every time.
2. Change your units
In the first few days or weeks (depending on volume), you should be able to tell which units are performing. However, be sure to review this on a placement level because different sites cause users to navigate and scan differently. Deduce which are your stars and which are your dogs to make quick, ruthless changes. Go with the winners, and you'll immediately experience a lift in click-throughs for the campaign. Note that if one unit is consistently underperforming, you should objectively review the creative to see if there might be a different issue in play.
3. Don't try to do too much
I think we all get a tad ambitious with what we'd like to communicate to our audience when we're advertising. For once, it is where we get to control what is said about our product, and we decide how it is said. But, realize that our audiences are still truly in control. When they're consuming our ads, they are actually doing other more important (to them, certainly not to us) things.
When producing your ads, distill the message to the most important point and think about a user driving by a billboard at 65 mph. What is their single most important takeaway? Remove everything else (including the darn "click here").
4. Be permanently consistent
In the relatively short life of most campaigns, it can be hard to build off of prior recognition that the brand may have. However, if you maintain a consistent, permanent theme -- not just between ads but also between campaigns -- there's a greater chance that your target will remember you for the long haul.
Consistency builds long-term trust and affinity. Building trust and affinity increases click-through and conversion rates. People want to do business with companies that they feel have been around and will continue to be around to support them. If you're constantly changing what you say and how you say it, customers lose faith. Think of your brand as a politician -- your target audience is voting with its money.
5. Reconsider rich media
If your campaign's success measurement is all about the click-through and conversion, you will want to reconsider integrating rich media into the mix. Rich media is often more about engagement than it is about direct response.
However, if you do opt for rich media on a direct response level, consider bringing content to the ad to reduce the barrier of the click-through.
6. Try static ads
If you find that you're abandoning rich media, you might as well go all the way to static versions. The surprising thing is that you might even find you like them.
In a world where we in the industry are inspired by the latest and greatest technology, bells and whistles, and video, sometimes our target needs a change of pace. Throw static ads into the mix and see what happens. For example, in a recent campaign for a wireless carrier we ran in Q3 this year, static ads running in equal rotation with similar Flash ads had a .07 percent CTR, while the Flash ads received .06 percent.
When everything else is moving, your target just might react better to the simpler things. In many cases, they are looking for the static content on a page when reading an article and may tune out all shiny, flashy objects.
7. Rethink social media and news placements
In my article "Why Low Engagement Can Be Good," I addressed this topic in greater length. However, the basic premise is this: If you're trying to improve your click-through rates, you may not want to be placing your ads within engrossing content.
When users are managing their profiles, interacting with friends, or engaged in a story, they will tune you out. A study from the IDC echoed this by saying, "U.S. online consumers who use social networking services (SNS) such as MySpace and FaceBook are less receptive to SNS ads overall, click less on SNS ads (57 percent) than they do on other forms of web advertising (79 percent), and make fewer purchases as a result."
If you want people to click on your ad and arrive at your campaign's landing page, you may want to select media placements that are more passive, or ones dedicated to helping users navigate to other information related to the on-page topic and, subsequently, your product.
8. Design for the placement
It might be easy to skip this one when you're creating ads separate from a media buy, or when you simply have too many placements to fathom building unique units for each placement. However, designing for the placement can make a big difference. It can be as simple as black on white or white on black, or recognizing the difference between a placement on The New York Times website versus Heavy.com. Clearly these destinations have different audiences. Thus, they are also vastly different in terms of what will pop off the page and be noticed by readers.
In the case of a broad media plan, rather than trying to appeal to every placement and risk diluting the creative, consider producing unique creatives for some of the bigger, more arresting placements. Rotate those creatives to see if it makes any difference.
9. Add behavioral targeting and retargeting
We have had mixed levels of success with these media options. However, at least we've seen pretty consistently higher click-through rates for behavioral targeting. Retargeting has been solid for us in terms of boosting CTR, and we've seen outstanding conversion rates. Here are some examples from a recent real-life campaign that epitomize our typical results:
As you can see, user retargeting had more than a 10-fold increase in conversion rate, and the click-through rates were better than a run-of-network "placebo."
10. Add other tactics and mix
Anyone who is invested in online advertising needs to recognize the synergy between online advertising and other promotional tactics including offline. For example, it is widely noted that display ads lift search click-through rates. While it isn't widely highlighted in our space, it has been our experience that click-throughs for online display ads increase while similarly branded offline promotions are running. That means when our client Rubio's radio ads for this month's crispy shrimp burritos are running, our display ads promoting coupons for those same burritos are more likely to get clicked on.
The method here is all about timing and evaluating a media plan as a whole rather than in silos. When all cylinders are firing, you're more likely to see improvement across the board.
So, if you're as impatient as I am and wish to see immediate success with your display ads, relax. Try to content yourself with the knowledge that you have a quick checklist here that should help you either quickly recover or set yourself up for success the next time.