Ad Market Down, Innovate to Increase Value

January 23, 2009

logoseamlesswebboxIn a down economy, many things take a hit.  One market that is hurting right now is the advertising market.  Advertisers are spending less money, pulling ads that they don’t necessarily feel good about, and eliminating all ads that do not convert.  This means that websites that rely on advertising revenue to survive must respond in any way possible.

The two most important things that you have to consider when selling ads are website traffic and advertiser relevance.  Since advertisers are going to need to see real results to continue to advertise in this economy, websites need to be able to produce those results right away.

  1. Increase the value of the site. Increasing the value of a website will help drive more traffic.  The more traffic you get, the more ads you can serve.  This will help you reach more advertisers, and charge more for each ad.
  2. Increase the quality of your ads. Increasing the value of your ads means analyzing what it is that your users are looking for while they are on your site.  If it is a free service, most likely there is information that your users are looking for.  Nailing down the right ads to fit with the user experience can increase your click through and conversion rate a great deal.

For a quick example, take a look at two very similar websites, Seamless Web and Menu Pages.  Both sites are designed as online directories of restaurants in New York City.  Both serve the same purpose: I want to order food but I don’t know where or what.  On both, I can narrow down my search by location, value, type of food, etc.

The major difference is quite simple, Seamless Web allows you to order directly off of the website, while Menu Pages does not.  What does this mean?  Seamless Web has created an enormous amount of value to their site by making it more useful to its users.  And while Menu Pages is a great service, and possibly more popular, they fail to meet all the needs of their users.  For that reason, Seamless Web is set up to get more traffic, and more traffic can lead to greater ad sales.

One final example is Plenty-of-Fish, a free online dating site.  Plenty-of-Fish creator Markus Frind created the site with a simple concept, find an industry in which all competitors are charging, offer the same thing for free, and sell ads.  The idea has flourished.  By adding value to the site (making it free), he has made it one of the most popular online dating services in the world.  With all the traffic he gets from members and potential members, he can serve more ads than similar websites.  And if the average click through rate of an ad is constant, more ads means more $$$.

These are a couple of things to consider as you begin to create or redesign a service.  Websites that show real value to advertisers are going to get the advertising money.  And in this type of economy, it’s something that you need to do to survive.

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