A Can-Do Ad-itude: How Websites Always Advertise
A website can do many different things:
- A website can search. Think Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.
- A website can inform. Think Wikipedia, MSN, or IMDb.
- A website can entertain. Think YouTube, Netflix, or Pandora.
- A website can broadcast. Think Twitter, WordPress, or Tumblr.
- A website can connect. Think Facebook, LinkedIn, or Skype.
- A website can share. Think Pinterest, Flickr, or Instagram.
- A website can manage. Think PayPal, Mint, or Kiplinger.
- A website can transact. Think Amazon.com, eBay, or Craigslist.
- A website can advertise. Think… wait a minute.
A website always advertises.
What do we mean by this? When a firm, nonprofit organization, or government agency creates advertising, it places time-sensitive messages in a purchased space, which may be physical (a billboard, a mailer), broadcast (a radio spot, a television commercial), or digital (a banner ad, a text message). The purpose may range from creating awareness of an event to persuading someone to purchase a new product or service. In all cases, however, the desired outcome is to influence consumer behavior. Websites are particularly adept at this for several reasons.
Given the need for businesses to increase their bottom line, any advertising investment must demonstrate a strong return to be deemed successful. Websites provide an advantage not only in monitoring the results of any campaigns, but by also allowing companies to quickly respond to changes in their marketing performance in a cost-effective manner. Furthermore, a business has nearly complete control over both a website’s content and its presentation, allowing it to align its message with the medium. Finally, a company’s website is a central hub from which it can harness social media channels to spread its messages to new and existing customers. Let’s look at each of these advantages in turn.
There are many reporting tools available to companies looking to delve into the analysis of their website’s performance. These applications have grown very sophisticated, not only measuring web traffic in general, but also how that trend changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign – either online or off. In addition, these programs provide many key metrics that can help determine the course of a campaign’s trajectory, from the time visitors spend on a site to search queries and keywords that drew them there. This information has many other uses, making the need for an online presence that much more pressing.
When companies invest in traditional media, they often spend heavily upfront conducting research, developing the creative, and making media buys. If a campaign is not successful from the onset, the time and money that has already been invested is a sunk cost, and shifting gears to a new approach can be quite costly. Unlike with other media channels, there is no need for continual buys on a company-owned websites, as most domain names renew just annually. Thus, a business can adjust much more quickly and with relatively less expense; it can also update content more frequently, thereby encouraging repeat visitors.
Whereas in traditional and mass media there is a great deal of regulation over the content that businesses may employ, websites allow considerably more leeway. This means that a company has much more control over their message and can deliver a more seamless experience for visitors. In fact, e-commerce allows the advertising capabilities of a website to translate directly into revenue without a customer having to leave his or her home. However, this shortening of the purchase funnel necessitates a good understanding of user interface and experience.
Finally, the gains made in advertising via websites can be maximized through social media plug-ins. By taking advantage of these toolbars and icons, brand advocates can share messages that excite them with their family, friends, and co-workers. This synergy allows companies to reach potential consumers who might not otherwise have been aware of their business, all at a relatively low cost. Once again, the key is setting up a great website and optimizing it continuously.
When we think the ever-changing digital landscape, it’s all too easy to take for granted the building block of that environment: the website. Not only do these base structures form the foundation of how we live online today, but they can take on so many roles, from search engine to social network. However, for businesses looking to advertise effectively, websites are your biggest advocate.