[Guest Post] Confessions of an Internet Advertising Rookie
Garrick’s Note: A couple months back, Tom Laughlin (President, Caravela, Inc) mentioned he was experimenting with Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook ads in driving traffic to his business website. I asked him if he would write up what he learned and share it with us. Here’s Tom…
I established a leadership consulting firm in 2002 to provide executive coaching services and leadership development courses to leaders in organizations of all sizes and types. I launched a new website in December 2009 and experimented with some advertising to drive traffic to the site. Here’s what I have learned.
Watching where people go on your website is critical to adjust your content to match their interest. My first website was more of an electronic brochure. It was fine for people I had met in person but was not sufficient to make a first impression on its own. When I launched the new website last December the design was much better thanks to a friend of mine who is a graphic designer. The web designer who implemented the site added analytics so I could see the traffic patterns. It was amazing to see where people went on the site and it caused me to add some content. One of the most popular areas turned out to be information about my past clients so I added a client list and some client success stores to go with the testimonials I had there. These are some of the most trafficked areas on the site now.
I initially experimented with LinkedIn Ads which worked very well. I had noticed that I was getting a lot more traffic to my LinkedIn profile than my website so I decided to try a line ad with LinkedIn to drive people to my website. It started driving traffic to my website the first day I ran the ad. The system was very easy to use and LinkedIn has a lot of profile information for their members so I could really pick and choose who you I wanted to view the ad.
I also tried Google Adwords and Facebook Ads and ultimately found Facebook ads to be the most cost effective of the three. It’s not as targeted as LinkedIn but makes up for that by being a lot less expensive. Google Adwords is a little complicated. There are two different systems. There’s the Keyword system that puts ads in Google searches that match the keywords you list for the ads. I didn’t get many clicks that way. Then there’s their Network system that places ads on appropriate websites. That’s where I got most of my clicks which were very cheap. Unfortunately not many showed up in my analytics so I suspect that some of the sites were charging for clicks that weren’t happening.
I initially paid for impressions but found paying for clicks to be a much easier way to impact the volume of visitors to my website. Most of these internet advertising programs use a bidding system to determine what ads run. I paid for impressions at first but found very quickly that I worried a lot less about the cost if I just paid per click. Watching your impressions, click through rates and cost per click can become a bit of an obsession. Paying per click eliminated all that and allowed me to impact the volume of visitors much more easily. Since I was initially in a hurry to get views to one of my programs I put in a high bid to get more clicks. The bid was more competitive with other bids so it ran more and got more clicks. The program I’m currently advertising is less time dependent so I’m bidding lower because I’m more interested in cost effectiveness. I’m getting a lower volume of clicks but at a lower average cost per click.
I found that my content was not very effective at getting people to stay on my site. The ads I run land on specific pages of my website that describe the programs I’m advertising. I noticed that a lot of the visitors were bouncing, looking at just that page and then leaving the website without looking at other pages. When I looked at the pages where I was sending them I realized that there were no pictures and no links to other areas of my website, other than the standard menu. It was nothing but a text description of the program. A rookie mistake I suspect. I added pictures of the instructors for our class with links to their bios. I started to get more people to stay on the website and view other pages. I also noticed that the visitors coming from Facebook didn’t bounce as much as the ones from LinkedIn or Google. When I tracked the cost for each system I calculated the cost per no bounce visitors as my final determination of effectiveness. This is where Facebook came out way ahead. Here are the links to the landing pages for my ads.
The final lesson I learned is that I need a way to collect visitor data. Although I’ve had about 250 people visit my website through the ads I’ve run – I don’t know who any of them are. Our sales cycle is very long so I need a way to capture people’s contact information and stay in touch with them over time.
Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you have any suggestions on how to do all this better. I think we’re all still trying to figure all this out.