Millions of web site owners face the same challenges in marketing their web sites. Due to ad bombardment-induced apathy in web users, marketers have seen a decline in advertising’s effectiveness. This has left many seasoned web site owners scrambling to find ways to increase the number of quality clickthroughs to their sites.
Many site owners have adopted the "numbers game" mentality, thinking if they just put more banner ads online and across a range of different web sites, something positive will happen by chance. However, that approach becomes expensive, and in many cases, it doesn’t yield the legitimate responses that the site owner hoped for. Making your offer stand out in the crowd, while keeping advertisement spending under control, has been tough.
In this context, new advertising and marketing techniques are required. In order to provide a positive experience for your site’s visitors, while getting them to do what you want them to do, you need be innovative in your approach and understand a few things about today’s web users.
Today’s Web Users In Profile
There are five critical aspects that differentiate of today’s web users from those of the past.
1. Today’s web users are a lot savvier than users of the past.
Many of them have grown up using the Internet for almost everything. They’ve developed the ability to use search engines as if they were an extension of their own bodies. The next web site is but a click away and they know it — bore them and they’re gone.
Use your web traffic statistics to gain insight to your visitors’ tendencies and preferences. If you want a powerful stats program, I recommend Extreme Tracking, for which free version and affordably priced versions are available. Either way, the service offer stats that are much more intuitive than the basic stats usually provided by web hosting services. Any additional information that you can gather about your web site visitor’s usage patterns while they’re on your web site is a good thing.
2. Today’s web users are less impressed by the Internet and its potential.
Today’s web users are comfortable enough to use the Internet to conduct business and undertake tasks like bill-paying and banking. That takes comfort! But with this comfort has come certain expectations. These users view access to clear, error-free content as an essential service.
Confuse and irritate them with misspelled words, poor punctuation, missing graphics, lack of clarity, or poor grammar, and your web site will be viewed as unprofessional and deemed not worth the time. But these users’ time is exactly what you’re asking them to give you when you attempt to lure them to your site.
3. The potential visitor is bombarded with other choices and other ads.
Think about it: no matter what keyword they type into a search engine, searchers are confronted with a myriad of choices, all screaming, "we’ve got what you want." Search engine optimization is great — and necessary — but even SEO will only get you so far. Not everyone can be at the top of the search engine listings, and for those sites that aren’t ranked in the first 15 results of a search, traffic can become very sporadic and unpredictable.
Web site owners need to employ additional strategies that make web users keen to dig as deep as necessary to get to their sites.
4. Because web users are bombarded with ads daily, they have developed the uncanny ability to ignore them.
That’s why you see sites consistently shuffling ads between different positions — from the side of the page, to the middle, and back again. This technique is designed to place the ad where a reader is more likely to see it, so when you’re purchasing impression-based advertising, remember to keep that in mind. Flat rate and pay-per-click advertising are far better choices in this humble marketer’s opinion.
5. Web user impatience is a growing concern.
Web users have other things to do, and respecting this sentiment can go a long way. In a society that craves instantaneous everything, it’s imperative that web site owners employ techniques that prepare the web user to invest more time on their web sites once they arrive. Stringently keeping your site on topic helps to ensure that every word that the web user reads leads closer to their goal of understanding, or leads them down the path to the purchase.
If that doesn’t happen, the visitor will often leave the web site within a few seconds, making click-through totals a moot point. In a pay per click ad campaign, generating no clickthroughs through paid advertising is often better than getting clickthroughs from visitors that only stay a few seconds. Remember, each clickthrough costs you money. Clickthroughs shouldn’t be your only goal. Getting web site traffic and keeping web users there longer is the key. You must make visitors want to slow down and concentrate on your web site, to the exclusion of everything else.
Now that you have a grasp on the requirements of today’s web users, it’s time to face up to a few of the problems that you, as a site owner, will experience.
The Problems Faced By Site Owners
Given the expectations and behavior of web users, site marketing is more important than ever, yet today’s site owners face a series of problems when it comes to site marketing. Working against web site owner’s control of spending is:
- the usual costs of advertising web sites
- the costs of getting web sites proofread, tested, and perfected
- the costs associated with testing different banner ad performances in the ongoing search for quality clickthroughs
- the costs of making web sites interesting and sticky (time is money!)
- the costs of gaining credibility for the web site
These challenges are faced by every serious site owner. However, these problems disappear when you understand one important fact about today’s web users.
Today’s web users play games addictively. Not only do they like them, but they go out of their way to play them. A study conducted by Entertainment Software Association, found that "69% of American heads of household play video or computer games (that’s not counting the millions of dependents playing). 83% of purchasers of video games are 18 years old or older. The average age of buyers is 40 years old. 50% of game players expect to play as much or more games 10 years from now. 44% percent of most frequent game players say they play games online, up from 31% in 2002." Games are no longer child’s play.
Why is this important? The millions of individuals that play games are also the millions of individuals using the Internet. As a site owner, you need to leverage this trend to their advantage by being innovative in your approach to gaining quality web site traffic, and getting users to give you their time, undivided attention, and money.
Error marketing presents web site owners with a means to lock into the game player market by involving their web site’s text and design in an online game. Gaining the interest and attention of game players is the same as gaining the attention of heads of households — and that’s the demographic that buys products. Error marketing is simply a means of approaching them from a different angle. Don’t think of it as a kid’s game — we’re talking about millions of potential money-spending visitors and consumers.
Large companies such as Orbitz Games have masterfully used the game technique to keep themselves in front of potential customers, and to convince those individuals to play and return to the site on a regular basis. A section of the Orbitz site keeps millions of excited visitors talking about how well they did on the game, challenging friends to beat their score (promoting word of mouth), and coming back time and time again. And of course, when it’s time for the web user to travel, Orbitz comes to mind and makes the sale.
This strategy has been a positive one for the organization. The fact is that the game-related marketing concept works because so many people are playing games these days, and the Internet has become such a large part of game culture.
As a web site owner, you need to begin taking full advantage of this fact. However, unless you can design games — or you know a game designer that can put interesting games together for you — and you have the marketing power to get the game noticed, it can be a costly affair.
Don’t despair: there are inexpensive ways to do the same thing. Error marketing allows site owners to literally intertwine every word and graphic of their web sites into a game environment for a fraction of the costs associated with the Orbitz-type campaigns, and most pay-per-click campaigns.
Web site owners can leverage the game marketing technique for their web sites by listing their web sites on social networks like TypoBounty.com. The network allows web site owners to involve their actual web sites in a popular game for far less than it would cost to create a game and promote it themselves.
So What Is Error Marketing?
Error marketing is like a mixture of Wikipedia and Orbitz Games. It’s a technique that allows web site owners to enter their site’s text into a game that web users play. The site owners then pick and choose types of errors they would like players to report to them. Web users visit the site and hunt for a chance to win a small monetary reward for being the first to report instances of spelling errors, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, missing graphics, broken links, or whatever error types the site owner specifies (there are a lot of error types to choose from).
The web users compete against one another, while carefully reading, comprehending, and digesting the content of the web site. They stay on the web site for a long time, and absorb the full impact of the sales pitch. Every offer and communication is read thoroughly, and the site is boosted to a new level of professionalism through the eradication of errors that are difficult to find.
Site owners essentially trade what they don’t want (web site errors) for what they do want (the web users’ undivided attention). Of course, the number of errors on any web site is limited, so traffic increases while payouts decrease.
And at an entry price of less than $10 at TypoBounty (and no doubt other competing services will begin popping up with comparable fees), error marketing allows web site owners to use the game technique without breaking the bank.
Using error marketing, web site owners prepare web users to read every word and view every graphic of their web site prior to the users’ actual arrival at the site. Priming the web user like this is invaluable. It’s different than trying to attract them with a banner ad, then using your web site to convince them to stay — these visitors want to stay on your site before they even get there. It doesn’t matter how small or large your company is. They want to read every word you’ve written.
What does this do for the web site and the web site owner? Plenty! Irrespective of whether your web site focuses on one of the hottest topics on the Internet, or compares toilet paper sheet counts, the web site receives attentive visitors who are willing to read every word offered.
To the individual web site owner, this review is invaluable. Remember, the longer you can get a web user to remain on your web site, and the more of your content the web user reads, the greater your opportunity to express your point, and the more likely you’ll be to make the sale, or establish true communication. While looking for errors, the users catch the full impact of your sales pitch.
This system offers other benefits to web users scouring your site. As errors are reported, you can identify problems and fix them before they can damage the web site’s performance, image, or credibility. Openly showing consumers that you’re striving to provide them the very best in products, content, and usability is a great public relations move for any organization. An award graphic placed on the web site signifies a web site’s participation in the program.
The Battle For Attention
In the battle to secure more attention for your web site, site owners need to be innovative. Sparse web site traffic and low conversion rates do not necessarily reflect the quality or desirability of your products and offers. It can, however, suggest that you’re using the wrong strategy.
Traditional advertising methods are great, but leveraging new tactics early is often what proves to be the most powerful way to help web site owners reach their goals. As the understanding of web user behavior grows, advertising and marketing methods adapt to provide the owner with more for less money. Error marketing continues that trend.
In a pay-per-click advertising campaign, getting clickthroughs that don’t result in a sale, or a thorough communication of the site owner’s information, is the equivalent of throwing money away. So, the focus on genuinely interesting the web user in the site’s content prior to their actual arrival must take precedence over the focus on simply gaining clickthroughs. Many unsuccessful web marketers have left the important task of generating interest to the banner ad. With the banner ad’s decline in effectiveness, it’s no wonder that site owners who rely solely on this strategy have become frustrated with their ROI.
It sounds backwards to many, but before you entice web users to come to your site, you must give them incentive to stay. Here’s the reason I say this.
Long time website owners have usually outgrown the excitement beginners initially experience after getting a clickthrough. Veterans of the advertising game understand that obtaining a clickthrough is really nothing more than a preliminary step toward the goal that his or her site was developed to accomplish.
For most web sites, obtaining 10,000 clickthroughs in a single day would mean a great jump in traffic levels. However, if these site owners went to their web site logs and found that the average visitor only stayed on their web site for five seconds, those glorious clickthroughs would quickly be put into perspective. Unless you only have a single graphic that you want the visitor to see, or only five words that you want them to read, each of those clickthroughs will have provided minimal benefit to the site owner in terms of truly communicating with the visitor and gaining a sale.
The core reason for creating a web site is to communicate a message that the owner wants the visitor to understand. If that isn’t being achieved, the number of clickthroughs won’t matter. Regardless of whether the desired end result is to make a sale, or to pass on knowledge, most web site owners want their sites to be read, remembered, accepted, interacted with, and revisited.
Five-second visits meet none of these goals. Getting your information deep enough into the minds of web users to truly get their attention and trigger a desire to buy — or a desire to remember the information provided — requires that you somehow attach your message to something that the user likes and wants.
The Early Bird
Adopting new techniques early is the key to reaping large benefits on the Web today. Think of most enormous success stories, and you can usually track that success back to someone who used a given technique early. Others that pile on late in the game usually see less impressive results because, as techniques grow in popularity, they eventually trigger the "been there, seen that" response from visitors, and the technique’s performance drops off or generates a backlash.
Remember when flashy web sites, popup ads, and popunder ads were the order of the day? These techniques were once great ways to catch users’ attention. Then everyone started using these techniques and now, in many cases, they have a negative influence on a web site’s performance, rather than the intended positive one. Web users have developed resistance to these techniques, so you’d do well to avoid them.
Since error marketing is a passive technique (encouraging users to do something they like to do) rather than an aggressive technique (attempting to force information down users’ throats), it doesn’t induce a negative response from users.
Employing a technique like error marketing, which encourages a web users’ commitment to actually reading and comprehending your web site, is an excellent way to increase web site traffic and raise conversion rates.
Sites that implement error marketing provide more incentive for web site visitors to stay longer and pay closer attention to site content, thus increasing a site’s opportunity to experience true communication with its users. In the end, a web site that can draw attention and truly communicate to its visitors will have a better chance of accomplishing its goals — whether they be to sell a product, provide a service, or simply increase the number of quality visitors.
If you haven’t yet done so, I strongly urge every web site owner to list his or her web site on TypoBounty.com. At a price of less than $10, this service proves invaluable in helping web site owners on a budget clean up and polish their sites, maintain a site’s professional appearance, gain traffic, and gain insights to their customers, and it’s a great PR move. Gaining over $5,000 worth of web site services for less than $10 dollars is a major step in doing more with less, and ensuring that your profit margin grows.
With a degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University, Craig specializes in real-time and embedded computer application development using C and C++ languages. Craig also uses PHP and mySQL for web development.