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Is too much advertising killing your website?

Its a difficult position for anyone running a website, you have the costs of web hosting, domain names and development time. So how do you fill the gap and make some money off all your expenses? Many developers choose to compensate by running advertising on their website. Fair enough really, but is there such a thing as too much advertising and how do you know if you have over stepped the boundary?

Different Advertising Methods

First lets look at the various web advertising options you have.

  • Banner Advertising
  • Text Links and Text Link Ads
  • Pop Up’s and Pop Under’s
  • Google Adsense / Yahoo! Publisher Network
  • Affiliate Marketing or Referrals
  • Video Advertising / Flash / Roll Overs

With so many options at your finger tips, many website owners can and do get carried away. Hitting their website visitors with every form of advert and in some cases they hit their users with advertising before giving them what they are after, your websites quality content.

Bad Advertising Practice, How do you spot it?

One of the biggest mistakes website owners tend to make is that they mislead their visitors, visitors to your website are your customers. They are the life blood of your website. Misleading them only ensures they won’t return frequently Some examples of bad advertising practice could include one or all of the following:

  • Placing Ads Where Navigation Items Often Appear
  • Saturating pages with advertising – too many banners – often seizure triggering
  • Using pop up windows and pop under advertising
  • Using large banners that demand high bandwidth connections (excessive flash / images / video)
  • Tricking users into clicking on advertising by disguising advertising

Forcing users to click on advertising just sends them away from your website to the advertiser. If a user does not full fill their goals using your website they will loose trust and more than likely not return. This brings us to one of the first ways you can measure success. Returning visitors, the higher the percentage of returning visitors you have to your website the better.

How do I tell if my visitors are new or returning?

The answer is use a web analytics program. There are various options available and if your budget isn’t prepared for a commercial solution. Google can help with their Free Google Analytics program. The program requires you include a small Javascript snippet at the bottom of each page you wish to track. Other packages may vary but work on the same principles. You’ll also need to sign up for an account, if you don’t already have a Google Account such as Gmail or Adwords / Adsense

Since Google Analytics is Free all screenshots and instructions will be based upon this system. However since most analytics packages work in the same way, we will use it as our example. First sign into your Google Analytics account, now you should be able to see some navigation items on your left hand menu. We want to follow this path:

Visitors Tab in Analytics

Visitors >> New Vs Returning

New Vs Returning Visitors Graph in Google Analytics

The stats are for a relatively busy site of mine. As you can see however the majority of my visitors are returning. Because it s a community site this isn’t unexpected but it is a good sign. If you run an e-commerce site, chances are your return visitor rate will be lower, however you should try and aim for as many returns as possible. Returning customers are always a good sign.

Bounce Rates, Your Other Best Friend

Another great way of seeing how effective your website is by looking at bounce rates. A bounce is a visit that lasts for only one page or less than 5 seconds. High bounce rates can be a good indication that a user is put off or isn’t finding what they are looking for on your site. Generally you want to try and achieve a bounce rate of lower than 50% and ideally lower than 30%. Low bounce rates mean users are at least viewing a couple of pages on your site.
High Bounce Rates Are a Sign of a Poorly Designed Website

Time On Site – Longer the Better

If users spend a lot of time on your website, surely that’s a good thing right? In general yes, but it can depend on the type of site you run. E-commerce sites are should usually geared toward making a quick sale so if users are spending too long it could mean problems with your site’s checkout process. Its more likely though that customers will leave if they can’t achieve their goals. There is no ideal time on site, but generally if your average time is high this is a good sign. Don’t be fooled though, check to see how many visitors fit into to lower quartile range for time on site. It could reveal interesting trends about your visitors.

At the end of the day, web analytics can reveal some interesting information, but you the webmaster will need to decide how much is too much advertising. New websites should refrain from being too heavy on advertising and focus on quality content. Once you have established a good user, you can probably afford to add a bit more advertising. I am of the opinion that the less advertising space you have the the more valuable the advertising space becomes.

If page load times are being slowed due to heavy advertising, its a good idea to cut out the biggest bandwidth eaters.

Clearly Label Your Advertising

I have always clearly labeled advertising on my Users understand they are clicking on an ad and they aren’t being tricked into anything. This means they are more likely to purchase, subscribe or view goal pages on advertisers sites. A higher return on investment that advertisers receive from placing ads on my site means they will be willing to spend more with my site in future.

Treat Visitors How You Want To Be Treated

From a user perspective think about what you dislike most. If you can’t stand constant advertising pop-ups or flashing banners, misleading text or anything else like it, chances are you shouldn’t do it on your own website. Just because it makes you a few dollars now doesn’t mean it will last forever. Be patient, focus on creating a good website and you will reap the rewards.

4 Responses to “Is too much advertising killing your website?”

  1. [...] gavin talks about “is too much advertising killing your website“ [...]

  2. I launched my site about 1 month ago. Bounce rate seems pretty reasonable/normal, and I am curious what you would think is a “normal rate of return for visitors”. I’ve seen some users spend 40 minutes on the site. So I see major interest, but I am unsure if my visitor return rate percentage is acceptable.
    Thanks!

  3. Hi Christy thanks for your question. Normal return rates are difficult to give an exact figure or average as it will really depend on the type of website you have. For example I would say that E-commerce type stores would have a relatively low return rate due to the fact that many customers will buy once and not return for some time. However a website that is community orientated and has a blog / forum / other community features is more likely to see a high number of return visits. I run a website with a forum that has a majority of return visits just to give you an idea.

    40 minutes on site is very good particularly if you get a large number of visitors on the site that fit within that bracket. The Google Analytics session cookie expires after 30 mins, unless the user is active on your pages so you are obviously doing something right.

  4. Hi Gavin:

    I Just loved this article.

    One of entertainment site is getting 2000 visits daily but 70% bounce rate. That means even if i get 2000 visits, 1400 visitors are leaving my site withing few seconds

    I am gonna surely try some of your tips and will keep these things in my mind

    I have a question: one of my site was recently penalized. Pages are indexed on Google but they dont come on the 1st page as they used to come earlier.

    Is it permonent ?
    I think i over monetized my site by keeping Ads on navigation button clicks, interstitial ads and pop under ads together..

    Please suggest me something..
    Thanks…

    Sangram

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Author

Gavin Doolan has been working with Google Analytics since it's launch in 2005.