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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 27-Apr-12


Friday 27-April-12

The limits of advertising

Advertising is a tricky game. You want customers to pay attention and look or listen to your advertisements. Yet you can over-do it. So what is the limit? How do you know when you are over-advertising.

 The first problem comes from application of the 'more is better' school of advertising. If you put in more ads then surely, it seems, consumers will look at adverts more often. But when there are billboards every few yards on the freeway, they just become a blur. Similarly, when there are too many adverts on a web page, readers become saturated and ignore them all.

If the motorists are not looking at the roadside, then how about putting billboards in the middle of the road? While there would be safety issues on the road, the equivalent on web pages is to interleave adverts among the main text body. This can just be plain annoying as the readers are forced to swerve around these. And if you over-do it, them they will just go elsewhere.

Yet adverts are a kind of necessity. People who make and sell things have to find ways of attracting customers, and advertising is a standard channel. On the web, there are no adverts on some sites, such as Wikipedia (apart from the regular appeals for money to support the site). Many sites are really one big advert for the business. Then there are many weak content sites, where the quality and quantity of the content is limited and the real game is to get high SEO ratings, to get clicks, to serve ads.

And amongst all this, there are a few sites that seek to provide deep and useful information, using adverts as a means of support rather than an end in itself. ChangingMinds is such a site. I really enjoy researching and writing and set out ten years ago to get to a place I have recently achieved -- being able to work full time on the site. I deliberately chose to go the advertising route rather than paid-for membership as I felt this would be most successful and would give a far greater reach. I have a life goal to 'touch the world' and the site is helping me achieve this. I need adverts to help pay the bills and keeps the site free, but I also deliberately keep them at the edge of the screen, retaining an uninterrupted central reading block that gives an uninterrupted view of the content.

A few months ago I took on another advertiser, putting adverts 'below the fold' at the bottom of the page (and only appearing in the USA). But it seems this has resulted in full-page adverts appearing that you have to click away before you can read the page. I could not see these myself as I'm in the UK, but heard about them from some generous readers who took time to write. One in particular wasn't very happy to say the least, but I still took the comments very seriously. Worrying too, some of the search rankings of key pages seemed to be slipping. I don't know if this was just coincidence, but it is  too important to ignore.

So I've removed these ads. Apologies to those affected and I hope your reading experience and confidence is restored. This decision has cost me significant income, but I have faith that keeping readers happy is the secret of success.

We're not all mad men.

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