Paying for traffic is not the same as buying customers, here's how to augment the ROI of your online advertising spend.
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Recently, I was doing some outreach for a client when one of the sites that I had contacted called me. Usually, a call means one thing – they are going to try and sell me advertising; usually I beg a colleague to ward them off by telling them I’m in a meeting or my line is busy…but this was a site that I was really keen to have my client featured on, so against my better judgement – I took the call.
After letting the phone call wander around the usual avenues of ‘this is what we do’, ‘this is our demographic’, ‘this is how many social media followers we have’ and ‘this is our newsletter circulation’ – we got down to price. I don’t need to state figures here, but it was yet another instance where I was astonished at the sum they were asking for in exchange for a profile on their site.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great site; their metrics are at the figures that we look for and their audience was perfect.
With respect, a link placed on this site would have had a positive impact on my client’s organic campaign – although it’s difficult to say WHEN you will see the impact; but is it worth the fee that they charge and would they ever see a return on the investment? I can’t provide a definitive answer either way, but I can certainly offer some guidance about how to make an educated guess.
When it comes to paid advertising, you can expect to be beguiled by huge numbers when it comes to visitors, followers and circulation. This is all well and good, but a lot of it isn’t going to mean anything to your business and I’m going to tell you why and the questions you should be asking to determine if the advertising is going to provide you with a return.
How many unique visitors do you get?
Maybe not the most important question you can ask, but it will give you an idea of potential exposure. When it comes to unique vs returning web traffic, you find yourself in a ‘chicken and egg’ predicament – you inevitably can’t have one without the other.
In many areas of business, acquisition is a slow and often painful process, so don’t pay too much attention to this figure if it’s not as high as you expected.
Perhaps the next question is more important.
How many returning visitors do you get?
Returning visitors are valuable, they are more likely to make a purchase. They are the ones that are hungry for the offering, the cause or in this case – the web content, meaning you are being exposed to them over and over.
If the site that is wanting to feature your paid advertisement has a high number of returning visitors, this is a good sign. They trust and engage with the content on the site and come back for more. If the returning visitor number is low – this speaks a lot for the quality of the content on the site.
For some more in-depth knowledge and to put the numbers into perspective – ask for the percentage of both new and returning visitors to the site, the returning visitor volume should sit at a minimum of 20%.
It's not about the traffic, it's about the buyers
What is the bounce rate?
If the visitors are not interested in the content on the page – they leave. It’s simple.
So, once you know how many people visit the site, you can find out how many are leaving – a high bounce rate means that people aren’t quite finding what they are looking for. The ‘bounce’ means that the traffic simply isn’t interacting with the page, and there is a high probability that your brand and content won’t be seen.
FYI – a bounce rate should be lower than 50%. Again, to delve deeper, you can ask what the ‘exit pages’ are – the pages that people are last on before they leave the site. There are 2 opposing opinions when it comes to exit pages;
1) You don’t want to emulate the content that are on these pages, it’s obviously turning people off.
2) These pages are providing people with the info they need, meaning they don’t need to look any further.
To find out what works for you, it may be worth negotiating some testing to see how the pages perform once you are placed on them.
Bounce rate can also depend on accessibility – page load speed. You know, you sit there staring at the screen, waiting….and waiting…in the end you cancel the page because you can’t be bothered to wait. There are a number of tools you can use to test the load speed of a website or page, such as these – Quick Sprout tool, Pingdom or GTMetrix.
What is the average time on the page?
On the flip side, if visitors find the content on the site informative, valuable and entertaining – they stay on the page to view the content.
If the average on the sites pages are above a minute, you know that their traffic is taking their time to stick around and read the content and have an increased chance of reading what you have to say too.
Where is the referral traffic coming from?
Search engines, affiliate sites, social media, newsletter, competitor sites – where are the users coming from?
Organic traffic is considered the highest quality traffic, but other traffic sources can give you an indication of how the site is engaging with its audience. For instance, high volume of referral from social media is a positive sign, it demonstrates that people are sharing and talking about the site. But social traffic shouldn’t be relied upon – what’s the strategy if it drops?
It also gives you an idea of other sites and platforms that your audience are using and looking at, maybe you should extend your presence to these sites too?
What is your email open rate?
The site that I was speaking to told me that their email circulation was 10,000 targeted users, and if my client wanted to be included in this newsletter, it would be an extra £100 – per newsletter.
So, the newsletter was going out to 10,000 people – but how many of them are actually reading it? I asked them what their open rate was – it was 12%. Out of 10,000 people, only 1200 were opening it. After some research, I learnt that in that sector the average open rate was 22% - they weren’t even hitting their average but they wanted to charge £100?
This is a no brainer.
I’m now thinking two things; where have they got their data from, because their audience doesn’t sound like it is particularly engaged, and how good is the email itself? The title, the layout and the content – also plays a role in how many people are going to engage with the newsletter.
At this point, you could even delve further and ask about how they test their titles or times of day the newsletter is sent out to ensure that maximum research is going in to the strategy – how are they going to make that £100 work for you?
People get a lot of email, so don't expect everyone to open your newsletter
What it your email click through rate?
We’ve gauged that you should be quizzing about email open rate, but you should also enquire about their click through rate.
The person that I spoke to didn’t know the click through rate on the email newsletter with a circulation of 10,000. But I’m guessing it was even less impressive than their open rate. The email click through rate is a sign that the content within the email is appealing to the audience and they want to learn more – hence clicking on the link with the body of the email.
Research the average click through rate within your sector and use that as a benchmark; if the number is lower than this, you know that the newsletter probably won’t have much of an impact on your campaign and can decide against or use it as leverage when it comes to the fee.
What is your social media engagement?
You know that you can buy likes and followers on social media platforms?
Social media followings will be one of the top figures that you are fed in the initial sales spiel, something along the lines of ‘we promote it to our *** followers’.
But are they real followers or are they Twitter bots? If the referral traffic from social media is impressive, this will speak for itself.
Take the time to explore the sites social media channels and take a look for yourself; how many likes are they getting and is their interaction mutual? You can take a look at the individual profiles of their followers and see if these people also fit within the demographics of your target audience – This is very important!
The chances are, the advertising spend is going to be a significant chunk or your marketing budget – it’s worth taking the time to research all avenues where the placement could fail you before making the regular commitment of 6-12 months.
If all of the answers to these questions are giving you the green light, I’d say go for it – these paid placements of course, can be a worthwhile investment. It’s now up to you to produce a high quality presence on the site in order to capture the attention of the traffic, and make the page that you appear on a hotspot.
Amy Bull is a content marketing executive at Datify.