Distinction and Temptation
When using in-text ads to monetize a website and earn PPC, use double underline for the ads on your site. Despite the temptation of a short term increase in click through rate, avoid hiding the in-text links and use a distinct format like double underline. And I’m happy to elaborate.
The hooks – those hyperlinks that yield a bubble upon mouse hover – are the key to website monetization with in-text ads. When the provider’s algorithm works well, the keywords selected for hooks will be of interest to the reader and relevant to the content. When a reader actually is interested in the highlighted term, she will hover over it with the mouse, consider the ad within the bubble, and if she wants to learn more – click. That’s where the cash is.
However, the reader can also choose to click on the hook directly. Such a direct click will also lead to the advertiser’s landing page and generate the per-click revenue. And here’s the temptation: hooks for in-text ads can be formatted as regular links, with the same format and appearance of other links in the page. When disguised as regular links, readers may click on the hooks without knowing that they lead to paid-for content. For the short term, this leads to more clicks per page views (higher click through rate, or CTR), and on a pay-per-click basis (PPC), when each click is paid for, the website will generate higher revenues.
But there’s a catch. This will only work for the short term. The obvious explanation is that the website’s readers will soon learn that not all links are regular and they will either avoid clicking entirely or screen them carefully with a hover. This way, after the first increase in clicks, there will be a drop. I’ve seen this happen in many websites. Now, I know some website publishers are now smiling to themselves, thinking, well, I don’t manage to get repeated visitors anyway, so at least I’ll get a paid-click out of them on that single visit. Sorry, but this is wrong as well.
The deeper reasoning behind this tip – to use distinct format for ad links – covers both repeating and new visitors. When a reader clicked on a link expecting to get to another related article but landed in an advertiser’s page, she mostly goes immediately back (or just shuts down the window, if it’s a new window). Such a disguised ad is an interruption to the reading, which is mostly ignored or even frowned upon. From the advertiser’s point of view, this is the worst kind of click. First, the advertiser paid for that click but didn’t get the expected attention when the reader simply left the ad’s landing page immediately. And second, and much worse, the visitor may even leave with a negative feeling towards the brand that managed to fool her into clicking.
Losing Revenues and Happiness
When advertisers are not happy with the clicks they pay for, they pull off the campaign from the website. This can be done specifically against a website that keeps sending bouncing visitors (those are visitors that leave immediately); and if you think smaller websites can hide below the radar, think again – automatic filters will give such websites low quality scores and block them out as well.
Once advertisers pull their campaigns off a certain website, the ads then get lower and lower click value, so the effective revenues (or the eCPM) drops. In fact, even the click through rate decreases, as the active campaigns become more general and the ads get much less relevant and interesting for the readers.
If all this is not convincing enough, add on it the general frustration your visitors get when they feel they were tricked into clicking on an ad – is this the user experience you were aiming for? And if we’re already into rhetoric questions, which of the formats – regular or double underline links – is more noticeable and has a chance to get your own interest and click?
The Tip: Distinct Format for Ad Links
My tip is: use a distinct format for in-text ads. When your visitors recognize the hooks as a signal to an ad, they can easily disregard them and not get interrupted while reading. However, when the hook is interesting, they know there’s a bubble behind, they hover, they consider the ad, and… they actively give their permission to get exposed to the advertiser’s content. Such clicks that come with permission are highly valuable to advertisers and they will reward them with good feedback. This positive feedback will soon thereafter be translated into higher value per click and eventually into higher revenues. In professional terms, you may experience a lower CTR, but the eCPM and bottom line revenues will be higher. Moreover, you will then have more available clicks for other uses (like content related links), and, most importantly, your website’s general user experience will be improved. Don’t we all like happy visitors?
The Added Value of Double Underline
One last thing. Why double underline? This tip is about making a clear distinction between the in-text ad links and other hyperlinks on the page. Any distinct format will do. Double underline will do even better.
Using double underline has an important added value. More and more people online recognize this format as unique to in-text advertising. All the advantages of making both your visitors and the advertisers happy by getting permission for clicks are leveraged by using a common format that doesn’t annoy your visitors and doesn’t distract their focus away from your content. I recommend sticking to the standard of the online community – noticeable double underline it is.
Online Siesta – Online Marketing Blog