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June 4, 2009

Click on the monkey and other traffic scams

Do you remember the "click on the monkey" banner ad?

Back in the pioneering days of the Internet advertisers fell for the same old traffic scam that they have been falling for since the very beginning of advertising. This is the notion that all traffic is good traffic.

The idea was that the monkey moved back and forth in an animated banner, with some title proclaiming that all you have to do is click on the monkey and you will instantly win $1,000,000. Once clicked of course the ad took you to some site that had nothing to do with winning a million dollars.

Somewhere along the line somebody thought that you would arrive, forget about the million you came to claim, and instead take out a high interest loan, or whatever other hair brained scam was being run.

In the old days it was a hot dog and a drink, and then you were supposed to suddenly realize that you really did want to buy a new car after all.

Today we see exactly the same thing but in different forms. The unending pursuit of traffic through increasingly innovative means. Here are some modern examples:

  • Twitter auto - DM's  ("Hi great to see you, looking to develop a trust based relationship - Buy this from me!!")
  • Misleading, outrageous too-good-to-be-true claims on banner ads
  • Apparently interactive ads that take you to another site when you try to click the button or 
  • Comment spam on blogs
  • Link bombing on twitter (With outrageous statements normally)
  • Discussion spam on LinkedIn
  • Jiggling banner ads (Not misleading, just attention grabbing so they don't really belong here)
  • Pop-after ads on spam websites
  • "Accept all Invites " type posts on LinkedIn.
  • "You have won a free..."

All aimed at driving traffic to a site, and hoping a percentage of it will convert.

Does this stuff work at all? Interruption advertising does have it's place, even if it has been demonized of late. Display ads also have their place.

But traffic scams that are inauthentic, (like Twitter follower count increases, Linking to everyone and anyone, or friending most of the web-surfing universe), just do not convert at the levels needed to be sustainable.

It is a BIG ratio game but yes, some people are foolish enough to fall for these scams. What's more - they are being tried out on an increasingly skeptical and jaded web-going audience.
But if the entire goal of your ad campaign is to drive traffic, any and all traffic, to your website with the hope of converting it to sales then you are fighting an increasingly uphill battle, and you are damaging your brand possibly beyond repair.

If ads are going to develop good traffic, the sort that is likely to convert at some stage, then there are some very simple rules to follow.

  1. Realistic (read: believable) benefits, offers and claims. Preferably backed with provable testimonials at some stage for further credibility.
  2. Relevance to the articles being read, the search that was performed or the site that you are surfing. Don't place affiliate ads for unrelated themes, they just don't work. (Period!)
  3. Obvious locations (based on eye movement on a site) and repeat viewing. (The more times you see it the more likely you are to believe it is for real)
  4. Readable and clear writing - written to catch their attention while remaining believable.
All display advertising has it's uses, and these are even more relevant with the advent of the Google-ization of the internet. But take them for what they are. A way to introduce yourself, a way to maintain or improve your brand, and a way to keep yourself at the tip of mind of your potential prospects.
Real traffic, focussed on relevant and real benefits or rewards, will always convert at a greater rate than scams. No quick fix and no sustainable easy path to riches.
In display advertising, as with everything else marketing, it is still more about "who" than "how many".
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