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If you sell stuff online, don’t advertise

Posted November 2nd, 2010 by Andrew Goodman

No, I don’t mean it that way. Of course you should advertise!

What I mean is, if your economic engine is driven by product sales, customer acquisition, and the like, then what are you doing on your website distracting users with ads?

Unless your business is advertising-driven, it’s almost always a bad idea to entice users to click away from your site so they can go buy something from… I dunno, say… your competitors. The revenue you make from that visitor is a penny or two. The lifetime value of a customer, I hope, is much higher.

And yet you see these kinds of muddled models all the time.

Merely strange is the etailer or B2B supplier who also shows low-rent AdSense ads.

Stranger still, unless you can somehow explain it to me, is someone who shows a custom banner in something like their shopping cart checkout process, allowing the user to consider buying from some other company. It would be like a car salesman handing out flyers for the Lincoln Navigator as his prospect walked from the test drive over to the desk to sign paperwork to lease an Acura RDX.

If she was buying a Ford Flex, I’d almost understand. Same company as Lincoln, higher margins on the Lincoln. Then again, they’re about to sign the paperwork. Do you really want to interfere with that?

5 Responses to “If you sell stuff online, don’t advertise”

  1. Interesting, but Google is showing you valuable competitive information. I would find some way to access it.

  2. Maybe it’s more like advertising indirectly. Try to provide useful information first or fill a need that your readers or customers have, then sell or advertise. I think it will be more effective that way.

  3. I’m not sure if I made the point clearly enough…

    1. What is your business model? What are the goals you have for each page of your website?

    2. If the answer is 100% “to sell products, to acquire new customers via a cart purchase,” then you optimize strictly around that goal. To distract people with low-value advertising not only makes you very little money, it is one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Conversion. (hat tip Tim Ash.) Visual distraction, too many options… maybe it’s even 2-3 of the 7 deadly sins all rolled into one! Why do this?

  4. Ron says:

    Anytime I see ads on a site where the primary purpose is SUPPOSED to be selling products or acquiring new sales leads, it instantly cheapens the value of that site in my mind and I can only assume that I’m dealing with amateurs who aren’t confident in their own products.

    And for those who use Adsense on these sites, do you realize you are opening yourself up to competitors bidding to place their ad on the page and redirecting your potential customers to their business?

  5. Sylvain says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I agree with your observation in a general way, but what if it’s done in a smart way?
    Ad Splash is building their entire business model on this, and it seems to be working fine for them.
    I guess adwords/adsense is just not designed for this kind of situations, but it has become common to see vendors advertise their products in-store, so why not apply the same concept to online stores?


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