Just Getting Attention Isn’t A Success Metric

I just finished reading a post by Jakob Nielsen, renowned web usability expert, about user engagement with online ads. The article describes how people view ads that are on a web page. What the team at the Nielsen Norman Group found was that there are 3 design elements that attract user’s attention:

  • Plain Text
  • Faces
  • Cleavage and other private body parts

I think that this represents a dog chasing it’s tail. The less users pay attention to ads, the more people turn to “click-bait”. The more “click-bait”, the less people pay attention to ads. It’s a vicious circle!
[Tweet “Attention is tough “click bait” ads are run. More “click bait” ads, users pay less attention #smb #cro”]

It seems that this problem is being caused, among other things, as a result of a single minded focus on the wrong metric or goal. We hear it all the time. Business owners and marketers laser focusing on getting more traffic to their site. Now, don’t get me wrong, getting traffic to a site is the first step if you want to be successful marketing your product or service, online. But, not all traffic is created equal and if you’re using “click-bait” to get people to your website, you’re not going to get “quality” people to your site and this is going cost you money and it will hurt your SEO rankings[White Paper].

What Do You Want

In 1960 Harvard professor Theodore Levitt wrote a ground breaking paper asking “What business are you in”. An example that he used was the railroad industry declined, not because the need of transportation declined, but rather because railroad companies didn’t think of themselves as being in the transportation business.

[Tweet “What do you REALLY want from your online ads? #smb #marketing”]

The same is true when it comes to online marketing efforts. You have to ask your self “what do you really want to have happen”? Do you really just want more traffic? I doubt it. I’d bet that what you really want is more sales, more leads, more subscribers, etc. You want online marketing to help you grow your business, right? Traffic is a tactic to get you what you really want.

This clarification is important. By recognizing that you don’t want just traffic, you can see why using “click-bait” types of ads will not get you any closer to the ultimate goals that you have for your business.

Get What You Want

To get more business from your online marketing efforts you have to start with a plan and that plan has to start with who you want to get to come to your site. Are you trying to attract CEO’s, purchasing agents, small business owners, etc? By clearly targeting who you want to get to your site you can then develop an ad that is specifically for that person. CEO’s and small business owners are going to be attracted to completely different images, marketing messages, and calls-to-action. And, they are going to be in completely different places, on the web.

Once you’ve identified who your trying to get to your site, make sure that you have some content on your website that they are going to want to engage with. If you’re trying to get a CEO to your site, but you don’t have any content that he/she will be looking for, they either won’t come to your site or they’ll be just another tick in your bounce rate report.

Now that you know who and you know where in your site to send them, make sure that your ads are clearly and specifically targeted with a call-to-action that will resonate with them. Here’s a tip, the right call-to-action is not contact us today! You have to start a relationship before they will be ready to do business with you.


When it comes to online advertising, remember it’s all about quality over quantity. Whether you are running your marketing from within your company or you have an agency running your marketing, don’t just focus on 1 element like traffic. It will damage your brand and it will ruin your SEO rankings.

If you want to better understand how online marketing works and what you can do to get your online marketing off the ground, check out our recent white paper: Business Owners Guide To Digital Marketing”.