How to Increase Click-Through Rates (CTR) Overnight

Executive Summary

  • An increased click-through rate is a direct path to an increase in revenue
  • More complex banner ads may NOT increase click-through rates
  • Text ads fit the “mental model” that users know best

After 11 years of website design testing, I’m still amazed at the long list of simple website design changes that can increase click-through rates overnight. With a simple advertising design change, one publisher I know recently doubled his information product sales by implementing a design change to increase click-through rates.

Opportunity: The publisher has built a free Mequoda Network Hub to promote his free email newsletter and drive traffic to the sales letter landing pages for his network of more than 50 information products (books, eBooks, print newsletters and events). His website publishing system was “smart.” Most Network Hub advertising inventory for “unknown users” was used for email newsletter capture (OFIEs and text ads with links to his free email newsletter sign-up form). All advertising inventory for “known users” (those with active ID cookies) was used to promote his 50 plus information products with an array of well-designed graphic banner ads. On a site wide basis, he was generating about 35 cents per article page, per day or about $128 per page, per year. (His website was generating about seven percent of his total product sales with the other 93 percent coming from buyers who clicked directly from his emails to his sales letter landing pages.) An increased click-through rate for the Network Hub was a high priority.

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Design Change: With his goal to increase click-through rates clearly in mind, he tested and then rolled out text ads for all his products that looked like those used in the Google AdSense program.


Google AdSense ads. On the left, from eZineArticles.com and on the right, from eHow.com.

Result: An increased click-through rate of more than triple, that translated to sales of more than double what his old graphic banner ads had been doing. On a site-wide basis he was now generating about 75 cents per article, per day in information product sales.

Lessons: When trying to increase click-through rates, simple is often better and it pays to use the well understood “mental models” that are pioneered by Internet standard setters like Google.

Other Resources:

Note: As always, the details of the case have been modified to protect the identity of the publisher and the program.

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