Are Websites Killing Themselves with Web Adverts?

When I first started working with web sites in the late 90’s it was vital to keep pages short, zero animation, images small and highly compressed.  Back then, the tools to create web pages, browser sophistication and the means of connection (dial-up modem) left little choice but to conform.

Now web sites boast multi-media rich interactive environments.  Thanks to ever-increasing broadband speeds, site load times are generally fast too.  However, I now find that many sites I want to use are failing to load pages fully in anything like a reasonable time frame or stall completely.  This is one of the greatest web sins.  I don’t want to name and shame.  In fact, the problem is not with the main content of what are well designed and resourced web sites.  No.  It is the hosted advertisements!

I find many web pages stall while they try to fetch and display an over complicated advert.  I assume these adverts are being served to the web page from a different server (probably a specialised ad-server) than the one hosting the web site.  This is doubly annoying because such adverts prevent you from seeing the content and, in all probability, you will have absolutely zero interest in the advert that might eventually appear.

Considering the cost in developing a good web site and the expenditure on marketing the content to attract web site traffic, I simply don’t understand why the web site owners then throw it all away.  I am not talking about web sites that exist only to serve adverts here, but about those sites whose objective is to sell.  These adverts are driving valuable potential customers away because pages fail to load properly.

Let me say again ‘irrelevant adverts’.  This may upset those that sell web advertising as they like to make great play of the fact that adverts can be tailored to a users search profile.  I don’t disagree.  The technology permits that.  However, I believe it suffers a fundamental flaw and I will give a personal example.

I have been renovating my back garden.  This has involved the purchase of sand, aggregate, cement and top soil along with many other items.  Yes I searched the web for good deals.  Not once did I click on an advertisement.  I made my purchase decisions based on the quality of web sites, bricks and mortar address, customer feedback and so on.  Incidentally, not always the cheapest site won.  For weeks after, having made these purchases, I was being served advertisements for sand, cement, aggregate and so on.  Proving the technology works at least.  However, I had already purchased the stuff – I wasn’t going to buy again, no matter how many adverts were served.  The same would have been true if I had bought a car, computer, washing machine and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against web advertising.  I have looked into hosting some form of advertising on our company web sites, but I never find the marginal income to be attractive enough to risk slowing down or causing pages to fail loading.  Furthermore, I don’t like how they compromise page design, adding to screen clutter and potentially confusing the visitor.

I appeal to web site owners; don’t sacrifice your key web site objective to sell, in order to raise marginal revenue from hosting irrelevant advertisements.

Adrian Maguire, Partner, Ainsworth Maguire Public Relations

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