The biggest mistakes you are making with online advertising (and how they’re costing your business)


Digital has become such a pervasive layer in our lives, it’s hard to extract ourselves from it – much harder than television advertising (thanks to PVRs!), radio (you can change the channel with a flick of your thumb on the steering wheel) and hard-copy flyers (that more often than not go straight to the bottom of the budgie cage).

Most brands know that they need to be online – return on investment is more measurable, and there is immediacy because the audience can be steered straight to action, whether you are looking for likes, competition entries or an email address. But we are still getting online advertising wrong. Here are just a few of the common mistakes that I’ve recently spotted:

1. Not looking beyond banners

If done well, banner advertising can be really effective to get your message across, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the online space. There is so much more you can do than a banner. What if you could own a section of a site, specific to your product? An automotive insurer that does a home page takeover on a page that sells cars is more likely to upsell than investing in a banner on a generic site. After all, everyone who visits that page either owns a car or is considering buying a new one and will need an insurance quote. The right visibility, with the right call to action, can work wonders.

2. Not targeting effectively or ignoring buyer intent

Demographics are still the primary benchmark we use when weighing up advertising options, but in a time of fierce competition and short online attention spans, psychographics are becoming even more important. It’s not enough to evaluate who is the visiting the site (or how much they earn), we have to look at why they are visiting the site. The so-called “time-wasting” sites like Pinterest attracts volumes of traffic, segmented into individuals that like crafts, or cooking, or movies. However, no one visits Pinterest with the intent to purchase. (In fact, the user journey to get to a purchase can often be cumbersome).

Sophisticated sites can tell you exactly what individuals are looking for – and help you appeal to them. If you operate a pet store, you can create an ad boasting about your array of specialist snake foods and supplements – and only target individuals that have been looking at reptiles or items related to terrariums. Your audience might seem smaller than if you had splashed it over an entire e-store, but you will be speaking to the audience most likely to buy from you.

3. Entertaining bias

Some of the biggest websites in South Africa are the ones overlooked by advertisers – because of bias. It’s easy to pick the safe options where everyone seems to place an advertisement – but those sites are also usually the ones where every bit of white space is crammed with flashing advertisements, at a hefty price tag. Thinking out of the box and apply a bit of an open mind can work wonders…after all, if a site is drawing a massive audience, there has to be a creative way of reaching them.

All in all, we have to continually re-examine the way our customers are browsing – and the way we are advertising. The Internet isn’t static, and we shouldn’t be either.



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