When you clicked over to this page, were you unnerved by the lack of a popup advertisement that you had to hunt around to find where the × was hidden to close? Did it make you uncomfortable that the top thing on page is the site’s name and logo and not an ad? Are you terrified at the thought that if you move your mouse out of the window that you will not be offered the chance to sign up for our newsletter? If so, you are suffering from the “Marketing Gimmicks Fad” syndrome.
Don’t worry. It isn’t a disease that you have; it’s a disease that website owners have. The problem is that you and all the rest of us suffer from it. But it’s hard to blame website owners. The truth is that advertising rates on the internet have always been too low and they have only gotten worse. So people are trying to stay in business. I just think that the use of such marketing gimmicks isn’t an effective approach.
Most Marketing Gimmicks Are Fads
What’s more, these things go in waves. You’ll notice almost overnight, a large percentage of websites will start using a new technique. But eventually they go away. I suspect that all of these tricks work at first. But then people get used to them and just close them. They are just one of many of life’s annoyances like the guy next door who plays his television loud enough for people in the parking lot to hear. But I can’t help but think that they do damage to the website’s brand.
My best example of this is Washington Monthly that I slowly stopped reading because there were so many ads that the pages took forever to load. It’s a great compliment to the site that I stayed with it so long. But there’s something more that should terrify website owners. Since that time, the site has been totally redesigned. I wouldn’t exactly call it a fast site, but it’s reasonable: in the middle of the pack. It has been for a while. I know this. Yet I almost never visit the site.
It’s Hard to Regain a Reader
Once you lose a reader, it’s hard to win them back. The truth is that there are damned few websites that are so great that you will go no matter what. I read Greg Sargent’s The Plum Line every day. It’s mostly because I have a vague fondness for him. And it’s good to get a rundown of the news from a liberal perspective. But it isn’t that great. I could certainly find the same thing elsewhere.
What every website owner wants is to have a site that is so good that people will put up with anything just to get its amazing content. But we all need to understand that we are unlikely to attain that. (We should all strive, though.) And so we should do our best to not annoy our readers. If they are in the habit of visiting, let them keep up the habit. A short-term boost in profit is not worth a long-term loss of traffic.
Two Kinds of Websites
Of course, I’m writing from the Frankly Curious perspective. For websites that depend upon ad revenue, regular readers aren’t that great. They are actually less likely to click on the Google ads that litter the page, because they are focused on the content. It’s the people who just showed up via Google who are more likely to click on a shiny advertisement. And annoying them is not such a big deal. If your regulars (who aren’t making you any money) disappear, so what? Well, for a blog like this, so a lot.
I’ve begun to see the internet as being divided in two: the commercial and the non-commercial sides. And even though Frankly Curious is certainly not the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it falls much closer to the non-commercial side of the internet. I think website owners should decide on this when they start a site. Because I see a lot of sites that clearly aren’t meant to make (much) money that follow along with annoying trends.
Marketing Gimmicks Won’t Make You Rich
But if I’m so smart, why aren’t I rich? Part of it is my overall negativity. But I think there is much too much talk of making money on the internet anyway. A much smarter approach is to use the internet to leverage something else that you can make money off of. But I know that many of these marketing gimmicks are a bad idea because they come and go. If people are serious about making money from their websites, there are tried and true things that can be done. The smartest website owners work on them and don’t worry about these marketing gimmicks.
It’s of note, however, that it is often well established websites that use such marketing gimmicks. And that may be because they are being conned by consultants. That’s a topic for another day. But my advice to website owners is to focus your front-end on being user friendly. And grow your site by getting more people to visit by using the standard techniques of creating good content and developing backlinks. Or you can be like Neil Patel and help make the internet a progressively less useful place.