The other day I saw a billboard as I was driving that caught my attention because all it had on it was the URL for the website of a car dealer, nothing else. I thought it would make a great illustration for this blog post because it shows how much the web is a part of all forms of advertising; outdoor, newspapers TV radio, etc,. The URL of business websites are part of ads on all of these platforms.
Looking at the billboard made me think. I mean why would anyone list nothing but the URL of their website on a billboard? Are they so confident in their brand that they know all someone will have to do is see their name and they will be stopping by to make a purchase? In this case I doubt it because the company on the billboard owns a number of car dealerships in the area and cars are not usually a stop and shop kind of purchase.
In the case of this billboard there was a second billboard just after it with a followup message regarding cars but still, the company URL was the only contact method available.I have seen this practice several times recently by other businesses in other areas where the lone URL billboard is the only one present (no followup message).
My first take-away from this was that the URL of a business website has essentially become the main way to promote the physical location and contact methods for a business. Think about that for a second. The same holds true to some extent in newspaper and radio/TV. More and more I see or hear ads that do provide the website address of a business and either don’t even mention the physical address or phone number of the business or throw it in as a sort of after thought.
The logic behind this trend seems sound. The website of a business is the place where someone can find all of the information they might need about the business (or should be) including their email address, physical address and phone/fax number. Consumers are more and more searching for products and services on their smart phones and so it just makes sense to send consumers to your company website from all sources of traffic.
Your website really is the virtual representation of your physical business today. Shoppers can discover your business through any number of paid and/or organic methods off of the web and on it. Therefore your website has to be thought of in those terms and not just something that is specific to the web. If your website is the first place that people see your site and the place where they can learn more or contact you or even purchase a product or service then it really has to be every bit as effective as is your physical store.
When you think of it in these terms Google’s ongoing efforts to have all businesses on the web in some way makes more sense. If you are not on the web then you will not be found in nearly as many ways. If you are not on the web you will not have one single location from which to track your traffic from advertising in order to gage its effectiveness.
Did you know that you can track ad traffic from pretty much any source to your website? Yep, that includes newspapers, radio and TV ads as well as online ads. It is true that there has to be a lot of pre planning in order to have visitors from each campaign on each type of advertising arrive to the site on a unique URL but the effort is more than worth it in the long run. This is because it gives you data about who is visiting your site as a result of each ad campaign and where they are coming from and what pages on your site interest them.
Right now the problem is that most people who are selling digital advertising treat it as a separate entity. For example a lot of newspapers and TV stations are using the services of 3rd party ad agencies to offer digital advertising to their customer base. The problem with that is that most are big digital agencies that specialize in serving thousands of clients at once and so there is no personalized effort for each client. It is a kind of one size fits all template that is just not a comfortable fit in the end.
At the same time what about optimizing your site for visitors from newspaper or radio ads? Who will make sure that you have a unique landing page or URL for each ad campaign and that the content on each landing page will best speak to the audience associated with that advertising source? Your newspaper or TV/Radio ad salesman? No, probably not. How about the 3rd party ad agency that they are working with? No, they do not do individual optimization.
I think that a real opportunity exists for experienced digital agencies and web designers to step up and fill in this need in the market. If business customers are to be served in the best quality way that they can then they need someone to be in charge of their website who can optimize it for each ad campaign that the business is running across multiple platforms and to monitor this traffic via a data collection service like Google Analytics.
Maybe the ideal way for this to happen is for digital agencies to become more along the lines of media planners and sell newspaper, magazine, radio and TV advertising along with digital advertising. This makes more sense really since the other forms of advertising are really rather simple to sell and create in comparison and since digital now needs to have a hand in advertising on all platforms in order to really optimize the advertisers budget dollars.