Which Form of Advertising is More Efficient & Effective?

The above billboard's ad inventory (behind the tree) promoted an important charity. But less than 1 in 1000 people who passed by it knew what was being advertised. They couldn't see it even if they wanted to, but few people wanted to, which is why they could only afford the discount billboard inventory. Almost all traditional advertising is heading in that direction - noise to be ignored.

Worse yet, when you buy ads you usually end up paying for some such ad inventory...

  • the phantom distribution created by newspapers and magazines that were printed then burned (or never even printed in the first place)
  • the newspaper website that creates inventory by refreshing the page every 5 minutes
  • the TV ad that runs at the wrong time and/or is delivered to the wrong audience
  • the niche clean traffic source that pads their numbers with low value & low cost social media traffic
  • the ad unit at the bottom of the page that nobody sees
  • the incidental ad clicks in Gmail
  • the social media and warez junk your AdWords account subsidizes if you stick with default settings
  • the "cheap" AdSense ad clicks that are clicked on by nothing but robots
  • the shady Yahoo! Search "partners" which make AdSense look like a clean source of traffic and allow Google to charge 3X as much per click

By the time there is a standard ad unit advertisers and publishers are busy perverting it while everyone else is learning to ignore it. The best advertising typically looks more like information than advertising.

The liquor store looks like something right out of the white pages. Simple, direct, effective. They could have a fancy sign that is hard to read, but the clarity and location of the sign makes it compelling.

I think that picture is a strong analogy when comparing the efficacy of advertising elsewhere versus making your own website better and creating a service that is worthy of word of mouth marketing. Make your site better & deliver more value and anyone who finds you has an opportunity to benefit from it. There are a lot of ways you can improve your authority, but the stuff you do on your site is generally going to have the best ROI

Advertising that looks like advertising is rarely as effective as the type of advertising you can generate by creating something remarkable. People spend money with the goal to influence and manipulate. But when you get word of mouth coverage it is more like helpful tips, advice, and information from a friend. Just yesterday there were 2 unsolicited Tweets about our membership program.

Each of their kind reviews is worth far more than 20 or 50 or 100 typical AdWords clicks because we don't trust advertisers - particularly in the internet marketing space. A customer who bought something and likes it provides independent social proof of value. Customer recommendations become a form of advertising that resonates.

Published: April 7, 2009 by Aaron Wall in marketing


April 7, 2009 - 10:35am

Aaron nice picture (I could skip you post :) ).
May I know why you switched to full feed recently?

April 7, 2009 - 11:40am

We have offered both full and partial feeds for well over a year now. See here

April 7, 2009 - 2:17pm

Aaron, just in case you havent seen it before. Brad (from the former searchguild) mentioned this article on "fudwatch" (their new forum):


and we couldnt help but notice how a completely unrelated discussion at sphinn turned into WOMM for the seobook training program (last 2 comments ;-)).

April 7, 2009 - 5:41pm

Oh that is cool. :)

April 7, 2009 - 6:23pm

Great stuff.

In my line of business (interactive agency) all the advertising and promotions in the world pale in comparison to a solid referral from a client that can vouch for what we do and that we do it well.

Terry Van Horne
April 11, 2009 - 4:43pm

Aaron great article you alluded two of my pet peaves. I am concerned the way this industry jumps on the bandwagon and makes twitter the next big advertising medium when their last three
1. Blogging(for every success there are likely 10 disasters)
2. Social Networks
3. Social Media
Have proven to be unmitigated adverising disasters. This industry is quick to sell a "pig in a poke" combine this with opaque billing practices (much like a banks accounting) and you have the ingredients for a reputation as "snakeoil salesman". SEO earned the reputation anyone who doesn't see that is part of the problem not the solution!

April 11, 2009 - 6:40pm

1. In most businesses (and business models) there are many failures for every one success.

2. We have sites that have earned far more than this one (especially if you account for the years of effort put into this site) almost entirely based on social media.

3. Nobody is saying that you should try to do well on all the other networks and via every possible channel. Only that some of them are working for some people.

4. Lots of the best marketing strategies are opaque because they require applying strong strategies to domain specific knowledge. That's why we recently mentioned that paint by number marketing typically does not work well on the web.

5. Sure SEO has a bad reputation. But a lot of that comes down to merchants being cheap and trying to scam SEO providers into offering services for pennies on the dollar. In many cases those businesses preclude honest SEOs from wanting to work with them...which only leaves them to chose amongst the scammers like Traffic Power. And in those cases people typically get what they asked for.

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