I’m a bit surprised nobody asked what kind of sites we kept during the $155 to $5 per new customer optimization of the Lab Store AdSense Campaign. But I guess I should not be, as folks probably just assumed it was a straight ROI thing. And it was.
But often, I think people miss out on really learning something because they just follow the numbers and never ask why. Why does the optimization work like it does? Because if you understand the Root Cause, then you take away learning that you can use the next time around. This result as opposed to robotically optimizing the same stuff over and over without learning anything transferable.
For example, what is the psychology or sociology behind why certain optimization choices worked? What conscious or unconscious mechanisms cause people to do what they do?
Many folks interested in “why” might then go to surveys, but the problem with that approach is people often find it difficult to tell you why they do what they do. This is where a basic knowledge of Psychology and Consumer Behavior can be extremely helpful.
So which sites did we keep?
There are 3 answers, depending on your point of view; yet all 3 answers below apply to all the sites that made the cut:
1. Optimization – the sites with the highest ROI
2. Consumer Behavior – the sites delivering an experience most like Pay-per-Click ads in the search engines
3. Psychology – the sites where the audience is in a Listening Mode
Reasons 2 & 3 are why Reason 1 happened. Reasons 2 & 3 are why chat boards and similar sites delivered the highest ROI. Where it gets really interesting and drives a theory, is when you toss in that Social Media had the worst ROI.
I mean, what’s the difference between a Chat Board and MySpace, a difference that produces a cost per new customer of $5 versus $155? One could argue they are similar – communities, connections, etc. First there were online Discussion Groups, then Chat Boards, then Social Media. Same idea, just with progressive technology improvements.
I don’t think so. I think there is a clear reason the results are so different. One of the above is not like the other two, from a Behavioral and Psychological perspective. Here’s my personal theory why in general, AdSense in Social Media sucks so much compared with AdSense on topical Chat Boards:
Discussion Groups / Chat Boards are about “how can I help you?”; Social Media is about “how can you help me?”.
Discussion Groups / Chat Boards are more about Social; Social Media is more about Media.
Discussion Groups / Chat Boards are about Learning; Social Media is about Connecting.
Therefore, Discussion Groups and Chat Boards are a much better environment for AdSense, because people engage these environments to absorb information and listen; people engage Social Media to broadcast information and speak.
And an audience that wants to listen is simply a better environment for display ads than an audience that wants to speak.
If the above is true, there are enormous implications for creating successful products, ad copy, and landing pages for these different environments. And critical implications for entire business models.
Thoughts? Please feel free to poke holes in the above theory, explain the same theory in a different way (perhaps using words that make more sense to you), or provide an alternative explanation!
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