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bricks and mortar
doing business in a physical place

clicks and mortar
doing business online


When we purchase advertising space on a billboard, most of the people who see the ad do not immediately rush out to purchase the advertised product.  The same is true if a banner ad is placed on a web page.

One of the nice things about advertising on the Web in contrast to many other media is that it is relatively easy to place an ad in the context of the space that a person is browsing.  If a person is using a search engine to do a search using the words, "new car price comparison," there is a good possibility that the person is shopping for a new car.  It makes sense, then, that the page that is returned by the search engine would contain a banner ad for someone selling new cars -- and an advertiser would pay much more for an ad that is displayed in that context than one that is displayed at random.  An advertiser might also pay to have a link to its website at the top of the link list that is returned.  Links that are returned because an advertiser paid for top listing are called sponsored links.

banner ad
A large rectangular ad that appears at the top or bottom of a Web page.

contextual advertising
Advertising (such as banner ads or sponsored search engine links) that is displayed on a browser page that has content that is related to the ad.  The intention is to increase the likelihood that the advertising is receiving exposure in the advertiserís target audience.

sponsored link
A link that is returned on a search engine search for which an advertiser has paid a fee for prominent ranking.


When an advertiser pays to have an ad displayed in the context of the list that is returned by a search engine, it is most likely using what is known as a PPC pricing model in online advertising.  The advertiser pays only when someone actually clicks on the banner ad or the link that is returned by the search engine.  If no one clicks on the ad or sponsored link, then the advertiser's website doesn't receive any prospective customers and owes nothing for the advertising.  If the ad or sponsored link is placed well, however, a lot of people would be expected to click on the link and be transported as interested parties to the advertiser's website.  The advertiser pays higher fees for more website visitors, but more visitors should mean higher sales and higher revenues.

Unfortunately, the PPC pricing model is vulnerable to fraud.  Anyone who stands to gain from selling the advertising space would want to see more click-throughs, and so would have an incentive to click on the ads themselves, to pay other people to click on the ads, or to use a computer program that fakes clicks on the ads.  Additionally, competitors have an incentive to use the same tactics as a strategy to drive up a competitor's advertising costs.  In 2005, Lane's Gifts and Collectables of Texarkana was involved in initiating one of the first click-fraud lawsuits ever filed, alleging that search engine operators had been billing for clicks that were inflated or fraudulently generated.

When a page visitor clicks on an advertising link (e.g., banner ad or sponsored link) for more information.  In PPC advertising, this is a debiting click that consumes from the budget of clicks for which the advertiser paid.

pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
An advertising pricing model in which the advertiser pays for each click-through made on an advertising link.  Also known as Cost-per-Click (CPC) advertising.

click fraud
Clicking on an online advertisement link for the premeditated purpose of causing a PPC advertiser to pay for the click without the intent to take any other actions (such as buy a product).


Those who sell online advertising space would of course want an online business to believe that it is a good idea to invest into advertising.  However, the online marketer could often be much more effective in properly positioning the website through other methods.  If you locate a bricks-and-mortar pizza shop on a back alley, you will be forced to spend a lot on advertising to inform, persuade, and remind people about your business  However, if you locate your shop on a busy highway, a large number of people will constantly be informed, persuaded, and reminded of your business even if you otherwise spend nothing on promotion. 

You can help to ensure that search engines index your business website the way that you want if you are careful to tell them exactly how you want it done.  You can do this with hidden meta tags and with keywords in the body of a Web page.  A meta tag is a piece of code that describes the web page.  In this code, you can tell a search engine how often to visit your page to check for changes in the body of the page, what keywords you would like it to use in indexing your page, and the text to use when it lists a description of your page.  If you do a good job of properly indexing your page with meta tags, you might not have to pay to have your listing at the top - you might be at the top anyhow. 

There are three basic and incredibly easy things that you can do assist the search engines:

  • Use keywords in the body of the page that you want indexed.  A search engine indexes in part on the words that it sees in the text of a page.

  • Put appropriate keywords in the keyword meta tag.  This meta tag does not display on the Web page, but it is seen by the search engines, and they use the keywords that you provide for indexing your Web page.

  • Put an appropriate description in the description meta tag.  Search engines will often use the description that you provide.

meta tag
Hidden code in a Web page that describes something about the content of that page. 

Words that would quickly describe your website or business; words that people are most likely to use in an online search to find a business like yours.

A statement that summarizes the nature of your website or your business to entice people to visit.

has to do with how easy it is for someone to use a product or website.

When you see a blinking "12:00" on a car radio, VCR, or DVD player, it is probably because the owner gave up trying to figure out how to set the time.  This is an example of bad usability.  If you find an online retail store but cannot find an item you are looking for, you will leave and find a competitor who can show you that they have what you need.  This is also bad usability, and it cost the store a customer - and perhaps thousands of others just like you. 

Usability testing is crucial to the success of a website.  Unfortunately, many people who call themselves "web designers" and such have absolutely no training in marketing, consumer behavior, or human factors psychology.  Expertise in programming, html coding, or graphics design does not ensure that someone knows how to promote your business  The people who pour the concrete and lay the bricks in a brick-and-mortar business shouldn't be trusted to do your marketing, and neither should the people construct your online business? 

In usability testing for a website, we are interested in ensuring:

  • utility
    Does the website provide the information or perform the functions as expected by the visitor?

  • usability
    Did the visitor easily figure out how to use and navigate through the website?

  • likability
    Does the user like and enjoy using the website?
Site visitors who cannot quickly realize that the site has something to offer or cannot quickly figure out how to find what they need will back out to return to the search engine that got them there. 

If you maintain an online presence or run an online business, you should be interested in the bounce rate.  This measure has to do with the percentage of visitors who reach the website and then back out without exploring deeper into the site.  A high bounce rate could suggest that the web site has usability problems.

Note that a high bounce rate could also suggest that visitors are being referred on the basis of the wrong keywords or could suggest click fraud.

Commercial email that was not requested, that you did not give permission to send, or that was not sent from an organization with whom you have previously done business.  Aka UCE or spam.

opt-in email
Email that is sent because you have previously given permission to the organization to itself send or for its partners to send to you.

Even with an opt-in, it is possible for someone to mail-bomb you by registering your email address on many lists.  That is, a single opt-in often does not ensure that the owner of the email address is the one who gave the opt-in permission.

double opt-in
An opt-in that requires two steps to ensure that you are the one who requested an opt-in.

If you or someone else gives an opt-in permission, the organization then makes a single mailing to the email address associated with that opt-in.  If the recipient replies to confirm the opt-in request, then it is presumed that the recipient indeed wants to remain on that list.  If the recipient does not reply, then it is presumed that the recipient is denying further email. 

Double opt-in is a relatively simple process, and so when your get spammed and the sender claims that you have given opt-in permission, s/he is probably telling an outright lie (or is a very stupid marketer) - your name was probably part of a purchased list.  (Ask the spammer to send you proof of when, where, and how you gave opt-in permission.  Not one single spammer - I've talked with people who claim to be the director of marketing of large famous organizations - has yet been able to provide me that proof.)  If you want to start a mailing list and don't want to be accused of spamming, use a double opt-in.  An angry prospect is not likely to convert into a buying customer; an angry customer is not likely to remain a repeat customer.

opt out
Providing a means to allow email list recipients to request removal from the list.

You should always provide opt-out provisions on a legitimate email list. 

However, if you are the recipient of UCE, you should NEVER click on an opt-out.  The FTC, who has done extensive studies of UCE, advises against clicking opt-outs on UCE because it actually confirms to the spammer that your email address is "live." This makes your email address more valuable for resale to other spammers, and so you are likely to receive even more UCE after clicking an opt-out on UCE.

edited 14 JUN 05