February 20, 2010

200,000 Banner Impressions on XStreet SL

My translation agency is recognized as Official SL Solution Provider by Linden Lab since March 2009. During a promotion for solution providers I recently got 200,000 free banner impressions on XStreet SL. This means my banner would be shown 200,000 times - not necessarily to 200,000 different people. Excited about this opportunity I submit my banner and the link to Kimmora Linden, and a little later my banner went live.

One question was where I would like the banner to link? I checked out some banners and saw they mostly link to an XStreet item, some to an external website, and some to a SLURL. I asked on Plurk for feedback on banner ads, and most people reported they never click on banners at all. In the end I decided to link it to one of my free promotional offers on XStreet itself, so I can track if the banner ad made a difference.

I had no idea what to expect, or how long those impressions would last. Two hundred thousand sounded like a large number to me, but I could not estimate what kind of visitor traffic XStreet SL would receive. A banner on XStreet SL changes whenever you come to a new page. So if you look at 3 products, you will see 4 randomly selected banners (including the front page banner).

I was rather surprised how quickly the impressions got used up. Only a few hours after the banner went live, the first 10,000 impressions were gone already. In the end, the 200,000 impressions lasted about 3 days. Of course I was curious to see the results.


The XStreet backend gives a nice realtime overview about the status of a campaign. In the end my banner received 58 clicks - this means out of 200,000 times the graphic was displayed, only 58 people (0.029%) clicked on it. This is somewhat sobering, but then again I offer niche services only suitable for a small fraction of residents.

Of course, those 58 clicks might have resulted in additional exposure and business opportunities. The linked product - my Language Kiosk - is a useful tool and free of charge. Surely those people who clicked my banner should consider my kiosk an interesting thing and "buy" it.


Alas, it does not seem like this. While there is definitely an increased exposure - those 58 clicks really end up on the product page - it does not seem to result in an increased attractivity of the kiosk. The number of purchases stays in the range of sales outside the advertised period.

Conclusions

Without doubt, a timeframe of 3 days is way too short to draw any generally valid conclusions. My product is pretty niche - a service offering rather than a retail product. Nevertheless the pricetag for those 200,000 impressions would be 7,999 L$ - had I actually paid for them I would have been extremely disappointed. To cover a full week I would have needed 500,000 impressions at least, at a whopping 17,499 L$.

  • To get a better impression, a merchant is well advised to do A/B testing with 2-3 different banners. My banner was static - the majority of banners is animated to overcome the "banner blindness" of most shoppers. A proper test would consist of various versions of the banner, animated and static, with different wording as well.
  • One of the biggest problems I see is that the banners are not context sensitive. A merchant books 200k, 500k or 2 million impressions, and the ads get randomly displayed. It would make much more sense to ask for a list of keywords and/or categories, and only show the banners relevant to XStreet products of a certain category or keyword.
  • A by definition intangible and immeasurable effect is exposure. My banner got shown 200,000 times, so a lot of people have supposedly seen it and might remember it in the future.

Still this has been a very interesting experiment, and I thank Linden Lab to give me this opportunity. I would be interested in hearing feedback both from merchants who use banner ads, as well as from shoppers who click or not click on them.

Have you clicked on a banner before? If yes, did you buy the product? If no, why not? Did you buy banner advertising before and where you happy with the results?

I look forward to hear your feedback!
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