The “Law of Shitty Clickthroughs” states the following:
Eventually, everyone will stop clicking.
Remember those horrible banner ads from the early years of the Internet? Well they used to produce a really high click-through rate! We weren’t so used to them yet, and so people would click out of curiosity, out of novelty. Site owners were making great money by offering that advertising space, and the people buying that space were seeing results. Win-win!
Andrew Chen, the man who first presented the the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs, points out the very first banner ad featured on the Internet:
This banner got a 78% click-through rate when it first showed up on HotWired in 1994. Yes, I said 78%.
Except eventually people stopped clicking on banner ads like that one, and the companies running those ads stopped seeing great returns on their investment.
The same has happened with Facebook ads. Remember when the only ads on Facebook were in the right sidebar?
In 2011, the average click-through rate of a Facebook ad was a measly 0.05%. Their ads may have performed better earlier on, but even Facebook knew that its sidebar ads were failing to get very much traction for its early adopter advertisers.
So they introduced ads in the News Feed, known to many as “Sponsored Stories.” They tended to look like completely organic posts, so lots of people didn’t even notice they were looking at ads.
Ads debuted on mobile around the same time, the only place on Facebook that, until then, was free of ads. (No sidebar = no sidebar ads.)
And remember when Facebook redesigned EVERYTHING in 2013, making the News Feed more narrow and the right sidebar wider? Why do you think they did that?
What came next was a complete redesign of the sidebar ads so that Facebook could try to further combat the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs and get people significant results with sidebar ads once again!
But what’s happening? People are getting so used to Facebook ads that they scroll right past them without a second thought. So Facebook tried autoplaying videos in the News Feed, but the outrage was so great that now the autoplay occurs with the sound on mute. Makes it nice and easy for you to just keep scrolling.
What will happen with Facebook ads in the future? Chances are good that they’ll keep changing its advertising platform in order to combat the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs, especially since the playing field has been flooded with new advertisers since the Organic Reach Massacre of 2013.
But advertisements aren’t the only things affected by the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs.
I’ve worked on a number of launches for the same product or program, and almost every one ended up following this same pattern: in the beginning, my clients would get better and better results with each of their launches and relaunches. But eventually they would hit a wall, and a bigger list and/or bigger advertising budget would bring in the exact same amount of revenue – or less – then back when their launches were reaching fewer people.
They ended up saturating their audience, despite the fact that their list numbers would increase with every launch. And all that money that they’d put into running ads or an expensive design or hiring contractors? It didn’t pay off the way their smaller launches had.
“Trendy” launch tactics suffer the same fate. When video training series first appeared on the marketing map, they converted customers like gangbusters. But eventually people will become blind to them and stop watching. Same with telesummits and free challenges: people may sign up like crazy, but participation invariably falls off, the longer it stretches out.
Smart business owners understand that the tactic that’s working for them now won’t always be the source of their success. Only a few years ago, you could rely on traffic from guest posts to continue to bring new people into your world. Now it’s widely known that huge publications often bring in less than a handful of new subscribers to your list.
Even the most well established businesses you can think of are always shifting gears. Why? Because a product, program or piece of software will bring in TONS of revenue . . . until it doesn’t anymore. Will B-School continue to be Marie Forleo’s biggest revenue source? Probably not; eventually she’ll have enrolled most of the people who can and want to invest in B-School, so she’ll have start looking at different ways to engage her giant customer base.
Remember, eventually everyone will stop clicking, or in the case of selling, everyone will stop buying.
So how do we combat the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs?
- You gotta roll with the marketing punches. I highly recommend using Facebook ads now, even if it’s just to get your name and your work out there into the world a bit more. This time next year, ads are bound to be more expensive (and not necessarily more effective).
- Understand that even your best Facebook ad campaign will eventually deteriorate. I get a lot of emails from local business owners who used to get great results from ads, but recently things have really gone downhill. It’s because their target audience on Facebook (people who live nearby with particular interests) is growing a LOT slower than the speed at which they spend money to reach them.
- Work now to convert the traffic you ARE getting to subscribers, and then to clients or customers.
Before you write another guest post, host a webinar or run a free challenge, take a little time to learn how to create opt-in pages that convert. You can start my blog series on conversion optimization right here, or grab the whole series plus case studies, checklists and more in my ebook, Landing Pages that Convert!