Monday, May 3, 2004
Executive Summary: Fark.com offers a low click-through rate and very poor customer service.
While I was in Europe last March, my host, Spaceship.com, relocated. By the time I got everything working again my sites had all been down about two weeks. The first few days back online I had about 100-150 visitors per day — down from the about 400/day average I had been carrying before the site went offline. Ouch.
So. I decided that I would run a couple of experiments with advertising to boost my traffic in April to compensate for the visitors lost due to my being de-listed on Google and other search sites. I bought packages with both Metafilter and Fark.com, two sites I visit regularly and felt would be frequented by users interested in my WiFi sites. On Metafilter I bought twice the minimum package: 20,000 impressions for $20. On Fark, I bought 1% of all of their impressions for one month, calculated to be about 300,000 impressions, for $150. I (very roughly) estimated a 5% click-through rate, so at the point of purchase, I estimated that the Metafilter ad would bring in 1,000 visitors and the Fark ad would bring in 15,000. My Metafilter ad was a small text ad. My Fark ad was a much larger, brighter banner image that floated along the top of all of their pages.
Well, the reality didn’t quite meet my expectations. Metafilter dicided to spread my 20,000 impressions out over the entire year, giving me just a couple click-throughs daily — not enough to make any sort of impact on my traffic. So far, though, I have received 71 visitors from 1,889 ad impressions for a 3.76% click-though rate — not too far from my original expectation of 5%. See the chart above for more numbers.
Fark, though was only pulling in about 100 visitors per day. That’s about a 1% click-through. And when, two weeks into the account, Gogi (the guy who runs Fark’s advertising) finally set up my add-tracking account (so I could see the actual numbers rather than having to calculate them on my own), that number fell down to about 13 visitors per day coming through to my site — a click-through rate of about 0.08% (according to my add-tracking account). That drastic change made me think something had gone wrong when Gogi set up the add-tracking account. That’s 1/50th of the click-through rate of the smaller Metafilter ads, after all. He never responded to the e-mail I sent on April 19th wondering what might have caused the difference.
Let me touch on the customer-service aspect of this interaction with Gogi at Fark. My campaign started on the 31st of March. I e-mailed wondering how to access my add-tracking control monitor on the 1st of April. And again on the 8th of April. He replied on the 9th — but the account didn’t work. He replied again on the 16th — and it worked. When I noticed the drop in click-through rates, I e-mailed him (on April 19th) and never received a response. This is unacceptable. If I had spent just $20, like I did on Metafilter, I would understand that the admin may not have time to answer all of the questions they receive promptly. But $150 is a lot of money and I expected things to at least work in the first place or a turn around of at most a couple or three days for questions (especially questions like, “Why doesn’t this work yet?”). Metafilter had my account up and running smoothly right at the start and Matt Haughey (the guy who runs Metafilter) answered all of my initial questions very promptly.
So, to summarize again: Fark.com offers a low click-through rate and very poor customer service. I’ll continue visiting their site, but I don’t feel I got what I paid for from this transaction.
If I haven’t explained myself well enough, please make a comment and I’ll make any clarifications. Before doing this I couldn’t find any good information on the web about the realities of this kind of small-time web advertising. Hopefully this page will help to fill in that gap a bit.
I'm Josh Knowles, a technology developer/consultant on a variety of mobile, social media, and gaming projects. I founded and lead Frescher-Southern, Ltd. I grew up in Austin, Texas and currently live in New York City.
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