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Web Site Marketing—Advertisement

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You might have the best Web site ever created, but if people don't know about its existence, what good is it? In this article, David deBoer discusses how to attract the maximum amount of traffic to your site using banner ads.
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You might have the best Web site ever created, but if people don't know about its existence, what good would it be? Marketing is a major factor in the process of "creating" your Web site. It is not an easy task to attract visitors. Many Webmasters don't know which tools to use to bring more traffic to their sites. In this article, I discuss how to attract the maximum amount of traffic to your site using banner ads.

Banners

You might hate them or refuse to click on even the most "tempting" banner you see on the Web, but the fact is that banners have the potential of attracting a lot of potential customers to your site. However, you have to take various things into careful consideration when starting a banner campaign. How should the banner look? How big can the file size be? And where do I advertise?

Appearance

The appearance of your banner will decide whether or not visitors take the time to click it and visit your site. This should be clear—if your banner design is bad, you will not attract any traffic to your site. Assuming you are designing your own banners (or you are designing banners for other people), here are some tips:

  • Keep the size of your banner standard. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the following are the most commonly used banner sizes:

    Full Banner

    468x60 pixels

    Half Banner

    234x60 pixels

    Vertical Banner

    120x240 pixels

    Square Button

    125x125 pixels


  • Use Web-safe color palettes when designing your banner to ensure that the colors come out right for everyone. Use colors that are easy on the eye, and tend to blend in with the background color of the page that you will be advertising on. Use color, but make sure that all colors used on the banner blend in with each other as well. Do not keep flashing from color to color if using animation!

  • When designing, make sure that there is at least some basic information in the first frame of your banner, so that if the page is not loaded completely, the user will still get some idea of what you're advertising.

  • Although animation in banners is likely to attract the visitor's attention, and is proven to increase the click-through rate (which means that visitors who click your banner continue browsing your site after they get there), you should be careful when using it. Using normal .Gif images, you can still get your file size way up there if you use several "frames" for your banner. If you are using animated symbols, it might be a good idea to make only parts of the banner animated, or to use other types of banners (Flash banners, for example). (Flash banners are discussed in the next section.)

  • When designing an animated banner, be sure not to loop it indefinitely because it is really annoying for the person viewing the page. Instead, you should have the advertisement loop about 10 times and then have the most informative and important frame showing, and leave it there. The last thing you want is to get visitors annoyed with your banner because they will also start to think negatively about the advertised product.

Flash Banners

When designing your banner, you might also decide to go with the alternate way of using Macromedia Flash to design your banner. (See my article, "The Best for Web Designers: Adding Multimedia Content.") This allows for much smoother animation or graphics, and might very well get you a lower file size and therefore speed up the loading time of your banner (especially when you are using a lot of text effects).

If you decide to use Flash, be sure to take advantage of the program's great features—for example, Action Script, which allows you to make the banner interactive and therefore more interesting to your visitors. Have you ever seen the banner with the three monkeys that you have to hit with a boxing glove? The monkeys move around the banner while the Web site promotes the banner by saying, "Hit the monkeys to receive a prize!" And in this interactive banner, you can actually hit two of the three monkeys without anything happening; you are then taken to the Web site when you hit all three of them. This is a great way to interact with your potential customers. Of course, this would be effective only on a certain target audience, and you should have a look into whether or not the CPR would actually increase by using this technique, but it is certainly worth looking into.

Keep in mind that you need the Flash plug-in installed to view Flash files online. Although most people have it installed, and it comes with all the new versions of the most popular Internet browsers, about 15% of Internet users will not be able to see your banner without downloading the plug-in first. Again, this requires some study of your target audience, as well as what would be the best way to represent your business through banner advertisement.

Some Other Tips When Using Banners

  • The easiest way to increase click-through is to simply ask for it. A recent study found that there was a 44% improvement in click-through rates when visual or text "clues" were used to show the user that the banner pointed to additional information. You can do this by using arrows, pointers, or scroll bars; or maybe by just putting "Click here now!" on your banner to attract visitors. "Submit" buttons are also "popular" traffic attraction tools. And as always, the word "free" is also very popular!

  • File size matters! Faster loading time = more people seeing all of your banner = a higher click-through rate to your site. Show the complete banner as fast as possible by keeping file size down. Internet users are not patient, and they certainly won't wait for banners to load if it is other information they are looking for. Remember to get the visitor's attention as soon as possible by putting an interesting phrase or image in the first frame of your banner.

  • Optimize your gifs. Optimizing your banner images may cause file size to decrease by as much as 90 percent! You can get your images optimized for free at http://www.pcbit.com/gifopt/ and various other Web sites, and through free and commercial software packages. Some graphic editors, such as PhotoShop and Fireworks, now also feature image optimization for the Web.

  • Try not to use your logo in your banner. This is proven to decrease the click-through ratio. Instead, try to make a banner that will catch the visitor's attention, and try to make a "site-specific" banner that targets the audience of the site you are advertising on (also involving the design to achieve this). If you decide to use your logo in your banner, try to place it on the last frame of your banner only, and "build up" toward the presentation of your logo during the first few frames.

  • Change your banners regularly. Do not advertise using the same banner for a long time. A new, fresh banner will more likely attract the visitors' attention and encourage them to look at it than if they have been seeing the same animated image for weeks and weeks in a row. By rotating your banners, you can also find out what kind of "look" or phrases used in the banner attract most visitors from the site you are advertising on. Do not only look at hits, but also at click-throughs. If you get a lot more hits than click-throughs, there is a good chance that either the banner is not correctly advertising your product or service, or that the visitors did not find the information they wanted when clicking your banner. Use this information to experiment with different designs, and then measure the results.

  • Monitor how much the advertisement is costing you. This is done by using the following well-known formula:

    Cost per Click (CPC) = CPM / (CTR * 1000)

For example, if you paid $10 per thousand impressions for a banner with a 2% click-through rate, your Cost per Click would be: Cost per Click (CPC) = $10 / (0.01 * 1000) = $1.00.

Where to Advertise

Again, it depends greatly on who your target audience is. Try surfing around some Internet directories, and visit sites specific to your kind of industry to find a suitable place to advertise. Try visiting some sites that are similar to yours, and see where they are advertising (if anywhere). If you can find out whether the banner is doing a good job in attracting visitors to their sites, you might want to consider advertising on a similar kind of site yourself.

When you have put together a list of sites in which you might want to advertise, contact their advertisement representative (most major sites have one), and ask for their rates and submission guidelines. Look for things such as maximum file size, rotation periods, deadlines, dimensions, etc. Also find out whether they charge per cost per thousand impressions or by click-through ratio (this second option would probably be better for your site). Make sure that a professional contract is set up for the banner advertisement at the start of the campaign to avoid any trouble (for either party).

If you have a big Web site, you might also decide to go to a site such as Commission Junction http://www.cj.com/, which will distribute your banner to their participating Web sites (anyone who meets their requirements—not very strict—can join the program, but you have to "authorize" every Web site that requests to place your banner). You will then have to pay these members per click-through, sale, hits, or whatever you have put in your specific guidelines to the members. The good thing here is that you might not have to pay anyone until you actually make a sale or until somebody signs up for your Web site, but the catch is that it's hard to monitor who is advertising which of your banners, and you can't make banners to fit the Web sites of participating members. However, this does not have to be a big problem because you are probably not paying for impressions and therefore only get "free" advertising if nobody even clicks your banner. I suggest you visit the site for more details.

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