Many Web site owners simply sign up with pay-per-click advertisers with a high payout rate, and then place the advertisers' banners at the top and bottom of every Web page. Then, after making less than $50 for the entire year, they proclaim, "Internet advertising doesn't work, except for porn sites." I hear this complaint often. The truth, however, is that these Web site owners haven't optimized the choice and placement of their ads, which requires some preparation. Let's look at some preparation details that can increase the revenues you get from advertising.
Listing Web Page Interests
On the surface, choosing the right ads seems fairly straightforward. You simply select ads that are interesting to your users. This is the right idea, but what most people forget is that what a user is interested in at any point in time is shaped by his or her current context. When a user views your pages, the content of those pages probably influences his or her interests. Thus, for each page on your site, you should write down the specific interests generated in your users. The implications for ad choices are obvious: You shouldn't just choose ads that are of general interest to your user population. Instead, select ads on a per-page basis, depending on the specific interests those pages generate in your users.
Suppose you have a movie Web site. One of your pages on this site reviews a specific movie. This is a good place to put an advertisement related specifically to that movie; for example, a pay-per-sale ad for purchasing the movie. Even better, you might place a pay-per-search ad that allows the user to search for other movies featuring the stars from that movie review.
Locating Attention-Flow Interruption Points
Why do ads fail at the top, bottom, and right-hand side of a Web page? The reason is that peoplebeing wonderfully efficient and adaptive creatureshave learned to ignore those ads. When the Web was still relatively new, people would pay attention to those ads, and advertisers would get that oft-quoted 1% click-through rate. Nowadays, my students and I find that the click-through rate for a static banner at the top and bottom of a page is .01%and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
So where is a good place to put an advertisement in a Web page? The answer is in the user's attention flow. Here's the general process:
Go through every page on your site and locate those areas within the page where your users focus a major portion of their attention.
Within those areas, find a good spot where you can break the user's attention with an advertisement.
This principle is very similar to how television commercials break your attention. You never see a commercial pop up in the middle of an actor's sentence. Commercials pop up at a good break in the action.
Place the most relevant, highest-paying ads in these locations. For example, in our sample Web site (http://www.ProfessorF.com), the two areas where users focus their attention are the hacker phrases in the middle of the page and the Top 5 lists on the right-hand side of the page (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. The ProfessorF site.
For the hacker phrases, a good place to place a (banner) advertisement is between the ratings radio buttons and the box with the actual hacker phrase in it. For the Top 5 Phrases, a good place to put a (stamp or text) advertisement is in between the two Top 5 boxes.
Now that we know where to place ads, in the next article we'll sign up with an advertising broker and actually place ads in our personal Web business.