Many businesses make the mistake of blindly purchasing banner ad space without understanding how their target audience searches for their products or services.

This practice can waste precious advertising dollars. Thus, it is important to know how and where your visitors are finding you before you purchase banner space.

Questions to Consider

If you want an effective banner advertising campaign, it is essential that you first consider the following four questions:

  • Where and how your target audience is searching for your product and/or service
  • How your banner is designed (color, font, call to action, size, animation)
  • Where you purchase advertising space
  • How effective the banner design and banner placement are (accurate testing and measurement required)

The Role of Web Site Statistics

One of the most valuable tools for banner advertising is site statistics software. Good site statistics software can give you all types of information that you can use for an effective banner campaign. For example, if your site's visitors are using a search engine, directory, or another search-related service to find you, statistics software will tell you which keywords they are typing in to find your site and the URL of the search service they used.

Three effective software products are WebTrends, MediaHouse, and Accrue Hit List.

First, you should determine which sets of keywords and keyword phrases end users are using in search queries to find your site. Over time, you will find that there are 10 to 20 words that are used consistently. Then, if you determine that your Web site does not have an optimal search engine or directory placement for your targeted keywords, you can purchase banner space for those keywords.

For example, let's say that Yahoo! (a directory) is giving one of our clients the most traffic for a specific keyword phrase. We will often recommend that the client purchase banner space for those keywords on other targeted Web sites. However, if the client has excellent directory placement for a keyword phrase, then we might recommend that the client purchase banner space for similar keyword phrases.

This strategy applies to any search engine, directory, or industry-related site.

Purchasing on Industry-Specific Sites

Many industry-specific sites (such as software sites) can deliver highly targeted traffic. The main advantage of purchasing banner space on an industry-specific site is that it is often less expensive than large portal sites.

We have a client who regularly gets 100 to 200 referrals per month from a particular industry-specific (software) site, but the referral-to-sale ratio is extremely high (40%). Even though our client does not get a tremendous amount of traffic from this site, we do recommend that he purchase banner space there, because he has discovered that a large portion of his target audience uses it to search for the type of software he sells.

Selecting the right keywords and determining where to purchase banner space require time, patience, a lot of testing, and careful analysis of your CTRs and site statistics. Search engines (and directories) have very different user demographics, and you might find that purchasing banner space on AOL Search is more effective than purchasing banner space on MSN. You also might find that smaller, industry-specific sites deliver a better return on investment than large portal sites. Every banner campaign is different.

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