Here's a proven, step-by-step plan for launching and maintaining a successful banner ad campaign. We've used it consistently for our clients at GrantasticDesigns and have achieved 5% to 40% click-through rates, in some cases doubling sales.

1. Determine Where to Purchase Advertising Space
Browse the search engines, directories, and industry-specific sites to see which sites cater to your target audience. On major portals, enter keywords that match or complement your banner ad campaign. Follow the links from the search results to see whether and where these sites are showing banner ads.

2. Determine the Appropriate Keywords, Categories, and Web Pages for Your Banner Ads
After you have determined where you would like to purchase banner ad space, you will need to make a list of the keywords (for portal sites), categories (for directories), or places on individual Web pages (other types of sites) where you would like your banner ads to appear. Many large companies purchase keywords and categories for long periods of time, and what you would like to have for your banner ad campaign might not be available. For example, if you sell books, you may find that has purchased the keyword "books" for banner ad placement, often for months at a time.

3. Choose Between General or Specific Target Sites
You need to determine if a large portal site suits your needs or if a site specific to your industry is a more cost-effective choice. Portal sites have more visitors, but industry-specific sites can have lower rates for purchasing banner ad space -- and may better reach your target audience.

4. Contact Your Banner Ad Representative
Check the contact information on the sites you've selected to see if they have a staff member who handles banner ads. Banner ad reps should be able to provide you with a banner ad rate card (list of prices and placement options). If they have a local office, set up a personal meeting with them to discuss your interests. At the very least, be sure they have a phone number and e-mail address to reach them during normal business hours.

5. Find Out about the Submission Guidelines
Most Web sites have very detailed banner ad submission guidelines. Important things to ask about are:

  • Maximum file size (in kilobytes)
  • Allowable file formats (GIF, animated GIF, HTML form banners, JavaScript, Flash, Shockwave, applets, etc.)
  • Design restrictions
  • Banner dimensions (in pixels)
  • Deadlines for submission
  • Number of banner ads you may submit at one time for rotation
  • Frequency of banner ad rotation
  • Lead time required before your banner ad will appear on the site
  • Page -- and location on that page -- where your banner ad will be featured

By knowing what to ask your banner ad reps ahead of time, you are showing both them and the site designers and/or developers that you are trying to make their jobs easier. Having a good relationship with the banner ad reps is very important. They can tell you when your keywords or categories become available, and they can provide you with valuable statistics on the number of visitors who typed in your targeted keywords on search queries.

6. Check for Special Rates
Find out what rates and terms sites offer. Do they charge by CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or CTR (cost per click-through)? Can you get a better rate if you purchase banner ad space on search results pages (which may get you closer to your target audience)? Can you buy banner ad space in bulk? Can you get a discounted rate for a campaign that runs the ad at specific times? Can you work out a better rate for purchasing a percentage of available impressions on a page, instead of purchasing all the available impressions on a page?

7. Get It in Writing
The Web site should provide you with a banner ad contract expressly stating:

  • When your banner ad will begin and end its run
  • Whether it has an exclusive run (meaning that your banner ad will always be the sole one that appears on a page or part of the page) or a rotating run with other banner ads

Make sure that the site will either provide a password-protected area where you may gain access to your statistics, or that it will e-mail statistics to you regularly.

8. Retrieve Banner Ad Statistics
Any site that features your banner ad should already have site statistics software to allow you to test your banner ad's effectiveness. Make sure in advance that the site will provide you with statistics of impression rates (how many people check out the page) and click-through rates on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Companies should be able to provide these statistics for you with a quick turnaround time.

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