Banner advertising is one of the oldest marketing techniques and closely related to conventional marketing. It can in most regards be compared to billboard advertising and in some cases it can even be compared to television advertising when flash banners are used together with sound.
But how difficult is banner advertising and is it an easy marketing strategy that almost anybody can use? In a sense banner advertising is relatively easy if you follow some basic principles.
The short history of online advertising
According to our research the first banner advertising was introduced in October 1994 on HotWired, today they are part of Lycos and are now called Wired News. The size of these banners was 468 x 60 pixels and is still a popular size banner in use even today. According to Doubleclick’s “The Decade of online advertising: 1994 – 2004” the US market spend $9,6 billion on Internet ads. Online advertising also provide one of the largest spent of all advertising methods and is still growing.
During the past 2 – 3 years a huge change has taken place in the online marketing industry. Online advertising was affected by this as well and it became clear that there still is a larger demand by consumers than can be met by advertisers. This in effect means that there is a transition process taking place. In the South African market the same growth and transition are experienced. According to World stats we have more than 3,6 million internet users and recent stats from World Wide Worx also states that there are more than 5 million computer owners in South Africa. That makes South Africa the 2nd largest in Africa, leaving large possibilities for new online entrepreneurs.
It is a well known fact in the online industry that banner advertising is not the most remarkable marketing strategy and although many companies have performed well and returned great results many that didn’t make use of it has performed just as well or even better. However if you have the budget it is worthwhile to make use of this strategy.
Tracking the results
One of the greatest benefits of online advertising is the opportunity to track results. By using dynamic website to track source and conversion ratios makes it easy track success and optimize your strategies. Even keeping track of the banner types is easier. Experimenting can also deliver surprising results and can be tracked easily.
Over the years it has become clear that in the online marketing industry mostly focus on the amount of click they received from the advertising campaigns to measure their success. Recently it has become more and more complex as it became evident that there are more factors involved than just clicks.
One of the greatest benefits of banner advertising is branding. Becoming a well known brand in the online community can result into traffic that do not click through from banners. Depending on your industry it can also result in sales lifts in the offline environment. Associating your brand with leading websites clearly cause a trusted association which in itself has its benefits.
Pay per Acquisition
With the use of tracking software a new payment method has seen the light for advertisers. CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) is one of the most effective ways to place banner ads. Due to the fact that it influences the profit of the site on which is being advertised and the profit generated by the advertiser there is much better cooperation for providing good results than in the old fashioned Pay Per Click methods (PPC).
One of the key factors when tracking success of banner advertising is to keep track of the amount of unique deliveries of ads. The same visitor can receive the same banner being served during a single session on the same website at regular intervals. This can assist you in making design changes for your banner in order to improve click through rates but it can also guide you in ensuring the website you are advertising on is worthwhile advertising on.
Display Frequency to Click Through
Absolutely one of the key indicators to ensure your advertising campaign is running smoothly is keeping track of the frequency at which ads are displayed compared to the amount of clicks received on the applicable campaign. The following can be reasons for an add campaign to have a bad frequency to click through rate.
- Bad banner design or lack of key features in the design compared to the site the ad is being displayed on.
- Bad call to action. A call to action is one of the key motivators for a visitor to click on a banner. “Click here” is not a call to action but rather a prize or guidance on what to expect when clicking on the banner.
- Large file size of image. It can happen that due to the large file size of a banner the visitor to the site didn’t even see the banner because it was still loading.
- Information overflows. A banner should never contain too much information, but rather single words that entice the visitor to find out more.
- The ads don’t stand out and becomes part of the website.
- Bad display position.
- Theme of the site advertised on
Click Through Frequency Conversion
This is the key to a successful online advertising campaign. In order to have a solid ROI you need to have a good frequency of Clicks to conversions. A conversion is a visitor that registered with your site, bought something or at least spent some time on your site. If you notice that the visitors tend to leave the site very quickly after entering then there is clearly something wrong. Here is a guideline of possible issues effecting conversions…
- Bad banner design and wording. The user expected something totally different when he clicked on the banner.
- Use of landing pages. Never use landing or splash pages to point traffic to it from a banner ad campaign, unless the splash page is with the structure of the original web site. Many so called experts will disagree with me, but I will explain this under its own topic next.
- Bad website design or usability. This goes hand in hand with the use of landing pages. If your website is badly structured and the user has an effort finding what he is looking for you will loose conversions.
- Bombarding visitors. Many websites bomb visitors with entry pops and advertising. This is not recommended at all, because the visitor will leave your site immediately.
Use of Splash Pages
I once attended a workshop where the marketing manager of a large online business told everyone that he introduced splash pages to use with their promotions and that it improved conversions considerably. I was amazed at this remark and had a look at their website. Suddenly it all made sense. The website was clearly badly designed and the information supplied was purely one way, what they wanted the user to see. The entire website bombed the visitor with the closing techniques but didn’t supply the user with the reasons they initially visited in order to be closed.
If you have to make use of separately designed splash or landing pages you probably have bigger problems with your website than you think. If the banner displayed is related to a specific promotion then that promotion page which are being linked to, should be located within the normal website structure, that contains the relevant information but still allow the user to navigate through to other information that they might require before they convert into a customer.
General banners that purely advertise your brand should always point to your homepage, however it is important to know that it is much more effective to advertise a specific product or service, in which case the banner should link to the applicable page on your website. If the homepage proves to be ineffective then you probably need to evaluate the design and layout of the homepage. Ensure that the page that the user lands on supplies the information that the user will be interested in viewing based on the banner they clicked on, not the information that you want the user to see.
Using Viral Marketing
Viral marketing’s strongest feature is the amount of well targeted referrals that it obtains. By combining a good viral campaign with banner advertising, you ensure that you have continuous publicity and ROI basically multiplies with every conversion. The most powerful effect of a solid viral campaign is the duration of supply. If properly planned it can supply constant traffic for years after the ad campaign has finished. Viral campaigns normally focus on entertainment value for example a funny video or enjoyable game, that gives the visitor the option to refer it to friends.
Some new techniques that work
A fairly new technique that is being used is to make the banner look like link text that forms part of the design of the site the banner ad is located on. The power lies in the possibilities of providing more information for the user in the form of informative link text to cause a click through. Although it is an image the user is attracted to the link text. The greatest benefit is most probably the fact that traffic provided by a factual banner normally is much targeted which means good quality click through and higher conversion ratios.
Adding a human element also seems to work well. It makes it more personal for the visitor and attractive to click on.
Banner Size & Types
By default the most sites use similar banner sizes. Following are basic information and examples to assist you in making a choice with banner advertising.
Again there are many different sizes being used but the most common size being used is 120 x 600 pixels. These ads are normally located on the right hand side of the website. These ads have proven very effective but it is important to keep in mind that they are also more expensive.
This is a very common size and can normally be located at any position of the page. The normal size for these banners is 120 x 60 pixels. The location is very important and once again because the banner is so small you need to ensure that the text being displayed is carefully selected.
This is a very good sized banner that allows for cost effective banner advertising and the chance to provide enough information to invite click throughs. The size for the square banner is 125 x 125 pixels.
These banners are 250 x 250 pixels wide, and are normally located just under the header of the page or amongst the content of the page.
These banners are normally located at the top of the page and is most probably ideally located if that is the case. The size of 468 x 60 pixels also allows for the display of good quality graphics and information.
This is one of the largest banners that can be used and is normally located above the header of the page almost the entire width of the page. Because of it’s size of 728 x 90 pixels. This banner can not be missed and allows for allot of freedom in it’s design.
Email banners has proven very effective, but there are a few very important points to keep in mind when you want to opt-in for these type of campaigns. Ensure that you are provided the correct information as far as the amount of people that the email will reach. Many companies do not distinguish between recipients that view HTML mail and those that receive text mailers. This can have a drastic implication on your costing if the majority only read text mails. Remember that only viewers that receive their mail in HTML format will be able to view your banners.
Banners designed for email campaigns must load instantly. Therefore file sizes must be kept to a minimum.
Choosing an Advertising Partner
The largest challenge involved when choosing a site to advertise on is distinguishing between the truth and sales talk. Many sites will provide you with the hits their site receives as if it is unique visitors. It is important that you ensure they give you the amount of unique visitors they receive. Hits are the highest possible amount that the log stats will display. It is the figure of all the files and images loaded for every page opened and can be at least 10 times more than the unique visitors the site actually receive.
Making use of Alexa is also dangerous as it primarily indicates the amount of visitors with the Alexa toolbar installed visiting the website. In my experience the more webmasters visiting the site the better the chance that the stats might be skewed as many of them have the Alexa toolbar installed in their browser. Another important thing to remember is that there are free tools available to improve your Alexa ranking without providing real traffic.
Besides obtaining traffic stats for the site you want to advertise on you will also need to profile your prospective customer (demographics), in order to ensure that you advertise on a site that mainly attracts visitors that you target. Therefore you need to find out about the following.
- Geographic location
- Income group
- Age groups
- Interests and hobbies
There are many other factors that can be supplied by the site that you wish to advertise on. Make sure you profile your customer properly in order to know who you need to attract and where you should advertise.
Article by Roelof Vermeulen of Digital Marketing