Are they worth your advertising dollars or are they a thing of the past?
When the Web first started, banners were all the rage. Today, they’re pretty much passé. They’re no longer a novelty and unless they’re super-clever, users pretty much ignore them. Conversion rates have dropped through the floor and many advertisers have found other ways to push their products.
And yet, every website still contains a whopping great banner ad splashed along the top or running up the side. In part, that’s because they’ve become more sophisticated with better targeting and improved graphics. But in practice, banner ads tend to be used for one of two reasons: as a method of gaining/ giving users through an affiliate program; or as a way of generating revenue—or traffic—through paid advertising.
Both these methods work to some extent, but the key is always to make sure the economics make sense. We’ll look closely at the math in this chapter, but before we go on to talk about the math of banner ads—and how to tell whether your banner campaign is worthwhile—let’s just take a look at the terms involved. You’re going to see these words whenever you join an affiliate program or take part in any other kind of online marketing scheme. You should definitely be familiar with them.
· Banner Ad — A graphic ad linked to an advertiser’s website. These usually run across the top of the page but can also run up the page (“skyscrapers”). Banners are usually limited by size.
· Banner Views —The number of times a banner is seen by users. This is usually the same as “page views,” but counts the number of times the banner is actually downloaded rather than the number of times the page is downloaded. Some users click away before the banner finishes loading.
· Clicks/ Click Throughs — Banners are operated by clicking the cursor over them. Not too surprisingly these responses are called “clicks” or “click throughs.”
· Click Through Rate (CTR ) — The percentage of users who see the banner and click on it.
· Conversion Rate —The percentage of people who visit your site and actually give you money. The higher the better!
· Cookies — Small files placed on a user’s computer. They’re used for all sorts of reasons and by all sorts of sites. Banner ads use them to make sure the user hasn’t seen the banner recently, which banner brought them to the advertiser’s site, and even which adverts they’ve seen recently.
· CPM — “Cost Per Mille.” The amount you pay for every thousand times a banner is shown—the usual way of charging for banners.
· Hits — The number of times a server receives a request for a Web page or an image. Not a great way to measure interest. One page can have lots of images and get lots of hits, even if it’s only seen once. Often, people will say “hits” when they really mean “page views” or “impressions.”
· Page Impressions or Page Views —The number of times a Web page has been requested by the server. Much more accurate than hits: each view is a potential customer looking at a page of your site. But not necessarily a different customer…
· Unique Users — The people who download a Web page, counted by IP address. You want to bring lots of users to your site so that you can create a broad customer base. The same user clicking on a banner a dozen times could cost you money without increasing your sales. Most reputable sites will check the IP address of the person clicking on a link and only count it once in a 24-hour period. If a site doesn’t do this, don’t advertise with them.
Business online, like business offline, always boils down to math: the difference between cost and revenue. If your banner campaign is costing more than it’s earning, you won’t be in business for very long. To figure out how your campaign is doing, you’re going to need to know your Cost Per Mille, your Click Through Rate and your Conversion Rate. These are your basic tools. If you don’t know them, find out!
Let’s say your CPM is $20, your CTR is 1%, and your Conversion Rate is 4%. (So you’re paying $20 every 1,000 times your banner is shown, it brings you 10 new users, and you make one sale for every 25 users the ad brings). The question you need to ask yourself is how much are you wasting on the 24 users who don’t buy.
Cost per visitor = $20 / 10 = $2 So each visitor costs you $2, but you need 25 visitors to make one sale, so…
Cost per sale = $2 * 25 = $50 …if your product is worth less than $50, you’re making a loss.
That’s pretty simple, and as you can see, there’s not a lot of room to maneuver here. Margins are tight on banner advertising and that applies to both the site selling the advertising space and the webmaster buying it.
Of course, hard cash isn’t the only way to measure the success of a banner ad, and one reason they’re still popular is that they’re a pretty effective branding tool. After all, advertisers spend millions on billboards without expecting motorists to drive straight through them and make a purchase! On the Web, those advertisers can even be reasonably sure that the people who see their ads will be interested in them. But branding costs money—lots of it—with no guarantee of results. It’s usually best left to the big boys.
The banner ads on my sites usually send users to my affiliate partners, and the banner ads I place on other people’s sites usually come from my affiliate programs. They don’t cost me anything and as long I’m making the sales to pay my affiliate partners, everybody’s happy.
If you do decide to purchase banner advertisements though, and if you have a very specific market in mind, make sure they are strategically placed—on sites where the traffic will most definitely be interested in your product or service. Find a site that suits exactly your specific product and you’re going to be appealing directly to your target market.
Measuring success of your online marketing efforts is a critical, but often underutilized in many web marketing initiatives. Recently I took a survey for Jupiter Research and one of the questions got me thinking about the different metrics that companies use:
- Brand impact (i.e., increased brand awareness, intent or favorability)
- Number of impressions
- Position of paid listing
- Number of clicks
- Ratio of new to returning visitors
- Amount of increased website traffic
- Duration of website visits
- Amount of increased traffic to physical store
- Amount of increased volume to call center
- Number of leads generated for products sold online
- Number of leads generated for products sold offline
- Number of immediate sales generated for products sold online
One metric used by many SEOs is the position of organic listings, which is missing from the Jupiter survey. I would estimate 9 out 10 SEOs still use ranking reports. That includes my SEO firm.
Why use ranking reports when it’s traffic and sales that matter most? Ranking reports are one of the few measurable activities you can engage in without relying on access to client data. As long as you comply with search engine guidelines for running them, use an API for example, then they can be a useful but elementary indicator of a site’s online visibility. Ranking is a logical precursor to traffic and can be a good indicator for the effect of search engine optimization efforts. However, it is not the objective as I often find myself reminding prospective clients.
A few other organic ranking metrics that are not included in the Jupiter list include:
- Number of pages indexed
- Number of overall inbound links
- Authoritative citations/links
- Referring traffic sources
- Referring search engines
- Top keyword referrals
- Top keywords by revenue
- And many more items found in good analytics packages
If blog optimization and marketing is part of the mix then you can also add the same analytics as a web site plus:
- Number of RSS feed subscribers
- Number of RSS to Email subscribers
- Top posts
- Top feed readers/aggregators
Online Public Relations also brings another set of metrics to the table:
- PRWeb stats: impressions, media reads, blog links
- Number of release mentions
- Referring traffic from release to landing page or site
- Conversions from release
- Position of release on Yahoo and Google News
- Number of new inbound links
- Number of editorial pickups (articles)
Many of these are for internal reporting and some are for client reporting. Not all are appropriate and I am missing several – these lists are by no means comprehensive. I am curious what metrics you find most useful?
There are four major ways to get traffic to your site: search engines, links from other sites, feeds (especially blogs) and advertising. Of those four, a lot of effort is spent trying to get a good ranking in the various search engines, especially Google. Why? Because a good ranking is a sure way to get a lot of traffic, and the #1 spot on the search engine results page (SERP) for a given keyphrase is a prime traffic generator indeed. (Well, assuming anyone’s actually searching for that keyphrase…)
Some readers I’ve talked to have expressed surprise in discovering their own page in the #1 position on a Google SERP. “How is this possible?”, they ask, “when there are no links to my page and it has no PageRank?”
There are two fallacies here. One is that the Google “link:” command shows all the links to a given page. It doesn’t, it only shows a partial list of pages that meet some unknown criteria. A better way to find out who links to your page is to search for your page’s URL while excluding your own site. For example, to find out which pages in Google link to http://www.memwg.com/blog/adsense I can do this search:
As I write this, the search returns about 252 results. Try it here (opens new window).
The second fallacy is that PageRank is required to rank. But PageRank is just one ranking attribute. The lack of PageRank doesn’t mean you won’t rank. Of course, the higher the PageRank the better — think of it as a tie-breaker for similarly-ranking pages. Also, the PageRank you see reported for a page isn’t necessarily accurate. Remember that the Google Toolbar is just presenting a scaled approximation of the page’s actual PageRank on a convenient 0-10 scale.
So how do you get a #1 spot in Google? Well, the first thing to do is get the page indexed. You can submit the entire site using the link on my handy Search Engine Submission Pages list, but it usually takes a while for anything but the first page to actually make it into the Google index. The easiest way to get a specific page into the Google index is to link to it from a blog that is frequently crawled by Google. This is why the spammers talk about the “blog and ping” approach, because it gets their spam more quickly into the search engines.
Actually, I lied. Getting it in the index is the second thing you want to do. The first is to do basic search engine optimization on the page based on the keyphrase you’re targeting. You know the drill:
- Keywords in URL somewhere, ideally separated by hyphens
- Keywords in title, near or at the beginning
- Keywords in headings
- Keywords near the top of the page
Really basic stuff. Once the page content is optimized, then link to it from a blog.
Will this work for all keywords? Of course not! You have to choose the right keyphrase. One where there aren’t a lot of pages in the index already, or where the pages that rank near the top don’t highlight the keyphrase as well as you do.
And that’s the hard part: getting a #1 ranking in a competitive area is hard. Because you’ll be competing against sites with high PageRank. Because you’ll be competing against sites that Google views as authoritative. Because you’ll be competing against sites that are older (the age of a resource currently plays an important part in Google rankings — if you have an old domain lying around you might want to consider using it to give your content a boost).
One trick that people use is to “narrow” the desired keyphrase by adding one or two more keywords. This can let you grab a #1 spot for the keyphrase and at the same time may get you to rank highly (but not necessarily in the top 10) for the “wider” keyphrase. For example, I have the #1 spot in Google for electronic fence guide. But I also have the #4 spot for electronic fence by itself. (Long-time readers will note the change — the keywords used to be “invisible fence” instead of “electronic fence”, but the lawyers for Invisible Fence made me rename my site to the Guide to Electronic Fence and Pet Containment.)
Don’t work too hard at grabbing #1 spots, though. Work on your content, keeping the simple SEO principles in mind. Many #1 rankings are accidental. I’ll freely admit that my #1 ranking for blackberry development (for my BlackBerry Development Notes page) is accidental and amusingly outranks Research in Motion’s own pages. I got it, though, because I provided some good information on a specialized topic. You can do the same thing!
Today I was going to address some of the comments that Stu Drew left about managing to get a high ranking for his private-label rights articles blog entry, but I’m going to defer that to a later time. If you’re interested in that topic, let me point you to an article I’ve written about the so-called “Google Sandbox” that should address some of the questions: Redcowl Bluesingksy: Why the Google Sandbox Doesn’t Exist.
I want to talk some more about Google’s indexing of AdSense pages. In case you hadn’t heard, Googler Matt Cutts confirmed that the AdSense crawler is feeding pages into Google’s new “BigDaddy” search indexes. This confirms what others had noticed about what the AdSense crawler (usually referred to as the “mediabot”) is doing. Or does it?
As always, there are different ways to look at what’s happening. We know that pages crawled by the mediabot are now making their way into the Google search index. What we don’t know, however, is whether those pages are being pushed or pulled into the index. Let me explain.
Let’s think of the innards of the Google search engine as a bunch of black boxes. (Disclaimer: I have no special knowledge of how things actually work internally.) For our purposes, we’re only concerned with three of those boxes:
- The manager maintains a list of URLs and decides when each need to be indexed
- The crawler (this is the Googlebot) goes out and fetches pages for indexing
- The indexer takes crawled pages and indexes and ranks them using proprietary algorithms
At some point, the manager decides that a given URL needs to be recrawled. It decides this based on age, Google Sitemaps, PageRank, whatever. No one disputes that different sites get crawled with different frequencies, and the manager is the one making those decisions. So it tells the crawler to fetch the page. This won’t happen for a while, but when it’s done the crawler tells the manager the page has been fetched and the manager then passes the page to the indexer for processing.
Now throw the AdSense crawler into the mix and see what happens. The case that concerns the SEO community is if the mediabot pushes its pages directly to the indexer, bypassing the manager’s controls. In this scenario, changes to AdSense pages can potentially be noticed much more quickly than they would through the normal crawling process, giving them an unfair advantage. In this “push” model, the AdSense crawler effectively acts as a secondary manager.
The “pull” model, on the other hand, only affects the crawler. When the manager asks the crawler to get the contents of a given URL, the crawler first checks with the mediabot to see if the latter has crawled the page recently, where “recently” can be any reasonable length of time, say 24 hours. If it does, the crawler just returns a copy of what the mediabot saw instead of going out to fetch the page contents again. The manager is still in control in this scenario — only it decides when a page is to be crawled.
What I’ve been assuming is that Google is using the pull model, not the push model. Others are assuming the reverse (and the worst), hence the controversy. We need someone from Google to clarify this issue for us…
Yesterday, Matt Cutts posted more details about the caching that Google’s crawlers are now doing to further clarify the whole AdSense push vs. AdSense pull issue. One of things he mentioned was how webmasters can turn on “gzip encoding” to save even further bandwidth. Since not everyone reading this is a webmaster, I thought I’d explain what he meant in further detail.
As you know, the HTTP protocol is what a web browser uses to communicate with a web server. The browser (a type of web client or user agent) always initiates the conversation with the web server by sending it a URL. In other words, if you type http://www.memwg.com/blog/adsense into your browser to read this blog, the browser sends a request (technically, a “GET” request) to the server located at http://www.memwg.com for the content located at the path /blog/adsense.
However, a bunch of other information gets sent along with the request: the type of browser being used, the user’s preferred languages, the underlying operating system type, what kind of image formats are accepted, etc. (See Masquerading Your Browser for information on how to alter or hide some of this information.) This information is attached to the request as a set of headers, basically name-value pairs of data. You can use my free HTTP header viewer tool to see what headers your browser is sending right now.
Normally, any data requested by the client is sent by the web server byte-for-byte down the pipe. If you request a web page that is 10,320 bytes long, the web server sends the entire 10,320 bytes to the client. In other words, the data is sent in its “raw” or “natural” form.
One of the headers that a client can send is the Accept-Encoding header, which tells the web server that the client can receive compressed data as an alternative. If the server so chooses, it selects one of the encodings that the client supports (the client sends a list of supported encodings) and compresses the data with the selected encoding algorithm. Instead of sending a 10,320 byte document in the example above, it might end up sending a 4,567 byte long document — a significant savings. (The amount of compression depends on the algorithm being used and the data being compressed. Typically, HTML pages become much smaller.)
When the server encodes data like this, it’s the client’s job to decode it on the other end back into its raw form. The server actually sends headers back to the client as part of the response, and one of those, the Content-Encoding header, indicates which algorithm it used for the encoding. The client can then decode the data by selecting the appropriate algorithm.
On Unix/Linux machines, the gzip application is used to compress and decompress data. But the term “gzip” or “GZIP” is also used as shorthand for the compression/decompression algorithm used by the gzip application. So when you hear someone refer to “gzip encoding”, they’re talking about data that is encoded by the same algorithm used by the gzip application.
A web browser that understands gzip encoding sends an Accept-Encoding header that looks like this:
The web server encodes the data using the gzip algorithm and sends back the appropriate Content-Encoding header:
The browser then uses the gzip decoding algorithm to return the data to its normal, uncompressed form.
Why GZIP Encoding Helps
The idea behind gzip encoding is to reduce the amount of data being transferred over the network. In the example above, the size of the document was reduced by over half. Not only does the data transmit more quickly, you also get charged less for its transmittal — in general, the less bandwidth you’re using, the less you pay.
There are downsides to gzip encoding, though. Any data compression takes time and processing cycles, so a heavily-used web server may find itself slowed down even more if gzip encoding is enabled. And not all data types compress well — images often end up being bigger when compressed — so the server shouldn’t automatically compress everything, even if the client requests it. And some older clients have bugs in their decoding algorithms.
Note that gzip encoding is not limited to web browsers, it can be used by web crawlers as well. Browsers and crawlers look the same to a web server, they just have different headers. Matt indicated that Google has now enabled gzip encoding in all of its crawlers. So if you’re finding that your site is being crawled excessively by crawlers and using up your precious bandwidth, make sure gzip encoding is enabled in your web server — it could make a big difference.
List of does and do not’s when trying to promote your affiliate program.
- Many affiliate marketers make a huge mistake of posting their ads on forums. Forums can be used to promote your affiliate programs and your website but in a proper manner. Posting banners is very similar to spamming and may easily upset forum administrators.
- Always do your research before promoting your affiliate program to a potential customer. Do not offer affiliate programs to visitors who are not at all interested in the products associated with the program. This is a futile endeavor.
- If you promote affiliate programs offered by other merchants, ensure that you develop your own advertising copy. Many websites commit a common mistake of using the same advertising copy as used by the merchant themselves.
- Avoid Copyright infringement in all cases. Always use original content or ask permission to use graphic images or text found on other websites.
- Do not submit your programs to free websites. These may be free but your programs would hardly ever be noticed, especially by Search Engines. Moreover, your own ranking would get lowered if you submit your affiliate programs to such websites.
- Avoid using caps on your web page or email ad. Using caps is symbolic to shouting, which never goes well with potential customers. A few words may be written in capital text to give them additional emphasis. However, such practice should be limited.
- Always respond to all queries sent by visitors as soon as possible. A slight delay in your response could easily result in loss of a potential client.
- Do not use pop-up ads along with your webpage. Most surfers are likely to close their browser if they come across pop-ups.
- Do not host your website on a free server or use free email accounts. This gives a negative impression to visitors. Using free hosts and email accounts looks cheesy and loses sales.
- Many websites do not have an opt-in list. Create an opt-in and opt-out list for your visitors. Without these, there is no way of tracking potential customers. Visitors should be allowed to opt-in at any time as well as opt-out at any time.
- Most sites have a poor tracking mechanism. It is essential that you track all business activities. Accurate record keeping is crucial. There are many software tools, discussed earlier in this chapter, than can automate your record keeping process with minimal error.
- A ‘mall’ site is best used as a central hub to send visitors to your other domains. As a main or only site, unfocused mall sites don’t get traffic from the engines, and they don’t convert well to sales. Highly focused theme sites attract traffic and sales.
- Offline advertising may not be effective. A lot of money and effort should not be wasted on offline advertising. Most people rarely check websites that are advertised in local magazines or newspapers.
- Avoid focus on animated banner ads. These simply use up bandwidth, thus making web pages load slower.
- While advertising do not degrade other competitors. It is recommended that you highlight your products’ uniqueness and superiority but never mortify other products.
- Banners or text links that expire are guaranteed to eventually send your visitor to a broken link or show a broken graphic on your page. Time sensitive advertising is best used only in email advertising campaigns.
- Never put affiliate links on your homepage. This is similar to asking your visitors to leave immediately. Give them a chance to browse, sign up for your newsletter and decide that they’d like to come back to your place before introducing them to your affiliates .
- Technology changes with amazing speed. To keep up with this rapidly evolving industry, you must invest time and money in research. The investment is a tax write-off, and will pay you back many times over in additional revenue.
Hopefully this list has proven helpful to you and has shown you some red flags to avoid when it comes time to promote your own affiliate site. Good luck and take care.
While it can be quite easy to start an online business , not all people make a success. How then successful business man/woman could make it? Every successful business has its own story, however, there are some common factors that make a business hard to fell down.
Here is ten checklist that help you to be successful
1. Set a goal
Without a goal, a success is driven just by chance and it’s very low. Your ultimate goal is generating substantial income from your site. But how much? If you’re an affiliate business starter, don’t set too much: otherwise you’ll be depressed. For each site I built and going to build, my firs goal is to earn about $500 a month. For some people, this may sound too small or may not. But in reality to reach $500 within 2 month is a success.
Build more than one content site. This is what most of affiliates do. Let’s say you build 10 niche web sites. This will make you $5,000 a month.
2. Make a plan
A plan makes your work be organized. Building an affiliate site within two month is a descent plan. Within the first month, do a research to find profitable keywords, affiliate programs, and some resources to which you can refer when you write content pages. And within the second month write one article every day. At the end of second month you will have keyword rich contents armored with affiliate program. And publish it by obtaining domain name and web hosting company.
3. Set a budget
While you can start an affiliate business even without investing any penny, it is recommended to make a descent investment. We all know that something for nothing mentality eventually doesn’t work.
Inevitable investment is for the domain name and web hosting.
If you are a starter, purchase Ken Evoy’s “Site Build It!” package. It includes everything you need so that it will shorten your learning time and help you earn income through online. The more details can you find at http://www.mikino.com
It costs you $299 per year. If you have a choice other than the “Site Build It!”, it is ok but consider that you still need invest at least $300 for registering domain name, contract with hosting company, etc.. If you want to earn money, you have got to use your money first.
4. Check your lifeblood
What is lifeblood for affiliate, by the way? Many affiliates agree on the following things.
- profitable keyword,
- good affiliate programs and
- informative contents
Your web page should be focused on keywords, which bring you traffic. And then you want convert it to the affiliate program link or to sale your own products. What the good informative contents is doing is to keep the traffic flowing to your site (even to increase it) and to make the conversion rate high.
Side note: If you are not familiar with the words, profitable keyword and contents, and don’t know how to choose a good affiliate program, please download Affiliate Masters Course” (Free Ebook) and read it through.
5. Prepare what to say befor you write content page
If you don’t know what you’re going to tell, how about your reader?You know the content should be informative because people look for information. But what kind of information are you providing? Eventually, all the information boils down to ask an action, to buy your product or to go to your merchant site, right?So, organize your information to conclude the action. Here again the keyword and affiliate program comes into significant role.Determine what keyword you’re going to use and what affiliate program you’re going to suggest and then start writing.
6. Don’t forget PREselling
One of most frequent mistakes is to write a content to sell something. This is so to speak ‘Buy me!’ slogan. But what you have to do is to use ‘Love me!’ slogan. People tend to skeptical when they see ‘Buy me!’ slogan. Give them the information what they were looking for, and guide them by providing suggestions and recommendations to the affiliated product. This so called PREselling strategy and it will make your visitors love your site, maybe you as well. : )
7. Build targeted traffic
After 2 months hard working, finally you published an affiliate site. Do the people know about your site? Afraid not!Though you made a step to the online world, you actually are in isolated island. Let your potential visitors come to your site by promoting your site.
You can promote your site either paying money or without paying any dime. I prefer and suggest not to pay any penny for this matter except buying an ebook to learn how to increase targeted traffic.The foremetioned free ebook “Affiliate Masters Course” can be a good starting point for you.
8. Make yourself determined
Let’s say, for 2 months you had built an affiliate site and submitted to the open directory and major search engines. You hoped a substantial traffic. But sadly, just tens of visitors a day. What are you going to do? Announce a failure and depress yourself? You know successful people won’t do that.
Most of affiliates say it takes at least 4 months to build a substantial targeted traffic. So be patient. And instead being frustrated, check your site whether something can be improved.
9. Time management
As an affiliate, you’re a web master, content writer, copywriter, and top manager. Moreover, you’ll own several sites. Thus you’re a web master of several sites, etc.. Sounds good? There is a problem, though.
How can you manage your time?
It would be nice for you to set aside tedious job and to focus on managing your sites. One way to do that is hiring your assistant. The other way is to purchase Ken Evoy’s Site Build It!. It helps you spend your precious time efficiently.
10. Stay yourself up to date
The most important aspect of online marketing is that it is ever changing. Search engine listing policy is changing, new affiliate program is emerging, etc….
To make yourself up to date:
- Subscribe to some of newsletter to obtain news, tips, strategy and ideas.
- Read search engine optimization news. I recommend Search Engine Watch site.
- Participate affiliate forum. Read thread, ask questions and publish your opinion.This helps you not only be up to date but be listed in search engine.
- Buy some e-books and read them whenever you have time.