Banner Campaign

A friend recently asked me, "What do you know about designing a banner that can get a great click-thru rate"? That's one of the magic questions, isn't it? What can we do to ensure our banners will generate visits to our sites?

There are lots of things that one can do when designing a banner to make it more "clickable"; attention getting colors and language, aiming for small file size to enable it to download faster, etc. but in my opinion, the biggest factor affecting click-thrus and overall effectiveness of a banner ad campaign has nothing to do with the banner itself. (Yes, you read it right.) In my mind, WHAT the banner looks like isn't nearly as important as WHERE you place it.

Let me clarify myself before we go any further. I'm not speaking of where a banner appears on a given page, in terms of layout - what I'm referring to is where you as a site owner decide to purchase (or barter) banner ad space on the Internet.

You might be thinking, "But I've got a *great* product. Everyone's going to want to visit my site and check it out." Unless you're giving away free chocolate wrapped in a $20 bill, don't be so sure of near-universal interest.

Not many products or services I know of appeal to men, women, and children of every age. That shouldn't discourage you, however; all that statement should do is motivate you to find your target market. What kind of people would be interested in what you have to sell? Ideally, you should have done this before you even began work on your site, but not everything happens the way it "should". If you haven't identified your target market yet, you should spend some time right now determining what group of people would be highly likely to buy your product or service.

Now, back to banner ads. Once you've determined your target market (assuming you already have a good banner), you need to find out where these individuals "hang out" on the 'Net. What sites are popular with the type of people that are your potential customers? Determining the answer to this question and securing banner ad space on the sites you've identified will, in a large measure, determine the effectiveness of your banner ad campaign. If you still aren't sure if or why this is true, let me use an example to illustrate my point:

Let's say you've come up with the ultimate cat toy: a robotic, radio controlled mouse with faux fur that emits a tiny "Eek!" and plays dead after being pounced upon by a cat. You've done extensive research and it tested through the roof with felines and their owners. Now it's time to make your big move. You buy banner ad space on a mega web site that averages 6 trillion page views a day...and you wait...and you wait. The hits trickle in, but nothing like you were expecting. Why?

Imagine the average visitor to the mega site. Do you think every visitor is going to be a cat owner? Out of all the cat owners, do you think every one of them will be interested enough in your toy to click on your banner? Probably not. What may be closer to the truth is that one or two out of x number of people will decide to click and the rest are more than likely saying something like, "Ma, c'mere and look at this cat toy this joker is trying to sell. It's like the dang 'Six Billion Dollar Mouse' or sumthin'".

Now, imagine instead that you had discovered a site called "Pampered Pets that are Spoiled by their Adoring Owners" (I said "imagine", didn't I?). This site doesn't get anywhere near the traffic that the big mega site does, BUT the traffic it does get is very, very similar to *your* target market. So, for every x number of times your banner is shown, you might get tons more click-thrus on this small site than you would on the mega site. Chances are, the ad rates on the small site will be considerably cheaper as well.

I think you get the picture. Let me end with a couple of clichés: bigger is not always better; to get your banner's CTR pumped up, you need to think location, location, location.

Unlike any other campaign, all the above campaign have different approach, and uniqueness to it.