Planning an Internet Advertising Campaign

Last Updated Jun 5, 2007 3:56 PM EDT

Internet advertising's popularity has exploded in recent years. Total 2005 online advertising revenue was over $12.5 billion in the United States, up more than 30% from 2004. As advertising using this ever-evolving medium has become more prevalent, so have the number of ways to promote your message using it. Search ads, Banner ads, and Classifieds are just a few of the many opportunities for Internet advertising.

If you choose to use the Internet for your advertising campaign, remember the same principles of good communication apply as in any other campaign: A clear message, attractive design, and quality information are important, as is careful ad placement.

What You Need to KnowShould I hire an advertising agency or a new media agency to create my Internet advertising campaign?

To answer this question, think about your needs: If you want your Internet campaign to integrate with print or television campaigns, an advertising agency may be your best choice. Most advertising agencies have experience creating effective Internet campaigns. However, if your advertising campaign will be focused entirely on the Internet, consider a new media agency to create the most technically savvy and creative campaign possible for this medium.

Should I pay more to feature streaming media in my banner advertisement?

Banner advertisements with streaming media often attract more attention than static advertisements. When weighing whether the increased cost of using streaming media is worth it, however, consider your customers: Do they have the technical resources (e.g. high-speed Internet connections, software plug-ins) to play these ads? In addition, check with the owner of the Web site where you are advertising to find out their policy on streaming media.

How do I measure the effectiveness of Internet advertising?

Click-through rates (CTRs) are one popular measurement, but they only tell you how many people who see your advertisement click on it and visit your Web site. Though this is useful information, a better measurement is how many Web site visitors go on to request information or make a purchase.

What to DoChoose the Best Type of Ad

There are many types of Internet advertising. Consider your target audience, budget, and message when choosing the best form of Internet advertising for your product or service.

According to some sources, in 2005 Search ads were the most popular form of Internet advertising in the United States, accounting for 41% of revenue. Display advertisements, including Banner ads, were second at 21%, and Classified ads were third at 17% (www.ameinfo.com). Here are more details on these forms of Internet advertising:

  • In one common type of Search ad, advertisers will pay a site such as Yahoo or Google to link their Web site domain with a particular search word or phrase. A link to the advertiser's site appears near a user's search results.
  • Banner ads, also called Display ads, used to be the most common form of Internet advertising. Though their popularity has fallen, their impact is still substantial. Banner advertisements can be found on Web sites, portals, and blogs. Advertisers choose to place Banner ads on Web sites whose target audience matches their own. These types of ads can just include simple text messages, or they can incorporate multimedia elements such as graphics, sound, and video.
  • Classified ads are similar to ads in the newspaper or magazine classified ad section. They tend to be less expensive, though, and more people see them. Experts say that classified ads generally do not result in direct sales, but they can be useful for prequalifying prospects or drawing people to your Web site. They key, then, is to capture people's e-mail addresses and follow up with them to turn these prospects into customers.
Craft an Effective Message

Remember principles of good communication when you advertise on the Internet. Take care to craft a clear, succinct message that will encourage people to click on your text link or banner. Don't just describe your business, such as "realtor." Instead, write a headline that compels the reader to click your link to answer a question, satisfy their curiosity, or meet a particular need. For instance, in the case of a realtor that offers property listings on their web site: "Open Houses at your fingertips! Click here to visit hundreds of local properties."

Target Ads Carefully

As with all advertising, it is possible to reach a large audience and not have that exposure translate into sales. Be sure to place your ads on Web sites that will reach your target customers, and take care to present them with meaningful offers.

Keep It Simple

There is huge variation in Internet users' download speeds and browser capabilities. Because of this, it is generally advisable to keep your use of advanced technology to a minimum when creating Internet advertisements, in particular banner ads. Though it is tempting to incorporate unique graphics, streaming media, audio, and multimedia effects into banners, these technologies can make viewing difficult for users. Unless you know your audience is technically savvy, stick to simple ads that attract attention and are easy to read.

Include Your Web Site Address and Other Essentials

Always include your full Web site address in your advertisement. Also incorporate your company's logo and any official messages that help reinforce your brand.

Direct Visitors to the Correct Page

Ensure your text link or banner directs potential customers to the correct Web site page. Your company's home page may be appropriate if you're using advertising to generate overall awareness of your company or to strengthen your brand. If you're promoting a special offer, though, be sure to direct people to a unique page that explains the offer in detail and allows them to take immediate action.

Consider Joining a Banner Exchange Network

Banner Exchange Networks, such as www.123banners.com, help Web sites advertise each other. These free public services can reduce your costs and increase your exposure. The concept is simple: When you join, you agree to display advertising banners for other members, and they agree to display banners for you. You maintain control over where your ad is displayed and can also decide which ads appear on your site. The amount of free advertising you receive from the exchange is directly proportional to the amount you give to others.

Allow Customers to Control Audio and Video

If you incorporate audio or video into your advertisement, you should allow the user to control these components, in other words, turn them on or off. It is debatable whether audio and video components should start automatically when a user accesses a page. Some industry experts think yes, because audio and video helps to attract people's attention. (However, the user still should be able to turn off or pause the multimedia components.) Most experts advise no, though, since loud audio can be perceived as annoying or intrusive, especially in work environments. In this case, the advertisement can play multimedia content after a user clicks on it, though it should still display a "stop" or "pause" button once the audio or video begins.

Test Your Advertisement Before Launch

Before launching your campaign, be sure to test your advertisement's effectiveness with a small group of target customers. You might also experiment with various banner ad sizes, messages, and promotional offers before making final decisions about how to advertise. One advantage of the Internet is it's easy to conduct market tests for little or no cost.

Measure Campaign Effectiveness

Though CTRs (click-through rates) are a popular measure for Internet advertising effectiveness (average CTR is 0.2% to 0.4%), they are not the best measure. A better measure is the number or percentage of people who click through and actually request information or place an order. If your customer conversion rate is low, consider modifying your message or the placement of your ads.

What to AvoidYour Ads Are Poorly Placed

As with print or broadcast media, it is important to target your ads carefully on the Internet. Be sure to advertise on Web sites that reach your target customers. Even if a Web site has a large number of visitors, it may not be worth your while to advertise there if the people it attracts are not likely to be interested in your product or service.

Your Ads Suffer From Sloppy Writing or Design

Internet advertisements must work hard to attract viewers using a minimum of space and text. Because of this, a clear, carefully worded message and attractive design are essential.

You Don't Give Customers Control

As stated previously, always give your viewers control over audio and video content. Advertisements that play multimedia, especially loud audio, without warning can be annoying or intrusive. The customer should have the choice of playing audio and video content by clicking on it, and there should also be a visible stop or pause button once the audio/video begins.

Where to Learn MoreBook:

Brown, Bruce C. How to Use the Internet to Advertise, Promote and Market Your Business or Web site with Little or No Money. Ocala, Florida: Atlantic Publishing Company, 2006.

Web Sites:

123banners.com: www.123banners.com

Interactive Advertising Bureau: www.iab.net