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Online Advertising

Online advertising is an important part of doing business today. Most online advertising starts with creating a good web page, but from there businesses have many online advertising options. Finding the right online advertising option or options may involve trial and error to find the best fit for the business.

Online advertising can take many forms, but the goals of these types of advertising are the same: to attract customers to a business or web site. Online stores frequently use online advertising, but traditional brick and mortar stores can also advertise online. Any store can potentially benefit from a well-designed online advertising campaign, while a poor ad campaign can be a financial drain.

Online advertising campaigns are usually charged either for the number of times someone clicks on an ad to go to an advertising web site, which is called pay-per-click, or for the number of times the ad appears on a web page, called pay-per-view or pay-per-impression. Less commonly, web sites hosting ads may only be paid if ads on their web site lead to a sale. Some web sites may charge a flat monthly fee to host an ad. There are also free ways to advertise online.

Some of the most common types of online advertising include:

  • Banner ads. These types of ads are images that appear on web pages, often at the top, and are usually related in some way to the information on the web page, making the ads relevant to viewers.  Banner advertisements may be static or rotate with other ads, sometimes through a third party ad server. Banner ads can be a good way to reach a targeted audience, but the business placing the ads should be certain that the web pages they are advertising on are good quality, have good traffic, and have the ad in a place that is easy for customers to see.  Free web hosting providers often require banner ads.
  • Search engine or sponsored search advertising . These are usually pay-per-click ads that appear along with search results when potential customers perform searches for specific keywords on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or MSN. Google's AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing are two of the most popular sponsored search advertising venues. The business placing the ad associates keywords with it and bids on how much they are willing to pay for each click on their ad. Sometimes bids have to be fairly high to appear in the top listings, and these types of ads can be subject to costly click fraud.
  • AdSense. Google's AdSense is something in between banner ads and sponsored search advertising. It places ads on a web page that is related to the keywords for the ad. These ads are usually smaller than banner ads, and are charged on a cost per click or cost per impression basis. Because Google cannot monitor every web site using AdSense, ads may sometimes be placed on poor quality or fraudulent sites.
  • Affiliate advertising. Affiliate marketing involves becoming an affiliate of another site, often a well-established one like Amazon or eBay. An ad for your business then appears on the affiliate web site, usually on pages advertising related products or services. This type on online advertising is usually pay-per-click.

All of the above online advertising methods cost businesses money, but there are also several ways to use the Internet for free online advertising:

  • Listing business web sites or blogs in search engines and directories. Submitting web sites to search engines, and often online directories, is a free way to draw attention to a web site. By carefully selecting key phrases for the search engines and creating a good quality web site, businesses can rank well in customer searches and draw potential customers to their sites.
  • Automated email lists, instant text messages, and Twitter tweets. Sometimes a good way to alert customers to new products or services is to create email lists, instant message lists, or Twitter accounts for a business. These are effective if customers sign up or opt in to be on the list, and if the messages contain valuable information, like newsletters or sales notices, so that they are not viewed as spam. Adding people to such a list without their permission or sending constant messages, however, will often drive customers away.
  • Social networking sites. Creating a presence on Facebook or MySpace is becoming a more popular way to spread the word about a business without spending any advertising money. Similarly, high quality videos placed on YouTube can be a good form of free online advertising. These allow customers to find out more about a business, including information about sales or new products or services, and allow happy customers to share information about a business easily. The disadvantage of this type of advertising is that it is fairly passive, relying on others to spread the word.

Different types of online advertising work best for different businesses, but it's usually wise to try out several types at first and track your results, then focus on a couple of methods that provide the best results for the least cost.

There are some types of online advertising that are usually ineffective because customers often ignore or block them:

  • Ads created with Adobe Flash player that have a lot of flashing colors or are otherwise very busy
  • Pop up or floating advertisements
  • Ads that are sent to customers' email accounts without allowing them to opt-in or opt-out

Online advertisements should be designed to be simple and easy to read or understand with a clear, interesting message. Online ads should be designed to stand out in some way, but not by being obnoxious, offensive, or deceptive to potential customers. Instead, the goal of online advertising should be to catch the interest of potential customers by offering something they want and direct them to an online or traditional business to make a purchase.

Related Article: Pay Per Click Advertising >>

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