Web Advertising, a Tutorial
At Webstart we often work with small business sponsors. Since the World Wide Web is fairly new technology (only in common use since about 1992), many small business owners are unsure about how to go about advertising on the Web. This page is a brief tutorial on the steps involved in advertising on the Web. First we present the steps in outline form, followed by a more detailed description of each step.
Note, if you already have a Web site, you can skip to step 3, promotion. These steps are now described in more detail:
You can easily go wild with additional multimedia material for your Web site, with animation, audio, 3-D virtual reality, video, etc. At Webstart we generally avoid such dynamic content as we feel it is often more of a distraction with little to contribute to content. However, we recognize that such material is appropriate in some circumstances. "When it concerns taste, it cannot be disputed."
Evaluation: It is not easy to effectively evaluate Web Presence providers. Most do not charge for traffic to a hosted site. The idea is that most hosted sites will require relatively little traffic. If too many hosted sites do generate high traffic loads then the provider may overload with relatively few hosted sites (and hence not enough income to cover costs). Still, pricing without traffic charges is attractive to customers for Web presence so the practice persists (much like pricing Internet access such as SLIP or PPP access with no time or traffic limits).
Brown outs: A fairly common experience of hosted customers is what I like to call the rolling "brown out." Namely the presence provider keeps adding customers until some aspect of their system is overloaded. At that point the customers start having problems. The problem may be a CPU limit, I/O overload, limitations in some part of the upstream Internet access, etc. These problems generally show up as packet losses or some other form of poor performance. The best hosting sites will anticipate such problems and provide enough resources to avoid them. Naturally this costs somewhat more. How is a potential customer to know? Asking pointed questions about upstream Internet connectivity (redundancy, percentage loaded, etc.), disk and power backup facilities, processor loading, etc. and then checking with existing customers is the only way we know to check out presence providers. The pressure is always on the provider to load up more customers without adding capacity. One strategy is to try to get hosted with a provider who has recently upgraded ans will have excess capacity for a time.
Mobility: One aspect of Web presence that must be carefully considered before putting up a site is whether it may be necessary to move to another provider in the future. It is important to try to consider where your URL will be listed and how difficult it will be to update those listings if you have to change the URL to your site (usually a consequence of moving to another DNS name). If you feel you may need to move your content and that it is important not to have to update your listed URLs then we suggest carefully considering purchasing a virtual host with your own DNS name. Such virtual hosting typically costs between $25 and $75 additional per month (at this time, Janurary 1975). Currently a DNS name is the only way to insure site mobility without a URL change. There is quite a lot of pressure on the DNS name space currently partially with people wanting DNS names for appearances and partially for mobility.
Crawlers - You should note that many search engines populate their databases with a procedure known as Web crawling. With this process they start from some number of popular indexing sites and then fetch HTML files, scan them for additional links, visit those links, etc. Because they are going through this process, you typically need not promote yourself with the crawlers (e.g. Alta Vista, Lycon, Excite, Info Seek, WebCrawler, ...) - they will find you. Crawling cycles may be many months, but eventuly they will find you. It is wise of being skeptical of promotion services that tout getting your URL listed with the crawler search engines.
Attractive content: Webstart (and many other sites) have attractive Web content that people are looking at. At Webstart we have content related to Computers and Communications that has a more technical focus. Other sites may have different sorts of focus (music, sports, family, etc.). Site content is one way to try to help direct or focus your advertising message. All you need in terms of visibility is as many impressions as you are willing to pay for. The biggest problem with advertising at the larger sites is that their prices tend to be higher and they often have higher minimum purchases. They also typically provide much less personal attention. Choosing a very popular site and only buying a few impressions is generally of no more benefit (perhaps less in some cases) than buying the same number of the impressions (a larger percentage) from a smaller site. The major problem with smaller sites is finding them and getting reliable and professional service from them.
Banners: The most common form of current advertising on the Web is banners. You put a banner with a minimal description or teaser for your product or service on a popular Web page that might be likely to have your intended audience looking at it, and hope that enough viewers are attracted enough to the banner and have the time to click on it and visit your site. You can see some example banners at the Webstart Computer and Communication Pages or on the California Organizations pages. Banner design is much like designing for magazine advertising except that there is typically much less space available (banners 40x400 pixels in size are common - Webstart accepts banners up to 50x450). A "pixel" is the minimum picture element on a computer monitor or screen. Screen sizes typically are available in steps from 640x480 to 800x600 to 1024x768 to 1152x864 to 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. Most graphics software will report image sizes in pixels. Banners are typically developed by the same sorts of graphic design people who do graphics for Web site development. You can select any site from such lists.
Other focusing options: On the Web there are a number of ways of ways to provide additional focus. One example is domain filtering. Advertisers (e.g. Webstart) can limit delivery of a banner to a specific country or set of countries (e.g. our National Focus advertising option - even with banners and click through locations in appropriate languages), or to an educational or government or military audience. With appropriate choices of domains you can even focus on specific geographic areas of countries (e.g. within the US). Additional focusing can be done with map gif advertising, key word advertising, and other approaches.
Click Throughs: "Clicking" is where Web advertising begins to differ from advertising in traditional media. In traditional media you have to deliver enough information about your product to get people to make a telephone call, visit a store, or otherwise find out more. On the Web more information is just a click away and the information can be as deep as you want and even allow direct online purchases.
Logs: Another aspect of the Web that is a bit different from advertising in traditional media is that you can see "who" (at least an IP address) is looking at your banner (or map gif or keyword search result or ...) or who is clicking on it. This information comes in the form of log entries that are made up of information delivered to the Web server from the viewers browser software. Impression logs tend to be rather voluminous and therefore not too interesting, but a sample may help you to decide if the audience is right for your product or service. Any time a banner is clicked on a log entry can also be generated. There are fewer of these "click through" log entries. Each represents a visitor to the sponsoring site, so they tend to be of somewhat more interest.
Click through rates: From our experience and that of others we find that between about 1% and 3% of viewers will click through to a site from a banner ad. The fact that somebody doesn't click through doesn't mean that the ad was useless. There are no click throughs for magazine ads for example, but they can still be useful. Even without a click through a sponsor gets some visibility. However, the click through rate is some measure of success for an ad. If your business is very specialized (e.g. large equipment rental) then even a relatively low click through rate may be an indication of success. If you have a product targeted for a mass market with relativley tight margins then a high click through rate is important.
Who is visiting: A click through log can give you an idea of what sort of people are interested enough in your banner to visit your site. You can also correlate a click through log from an advertising site with your own referer_log (a log of what page people were looking at before visiting your site). This correlation is not perfect. Some browsers don't supply referer information. Still, from our experience the correlation should be pretty good and can be used to validate an advertisers reported click throughs. At Webstart we have checked our click through logs against sponsors referrer_logs on many occasions.
At Webstart we recognize that the World Wide Web is a new advertising medium. We work with our sponsors to help them make the most of this new medium. We are flexible about most of our advertising methods and enjoy working with our sponsors to deliver their message.
Thank You for your interest in advertising with Webstart Communications!
Please send any further correspondence about advertising to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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