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Marketing Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. Business Netiquette
  3. META Tags
  4. Search Engine Listing
  5. Search Engine Positioning
  6. E-mail Signature
  7. 10 Tips For Higher Traffic
  8. Low Budget Alternatives
  9. Banner Exchange
  10. Better Banner Design
  11. Newsgroups
  12. Classified Ads

Introduction

We have put together this marketing manual in hopes of making it a little easier for you to get your business up and going on the Internet.

Here are some sites that have helped and contributed to this manual. All of these sites are packed with important and useful tips and information.

We hope you will be able to use these tips and make the most of them. We at WestHost would like to wish you and your business good luck.


Business Netiquette

Business Netiquette, as its name implies, is the standard of behavior that governs the commercial development and usage of the Internet. The evolving rules of conduct are particularly important in this context because the digital environment of the Internet makes it impossible to separate business and consumer "real estate." Virtual town centers, virtual malls, and internationally aggregated office parks reside in essentially the same space as personal home pages, educational and research networks, and government and nonprofit organizations.

The business community must respect that, for all its vast commercial potential, the Net is also a personal place--home, neighborhood, or city, for millions. "The rules of Business Netiquette" is an attempt to provide general guidelines for keeping the relationship between consumers and businesses a healthy, happy one. The potential that makes the Internet such an attractive and fertile area for commercial cultivation carries with it a responsibility. Companies would do well to remember that, on the Net, the individual user is always in control and always has choices.

In keeping with the collaborative nature of the Internet, these rules represent the input of many people who have developed their own standards of business conduct on the Internet.

The Rules of Business Netiquette

  1. Be sensitive to customers with older systems. Offer a text-only option for viewing your site on the main page.
  2. Remember that your customers are paying to be online. Provide fast and easy access to your information and content. Don't abuse their time.
  3. Organize material logically from the customer's point of view. Ideally, the home page will be the main page on a site. Be sure to include clear directions for navigating the site on the main page.
  4. Keep in mind that the main page of a site serves a variety of functions. It's a map, a front door, and a marketing message all in one.
  5. Use the main page to set the tone and personality of the site, but do so selectively. The tone of the Website should correlate with the personality of the company.
  6. If appropriate, include a time and date stamp. It helps to keep the site current.
  7. When using icons, particularly those embedded in a graphic design, make sure that they are easy to see and that their function is obvious. Test the design on 10 to 20 users to make sure your customers will understand.
  8. Include alt text for all icon links.
  9. Avoid offending users new to the Internet by using heavily laced jargon.
  10. Do not use bells and whistles just because you can. As bandwidth increases, this issue will become less relevant. Until then, heavy use of graphics, video, and audio programs is time-consuming for the user.

By sticking to these 10 guidelines we believe you can improve your client number and profit.


META Tags

META tags provide a useful way to control the summary of your site in some search engines. META tags can also help you provide keywords and descriptions on pages that for various reasons lack text. Examples are splash pages and frames pages. They might also boost your page's relevancy. However, simply including a META tag is not a guarantee that your page should suddenly leap to the top of every search engine listing. They are a useful tool but, as said above, not a magic solution.

To figure all of this out, let's construct an example and look at each piece of it. Let's go to AltaVista and search for a frog site...

OK. Here we are at AltaVista. I've searched for 'frogs' and on page 6 of the response I found this entry:

Pet Exotic - Frogs
Frogs ] White's Tree Frog (Pelodryas caerulea) $20. 2 @ $15 each / 5+ @ $12.50 each. [ Back to Top]
http://www.herp.com/pet/frog.html - size 628 bytes - 11 Apr 96

As you can see, this isn't very informative. After looking through 6 pages of listings for frogs, would you run over to this site? The person that spent his or her hard earned spare time to build that page should get a better reward for that much hard work.

What went wrong?

Obviously, the search engine took the first stuff it found that looked like text instead of HTML. It did the best it could with really limited information. The author of the page just didn't construct the page to be indexed by search engines. Let's fix it a piece at a time.

The title isn't bad. It does give some information. But it could be better. Remember, most search engines give more weight to words found in the TITLE, especially if those words are also found in the body of the text. So, a better TITLE might be: "Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea" This is much more informative and likely to generate more solid keywords in the search engines, especially if we refer to these same words in the body of the page (or in our other heading sections.) Here's what we have so far:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea</TITLE>

Now, let's give the search engines that don't use META tags some copy to look at that we want used in the description. We do this by placing a short comment into the page after the TITLE tag. Now our page looks like this:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea</TITLE>
<!-- Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today. -->

This takes us to your first META tag: Description. We now give the search engines that use META tags the description of the page that we want to have displayed when our page comes up in a search. Don't make it too long, as the engines will only give a limited amount of text.

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea</TITLE>
<!-- Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today. -->
<META Name="description" Content="Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today.">

Now we have told the engines what to say about our site, but we still want to tell them what keywords we would like our site to be found under. Please DON'T put keywords in here just to get traffic. Imagine that you are running a restaurant. Your sign outside can bring in lots of look-e-loos, but if they don't buy, they just get in the way. They take up time and space that could be used to take better care of your real customers. Measure your success by sales (or whatever is relevant to your site) and not by pounds of visitors you con into coming to your site.

Current thinking is that when it comes to META tags, less is more. Overloading your keyword META tag with a diverse collection of keywords only waters down their impact on your rankings. Try using only 5 to 7 keywords on each page, but use different ones on different pages.

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea</TITLE>
<!-- Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today. -->
<META Name="description" Content="Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today.">
<META Name="keywords" Content="frog,white's tree frog,pet frog,frogs for sale,online sales,online order,on line order,pet exotic frog,exotic frog">
</HEAD>

Now our entry in the Alta Vista results should look something like this:

Pet Exotic Frogs For Sale: White's Tree Frog - Pelodryas caerulea
Best prices on pet exotic frogs anywhere on the Internet. These White's Tree Frogs can be shipped overnight to arrive healthy and happy. Order online today
http://www.herp.com/pet/frog.html - size 1628 bytes - 11 Feb 97

We have now built a good heading for our page that will give better information to any search engine that stops in to look us over. We have given our search words, given a short description, and put good search words in the title. Things are looking pretty good. Now we should have a better chance of being indexed correctly, and we haven't Spammed. We haven't overloaded our page with keyword repetitions that could get us penalized. And even the engines that stop short on a page will find us.

Some of the robots and spiders stop when they run into certain things on a page like a JAVA applet. Building a good header like the one above means the spider will have found enough information ahead of the applet to give you a meaningful entry.

But, which search engines will this help with? Let's take a look:

    AltaVista
    • META tags supported? Yes
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

    Excite
    • META tags supported? Description tag only
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

    HotBot
    • META tags supported? Yes
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

    InfoSeek
    • META tags supported? Yes
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

    Lycos
    • META tags supported? No
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

    Northern Light
    • META tags supported? No
    • Spamming penalty? No

    Web Crawler
    • META tags supported? Description tag only
    • Spamming penalty? Yes

If you are having a hard time creating your own META Tags, the following sites will generate them for you for free:


Search Engine Listing

The World Wide Web is "indexed" through the use of search engines, which are also referred to as "spiders," "robots," "crawlers," or "worms." These search engines comb through the Web documents, identifying text that is the basis for keyword searching.

Each search engine works in a different way. Some engines scan for information in the title or header of the document, others look at the bold "headings" on the page for their information. The fact that search engines gather information differently means that each will probably yield different results. Therefore, it's wise to try more than one search engine when doing Web searching.

Below we've listed several search engines. There is a link to the search engines main page where you may conduct searches or a link to their "submission" page where you may add your URL if you have not already.

AltaVista
Submit to AltaVista

AOL NetFind
Submit to AOL NetFind

Excite
Submit to Excite

Google
Submit to Google

HotBot
Submit to HotBot

Infoseek
Submit to Infoseek

Internet Explorer
Submit to Internet Explorer

Looksmart
Submit to Looksmart

Lycos
Submit to Lycos

Go2Net
Submit to Go2Net

Netscape
Submit to Netscape

Northern Light
Submit to Northern Light

Snap
Submit to Snap

WebCrawler
Submit to WebCrawler

Yahoo
Submit to Yahoo

Once you have your web site listed, see the section below to find out how to get a better listing.


Search Engine Positioning

So tell me, exactly how do the search engines rank pages? How can I get my pages at the top?

Search engines use complex and proprietary algorithms to rank web pages according to a variety of factors. The search engine companies keep their algorithms very secret for competitive reasons and to prevent people from making pages that spam them. By reverse engineering it is possible, but difficult and very time consuming, to come very close to knowing exactly how a particular search engine ranks pages and thus be able to make pages that rank extremely well. It is not possible to know with 100% accuracy the exact formula used by a search engine because:

  1. To do so would require that you reverse engineer using several 100% perfectly scoring web pages, which do not exist!
  2. Other factors beyond your control or HTML design also play a small role in search engine positioning.

The good news is that you do not have to be 100% accurate to score well and you do not have to reverse-engineer the search results yourself! You can use existing resources to make pages that will score in the top 10 positions, or at least in the top 30. AND THAT'S GREAT FOR YOUR WEB SITE! The pages that are created specifically to rank highly on search engine results are commonly known as doorway pages (or gateway, entry, or bridge pages).

What factors go into the calculation?

Ranking criteria varies from search engine to search engine. Most calculate page rankings based on these elements:

  • Prominence of the keyword searched in the viewable text
  • Frequency of the keyword searched in the viewable text
  • Site Popularity
  • "Weight" of the keywords
  • Proximity of keywords
  • Keyword Placement
  • Prominence, frequency, and weight of keywords in the <TITLE> tag(s)
  • Prominence, frequency, and weight of keywords in the <META NAME="DESCRIPTION">
  • Prominence, frequency, and weight of keywords in the <META NAME="KEYWORD">
  • Keywords in <H1> or other headline tags
  • Keywords in the <A HREF="http://yourcompany.com/page.htm"></A> link tags
  • Keywords in ALT tags
  • Keywords in <!-- > comment tags
  • Keywords contained in the <INPUT TYPE="HIDDEN" NAME="HIDDEN" VALUE="include list of keywords here"> the hidden form tag
  • Keywords contained in the URL or site address, e.g., http://www.keyword.com/keyword.htm
  • Grammatical correctness and natural-sounding word patterns
  • Absence of formatting, repetition, and word arrangement that could be considered as spam.

Each engine has lower and upper limits or thresholds for each variable and criteria. This protects it against spammers and that is why simply repeating keywords will not work.

Doorways: A solution to a dilemma

All said, you need to have pages designed specifically to rank highly in search engines. A doorway page is simply a page that has been created for the sole purpose of ranking higher in the search engines for a particular keyword or set of keywords. These pages act as "doorways" to the real content of your site, without having to redesign or modify content in your current web site's pages. A doorway is designed for the search engines, to make the search engines "happy". The doorway page then links to your main site and takes your visitors there.

A web site is designed for people, to make people "happy", to fill a need, make money, whatever. However, what is good for people is not always good for the search engine. If, for example, you have a web site that has a lot of graphics and hardly any text, or one that runs on a database and creates dynamically generated pages, or one that is in a highly competitive area, or even one that deals with a wide variety of general topics, chances are that your pages will rank very poorly on search engine rankings.

This creates a serious dilemma: how to make web pages that are both pleasing, useful, and logical to humans, and at the same time super-friendly to search engines.

Doorway pages help you solve these troubling dilemmas. You can keep your current web site as it is and create dozens of doorway pages, each optimized to rank well for a different keyword in a different engine. Typically, when targeting 10 keywords, across 5 search engines, you will end up with 50 pages pointing to your home page or other section on your site. Do not worry as this is not unusual, and search engines will not penalize you as long as your doorway pages are professional and honest, and so is your submission. You will want your Web site to be found under several keywords that your prospects are likely to search by. For this reason, you will want to create separate pages that emphasize each of those keywords/phrases and rank well for each search engine. On average, to cover all possibilities, you need to make doorways for about 50 keywords or phrases related to your product or service, for each of the top search engines. That is extremely powerful online marketing!

I am concerned. Are doorways ethical? Are they considered as spam by the search engines?

Before getting started on using doorways to improve your search engine ranking, you need to know a little about spam and spamdexing. Spamming the search engines (or spamdexing) is the practice of using unethical or unprofessional techniques to try to improve search engine rankings. You should be aware of what constitutes spamming to avoid trouble with the search engines. Generally, it is very easy to know what not to do to avoid being called a spammer. By following a few simple rules, you can safely improve your search engine rankings without spamming the engines.

What constitutes spam?

Some techniques are clearly considered as an attempt to spam the engines. Where possible, you should avoid these:

  • Keyword stuffing. This is the repeated use of a word to increase its frequency on a page. Search engines now have the ability to analyze a page and determine whether the frequency is above a "normal" level in proportion to the rest of the words in the document.
  • Invisible text. Some webmasters stuff keywords at the bottom of a page and make their text color the same as that of the page background. This is also detectable by the engines.
  • Tiny text. Same as invisible text but with tiny, illegible text.
  • Page redirects. Some engines, especially Infoseek, do not like pages that take the user to another page without his or her intervention, e.g. using META refresh tags, cgi scripts, Java, JavaScript, or server side techniques.
  • META tags stuffing. Do not repeat your keywords in the META tags more than once, and do not use keywords that are unrelated to the content of your site.
  • Unrelated keywords. Never use keywords that do not apply to the content of your site.
  • Too many doorways with similar keywords. Do not create too many doorways with very similar keywords.
  • Duplicate submissions. Do not submit the same page more than once on the same day to the same search engine.
  • Identical pages. Do not submit virtually identical pages, i.e. do not simply duplicate a web page, give the copies different file names, and submit them all. That will be interpreted as an attempt to flood the engine.
  • Code swapping. Do not optimize a page for top ranking, and then swap another page in its place once a top ranking is achieved.
  • Doorways to directories. Do not submit doorways to directories like Yahoo They are only good for use with search engines and not with directories.
  • Oversubmission. Do not submit more than the allowed number of pages per engine per day or week (see below table).
AltaVista HotBot Excite Lycos Infoseek
Time to index a submitted page 1-2 days 2 days 3-4 weeks 2-4 weeks 1 day
Time to index a page that is spidered/crawled by the search engine spider About 2 weeks About 2 weeks 3-4 weeks 2-4 weeks Rarely spiders
Maximum number of page submissions allowed per period (please note that this is not the total number of pages that can be indexed, it is just the total number that can be submitted. If you can only submit 25 pages to Excite, for example, and you have a 1000 page site, that's no problem. The search engine will come crawling your site and index all pages, including those that you did not submit). 1-10 pages per day. 50 pages per day. 25 pages per week. N/A 50 pages per day, unlimited when using e-mail submissions.

Gray Areas

There are certain practices that can be considered spam by the search engine when they are actually just part of honest web site design. For example, Infoseek does not index any page with a fast page refresh. Yet, refresh tags are commonly used by web site designers to produce visual effects or to take people to a new location of a page that has been moved. Also, some engines look at the text color and background color and if they match, that page is considered spam. You could have a page with a white background and a black table somewhere with white text in it. Although perfectly legible and legitimate, that page will be ignored by some engines. Another example is that Infoseek advises against (but does not seem to drop from the index) having many pages with links to one page. Even though this is meant to discourage spammers, it also places many legitimate webmasters in the spam region (almost anyone with a large web site or a web site with an online forum always has their pages linking back to the home page). These are just a few examples of gray areas in this business. Fortunately, because the search engine people know that they exist, they will not penalize your entire site just because of them.

What are the penalties for spamdexing?

There is an inappropriate amount of fear over the penalties of spamming. Many webmasters fear that they may spam the engines without their knowledge and then have their entire site banned from the engines forever. That just does not happen! The people who run the search engines know that you can be a perfectly legitimate and honest web site owner who, because of the nature of your web site, has pages that appear to be spam to the engine. They know that their search engines are not smart enough to know exactly who is spamming and who happens to be in the spam zone by mistake. Therefore, they do not generally ban your entire site from their search engine just because some of your pages look like spam. They only penalize the rankings of the offending pages. Any non-offending page is not penalized. Only in the most extreme cases, where you aggressively spam them and go against the recommendations above, flooding their engine with spam pages, will they ban your entire site. Some engines, like HotBot, do not even have a lifetime ban policy on spammers.

As long as you are not an intentional and aggressive spammer, you should not worry about your entire site being penalized or banned from the engines. Only the offending pages will have their ranking penalized. Our doorways are created with all the current rules in mind to ensure that you can safely position your site better on the engines.

Is there room for responsible search engine positioning?

Yes! Definitely! In fact, the search engines do not discourage responsible search engine positioning. Responsible search engine position is good for everybody - it helps the users find the sites they are looking for, it helps the engines do a better job of delivering relevant results, and it gets you the traffic you want!


E-mail Signatures

Anyone can send their E-mail with a "sincerely yours". But if that is all you do, you are missing out on a small yet effective marketing strategy, your signature.

I'm sure that most of you have seen or use a signature in your e-mails. If not, here is how it works.

A signature is like a business card you attach at the end of your e-mails. Signature files are great because they are a subtle, nonintrusive way to advertise your business. And they are accepted in forums and newsgroups where more blatant forms of advertisment are frowned upon.

Here is an example of a basic signature:

__________________
John Doe
John Doe Inc.
John@johndoe.com
http://www.johndoe.com

This is a pretty safe signature, because it is not coming off as "COME TO MY WEB SITE!!!!".

Some guidelines to follow when making a signature file are:

  • Get your point across without spamming.
  • Try to keep the signature down to around 5 lines maximum.
  • Make it neat and easy to read.

And finally, how to make a signature. Most e-mail programs have a signature utility that will include your signature automatically at the bottom of each message. If you look up signatures in your help file, you should be able to figure it out.


10 Tips For Higher Traffic

Here are 10 marketing tips that you should find very useful.

  1. Include your URL on all stationery, business cards, and literature.
  2. Include your URL in Display Advertising. We don't recommend discontinuing print advertising you've found to be effective. But be sure to include your URL in any display or classified ads you purchase in trade journals, newspapers, etc. Catch readers' attention with the ad, and then refer them to a web site where they can obtain more information or perhaps place an order.
  3. Request Reciprocal Links. Find complementary web sites and request a reciprocal link to your site (especially to your free service, if you offer one). Develop an out-of-the way page where you put links to other sites -- so you don't send people out the back door as fast as you bring them in the front door.
  4. Issue News Releases. Find newsworthy events (such as the launching of your free service), and send news releases to print and web periodicals in your industry. You may want to use a web news release service, such as one offered by Eric Ward's URLwire.
  5. Request Links from Business Link Sites. Especially if you offer a free service, you can request links from many of the small business linking pages on the Web. When you have something free to offer, many doors open to you. Surf the Net looking for places that might link to your site. Then e-mail the site owner or webmaster with your site name, URL, and a brief 200-word description of what you offer there.
  6. Write a Page Title. Write a descriptive title for each page of 5 to 8 words. Remove as many "filler" words from the title, such as "the," "and," etc. This page title appears on the web search engines when your page is found. Entice surfers to click on the title by making it a bit provocative. Place this at the top of the web page between the <HEADER></HEADER> tags, in this format: <TITLE>WestHost Weekly - Web Development And Marketing Newsletter</TITLE>
  7. List Keywords. Prepare a list of 50 to 100 keywords -- the kind of words that if someone entered one of these words, you'd like him to find your site. Make sure that you don't repeat any word more than three times. Place those words at the top of the Web page, between the <HEADER></HEADER> tags, in a META tag in this format: <META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT="free, newsletter, marketing, development, tips...">
  8. Write a Page Description. Select the most important 20 keywords, and write a careful 200 to 250 character (including spaces) sentence or two. You don't need to repeat any words used in the page title. Keep this readable but tight. Eliminate as many "filler" words as you can, to make room for the important words, the keywords which do the actual work for you. Place those words at the top of the Web page, between the <HEADER></HEADER> tags, in a META tag in this format: <META NAME="DESCRIPTION" CONTENT="Free web development and marketing newsletter, designed to help you market and develop your web site...">
  9. Install a "Signature" in your E-Mail Program. Most e-mail programs such as Eudora or Netscape allow you to designate a "signature" to appear at the end of each message you send. Limit it to 4 to 5 lines: Company name, address, phone number, URL, e-mail address, and a one-phrase description of your unique business offerings. Look for examples on e-mail messages sent to you.
  10. Announce a Contest. People like getting something free. If you publicize a contest or drawing available on your site, you'll generate more traffic than normal.

Low Budget Alternatives

If you need more visitors but don't have an advertising budget with five zeros, Then you might want to try some of these marketing tips.

  • Linkup Discussion Group is a mailing list for people keen on getting reciprocal links with other sites. You tell the list something about your site and describe the sort of links you are interested in providing. This is a great way to get noticed because links are one of the best advertising methods on the net. To subscribe to LinkUp, send a blank e-mail to ListServer@CommerceStreet.com with the message: Subscribe LinkUp <Your Name>
  • You'll have to be pretty good to get a mention in Netscapes What's New, which has people looking through hundreds of new sites and writing reviews. The Scout Report is similar. It has a form where you can submit your site for consideration.
  • Net Announce! Everyone is invited to post articles about information, events, new sites, updates, and announcements, but not every article is published in Net-Announce. To make sure your article is appropriate for Net-Announce, please read the guide lines BEFORE posting if you are not already familiar with Net Announce. They also have a the twice-weekly newsletter, and it's also free.
  • Net Happenings The goal of Net-happenings is to distribute announcements about Internet resources to network users and providers, and especially to the K-12 community. It is meant to be comprehensive, therefore postings number between 40-60 per day, and are available via an E-mail distribution list in individual or digest (cumulative) format. This Internic-sponsored site is a good place to post announcements after your site is well polished.
  • The Weekly Bookmark The Weekly Bookmark is a site designed to inform and entertain the Internet community. What's New and Newsworthy on the Web? Find out every week in The Weekly Bookmark newsletter. You'll find reviews of new and informative web sites in over 15 categories. Subscribe or submit your site for publication.
  • What's New What's New provides you with all the tools you need to stay current with the break-neck speed of development on the web. You can run a search by category to find the newest web sites featuring content in areas that interest you. You can submit your site for listing in the original directory of the latest and greatest. And, exclusive to What's New, you can subscribe to receive weekly bulletins by e-mail of the new web sites in your interest areas. All free, all from What's New!

Banner Exchange

A banner exchange is a program where web page owners make a banner and trade it with other web sites. They promise to show other peoples banners on their site as long as other people show his/her banner on their site.

There are a lot of different banner exchange programs to choose from, and we've compiled a list of (in our opinion) some of the best ones out there.

Here are the following features about each banner exchange service:

  • Name - the name of the company providing the service.
  • Ratio - the ratio of impressions you receive for every banner you show on your site (i.e. 2:1 would mean that for every 2 banners you show on your site, 1 of your banners get's shown on someone elses site).
  • Banner Size - the height and width (in pixels) of the banner you can submit.
  • File Size - the file size (in kilobytes) of the banner you can submit.

Name: LinkExchange
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 468x60
File Size: 9k

Name: Narrow Cast Media
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 410x70
File Size: 12k

Name: SmartClicks
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 468x60
File Size: 10k

Name: BannerExchange
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 400x40
File Size: 7k

Name: LinkConnection
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 400x40
File Size: 7k

Name: Web Linker Banner Exchange
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 400x40
File Size: 8k

Name: 1-2-FREE
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 400x40
File Size: 15k

Name: BannerSwap
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 400x50
File Size: 8k

Name: Banner Web
Ratio: 2:1
Banner Size: 468x60
File Size: 10k

Name: Banner Express
Ratio: Unlimited Free Credits
Banner Size: 400x50
File Size: 10k

Name: LinkTrader
Ratio: 10:7
Banner Size: 400x50
File Size: 7k

If you do decide to use a banner exchange program, we suggest that you check out LinkExchange or Narrow Cast Media first. LinkExchange has the most members and Narrow Cast Media seems to be the most targeted.

Note: It's tempting to stick as many banners on your page as possible, but don't. Keep it to a maximum of 3 to each page (that's maximum, less is better). The more banner exchange progams you use, the slower your page loads and the less professional your site will look.


Better Banner Design

Banner design is one of the most important aspects of a banner ad campaign. To come up with a banner that is neat, small in file size, and information packed is a big challenge. But hopfully with these 10 tips, you can have a banner with all of the above.

1. Target

When it comes to effective advertising, there is simply nothing more important than thoughtful planning. Before you start up those graphic and layout programs, you need to sit down and ask some key questions such as:

  • What are we trying to accomplish with the ad?
  • Are we after name branding?
  • Do we need to produce qualified leads?
  • How will we measure success for this ad campaign?
  • Are we looking for high click through?
  • Will we be happy with increased awareness or will we live and die by the number of leads generated?
  • Who is most likely to be interested in our product or message?

You have no business designing an ad if you don't have answers to these questions. How many of you designers can relate with the following scenario?

  1. Executive orders designs for an ad campaign.
  2. Upon seeing proposed designs, Executive shoots them down because he considers the aforementioned questions only after seeing the fruits of your labor.

Thoughtful planning is the foundation of any advertising campaign. If you're trying to build name recognition, then you'll want to pepper your banners with your logo and name. If you're looking for click through, your logo might get in the way. A svelte ad might be just the thing to get the fitting folks to fill out those forms, but if you're trying to imprint your name in the public's mind you'll want to get down right funky.

Similarly, targeting the audience effects the direction of the campaign. If your target audience is the youthful set, advertising at many of the high volume big name corporate sites might be a waste of money. If your key consumer is the no-nonsense business type, you might want to avoid frills like, hefty graphics, animation, and humor. Knowing where you will be placing your ads is also important because some sites impose stipulations on banner ads, such as limitations on file size and physical size of ads.

Careful consideration to these issues translates into better results. The days of the novelty factor are gone; you can't just put up any old banner on any old site and expect to get any amount of response.

2. Design

The fact that Super Bowl advertisements create a dilemma for small bladder impaired viewers should not be missed by Web banner designers. Creativity can often be the difference between a 1% click through rate and a 20% click through rate. Creative design doesn't have to mean flashy graphics either. Effectual design can just as easily mean a two word pitch on a white background as it can mean winning the next animation contest.

One important aspect of design is the staying power of an ad. Even the best banner ads get old and a good ad campaign typically involves a series of fresh ideas. Not all ads need to be similar. Mix it up. A range of approaches increases your ability to apply your message to a variety of targeted environments.

3. Animation

Animation remains one of the best ways to augment the impact of an ad. Whether it's because we have an innate desire to satisfy our curiosity or we've been trained by television to respond to motion: Animation works. However, the Web standards for animation are increasing. Better tools, better technology, and faster connections are increasing expectations. Clumsy animation is a signal to a potential customer that your site isn't worth clicking to.

Animation also increases the file size of a banner ad. Beyond optimization (which is one of the points discussed below), one way to deal with this is by using creative looping. For instance, you might time the animated banner such that the first frame displays for a prolonged period of time, giving the other frames time to load. Conversely, looping animations are an annoyance to the viewer, causing a negative impression than a positive one. Therefore, use the banner loop only a few times before it stops on a key frame.

4. Colors

Color can be a designer's best asset. A multitude of studies indicate that people respond more to bright colors, such as blue, green, and yellow, or certain color combinations, like a rich yellow on dark blue. However, some audiences respond better to certain colors. For example, dark rich colors might appeal to the sophisticated set while bright and trendy colors can grab the attention of the hip crowd. While colors such as white, red, and black have recently fallen in disfavor, they might be utilized if they provide a level of contrast or distinction in the context of the ad.

5. The Pitch

Writing is an integral part of a campaign. Common strategies include posing questions (e.g., Have you been to Hawaii lately?), using cryptic messages (e.g., It's more fun than a barrel of monkeys!), and using directives (e.g., Click Here). Questions are effective because they initiate interaction with the potential customer. Some people need the little extra nudge that the classic "Click Here" provides. Avoid the false sense of urgency, the "Click here now or lose millions of dollars" type of message. It's tacky and most surfers are too sophisticated for the used car salesman mentality.

Font choice is also important. Banner ads are not the place for those tasty fonts. Viewers are bombarded with information and messages on the Web; you're lucky when they give your ad a second glance. Therefore, it's best to make sure they can understand your message the first time by using fonts like Futura, Swiss, and Helvetica.

6. Optimize

It's remarkable how many banner ads are run that are not optimized. The faster an ad appears, the more chance it will have to be seen and read. Particulary if the ad is on a page with a lot of content because it loads before the rest of the page.

You should also look for ways to optimize banners that are animated (which most are now anyway). GIF animations can be optimized in two ways: By reducing the number of colors in the ad and by employing interframe transparency. Animation programs that automate optimization include -- Gamani's GIF Movie Gear, Extensis' PhotoAnimator, Digital Frontier's HVS Animator Pro, Boxtop Software's GIFmation, and Ulead's GIF Animator. If you're using GIF Construction Set or GifBuilder, then your banner ad animations are probably overly large.

7. Technology

Due to their accessibility and ease of creation, GIF animations still dominate the banner ad scene. In general, new technologies need to get as close to this ideal as possible. Before you fall in love with the promise of interactive ads or more robust animation, you need to be sure that any alternative technology for banner ads remains reasonably accessible and fast.

These requirements largely rule out Java, DHTML, and Shockwave. One of the more promising emerging alternatives to the GIF animation is Macromedia Flash. Flash's ability to deliver more robust animations in real or near real time make it an appealing alternative. While Flash requires a plug-in, Macromedia has succeeded in making the Flash plug-in one of the most successfully distributed plug-ins on the Web. In 1997 Flash outpaced even Shockwave by almost 10 million with 23.6 million downloads. Macromedia reports 4.1 million downloads of the Flash player in January 1998 alone.

Flash offers several appealing things for Web-based advertising. For example, full screen animations with streaming audio, which emulate standard television ads, are even possible with Flash, compliments of Macromedia's new partnership with Real Networks in the form of Real Flash. However, smaller Flash-based ads are far more viable.

An increasingly popular alternative to the standard banner ad, employed at such sites as the Sci-Fi Channel and IBM, is to display a Flash-based ad in a separate small browser window. The ad plays once, like a television ad, and then the small window is closed using JavaScript.

8. Location

Location isn't everything, but it helps. Early Webmaster wisdom presumed that the best place for a banner ad was at the top of a Web page. However, many site owners are finding that the top isn't always the best place for an ad. Joel Comm, CEO of InfoMedia, Inc., is the creator of a family entertainment site called World Village, a site whose revenue is largely based on banner ads. "We need a new way to display ads on the Internet because people are getting used to just mentally skipping the top inch of a Web page. The result is less click through."

Notable alternatives for banner ad placement include positioning banner ads in a small separate browser window. Of course the downside to this approach is that viewers can easily close the window before having seen the ad. Another approach is to creatively place an ad within the content. For example, if the site contains a graphics interface or navigational unit, you can integrate the ads into its design. Also, Webmasters are finding that banner ads get more click through when banner ads are placed close to Web items that surfers are used to interacting with such as a Web scroll bar or link to download free software.

Also, note that while the standard 468 pixel wide by 60 pixel high banner ad still dominates, other sizes and shapes are increasing in popularity. Half-sized banners, 234 by 60, are becoming more popular because they are less intrusive. 100 pixel square banners are showing up in pre-sized browser window interfaces (such as in Disney's DisneyBlast)

9. Where Do I Point This Thing?

Web ads don't always need to point to your home page. While it is nice to see those main page statistics jump up, linking to your home page will require the viewer to navigate through a series of pages before they get to where you really want them to go. If you want to create leads, then point the banner directly to your forms. If you want to promote a new product, then point the ad to the product specs page or to a download page. If you're promoting content, then direct surfers directly to it. Surfers will appreciate the more direct approach and your main page statistics will increase as a by-product of your increased customer loyalty.

10. Test it

Good ideas are hard to come by. What may seem clever to you, might be incomprehensible to everyone else. Also, it's hard to predict to what kind of ad a given market segment might react. Create a series of ads -- some animated, some static, some flashy, some plain -- and generate a test group to see what kinds of ads get more response. One of the nice things about the Web is that it's easy to perform quick tests and make changes easily. All major television design firms test their ads, why should Web ads be any different?

Web-based advertising is still in its adolescence. When you consider the progress in sophistication that has occurred in broadcast television and direct mail models in the last 40 years, it's easier to gain perspective on the humble little banner ad. As the Web matures, advertising will mature along with it. As technology and connection speeds increase, so will the role of Web advertising. These steps are just the first steps toward that growth.


Newsgroups

Before the World Wide Web, online marketers relied heavily on newsgroups. Although many have slowly wandered away from this method of Internet marketing, newsgroups are definitely surviving (and thriving).

If you're interested in trying newsgroup marketing, the following list should keep you busy for a while. Below you'll find 34 of the most popular newsgroups among online marketers.

  • alt.ad
  • alt.america.online
  • alt.bbs.ads
  • alt.bbs.Internet
  • alt.biz.misc
  • alt.business
  • alt.business.accountability
  • alt.business.career-opportunities.executives
  • alt.business.home
  • alt.business.home.pc
  • alt.business.hospitality
  • alt.business.misc
  • alt.business.multi-level
  • alt.commerce.misc-ads
  • alt.Internet.commerce
  • alt.Internet.services
  • alt.make.money
  • alt.make.money.fast
  • alt.misc
  • aol.commerce.misc-ads
  • aol.commerce.mlm.announce
  • aol.misc
  • biz.comp.misc
  • biz.general
  • biz.marketplace
  • biz.misc
  • biz.mlm
  • biz.newgroup
  • biz.next.newprod
  • biz.univel.misc
  • can.atlantic.biz
  • market.Internet.free
  • misc.business
  • misc.entrepreneurs

Remember, if you're new to newsgroup marketing, it's always a good idea to "lurk" or read some other posts before you post to any newsgroup. Many newsgroups DO NOT accept blatant advertising. You CAN market in these newsgroups, but you must do it by posting helpful messages, marketing only with the aid of a short effective signature.

If you're not ready to spend time reading and posting to these newsgroups right now, you may want to at least consider saving the list for future use. Although the world may not beat a path to your offer, newsgroup marketing is free. When used regularly, it can become an important part of your online marketing campaign.


Classified Ads

From any perspective, there is already a clear winner in the changing classified advertising scene - the consumer. Never before has the consumer had so many choices for placing classified ads and for buying products from classified ads. Anybody can now easily enter keywords and price ranges for sought after items and instantly retrieve a list of available items matching their exact specifications from hundreds of Web sites. A quick hyperlinked e-mail to the seller can seal the deal. The seller can reach more people than ever before thanks to online supplements to print classifieds. And the seller can maintain the ad more efficiently, via e-mail or Web site form.

Online Newspapers At A Crossroads

Online newspapers offer online classifieds which supplement the print versions. But placement of online classifieds with the newspapers actually requires offline placement or offline verification - a major inconvenience. Many classifieds can't be globalized. Since the majority of items sold through classifieds are locally bought and sold, the newspapers have an opportunity to maintain market share, but only if they implement online, real-time placement. Thousands of online newspapers and other sites support online viewing but no online placement of consumer classifieds. Some of the popular city guides provide links to other classified services. But the Yahoo Metro Guides provide their own as well as links to others.

FREE - Yahoo offers Metro Guides for Boston, Chicago, D.C., L.A., N.Y. and S.F. Bay. http://www.yahoo.com Each guide features a classified section with the following categories: Air and Water Craft, Employment, Real Estate (Residential), Announcements Merchandise, Rentals and Roommates, Autos and Motorcycles, Personals, Tickets, Business Opportunities, Pets and Animals, Computers and Software and Real Estate (Commercial).

Listings are free and you can maintain them yourself. We visited the Yahoo-Chicago site, where listings for many categories were on the "thin" side despite the free nature of the service. Many listings are submitted by other classified sites rather than individuals. Once you select an item of interest, you can ask Yahoo to create a map for the area where the item can be found. The service also provides links to other local newspaper and Usenet classified sites.

Classifieds2000, The Internet Classifieds, offers FREE listings and viewing of vehicle and computer classifieds. Deja News, the premier Usenet news group search engine, and Lycos host the Classifieds2000 free service also, and they claim to offer the most listings on the Web. Classifieds2000 includes easy updating, a shopping cart, and Cool Notify, which is an e-mail service that notifies you when an item comes along that meets your desired criteria.

Yahoo! and ADP AutoConnect have announced plans to provide their visitors with co-branded access to free used car and truck listings from thousands of participating North American dealerships.

Auction sites provide a buying and selling forum for numerous items that were previously marketed in the classifieds such as computers, antiques and collectibles. Some of the buying frenzy which prevails at live auctions carries forward to on-line auctions, assuring a good selling price for many items. Most of the popular online auctions are actually consignment sales sites for dealers and offer no access for individuals selling single items. But a few sites actually provide a true buy/sell forum for individuals.

The Auction Block - An example of what is available, FREE of charge, to individual buyers and sellers. Categories include: Automotive, Books, Coins & Currency, Collectibles & Antiques, Comics, Computers, Game Machines & Games, Home Items, Home Electronics, Jewelry, Misc., Musical Instruments, Records, CDs, Tapes, & 8-Tracks, Sporting Goods, Sports Cards, Toys and Trading Cards. The site is fully automated. Offerings are very slim but we believe this category will grow.

eBay AuctionWeb - Over 300,000 individual items have been put on the auction block including real estate, antiques and collector cars. Over 1.3 million bids have been placed on the items. Enter your auction item on the online form, and receive an instant cost quote.

Currently, the dealer consignment sites such as OnSale move $4 million dollars worth of product monthly.

Shopping for a home has never been easier. Most of the popular on-line real-estate listing services are controlled by realtors. Some support listings by realtors as well as individual owners. Owners Network is billed as the "MLS (Multiple Listing Service) of FSBO (For Sale By Owner) properties". Listings are free but only include basic information and no photos. Owner's Network lists over 7,000 properties nationwide. Buyers can search for a property using simple search engine criteria.

For Sale By Owner Connection enables a home seller to list a property with photo and full description for up to a year for $89. Listings for the 22 states covered are sparse.

The International Real-Estate Directory, provides links to thousands of realtor Web sites and features articles on buying and selling real-estate. IRED offers a classifieds section for buyers and sellers. A classified listing begins at about $50 per month.

A survey on a related site indicated that up to 3% of listed homes are sold as a result of an on-line listing. This was compared favorably to similar sales results from the MLS services, whereas "for sale" signs on the front lawn account for 40% of home sales.

The Monster Board is one of the premier employment sites on the Web. Companies, recruiters or individuals can post individual jobs for $150 or pay over $1,000 to post multiple positions and company profiles. Posting a job listing is handled manually after submitting a form and reaches 25,000 potential recruits daily. A free resume builder will help job hunters post their resume on-line and block their current employer from seeing it. A similar site, Intellimatch features a personal job agent that informs job hunters when suitable job listings are posted.

HeadHunter.NET is one of the largest web based employment sites on the Internet. HeadHunter.NET now has 60,000 current jobs (less than 45 days old) and literally thousands of employers and recruiters. All jobs represent original content posted by users (not skimmed from Usenet). Actually, if you take a look at Usenet, you will see that HeadHunter.NET is the single largest provider of new job content.

Career Mosaic is hosted by Bernard Hodes Advertising, a recruitment advertising agency. Employers can post job listings for $150/month and job hunters can post their resume free of charge. The job listings receive 100,000 inquiries daily. Career Mosaic also allows you to search the job listings from Usenet groups and newspapers.

CareerNET is one of hundreds of employment Web sites which provide links to thousands of other employment resource entries. To find additional Web sites which support employer and job hunter postings directly, try out CareerNET.

The first employment sites on the Internet were the USENET Newsgroups. There are now over a dozen newsgroups that focus specifically on job and resume listings and numerous others covering miscellaneous classified items, real-estate and autos.

Some examples are: misc.jobs.offered, uiuc.misc.jobs, alt.forsale, alt.building.realestate and alt.autos. Some of these groups are moderated, and others, such as misc.jobs.offered, are highly popular unmoderated free-for-alls where listings are free, posted more-or-less in real-time, and which generate a high level of activity. But the response is short-lived as the popular newsgroups receive hundreds or thousands of postings daily. In very short order, your posting is lost in a sea of newer postings.

America Online, Compuserve and Prodigy have their own classified sections for all types of items and services. Classifieds can be placed by buyers and sellers for very little cost, yet reach a potential audience of one million or more subscribers. You might find it worthwhile to subscribe to a basic service for $10 per month in order to have access to this popular classified format.

Many university sites provide links to university newsgroups, newspapers, and employment assistance sites which will post student resumes and University job listings. An example of the wide assortment of classified opportunities available can be found at the University of Illinois Web Site. From the main page, students can find listings for several UIUC newsgroups which support free buyer and seller classified listings as well as links to the employment resource center where resumes can be posted online free of charge. There are also links to the Daily Illini student newspaper online classifieds.

Another UIUC site, enhances the utility of the UIUC Usenet classifieds by combining them together and enabling buyers and sellers to use the Web interface in real-time. Some of the features of this combined system include: Categorization, Searchability, and a Personal Agent, which watches out for particular words and will send the user an email when one or more of those words appear in any new messages posted, and finally, Free Availability.

The Ad One Classified Network enables you to search the classifieds of over 200 newspapers across the country. In order to place an ad, you are linked to the newspaper of choice, where you will provide detail on your ad and wait for a representative to contact you.

The local and regional newspapers which typically hosted the classifieds and made more than one-third of their ad revenue from them face a crossroad. More newspapers are bringing their classified offerings online every day but virtually none of them are offering real-time online posting of classifieds, nullifying much of the potential added value.

CareerPath is a good example of the new cooperation taking place on the Web. The following newspapers participate, feeding their classifieds to a single Web site to reach a national audience as well as reaching a local audience on their own Web site and in printed form: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fort Wayne Newspapers, The Orlando Sentinel, The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald,The Seattle Times/P-I, The Columbus Dispatch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Denver Post, Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Washington Post, Denver Rocky Mountain News, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, The Detroit News And Free Press and The New York Times. Links to every newspaper site, where you will have to go in order to place the classifieds, can be Here.

Unfortunately, none of these classified sites supports real-time classified postings. The Washington Post still requires a phone, fax or mail order. The Seattle Times lets you enter your classified ad with complete detail online but then requires a contact by a Times employee before the ad can run. Even the San Jose Mercury News, the newspaper of Silicon Valley and winner of Editor & Publisher's "Best Online Classifieds Award", requires a phone confirmation before they will run the ad in the print and online versions.

According to industry analyst Esther Dyson, the value of an interactive newspaper is the interaction it provides with other people in real-time, much the way talk radio happens. So far, this is not the case with online newspapers although the first steps are being taken.

Thomson Newspapers just acquired the Internet classified advertising division of Prodigy Services Corp. Thomson publishes 85 dailies including The Globe and Mail of Toronto, and plans to use Prodigy's classified ad system for its own newspapers and also sell the product to other publishers.

Electric Classifieds, Inc. provides its Global Online Classifieds technology to America Online's Digital City, CompuServe and Cox Interactive Media.

New Century Network is rumored to be pooling classified resources together among it's members.

One of a small handful of online news sites which support real-time interactive classifieds is The village of Effingham, IL hosts newspaper type classifieds. The software that implements the system is low priced and appears to be robust. Contact the developer for additional information.

AdQuest Classifieds, AdQuest is promoted in more than 165 publications in 10 states, and the daily circulation of the participating newspapers is about 10 million. AdQuest's classifieds on the Internet have grown to more than 40,000 ads updated daily and are available for viewing and filtered online and offline searches only, no postings. The classified categories that receive the largest percent of searches are employment and transportation. Other categories include merchandise, real estate, personals, announcements, recreation, services, and farm. Quest averages more than 40,000 searches, or "hits" a month.

CONCLUSION

The number of Web sites which support online, realtime placement and viewing of classifieds by consumers is growing and poised to take-off. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Free sites are the legacy of the pre-1994 Web when commercial activity was not permitted. While they obviously provide the best deal, they don't support the efforts of the Web site owner. But sites such as Classifieds2000, through their affinity relationship with Deja News Usenet Search Engine, stand to gain tremendous ground through the use of user friendly features. Fee based sites generally offer the best features, the best audience reach and the best results. Online newspapers must jump on the bandwagon now, or forever lose market share.


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