Placing Banner Ads Online: Look Before You Leap!

You've decided on an idea. You've picked out some bright colors. Your banner ad uses animation and includes the magic word, "Free." Only one decision left to make ... where to place the ad? Look before you leap... where you place the ad can make all the difference!

Let me tell you a story that clearly illustrates the point. I recently designed a series of banner ads for a small company that provides employee benefit services. They have a great concept but need more exposure on the web.

After completing my design work and posting the ads online for the owner's review, curiosity got the best of me and I asked him where he was placing the ads. He responded that he had heard from some friends that if I want to generate real traffic, he needed to be on Yahoo or one of the other big search engines.

Again, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask the next logical question ... namely, "Do you know how much they charge for banner ads?"

He replied that he had done some checking into it and thought that he could place an ad with one of them for about $2000 a month. "That pretty much shoots my advertising budget for the year, but I'm banking on the results," he reluctantly added.

Well I really liked this guy and do think that he has a really great idea. So I couldn't let him put all his advertising "eggs in one basket." I asked if he had checked into placing ads with other websites where his potential customers might visit. He shook his head no, and I told him to give me a week and I'd get back with him.

Before I go any further, don't get me wrong. I think Yahoo and other big websites are great places to advertise if you have the funds to support your efforts. I just think that for many small companies, these are not the best alternatives.

So back to my story. While traveling on business, I spent a couple of hours online searching for websites dealing with human resources, retirement planning, group health insurance and other employee benefits.

After sorting through the results, I narrowed my list down to 10 sites that offered online advertising. I sent emails to each site, explaining that I represented a client who was interested in advertising on their site.

HOT TIP: I refrained from sending the business owner the list directly because I knew that I could negotiate agency discounts with many of the websites. In fact, I was able to negotiate a lower rate with all but one of them :-)

I then called my client and arranged a meeting. I gave him the list of websites with their advertising rates and told him that I thought advertising with some of them would be a much wiser use of the limited funds at his disposal.

Noticing that he looked unsure, I explained that most of the people visiting these sites would be interested in what he had to offer. In other words, his ads would be targeted much more closely to his potential customers. The more we talked, the more he smiled. By the end of our conversation, he was grinning from ear to ear.

Now for the $50,000 question: How did it all turn out?

I got a call from the young man a couple of weeks later thanking me over and over for the help. He couldn't believe his results (nor could I). He had placed banner ads with three of the websites that I had located for a total of $400. And his traffic had already tripled ... in just two weeks time!

How can you use all this when promoting your website? I've outlined each of the steps in the list below. Now I can't promise you the same results, but I think you'll be very pleased.
Start with a great banner ad. If you don't have the tools or talent yourself, have someone design one for you. You can get some great tips on what makes a banner ad effective from a website called Four Corners Effective Banners. Check out their tips at

Think about your potential customers? What other products and services do they purchase? Look in the trade magazines that your customers read. What other kinds of information do they seek? Brainstorm a list of ideas.

Search the web using your favorite search engine to locate websites that attract your potential customers. My favorite for this purpose is Dogpile searches using multiple search engines and then gives you top ten results for each.

Browse through the websites to see which might fit with your product or service. Contact a couple of them and ask for their rates and the number of visitors they attract each month.

Don't forget to tell them you've designed the ads yourself and want the 15% agency discount. It might actually be less, but you won't know until you ask.

Select one or two and try them for a month. If the website offering the advertising doesn't provide you with the information, be sure and check your access logs to see how much traffic is coming from their websites.

Repeat the process as often as you'd like. Contact the next two websites on your list and repeat steps 4,5 and 6. Or go back to step one and use some other words from your list.