Types of online advertising

My cousin Jay (hi Jay!) is in the process of building and launching his own online business, and he sent me a note this week (OK, he sent it two weeks ago, I’ve been busy!!) asking me about online advertising and how it works. I ended up writing him a fairly long-winded email in response, but I thought that there were enough nuggets in the message to make it worth re-posting.

Offline advertising

Here is a (somewhat edited) version of the email that I sent him. Please forgive me for the rough format.

The most basic type of Internet advertising (which is sometimes called “online media” or just “media”) is the standard banner ad. The banner ad has been around for years and was pretty much the first type of advertising that was sold online. When banners first went up, they got high click-through rates and companies could charge high fees for them, but the rates have dropped significantly over time. Banner advertising is usually sold based on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis calculated against page views. CPMs vary depending on the market that you’re in – consumer markets get a lower CPM than B2B markets – and they range usually anywhere from $10-$40 (approximately). The reasons that B2B audiences can charge a higher CPM is that there is the assumption that they are reaching a “higher qualified” more “high-value” audience. To sell this type of advertising, you’ll need quite a bit of traffic, and some information for potential advertisers about the type and quality of audience you reach. Demographics, reach, influence, etc. will all help. In the consumer market, advertisers are looking for a lot of reach – meaning high numbers of page views. Also, to run banner advertising on your site, you’ll need some kind of third-party ad server (a company that serves the ads and measures delivery and click-through for you), such as Doubleclick/DART. Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that “banner” advertising has evolved to include all kinds of ad sizes and types, such as skyscrapers & leaderboards (refers to ad sizes), interstitials (the type of ads that pop up as you go from page to page on a website), overlays, etc.
 
If you are interested in running banner ads on your site, but you don’t want to have to sell the ads yourself, there are a lot of third-party ad networks that will use your available inventory (pages on your site) to run their ads, and you get a percentage of any revenue generated. This is a good option for early in a business when you don’t have the sales staff and technology resources available to do serious selling. Blue Lithium, Tribal Fusion and Casale Media are some companies that do this.
 
If you don’t have the page views that you need to sell straight banner ads on a CPM basis, you might try to sell a site “sponsorship.” This is often harder to sell (especially these days) because with sponsorships you aren’t necessarily guaranteeing page views or any other measurable metric (although you could guarantee those things), but instead you are offering companies the chance to have exclusivity or sponsorship of a specific section of your site. Sponsorships can get complicated, but you can basically cook up any kind of arrangement that you can think of.
 
Google AdSense is a great way for publishers (and Websites) to get started with online advertising. It’s easy to sign up for an account, and by setting things up and “playing with” Google’s tools and going through the training, you’ll pick up a lot of the online advertising terminology and best practices. It’s also the kind of thing that you can set up and forget – so it will just run and serve on every page of your site without a lot of interference. I run Google AdSense on many of my sites, and it does produce revenue – again, the higher the value the keyword and the more page views you have on your site, the more money that you’ll make. On the flip side (from the advertiser’s perspective) most marketers who do online promotion use Google AdSense (although when you use it to advertise, it’s called AdWords), primarily because it’s a type of “performance-based media” that shows advertisers/marketers immediate “ROI.” These two terms you will see again and again with online advertising, as the trend with online marketing moves to media that has measurable results. The other great thing about Google AdSense is that it will help you quickly be able to track your monthly traffic and page views and what your traffic is “worth.” So if you’re doing financial modeling you can include that data for potential investors.
 
Another ROI-based type of online advertising is lead generation. Lead generation is when an advertiser/marketer pays you money to know more about specific members of your audience than just that they “viewed” an ad. With lead generation, advertisers usually get contact information (either email, phone, mailing address or all three), and other pieces of data that they consider to be valuable. With lead generation, companies are able to get anywhere from $10-$200 PER LEAD (as opposed to the $10 CPMs that I mentioned earlier), because the companies are willing to pay to know specifically who their potential customers are, and for the ability to market to them in the future. Lead generation works best on a site where users need to register to access data/services/etc. 

 

A variation on lead generation is co-registration, which is where a company that collects registration data can add a question or a check box on their registration form asking “would you like to receive information from X company?” If the user checks that box, they are “co-registered” for both your site and the other company’s site, as well.
 
ONE WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT ONLINE ADVERTISING AS A BUSINESS MODEL. (This was applicable to Jay, but might be relevant to you as well, so I’m leaving it here.) Since you are building a site that requires users to enter a lot of data, fill out forms and generally interact with the site a great deal in order for the site to be successful, you will need to think very carefully about on which pages it makes sense to have advertising. For example, running Google AdSense is fine on an information page (a page that someone gets to and might realize that they are in the wrong place), but putting Google AdSense on a registration page, where it might distract a potential registrant from completing a form, is not the best idea. In that instance, getting them to complete the reg form is probably worth far more than having them click that Google AdSense link.

 

I hope that this helps someone out there! If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below and I’ll try to answer.

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