Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

Portal listings, Banner ads and Online Malls

March 1999

By Mike Gould

Finally! A letter poured into the MondoDyne Email box. Padrick Timmons of Inflight Sports (http://www.inflightsports.com) asks the question:

"My problem is finding proper places to advertise on the internet, search engines, other web pages, and how much is too much for having a banner on someone else's web page. We have had a web page for a few years, first two years we did great, last year it went down 40%. We have made the web page better and we are very competitive on our prices, but there are now many more web pages with like products out there now. How can I once again gain the competitive edge?" Moments later, my good friend (disclosure: and client) Bradley Cross of Harmony Hollow Bell Works (http://www.harmonyhollow.com) called up to ask:

"As an online businessman, I am getting a lot of come-ons to join up with on-line malls; is this a good idea for a small businessman? (Or words to that effect; I didn't have my voice recorder on at the time.)

The readers have spoken; it's high time we addressed doing actual business on the Internet. As my background is more in the writer/designer/geek realm, I decided to interview my good friend (disclosure: and fellow developer) David Bloom. David heads up Fac·totem WPC (http://www.factotem.com) , a web consultancy that specializes in Online Content, Commerce, and Community. I forwarded to Bloom the questions of Timmons (disclosure: never heard of him) and Cross; the answers make up this and the next article in B to B.

MG of A2 B to B: Advertising on the Web -it used to be that just having a website told the world who and what you are; now you see banner ads all over the place. Is it worthwhile for a small businessman to advertise one's web site on other web sites? Are banner ads still a viable means of grabbing eyeballs, or just another means of irritating web browsers? Is an animated ad more effective than a static one?

DB of Fac·totem: Yes, Yes, and Yes. Online advertising is absolutely necessary, because with millions of websites to choose from, "if you build it, they don't come." You've invested time and effort to create your online presence - don't let it become a Monument In The Desert. I encourage clients to invest an additional 20% of the cost to develop your website (or 50% or 150%!) in online marketing. (Hollywood spends a dollar on marketing for every dollar spent on production.)

When it comes to marketing a website, I tell clients that their most effective dollars are spent online. First, it's easier to attract a click from somebody who's already online than to induce someone to go online just to visit your website. Second, it's possible to place highly-targeted ads that reach just the audience you're after. And third, there are great bargains to be had in the online ad market. Of course, you should also incorporate your website address in your print and broadcast ads, letterhead, and other collateral. Online marketing should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, not an afterthought.

There are options to placing those obnoxious banner ads on other websites. You can place obnoxious bannerlets and icon ads, too! Research by Prof. Sunil Gupta at the U-M School of Business has shown that animated graphics attract twice as many clicks as static graphics. But some of the most effective ads are text; an online syndication (placing a snippet of your content on the homepage of another website) or even a simple one-sentence listing placed on a targeted online directory or a related website's "links" page.

I'm not a big fan of the "link exchange" model (random free banner placements), but I advise clients to join web "rings" (networks of topically-related websites) and vertical-market segment-related websites - provided these channels can demonstrate their worth through high traffic, the only valid measure of ad value. These sites will typically ask for a "reciprocal link" in return; give it to them! You won't lose a customer, you'll gain a referral.

"But where do I find web rings; in Mordor?" I hear the wise-guy Tolkein fan in the back asking. Same place you find anything else online; you search the web, starting at your competitors sites (which you should be cruising regularly, anyway). The high traffic that David refers to above is the hit count; the raw number of eyeballs that have seen the site in a given period of time.

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