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Articles and tutorials on Web site Promotion
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Tips for getting the most out of banner exchanges

A banner exchange is a network of web sites that help promote each other. This is accomplished through rotating banners advertisements. Individuals in the network display a small banner on their web page. This banner advertises another individuals web site. Each time someone visits a web page in the network, they are presented with a new banner that advertises someone
else's site in the network. Banner exchanges can be an effective tool in your arsenal of web promotion tools ... but only if used correctly.

Three terms that are important to understand with any banner exchange network are exchange rate and click-through ratio (CTR for short).

The exchange rate is the ratio of how many banners you display on your site to how many times your banner is displayed elsewhere. A 1:1 exchange rate means that your banner is displayed once each time you display someone else's banner. A more likely exchange rate is 2:1, which means that every time you display two banners on your site, your banner is displayed elsewhere once.

CTR is also expressed as a ratio. It is the ratio of number of times your banner must be displayed before someone clicks on it. A CTR of 100:1 says your banner must be displayed 100 times before anyone clicks to your site. A great CTR would be 25:1.

"Impressions" is a term that refers to the number of times your banner ad is displayed.

Tip #1 - Display banner ads on multiple pages on your web site.

The math makes this whole concept seem unrewarding. If you have a 2:1 exchange rate and an excellent CTR of 25:1, this means you must display 50 banners on your site before getting one additional person to your site from your banner ad! At first glance, this just doesn't appear to be worth the effort. But what happens when you display banners on most of your web pages? Let's say an average visitor to your site only views 5 of your pages during their visit. This means that each time you have 10 visitors to your site, you should get an additional visitor coming in from your banner ad. Yes, you still must display 50 ads on your site, but when this equates to 10 visitors it makes the picture more reasonable.

Tip #2 - Select appropriate target categories for your banner to be displayed on.

Most banner exchanges today allow some form of target marketing. This is accomplished by categorizing all of the web sites in the network. You then select which categories you would like to advertise on. By selecting the correct categories, your CTR increases ... which means more visitors from less advertising.

Tip #3 - Maintain a testing journal

The only way to determine which categories work the best for you is through testing. With banner advertising, as with other forms of marketing, testing is all-important. Tests should be conducted on large quantities of impressions, at least 5000 or more.

I suggest maintaining a three-ring binder to track your testing. Use a separate page for each banner you are tracking on each exchange that you are tracking it on. Then, every day, or every few days, you can write down the number of times your banner has been displayed and the number of click-throughs you have received. Whenever you change your banner you should start a new page. Each time you change your target categories, this too should be logged in your journal.

Over time, this three-ring binder becomes invaluable. You have all of the information at your fingertips to determine how your advertising is doing. You can then make intelligent marketing decisions.

Tip #4 - Only use fast-loading, professional, aesthetic banners

Creating a "click generating" banner is an art form, but there are general rules that should always be followed.

The first, and perhaps most important, is to use a "call to action." Your banner should prompt the web page surfer to take and action ... namely to click on your banner. The two simple words "click here" can double or even triple your
CTR.

The second general rule is to have a banner that is aesthetic. Grainy, blurred, jagged edge banners are unprofessional. Make sure the banner is the proper size that the banner exchange accepts (usually 400 x 40, or 468 x 60) so that it is not resized automatically by the banner exchange which would result in a very skewed banner.

Animation should be used if possible, but the many times less is more when it comes to animation. A banner that is pretty much static, and contains a small animation can draw the web surfer's eye to it. Banners that light up like the streets of Las Vegas can be distracting to the point of annoyance.

Another technique when designing a banner is to create a sense of mystery. Don't tell the web surfer your whole story on the banner, that's the purpose of your web site. The purpose of your banner is to bring a surfer to your page. Curiosity is one of the best tools to do this.

Use power words on your banner such as NEW and FREE, and when possible try to use words that evoke emotion such as EXCITING.

There are tools that exist to help you "shrink" your banners in size. This results in banners that load faster (and the faster the better.) SmartSaver by Ulead systems and GifOptimizer are utilities that you can find on the Internet to help you do this.

Remember that a banner looses its effectiveness over time. Use your testing journal so you can see when your banners CTR starts dropping.

If you don't have the skills to create professional banners that adhere to the above guidelines, most exchanges provide a list of people who will create banners for you free of charge.

Tip #5 - Make use of referrals to get more displays for free

Another effective method of increasing your exposure through banner advertising is through the use of referrals. Not every banner exchange provides this feature, LinkBuddies does, so this discussion is specific to LinkBuddies.

If you could refer just 1 page a week that had 50 visitors to it each day, what would happen? With LinkBuddies you receive 10% of that pages visitors as extra banner displays. So after a few months this would be the scenario:

Week #1 - you refer one, receive 35 extra displays for the week (10% of their 50 per day).

Week #2 - you refer another one, receive 70 extra displays for the week (10% of both referred members).

--- after several more weeks of this ---

Month #4 - you are receiving almost 2,400 extra displays each month.

Because referrals are cumulative, they are hands-down the best way to leverage your exposure and really bring the world to your web page. Some LinkBuddies members are receiving over 50,000 extra displays each week, solely through the referral system.

Conclusion:

Promoting your web page is not a static process. It is an ongoing, commitment. Using the above tips can dramatically increase your effectiveness with banner exchanges, but it is also important to realize that banner exchanges are only one tool for promotion. I suggest that everyone peruse the LinkBuddies site and make use of all of the tools that you can.

This tutorial is written by Chuck Heintzelman, owner of the LinkBuddies FREE Banner Exchange.   Chuck Heintzelman lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and three daughters. He works full-time as a systems analyst and runs the LinkBuddies banner exchange in his spare time.

Site created by Bruce Tecovan Email me here.