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Free Promotions for Your Web Business

By Tony L. Callahan
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004

In previous articles I have detailed strategies for gaining better position in the search engines. By implementing the techniques I have described, you should be on your way to getting that much desired web site traffic. So now you can just sit back and wait for the orders to roll in, right?
Not exactly. While a large percentage of traffic can come from your search engine listings, there are many other means of promotion available to the enterprising web entrepreneur. Among these are several low cost, or even free, avenues of web site promotion. There are banner exchange programs, reciprocal links, Free For All (FFA) Links Pages, On-line Classified Ad and mass e-mailings. Each of these major categories of promotional tools come in both free and paid flavors. In this article, I will explore some of the features of banner exchange programs.

Before we begin talking about the actual exchange programs, we need to discuss banners. With any banner program, free or paid, it takes a good banner to get the traffic. My research indicates that if a banner does not catch the viewers attention within three seconds, it never will. It is clear then, that your banners must have punch. Now if you are a professional graphic designer and a professional copy writer, you have it made. But if your are like the rest of us, who couldn't draw a straight line if our lives depended on it and write prose as interesting as a shopping list, you are going to need some help. There are many affordable designers out there who can design inexpensive, high quality banners for your promotional campaigns.
Research your designer carefully before spending any money. Ask for references, look at samples of their work. Don't make the deal by e-mail, talk to your designer, in person if possible. Make sure they are someone you can communicate with. Lack of communication is the most common cause of customer dissatisfaction in the service industry. As with most things, a little time and effort spent up front will yield much better results in the end.

The next issue related to banners is the hardest to swallow. It is a sad fact, but advertising banners have a very short shelf life. On average, banners will start to lose their drawing power after about thirty days. A truly exceptional banner may live as long as ninety days. After that, they just fizzle out. They don't get the clicks that they used to. Now it is time to go back to your friendly neighborhood designer and get that next great crowd magnet. But rest assured, this one will only be the second in a long string of banners. Banner advertising is for the long haul. See why it is important to be able to work with your graphic designer?

Okay, the banner is getting clicked, but is that translating into sales? Are the people clicking on your banner because it is flashy or are they genuinely interested in your product? Different types of products demand different types of banners. If you are marketing a product sold mostly to impulse buyers, then you want to go for the flash. Your sales are a pure numbers game, more visitors = more sales. If, however; your product is one that involves a more deliberate buying decision, you would probably prefer that your visitor be pre-qualified before they click to visit your site. Consider your product and your market demographics carefully before you design or accept a banner.

Banner Exchange Programs
Free banner exchange programs are set up on the "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" premise. The problem with this premise is you have to scratch someone else's back two or even three times for every one time they scratch yours. Most free banner exchanges are based on an n to 1 ratio, meaning that for every n of someone else's banner you display on your page, someone else will display one of your banners. This is not a bad deal if your site already receives high traffic volume, but what if you're trying to boost your low traffic site? There is also the loss of control issue to consider. Who decides what type of banners are displaying on your site?
Additionally, free banner exchange programs mean giving up valuable real estate on your web page to advertise other peoples business'. Frequently, this real estate is required to be positioned in prime areas such as "above the fold". Above the fold is usually defined as being fully visible on the first screen display of a page when viewed at 640x480 resolution. The value of the real estate being demanded is a matter for consideration when using free banner exchanges. Whether or not the value of the advertising exceeds the value of the real estate you are giving up is an individual decision and should be made on a case by case basis.

The alternative to the free exchange system is offered by many of the banner exchange programs. For a price you may run your banners on other web sites, but not have to display their banners on yours. This option eliminates both the ratio and control issues presented by the free exchange programs. There are generally two methods of charging for banner programs: by the impression or by the click through. An impression is defined as an instance of your banner being displayed. A click through is when someone actually clicks your banner and visits your site.

The most commonly used method of determining charges is a number of dollars per thousand impressions basis (CPM), usually with some minimum number of impressions as a base. This means that you pay a flat rate per thousand of impressions and that you must purchase a minimum number of impressions to get started. This will guarantee your banner will be displayed an minimum number of times but does not guarantee you any traffic. The positive side is that the cost of impression based advertising is usually lower than the alternative.

Clearly, you get the most bang for your buck if you can purchase your banner program based on click throughs. You only pay for actual visitors to your site and your visitors are pre-qualified by your banner. Therefore, the theory goes, you are probably getting a higher quality of traffic. The disadvantage is that the cost of a click through based program is usually significantly higher than the per impression programs.

Regardless of the type of banner exchange program you participate in, you want to be sure that the statistics related to you banner are available to you. I prefer that the exchange program make the statistics available on-line, so I may check them in near real time whenever the mood strikes me. This allows you to really keep your finger on the pulse of your banner program. You should be able to track trends, see quickly which types of banners are working and detect when your banner may be starting to falter. If you are not interested in that level of information, a monthly report detailing impressions, click throughs and click through ratios may be enough. The key is, you must have some statistics with which to measure the success of your banner program. If the exchange program does not offer the type of statistical reporting you desire, keep looking. Someone out there offers what you are looking for.

Banner exchanges can be a wonderful way to get the word out about your web business. All of my web businesses take advantage of one banner exchange program or another. A word of caution is in order here: Do not expect to sign up with a banner exchange program, sit back and watch the traffic pour in. A banner exchange program is only one more facet of a complete, successful web promotion campaign.

About the Author
Tony L. Callahan, is a successful Internet Promotions Consultant with more than twenty years of industry experience and is president of his own Internet marketing company, Link-Promote. He also publishes Web-Links Monthly, a newsletter full of tips, tricks, tools and techniques for successful web site promotions. To subscribe, send e-mail to: For an online archive of articles by Mr. Callahan available for reprint, visit: (
Copyright © Tony L. Callahan All Rights Reserved


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