How to Advertise on the Web
Online auction sites generally do not let you add links to a Web site in your auction listings. So, your auction experiences may have given you little or no experience in how advertising is purchased and placed on the Web. The paramount rules are to (1) help search engines such as Google and Yahoo! find your business as easily as possible and to (2) position its information as near the top as possible in displayed listings. For example, if your online store sells or auctions specialized home-and-garden items, the name and URL of your business might show up at the 19,000th position in a list of 1,136,000 Web sites with “home and garden” somewhere in their descriptive text. Of course, even the most dedicated people using Google or Yahoo! to find a home-and-garden supplier probably will not scroll down below the first 100 or so businesses in the list. Therefore, your enterprise will remain out of sight and out of mind for them unless they accidentally find it while browsing the Web.
Building Your Link Popularity
Owners of small businesses often adopt a simple and free but time-consuming technique to improve their visibility on search engines. They arrange
However, search engines also use
There are at least three general ways to exchange Web site links:
Contact other Web site owners and ask for an exchange.
Use a link exchange directory.
Hire a link exchange service.
Most link exchanges are set up via e-mail. You simply send a message to another business briefly describing your business and giving its URL. You ask the recipient for permission to post his business's URL on your links page, and you ask if he would be willing to post a link to your business on his links page. The drawback to this approach, of course, is time. It can take many hours just to find some appropriate sites, send the e-mail, and do the work necessary to add the approved links to your Web site.
Internet search engines often use processes called “spiders” to go to Web sites and follow the outward links posted on their links pages. These outward links are added to the total results that help determine where a particular Web address will be displayed in a search list.
Adding your business name and URL to
Some sites, such as Iconcave.com and Link2Me.com, operate free link exchange directories where you can post the URL for your Web-based business. Often, but not always, you are expected to add the link exchange directory's URL to your links page in return.
Some link exchange services can provide you with links to companies that consistently have very high page rankings in the major search engines. You likely will have to pay, however, to keep the link active, and it won't be cheap. Monthly fees ranging from $50 to $5,000 per link are not uncommon.
When setting up link exchanges or using link directories, focus on getting your business listed among other sites that have related content. Search engines look for these connections when calculating where in a search results list to display your URL. Beware of so-called link farms, however. Link farms offer hundreds or thousands of immediate links that may have nothing to do with your business. These links can hurt, not help, your search engine rankings.
Ways to Advertise on the Web
For several years, the hot trend in Web advertising was to send text advertisements using e-mail addresses purchased in bulk. Sometimes, the lists contained hundreds of thousands or even millions of contacts. But it was blind scatter-shooting, and most of the sales pitches reached uninterested or unqualified addressees or inactive accounts. Still, companies persisted, because it was cheap and easy to keep pumping out the messages. Finally, weary spam recipients starting resisting by blocking the messages, responding with phony information, or sending back hundreds of replies to overload the senders' systems. Anti-spam software was quickly improved and became readily available. Meanwhile, complaints to Congress led to legislation severely restricting the use of bulk e-mail messages.
Along with link exchanges, other methods are now popular for advertising products and services on the Web. Some of these methods include:
Pop-up and pop-under advertisements
Advertising in online directories
Unfortunately, Web-based advertising can get very expensive very quickly, especially if you attempt several different methods at one time to get the word out about your business. Do not commit to any method of online advertising until you have studied it carefully and determined how it might actually bring in enough sales to pay for itself and generate a profit.
Banner ads are big, colorful notices that stretch across most of the top or bottom of a Web page. For example, on a Web site devoted to screenwriters, a banner ad for a bookstore may appear in a box across the very top, while another banner ad for a writing seminar may be positioned at the bottom of the page. Some of the advertisements may be static displays of text and images. Others may use flashing words, changing pictures, or other techniques to grab the viewer's attention.
Unless you have a background in advertising, you will probably need help to design and post an effective banner advertisement for your business on other Web sites. If you can't find a skilled friend or college student willing to do the work for the experience or a future reference, you may have to hire a Web content creator who specializes in advertising. You will find no shortage of people willing to sell you their services. (For example, a Yahoo! search of the term
Some online services promise they can create effective banner advertisements in a matter of hours. At least one site, BuyerZone.com, lets you post information about the type of banner ad, the assistance you need, and how quickly you need it. You will then receive bids from companies wanting to do the work.
Pop-Ups and Unders
For many years, online advertisers have been blitzing Web users' screens with ads that automatically pop up on top of a Web page display or hide beneath it until the page is closed. Many computer users have learned to hate these ads as much as they hate spam e-mail messages. Software to block pop-up and pop-under ads is now popular, and Microsoft added similar ad-blocking features to its XP operating system in 2004. Campaigns to eradicate pop-ups and pop-unders are expected to continue, so relying on these ads to promote your business may not be a good or cost-effective strategy.
Advertising in Online Directories
If part of your business strategy includes offering products or services in your own city or region, you may want to consider advertising in an online directory, such as local online Yellow Pages, or Yahoo! Local Listings, or in smaller directories operated by local companies. Likewise, you may be able to list your business free in certain online directories sponsored by county, city, or private agencies.
You can buy listings in online directories that have a business-to-business focus. For example, Business.com offers inclusion in an annual online directory for a flat fee ($199 in 2005). The directory “contains more than 400,000 listings within 65,000 industry, product and service categories” and is accessible only to other members of Business.com who are using its business-focused search engine, the company states.
When you advertise in online directories or on many other Web sites (including Google and Yahoo!), you often have the option to sign up for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. With PPC, you generally can set your own advertising budget and decide how much each “click” is worth to you. Then, each time someone finds your link and clicks on it, the cost of the click is deducted from your account. If your PPC budget runs out, your listing disappears or your link no longer works until you pay more money.
At some sites, you may be able to sign up for as little as $5 per month and have as little as a penny deducted each time a prospective customer clicks on your link. Google recommends setting a PPC budget of at least $30 per day on its site.