How to advertise your business online

Online adverts are cost effective, highly measurable and can give you national and international coverage. The online choices now extend way beyond banner ads and include search engines, online directories and even advertising on social networks, such as Facebook. This guide outlines the main choices available and looks at how to measure their success.

  1. Display advertising
  2. Online directories
  3. Search engines
  4. Measuring success

1) Display advertising

The traditional form of online ad is a banner on a relevant third party website, but we've seen an explosion of formats over the last few years including expandables, transitions, superstitials, drop-downs and page peels. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has a useful guide to these formats.
If you're smart, this kind of advertising can be done on a contra basis - if you allow a business to advertise on your site, they in turn will allow you to advertise on theirs. On the downside, users have become overfamiliar with banner ads and the click through rates can be very low.

  • Target sites you'd like to carry your ads and suggest a contra deal

2) Online directories

Paying for an online entry in a directory such as Yell .com and ThomsonLocal.com could be a smart move and these are often offered in conjunction with an entry in the printed version of the directory.  Your details will come up if your sector, location or company name is searched for. The price of the ad varies according to its position on the search results and its size, but prices start at around under £100 per year.

  • Investigate the online directories and get details of their traffic figures

3) Search engines

Search engines are the fastest growing form of online advertising, driven largely by Google's Adwords. Companies bid to be associated with keywords that are used in searches. You can also take advantage of local and regional targeting so that your  ads only appear to people searching in a particular region. You only pay the search engine when a user clicks on your link. The trick here is to choose the right key phrases to bid for. The wrong words will attract visitors to your site who have no interest in your product or service, this is doubly annoying as you're paying for each visit.  You also need to focus on taking your visitors to the right page on your website, this might not be your home page take them directly to the page that's most relevant to the keyword they searched for.

  • Compare the prices and traffic figures of the big search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  • Take customers to the right page on your site

4) Measuring success

For display ads the most common form of trading currency is the cost per thousand ad impressions (CPM).  However the pay per click model is rapidly gaining pace and this is the system used by Google Adwords. Here you pay every time a user clicks on your advert. This can be a great way to generate new business, but it needs to be well managed to make sure you're getting the right customers. You can outsource the running of PPC campaigns, most suppliers charge a fee based on a percentage of your spend. A third model is the cost per acquisition (CPA). An acquisition can take many forms and can include user registration, a request for a brochure or the purchase of a product. This is the most cost effective of all the metrics.

  • Investigate which metric works best for your business

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