I'm afraid this section is rather negative. At first glance they both seem to
be great ideas and everyone is doing it, so why not? Well, I've taken a long,
hard look at it and come up with some conclusions that you might disagree with
-- if so, let me know.|
Go to: Link Exchanges | Paid Banner Advertising | Awards
Link exchanges are not to be confused with paid banner campaigns which
are a whole different kettle of fish. Paid banners will get you very
highly targeted traffic which will do a lot of good for your sales,
unlike free link exchanges...
At first glance it's free and everybody's doing it so it
must be a good idea. Well, I'm telling you that it won't
build any extra traffic for you. In fact, it could even be
bad for you.
Example A: You've worked really hard to get a good
listing on Yahoo! A user finds you there and clicks on your
link. So there you have it, the fruits of your labour, a
visitor to your site. And what's the first thing they see?
A banner advert inviting them to leave your
Example B: A user is browsing another site on the
subject of computer software. They click on the link
exchange banner on that site and end up at your page. Good.
The trouble is, your page is on the subject of hotels. So,
the user is unhappy because they're not interested in
hotels, you're unhappy because although you have a visitor
he's not interested in your subject, and what about the
poor original guy who may have lost a software sale?
Philip Nickerson agrees with me:
Hang on, I'm not finished yet! Most banner services work on
a rating system. You get categorised as to the amount of
traffic you generate. If you get 1000 hits you get put into
category B and your banner gets put onto 5 sites; 2000 for
10 sites etc. What this means is that in order to receive
more traffic, you first have to generate more
traffic - by conventional means. You see, they're
not doing you any favours.
"My wife put her first web page up a few months ago. It had pictures of
our son and had cute little stories about the things the little guy was
doing. I thought that it would be really cool to surprise her by adding
a Link Exchange banner to her page. I put it at the very bottom. When
she arrived I wanted to show it to her and there it was at the bottom-
two girls hugging with the words advertising Bi-Fem Chat!"
"So what's the point in even having links then,
There are two major differences between link exchange
banners and your links page:
- Links to and from your site should always be on the
same topic as your subject matter. I mean, you wouldn't
link to a scientific glassblowing page from your exotic
pets site, would you? A link exchange banner would
(and you've just read about Philip's experience). Some
link exchanges are categorised, but they're very loose
categories and users tend to "spam" their URL throughout
multiple, unrelated categories which defeats the whole
- Your links page is located somewhere on your site where
the user ends up after they've read everything on your
site, correct? If not, it should be! Link exchange
services insist that you display the banner right on your
index.html page, right at the top more often than not.
Paid banners can be a good idea for two reasons:
- You get what you pay for
Most sites offering to advertise your banner will charge you either per
impression or per click-through.
A banner at the top of a page will
usually "rotate" through several ads, so the first user to load the page will
see a banner ad for "Acme Lawnmowers", the next time the page loads it'll be
"Neon Cyber Systems" and the third time will be your ad, then it'll cycle back
to "Acme Lawnmowers, and so on. Each time your banner loads, that's called
an "impression" for which you'll pay 1 cent, or whatever the advertiser is
charging you per impression. If he's charging you per clickthrough, the rate will
be a lot higher, since maybe only one person in ten will actually click on your
The most common charge is per impression, so in order to make the most of the
money you've paid you have to make your banner scream at the user "CLICK ME!!!"
There are many ingenious methods of doing this, dreamed up by people who study
user activity for a living. Eyescream have an outstanding tutorial on designing
banners (that link will open in a new browser). If you're thinking of running
a serious banner campaign you'll need a budget in excess of $1,000 - I asked Eyescream,
out of curiosity, how much they would charge for the design of a banner "to take away"
without any advertising costs... $750 for designing one banner. It's probably well
worth it, and I believe that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing properly,
so if I ever decide to launch a campaign I'll be taking them up on their offer.
Yahoo! is noteworthy because they don't charge per impression, they simply host your
banner for a set amount of time. I've heard from clients that their reports on the
number of clickthroughs is very general and my people suspect that they don't
monitor it at all. However, everybody knows that a Yahoo! banner ad will generate
a lot of traffic whichever way you look at it. If you want to find out how much they
charge you can request access to their rates page.
- You Choose (Target) Where Your Banner Appears
This is the major difference between Link Exchanges and paid banners. You can
choose a page where your banner will appear. This page should always be on a topic
very close to, or exactly the same as yours, so that whenever somebody clicks
through to your page you know the person is already interested in what
you have to offer so they're far more likely to buy your product. For example,
if you have a real estate site, you can advertise at the top of the real estate
category on Yahoo! so your traffic will be 100% targeted.
If you're advertising on a search engine, you can "buy keywords" so, for example,
if you "reserve" the keyword 'lawnmowers' on Alta Vista, your banner will appear at
the top of the results page whenever somebody enters the word 'lawnmowers'. The
cost will depend on how popular your keyword is. If you wanted to reserve the
keyword 'sex' you'd better be rich and prepared to be put on a long waiting list.
Whoever dreamed this up must have a degree in crowd psychology. It's crazy.
Once upon a time you'd have to request a link from another person's Web site.
These days, all you have to do is design a graphic and then pompously
allow webmasters to link you - not just a text link, mind you,
a big in-yer-face graphic!. Many award givers won't even bother to give you a
link from their site. Eh?!
I recently applied for several awards for research purposes, to see if it
would bring me any extra traffic. It didn't, but what it did bring
me was extra spam in my mailbox. I used a unique email address to apply
for the awards, so I know the award sites sold my email address to spammers.
There are possible advantages in applying for awards:
- If you're a site designer it might impress potential customers,
but I reckon they're more likely to hire you on the strength of the previous
work you're displaying. What do you think?
- To generate traffic to your site which would depend on how
popular the award giver's site is, and how prominently your link is displayed
on their site. Note the fact that whether or not you display their graphic
plays no part in this, unless they insist that you display it.
- To make your page look pretty. Fair enough, but this is nothing to
do with traffic or promotion.