Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Maximizing Advertising Exposure

Many web sites make their money strictly on third party advertising programs, which are becoming more of a challenge as various disruptive technologies are thwarting webmasters from capitalizing on their content. To get advertisements in front of all visitors you need to deploy a battery of techniques that can maximize the likelihood of advertisements being seen by everyone including selling direct advertising.

Typical advertising methods and technologies

Various advertising models exist to meet the needs of both merchants and publishers of varying technical ability.

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) ads such as AdSense or Yahoo Publisher Network which rely on javascript to function
  • Cost Per Impression (CPM) ads typically served by 3rd party networks, such as FastClick, showing as banner or text ads rely somewhat on javascript but may work without.
  • Affiliate Programs, such as Amazon or Commission Junction, are typically just 3rd party banner servers but rely on cookies to track sales for the website.
  • Direct Advertising consisting of sponsored links, banners, and text ads being served by 3rd parties like AdBrite, hosted on third party services or locally on the web server.

Weaknesses of advertising technology

Each type of advertising has fundamental flaws in that it only works well assuming that the visitor to the web site has that technology enabled and ads are blindly inserted into web pages. This blind technique may work somewhat for the majority of the website’s visitors but the odds are that a significant amount of ad technologies may be failing.

  • Blocked cookies render affiliate programs useless
  • Disabled javascript stops PPC programs from working
  • Blocked 3rd party images stop banners from displaying although the links are still present
  • Ad blocking technologies like Norton Firewall typically disable all 3rd party and local CGI technology ad servers.
  • Contextual ads may display Public Service Ads (PSAs) due to stop words in your text, 3rd parties framing your site or a visitor using an anonymous proxy server which alters the page name originally indexed.

Simple Method to Maximize Ad Exposure

Considering many visitors to your website may only see a single web page then your best bet of getting any advertising exposure whatsoever is to use a “buffet” approach with a little taste of all types of ads on a single page. What this combination of ads does is improve the odds that your web page will display at least one ad since each type of advertising relies on different technology. This is not to condone putting a ton of ads on your web page to the point it looks spammy so design the ads into the site intelligently.

  • Include a PPC ad which assume javascript is enabled
  • Include an affiliate banner or box ad which assumes 3rd party ads and images aren’t blocked and cookies are enabled
  • Include affiliate text links which won’t track impressions if 3rd party ads are blocked but will track sales if cookies are enabled
  • Include a CPM banner ad if you want, assumes 3rd party ads aren’t blocked.
  • Embed direct advertising or banners such as a sponsored link, and these should be directly included in the page using SSI (server side includes), PHP or some other technology that cannot be detected and disabled in the visitors browser.

The best way to describe this technique is “slinging mud at the wall and pray that something sticks”.

Simple Fallback Ad Strategy

Any advertising method that uses javascript that doesn’t automatically supply a <noscript> alternative, such as AdSense, should have one added so ads display when javascript is disabled and it doesn’t violate your AdSense terms of service either.

Example:

<script>
… AdSense Code…
</script>
<noscript>
… insert non-javascript banner or text ads here, affiliate program, etc.
</noscript>

Alternative Ads for PSAs

To further maximize your advertising exposure you need to make sure that all contextual advertising, or any other that provides this option, have alternative ads defined so that the ad space is being fully monetized and not displaying free Public Service Ads (PSAs).

Implementation will vary depending on which service you’re using, and may even be able to be daisy chained such as AdSense loading an alternate ad that also can’t be displayed thus loading another alternate ad, and so on and so forth. Recommendations are that alternate ad chains shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 advertising networks in depth otherwise the time to display the ad could take too long and the visitor will be gone from the page or have scrolled and missed it entirely.

Dynamic Adaptive Advertising

Truly maximizing the revenues on a website requires some server side programming that can detect disabled javascript, disabled cookies and banner blocking. How this works is that a series of probes is inserted into the first page displayed to a visitor and the results of this probing cause the appropriate adjustments to the advertising being served in subsequent web pages.

Cookie Detection

Setting a cookie can be done a couple of ways such as sending the cookie from the server and setting a cookie in javascript which will indicate to the server if both cookies and javascript are enabled in one shot. When cookies are disabled any form of affiliate tracking won’t work and should be avoided in subsequent web pages.

Javascript Detection

Another method of detecting javascript being disabled is to embed an image being served and tracked by a PHP script in the NOSCRIPT tag of a javascript probe. When javascript is disabled any form of PPC advertising (AdSense) should not be in subsequent web pages.

Example:

<script>
… Set a cookie here to prove javascript is enabled
</script>
<noscript>
… Load a dynamic tracked image to verify javascript is disabled
</noscript>

Banner Blocking Detection

Something as simple as a cgi-bin based page counter can be used to detect banner blocking software as Norton’s Firewall tends to block images being served by a cgi-bin application as it’s assumed to be an ad server. When banner blocking is detected most 3rd party advertising networks and some local ad servers won’t work and should be avoided in subsequent web pages. However, if cookies are enabled affiliate text links will work but impression tracking for these links won’t function.

Dynamic Advertising Matrix


Affiliate Ads


CPC Ads

CPM Ads

Embedded Direct Ads

Cookies Disabled

NO

YES

YES

YES

Javascript Disabled

YES

NO

YES

YES

Banner Blocking

NO

MAYBE

NO

YES

Summary

By using the various techniques outlined above anyone from a novice webmaster to an experienced web professional should be able to maximize their revenue potential.

Looking forward to your success stories!

2 comments:

Alex said...

Excellent article. Seems like you are a veteran webmaster who knows everything. I would be very happy if I have a grandfather like you

IncrediBILL said...

Thanks you I think.

Grandfather?

Don't make me hunt you down...