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Selling your site: thinking about offering advertising on your Web site? Consider using these tools and techniques.

Advertising on the Internet is about reaching a specific demographic or niche market, which is why associations are often in an enviable position to take advantage of online advertising. As long as your members - and others who make up your Web site audience - aren't so narrowly focused that it wouldn't make sense for advertisers to appear on your site, you stand a good chance of attracting attention.

The best way to launch your association's online advertising program may be to make it free at first. The effectiveness of doing so is debatable; not every association may benefit down the road by starting out with offers of free ads. However, your association may find that it pays in the long run to be generous with your Web site space, especially during the first six months while you experiment to see what advertising opportunities might emerge from your traditional base of advertisers as well as from new markets. If you already have a Web site that is generating traffic, then adding advertising will cost you next to nothing - a truly wise investment.

Two up-front suggestions, no matter how you feel about giving things away: Pursue Web advertising, and start now. Advertising begets advertising, so even if you don't see big nondues-revenue gains on your immediate horizon, online advertising can be a great way to support your other advertising efforts and

build the value of your entire program.

TOOLS FOR THE TAKING

Ad affiliate programs. One way in which you can add advertising to your Web site, at no cost, and actually begin earning nondues revenue for your association is through a banner affiliate program. This type of program offers you banner advertising that you can run for free. (For an explanation of banner advertising and other terms used in this article, see sidebar, "Web Advertising Buzzwords.")

The beauty of an affiliate program is that you can choose which ads you want to run based on your user audience. Keep in mind that your members and other site users have needs and purchasing habits that go beyond the concerns of your association's profession or industry. For instance, ads for flowers, discounted airfares, or home computer software are all viable options for most association sites - even if these have nothing to do with your association's mission.

One affiliate program to take a look at is www.clicktrade.com. (See sidebar, "Essential Ad Management Sites.") Another great affiliate program to explore is www.amazon.com, where you can select subject-specific books to highlight on your site.

In many instances, affiliate program advertisers will pay you based on the number of clicks their ad receives while running on your site - for instance, 5 or 10 cents per click. Or they may pay according to purchases made, as is the case with amazon.com, where you receive a percentage on book sales that originated at your site. Often you get a higher percentage if you specify a link for a particular book or product, and you get a smaller percentage if the user doesn't buy that book but does purchase something else.

Ad exchange programs. With a banner ad exchange program, participants essentially swap banner ads. For instance, every one or two times that an advertiser's banner ad runs on your site, your ad promoting your association's site, products, membership, or whatever runs on the other participant's Web site. For an example of a banner ad exchange program, go to www.linkexchange.com.

A banner ad exchange program is a popular and cost-efficient way to bring more traffic to your site. Using such a program is also a great way to help fill your online advertising inventory.

CHARGING FOR ADVERTISING

At whatever time you begin charging for advertising - from day one, or after a designated free-advertising period - you must consider multiple factors as you set online ad rates. How valuable you and others deem your site is one factor included in the mix. What would advertisers be willing to pay based on your known Web audience? What are other similar organizations - especially your competitors - charging? Also, take into consideration what you are charging for ads in other media. How much you can safely charge for an online ad also depends on the traffic your site generates, which is usually measured in page impressions.

How to charge is another question you will need to answer. Banner ads are typically sold on a monthly basis or per thousand page impressions. A good rule of thumb is to generate between 5,000 and 10,000 page impressions per month before accepting advertising. But even if your site generates less than this, you can charge on a monthly basis while you build up your page impressions.

THE SCIENCE OF FILLING SPACE

Determining your ideal online advertising inventory involves figuring out how many ads you can run - how many ad slots you have available to offer for sale - according to your total monthly page impressions and how long advertisers want or need to remain on your site. Most advertisers generally seek a one- or two-month presence. If, for example, advertisers want to stay up longer than your page impressions will allow, you need to increase your ad inventory.

A technique you can employ to achieve the right online ad mix is to weight your ads. For instance, if an advertiser promoting a conference or event must use all of its purchased page impressions by the registration deadline, you can weight the ad so that it shows up more frequently. A variety of banner ad management tools can help you program where, how often, and for how long certain ads appear on your Web site.

One such tool, WebAdverts, can also help you place ads in zones. For instance, if your association sells ad space on its home page - also known as your front door - that could become zone one, for which you could either charge more or retain this choice spot for your premiere advertisers. You may also want to establish separate zones for specific areas of your association's site where advertisers would most often, or would only, like to appear. Examples include the pages on your site that contain information about your upcoming annual meeting, legislative updates, or an online bookstore.

Many banner ad management programs are available online as shareware. The cost to register for and install a banner ad management program can be as little as $100 - which is well worth having the ability to track and manage your online ads. In addition, your Web site host or service provider ought to have a log file that tracks your site's page impressions and other important supplementary information, including the length of user sessions, where users are calling from, top entry and exit pages, top referring sites, and so forth. And with a banner ad management program such as WebAdverts, you can provide advertisers with a password to monitor the success of their ads on your site. Along with sharing demographic information about your association's members, showing your advertisers their Web statistics can help assure them of the benefit of advertising on your site. This is also a good way to educate them if they're new to advertising online.

THE ONLINE RIPPLE EFFECT

As you begin your online advertising efforts, it's important to think about building the value of your overall advertising program. For starters, consider offering free banner ads to your association's corporate sponsors. Not only does this add value to and help you promote your sponsorships, but it also gives your sponsors a chance to sample your site. Then at the end of their free 2,000 page impressions, you can call and ask them to renew. Chances are good that if they like what they've seen, they may be ready to buy. You can accomplish the same thing by including a free banner ad in the booth purchase price for your annual meeting exhibitors.

Another approach is to piggyback on existing sources of ad revenue. The key here is to think in terms of enhancing - not competing with - your traditional efforts. In one association example, advertisers running job listings in the association's magazine are given free listings online. The cost to advertise the listing online only is more expensive than the cost to advertise in the magazine. In this way, advertisers that are too late to have their listings included in the magazine are still accommodated, though without taking away from the magazine's source of advertising revenue.

ONE AD EFFORT AT A TIME

Especially when first launching your program, it's a good idea to start small. This might mean selling advertising from one area of your site or beginning with one type of advertising. While banner advertising accounts for the clear majority of online advertising revenue, other ways exist for selling your site. As with the magazine example mentioned, you could start by charging for job listings posted on your Web site or for hyperlinks you establish to the Web sites of your supplier members. Then you can think about combining your efforts.

For instance, one effective approach for some associations is to incorporate their member database with banner advertising opportunities. In the case of the International Society of Refractive Surgery (ISRS), Altamonte Springs, Florida, member eye doctors are given free listings in a "locate a doctor" database made available online to patients seeking these specialists. Members then have the option to buy banner ads to further promote their services along the lines of placing ads in a phone book's yellow pages.

A Web site with a dual identity - where you need to reach both your own members and the buying public - presents an additional challenge to your Web site design and advertising efforts. In certain rare cases, you may want to think about having two different sites. More than likely, however, you can use your front door as a portal to direct your members, the public, or your advertisers to the appropriate pages on your site. (For one such example, go to www.isrs.org.) With this added layer of site sophistication, you may need to factor in several online advertising bases when deciding where certain advertisers should appear on your site. For instance, certain advertisers would want to target your members versus the buying public. With the proper ad management tools, however, this won't be a problem.

FULL-SERVICE SALES

Once you master the art of selling ads on your Web site, consider other options you can provide to attract advertisers. For instance, you could offer to design banner ads and to build or update advertiser Web sites. In actuality you would likely outsource these functions. However, in addition to receiving a portion of the revenue you generate for your outsourcing partner, you also become a one-stop provider for your advertiser - further increasing your value. Once again, ISRS is a good example of an association that provides a full-service menu to its advertisers. (Go to www.isrsinteractive.com.) The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, South Daytona, Florida, also has a dedicated area on its site for advertisers that includes ad rates and specifications for banner ads. (Go to www.apcointl.org.)

WEB EDUCATION

Finally, keep in mind that you don't have to be a technological wizard to understand the process of selling Web advertising. Some research will definitely be required, but the benefit of finding the pertinent market information you need is that it's all available online. Start by visiting the sites listed in this article on a regular basis to get the big picture. However, the specifics for selling a Web site are different for each association. The best way to start answering the questions your advertisers will certainly ask you is to begin the process of selling your site now.

WEB ADVERTISING BUZZWORDS

If you aren't sure how hits differ from page impressions, then orient yourself with these online-ad term explanations.

A banner advertisement, the first revenue model created for the Internet, is a graphical promotional box that appears on a Web site. The placement, size, and shape can vary from site to site. However, standardization is beginning to make creating and selling banner advertising less confusing.

CPM (or cpm), a term borrowed from traditional media advertising such as print and television, means cost per thousand. It describes what you charge advertisers to appear on your Web site. Usual charges range from $20 to $150 per thousand page impressions, depending on how much traffic your site generates, how targeted your user audience is, what competitors are charging, and so forth.

A page impression or a page view is the measure of the number of times an entire Web page is seen by a user. A page impression is different from a hit because a page impression does not include the images on a page, only the request for the page. This number is critical for determining your advertising inventory.

Inventory indicates the number of ads a site can run based on its total page impressions. For instance, if your site averages 4,000 page impressions per month and you have three advertisers that have each purchased 1,000 page impressions, then you can sell one more ad.

A user session is the measure of the number of times your site is accessed. As visitors surf your site, they make various numbers of page impressions. As such, knowing the number of user sessions as well as the average number of page impressions and average length of each session provides extremely valuable information to you and your advertisers about site traffic.

A hit is the measure of the number of requests received by a Web server. If, for instance, a Web page includes three images plus text, when a user requests that particular page, four hits are recorded. Since the number of hits indicates the number of items on a page, the amount of hits is essentially useless for figuring out your advertising inventory or comparing traffic among Web sites.

Shareware is a distribution model made popular by the Internet's widespread use. Shareware allows users to install a program and decide whether it will work for their project. If it does in fact work, users are required to register the software and pay for it at that time. In most cases, payment is based on the honor system. Shareware is often written by independent programmers who are not associated with any software company. Registered shareware users are often rewarded with technical support and free updates.

ESSENTIAL AD MANAGEMENT SITES

Everything you need to know about Web advertising and the resources to get started are likely contained on these Web sites, which range from industry information clearinghouses to ad management service providers.

* www.clickz.com - offers original articles and links to other industry newspapers and publications concerned with the online advertising industry.

* www. iab.net - the site of the Internet Advertising Bureau. Check out "Advertising ABC's" for case studies, standards, and what-works tips as well as "Tools of the Trade," which offers online advertising statistics, market research, and product and service provider links.

* www. microscope.com - a weekly analysis of particular banner ads by a panel of industry leaders who suggest what works, or doesn't, about each ad. Also included are comments from ad designers about their intent. You can submit your own ad for review.

* www. searchenginewatch.com - tells how search engines work, how they rank, and how you can make the most use of yours.

* www.markwelch.com/bannerad - offers a full menu of topics related to Web site banner advertising, including affiliate and banner ad exchange programs, and links to more than 500 related sites. Don't miss the examples of public-service banner ads from nonprofits and charities.

* www.clicktrade.com - a Web-based service for those who want to join or establish an ad affiliate program.

* www.linkexchange.com - provides banner ads to help fill your inventory, along with information about promoting your site and improving its performance.

* www.awsd.com/scripts/webadverts - a comprehensive banner ad management tool that tracks and manages the rotation, frequency, and placement of your Web ads and allows advertisers to check the performance of their ads. For other ad management resources and providers, go to www.doubleclick.com, clickover.com, www.adracadabra.com, and www.adjuggler.com.

Glen Lubbert is president of Mojo Interactive, Fern Park, Florida. E-mail: glen@mojointeractive.com. Web site: www.lubbert.com. This article is based on Lubbert's presentation at ASAE's Management and Technology Conferences 1998.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Lubbert, Glen
Publication:Association Management
Date:Mar 1, 1999
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