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Maintaining Site Design While Earning From Ad Content

Posted on 10.18.2006
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Written by Tiffany M. Guarnaccia, Searchfeed.com

Webmasters often perfect the sensory and conceptual design aspects of a site, taking care to avoid mistakes that might cause a site visitor to have visual overload such as scrolling text, looping animations, and the overuse of Flash animation. But, after perfecting design elements, is there one factor that can undermine all of the work that was put into a site?

Online ads benefit sites by generating revenue through a variety of formats including banner ads, pop-up ads and paid ad listings. But they also have the power to disrupt a website’s overall design.

By nature, advertisements are attention grabbers. Online ads are no different. The problem comes when the attention-grabbing ads outshine the overall design of a Web page. Additionally, when integrating ads, a webmaster can lose a large measure of control over design. They must rely on an outside source to provide ads that catch a user's attention while trying to match the site’s overall look and feel. This can be very difficult to do, and cohesiveness is not always the chief concern of the advertiser.

But being the master of his domain, pun intended, a webmaster can achieve both goals — having complete control over site design, while also ensuring that a sufficient amount of revenue is earned from ad inventory.

Ad Design Solutions
The first step is choosing which type of sponsored ad content will complement the site’s design. Pop-up ads tend to be unappealing to the user and are generally unwelcome. The same can be said for banners. Many experts agree that consumers are suffering from banner blindness, ignoring banners all together.

For most webmasters, a good solution to maintaining the look and feel of a site while monetizing visitor traffic is by integrating pay-perclick (PPC) advertising. PPC ads can be integrated in a number of ways to match a variety of website styles.

The key to preserving design using these formats is to choose the most appropriate options for your site.

Content-based Websites and Blogs
Websites that contain mostly content and text can benefit most from using in-line contextual PPC ads. With this type of integration, ads are embedded within the text and existing site content. Much like a hyperlink, a word will be underlined and/or highlighted. When a user mouses over the word an ad will appear, giving users the option to clickthrough to the advertiser’s site.

Integrating text ads in this way complements site layout by preserving the overall design so the website can be initially viewed as strictly a content-focused outlet. The user is not bombarded with pop-up ads or drop-down banners that shift focus from the content on the page.

Another advantage of in-line ads is that most providers allow you to code the ads to appear for specific keywords across many pages. Therefore, if you have discussion forums on your site, where new content continually appears, it can be coded so the ads appear automatically along with the new content, cutting down on implementation time.

Online Storefronts or E-Commerce Sites
For online storefronts, the exact location of the PPC ads is vital to success. Placing ads on the invoice page of a recent purchase is one good option. If an Internet visitor recently purchased an item from your online store, an invoice should appear at check out. By placing advertisements for a complementary product adjacent to the invoice, you could monetize exiting traffic. For example, if they just bought pet supplies, why not include PPC ads for pet insurance on the invoice? If a customer bought bed linen, why not add some listings for bedroom furniture?

For these sites, it’s also important to take advantage of the ability to filter PPC ads, choosing which ads to include and which ones to bar. The easiest way to include advertising in this way is through a provider’s integration tools. For example, there are many tools that provide JavaScript, where content can be modified with predefined keywordsearches. By doing so, you can be sure that a competitor’s product or service is not listed on your site.

Directory or Database Sites
Directory and database sites display links and informational listings into groups or categories, ranging from very specific to very general. For example, content categories can range from “books” to “teaching supplies K-12,” depending on the overall needs of the site. Here, PPC ads can work nicely. The website owner can specify ads to appear in certain categories or groups, that fall in right alongside or within the directory listings themselves.

With the help of XML feeds, ads can populate the directory or database while matching the look, feel and content of the page. Users can browse through directories and click-through on ads of interest that are seamlessly placed within existing content. The user is largely unaware of the difference between a directory listing and an ad.

“By using a standard XML feed to create a directory listing, webmasters have great flexibility,” says Christopher Cyriax, Searchfeed.com Business Development Manager. “And since exact keywords can be coded to base highly relevant results, the directory can be fully customized to cater to both the user and the needs of the site.”

Directory ads are also a useful tool for webmasters who have just started developing a directory or database and would like to immediately and easily add more pages. Content can be substituted with PPC ads so there appears to be more pages with more content.

Niche Sites
Websites focused on a specific niche that need to maintain a sleek design can choose to integrate PPC content through expandable banner ads. This type of PPC implementation looks like a standard banner, but is designed entirely by the webmaster. It can be added to a website where a traditional banner would be placed — in formats such as skyscrapers, square buttons, vertical rectangles and other traditional banner shapes and sizes.

Expandable banner ads have custom-designed graphics chosen by the webmaster and simple text to match the feel of the overall design. As a user scrolls over the design, the banner expands, revealing PPC ads with listings related to the line of text on the banner.

This can also be looked at as a complementary feature for sites that may have unused banner inventory, where potential revenue space is being wasted.

The PPC Providers
Most PPC providers offer co-branding of these implementations to further uphold design and maintain brand equity. However, some promote the brand of the PPC provider, not necessarily the Web publisher. For example, you may be familiar with “Ads by Google,” the tag that appears on sponsored content on many websites. It can be argued that this ad supports Google’s brand rather than the publisher’s.

Searchfeed.com offers ways to integrate paid keyword content through co-branded, text-based applications including a search box feature, content categories, directories and other implementations. Other players offer similar options, including 7Search.com, Kanoodle, and ABCSearch.

Most PPC ad providers and their integration options supply webmasters with additional site resources and ways to improve their website’s appearance and offerings. 7Search has an AccessoryAds service that allows webmasters to display ads that do not compete directly with website inventory — useful for e-commerce sites or online storefronts.

MIVA offers many of the same features, along with a few others including a very flexible Expandable Keyword Banner product. And, MIVA recently released a contextual in-line solution, MIVA InLine, which allows publishers to set the number of times an ad appears for a specific keyword. For example, if the word “apple” appears 12 times on the page, you can choose to have the ad linked to only four “apples.” This generates revenue without increasing page impressions.

With scores of integration options and excellent providers out there, PPC online advertising is an excellent choice for increasing revenue. Many of today’s options can provide ads that blend with solid design but still attract consumers. In this manner, a website can still reflect the webmaster’s vision, while providing income and protecting the organization’s overall image. ■

About the Author:
Tiffany M. Guarnaccia, Searchfeed.com Corporate Communications
Tiffany is the Public Relations Manager for the Pay-Per-Click search advertising firm, Searchfeed.com. In her position, she helps promote Pay-Per-Click (PPC) technology and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to the general public and media on subjects relating mainly to small-to-medium-size industry specific websites and portals. Tiffany has authored many articles and spoke at online educational seminars on web PPC advertising methods, highlighting Searchfeed.com’s mission to enlighten the Internet community on topics related to searches.
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