Site Design With Advertisers in Mind

You’ve got a niche-oriented site that has at least 30,000 visitors a month. You have the email addresses of at least 5,000 of those visitors.

In other words, you’ve got an audience advertisers want to reach.

Now you’re down to deciding on your advertising model. Are you going to use the directory or sponsorship model?

Whichever you choose, it’s important that you incorporate advertising into your site design so that it enhances a visitor’s experience, not detracts from it.

Directory Details

If you go this route, what you’ll be offering advertisers is this: a directory link that leads to a single HTML page on your site on which the advertiser provides more detail about its products and services.

To provide the most value to an advertiser — and to the site visitor looking for these products or services — you need to figure out a way to make a listing in your directory appear on every page. A simple solution is to put the directory down the left column. But doing this puts a natural limit on the size of your directory and the amount of revenue you could generate. On first examination, this sounds bad.

But think of it this way: If you can get just 75 links down the left side (ClickZ itself has 43 links and is not using the space as efficiently as it could) and you charge $100 per month, that’s $7,500 of ad revenue per month. Even if you got half that, you’d still be getting many times what you could get selling plain, old banner space.

When you present a list of links this long, links at the top and bottom tend to get clicked more often. This is no surprise; after all, they’re easier to see than those in the middle. Hence an issue you’ll have to contend with is rotating the list of links so that every advertiser has equal time at the top. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, but it is doable. We’ll talk more about this in next week’s column on technical implementation.

As for advertisers’ HTML pages, you define a specification on graphic size and amount of text the page can contain. Keep the pages all in one directory to make it easier to put in a search engine that just searches sponsors’ pages.

As for interactivity — forms, email, links to an advertiser’s site — definitely allow it. But add a premium to the base price for any interactive elements that will likely cause a site visitor to leave your site (e.g., a link to the advertiser’s site). We’ll talk more about pricing in the last article of this series.

Designing for Sponsorships

Now let’s move on to the sponsorship ad model. In this model, you sell advertisers the right to place advertising next to specific content on your site.

Before you go down this road, be sure you have the ability to generate fresh content on at least a weekly basis. Without repeatable traffic, a sponsorship has little value to an advertiser. And have some basic data about who the site visitors are and how often they access the content. An added benefit is the ability to reach these visitors via email.

When you’re designing a content area, put it in a standard template so that your site has a consistent look and feel. Analyze the layout, and figure out where it makes sense to put advertising. That is, figure out where you can put the advertising so it doesn’t interrupt the visitor’s purpose of being there in the first place.

If a visitor comes to read an article, offering a banner ad that takes him or her away from that article before he or she can read it doesn’t make sense. Instead, try putting brand advertising at the top of the article and then a banner ad or link at the end. The idea is to understand the process a visitor goes through when accessing your content, then only putting advertising in where it enhances the process.

Also, take advantage of every place you could put a sponsor’s name or message, including unconventional places such as buttons on forms.

And make sure the advertising supports the content. Part of the reason, for example, I read ClickZ is to learn what new products and services are available. I welcome product announcements, advertorials, and white papers. They help me achieve my original purpose for coming to ClickZ — to be a better informed Internet marketer.

Next week I’ll get into the technical implementation of these ideas.

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