Online Advertising 101

The Basics of a Banner Ad

Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 09:04

The simplest way to monetize a website is to place banner ads on the page. For the novice, this may seem overwhelming, but in actuality it is very simple to execute. In this article is a brief outline of the components of a banner ad as well as some best practices when scheduling ads and reporting the results of a campaign.

A banner ad consists, in its simplest form, of two components: ad creative and a click-through link. Since it's necessary to crawl before walking, let's start there.


The Creative:
The ad creative comes in many formats, but the beginner should stick to static images (files with the extension .jgp, .gif, or .png). Going beyond the static images (flash or .swf, html, or even ad tags from agencies) is more advanced ad deployment and requires some technical background. Call our support line if you have questions about this (866.733.9231).

An ad creative should not exceed 50kb in file size (you can check this by looking at the properties of the file); the larger the file, the longer it will take to load in the browser. The last thing an advertiser wants is the stigma of being the reason the site is slow – so compress files to as little as possible.

Dimensions of ads are variable, but with the COLLEGE PUBLISHER 5 system newspapers are limited to 3 different sizes (300x250, 468x60, and 160x600) – the dimensions are measured in pixels.

Be sure to have your designer strictly adhere to these dimensions or the site will not render correctly which could result in loss of revenue. CMN strictly defines ad size options to enable a revenue sharing program to get you more money (call about details on this as well).


The Click-Through:
The click-through link is the destination website to which the advertiser would like the reader to be taken. If an advertiser doesn't have a website, there are alternatives (like clicking to a coupon for print or creating a page on your site with the advertiser's info – like a menu). If successful, these alternatives are things you can charge for.


Basic Ad Deployment:
Using CMN's College Publisher software package exposes the sales staff to the same tools professionals are using in most major media outlets – Atlas Ad Suite. In this site, there are several tutorials to learn how to deploy ads using the Atlas user interface.

Here are the basics:

Create an Advertiser
Upload Creative
Create a Campaign

Ad Fulfillment:
The online banner ad is measured by impressions; one ad impression represents one time the ad was called to appear in a browser. There can be multiple impressions per page view (as three ads can be deployed at once on a page).

Typically, newspapers sell a certain number of impressions to define a campaign. Within the Atlas software, these ad impressions can be spread over any time period – long or short (with the caveat that the site has the number of page views to support the impressions sold).

CMN strongly encourages its partner newspapers to sell the banner ad spots by an impression based model called CPM (cost per thousand) vice a flat rate over a time period (ex. $100 for a month).

Due to the seasonal and uneven nature of the traffic for college newspapers, it is better and more profitable to charge advertisers by the number of times the ad has been seen versus a time period (ex. January of the winter break elicits different traffic patterns than the back to school rush of September).

The CPM is the standard billing model for most professional media and newspaper outlets. If sales staff has difficulty defining an online rate card, call CMN for help (866.733.9231).


Campaign Statistics:
After the ad campaign runs (and even during), it is important to report the progress measured on an ad. The statistics to provide an advertiser are: impressions, clicks, and a ratio of clicks per impressions or CTR (Click-Through Rate is expressed as a percentage).

The Atlas interface can provide this data. It is important to note that industry CTR's range from 0.03% to 0.8% so don't get worked up if the CTR seems low. Besides, poor CTR is a marketing lesson for the advertiser – that the message in their ad must be more compelling and relevant to trigger a click.

These are the basics for advertising online. The most important thing is to be familiar with the language and stats of the site being sold. Confidence in what's being sold is critical in generating interest.

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