Banners for (SEM Dummies) Part 2

Basics: What is a Third-Party Ad Server?

In the beginning of display advertising over a decade ago, advertisers sent in their banners in the same way traditional marketers traffic ads to magazines or television stations. Publishing sites would “paste” these ads up and then deliver post campaign results. There were some obvious inefficiencies in this method. As the technologies and methodologies evolved, advertisers could send in “tags,” which aren’t actual ads, but rather “placeholders” which would pull these ads from the advertisers’ own tool call the third party ad server. This is a superior adaptation as now advertisers get real time data of their ads, can serve targeted ads each time the tag is pulled by the publisher, and can perform many other vital operations.

Here are some of the basic features that most third party ad servers can bring to a display campaign and now can be used for Content Campaigns in Google (via certified tools):

Rules: When a banner tag is “pulled” by a publisher site to load on a page, the third party ad server is passed limited anonymous user data such as the location of the user’s IP address, what language their browser is set for, whether they’re using a Mac or PC, etc. Rules can be set to send the appropriate creative every time. So, for example, you can serve a Spanish ad to Spanish speakers. You can also send a user in Liverpool a specialised ad vs. a user in Manchester. This higher relevancy generally increases CTRs and conversion rates.

Frequency capping/storyboarding: Not only is anonymous user data passed in milliseconds to the ad server, but also user cookie info. Using this information, the ad server knows if this user has seen your ad before and how many times. Over time, you can develop a strategy to frequency cap and not show anymore to users who don’t click your ads (thereby not wasting CPM purchased impressions). As well, you can storyboard, which means you can start serving different ads to users based on how many times they’ve already been exposed. So, for example, you could have general creative out there (example: “10% off), and then, if the ad server detects a user who hasn’t clicked after seeing your ad five times, you can start serving an ad with a stronger message (example: “25% off if you act now”) and so on.

Reach and frequency reporting: Provides insight into the number of people who have seen an ad campaign, and how many times, on average, people are seeing these ads. This is important in understanding how users are interacting with your ads and finding the ‘sweet spot’ to just how many ads you need to buy in order to get your message out to a good percentage of your target audience. As well, a Reach report may show you that buying on football Website A may not be needed because a high percentage of the same users are being exposed to your ads on Football Website B, which you are purchasing at a much lower rate.

View-through conversions: As stated above, once a user is served an ad, they are cookied. So, unlike search, if a user converts after seeing your ad (but not clicking an ad), you will have that insight. This is huge because you’re lucky to get more than a .3% or .4% CTR on your ads…that means if you run 1,000,000 impressions, you may only get 3,000 clicks. However, the other 996,000 ads do have an effect in the marketplace and you can measure that when those users come back and convert.

All of these features may not be immediately available to advertisers. However, Google Content is one of the largest (if not the largest) ad network in terms of volume and these tools are going to help you get the most out of them.

Totally Unrelated Free Tool: HTML That Every Online Marketer Should Know


Tired of “viewing source” of an HTML page and thinking it looks more like ancient Greek than a real language? Online marketers are always checking out web pages to see if their tracking tags are there, checking navigation/link structure, reading competitor metatags for keyword ideas, etc. Understanding HTML is a good skill to have.

Check out Dave’s HTML Interactive Tutorial for Beginners (find it using Google Instant). Sure, there’s a ton of spamvertising, but I’ve literally sent dozens of folks there and they’ve all come out the other end of the seventeen mini-chapter tutorial with a good HTML foundation. Check it out!

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Banners for (SEM) Dummies Part 1

Banners for (SEM) Dummies

I used to work forĀ  mainline consultants. We were very specialised and very good at what we did. We all drank the “search” elixir and laughed at the poor click rates and conversion rates that our counterparts at the online display (banner) agency were getting. Search is still (and probably will always be) one of the strongest online vehicles due to its “double opt-in” nature–a user has to not only type in a relevant keyword to trigger your ad, but read the ad copy and click it before you are charged. The ROI and ROAS of that delivery method has proven itself…thus, most online marketing budget allocation has a huge portion going to Search.

I remember one distinct marketing meeting with a large client where all of the various agencies were reporting their numbers; the print folks had their presentation, then broadcast, then online display, etc. When they got to us, everyone in the room was amazed at our success rates. I left that meeting vowing to never, ever, ever run display campaigns. It was all Search for me!

Only later did I realise I had been doing display for years!

When I set up Summit Online Marketing a full-service digital agency last year, it dawned on me that I had been doing display advertising all along via Content campaigns in Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. DUH, right? Because Content (and later Site [Placement] Targeting) was offered by search engines, I had rolled it all up to Search. Big mistake!

Now that I’m a fully integrated digital marketer (my agency manages search, display, mobile, email, digital out-of-home, analytics, affiliates, etc.), I truly believe in the value of display/banner marketing… not only for direct response, but especially for branding and reaching users at the front end of the buying cycle. Remember, search relies on users to actively be querying a search engine to trigger ads. If no one knows to type in your keywords, then your Search efforts are sunk. Thus, banners can be a SEM pro‘s best friend!

With the news that Google will be expanding the features of its Content Network, I thought it might be good to share some banner insights to SEM pros that are using Content now so they know what the future might hold for this kind of targeting. Google has already begun to open up their Content offering to allow advertisers to use third party ad servers and these tools have important features that will change the landscape of Content.

(More to follow on Monday)

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