Outside of content, site growth can be directly affected by when, how, and where you market your site. There are all types of forms in which this can achieved: banner advertisements, text link ads, and viral advertisements. Then of course, there are the alternative methods – the so called hit and SEO boosters, or even most recently, paid comment spam advertising. There are hundreds of additional methods out there, but we are only going to focus on each of these and what they mean for your site.
Before even choosing an advertising method, you first have to consider when the best time to advertise is. If you were a store and you had something to sell, the choice would be easy one to make – when ever you are about to launch a new product or service. But for the traditional site who may not have anything to sell, when should you put your advertising army to work? The typical result most people would probably say is, “when traffic is low”. But is that really the best time? No.
When traffic dips, it usually has to do with other factors that simply increasing or beginning to advertise won’t necessarily fix. It may provide that quick-fix-for-effect type of deal, but the traffic is less likely to stay. You first need to address these issues and get traffic back to normality before considering any major advertising campaigns. The best time to advertise, in my own opinion, is actually when traffic is booming. Why would this be? If your traffic is doing hot, that generally means your site is performing well. Maybe you just published a new article that has caught fire in the blogosphere, or received your first “digg-effect”. Whatever the case, you want to build off recent traffic spikes, rather than trying to build back up to the normal line that would happen if you began advertising during slow traffic periods.
As I said, there are almost an unlimited amount of ways you can advertise. Hell, you could even drop mysterious boxes all around your city with your site logo and url on it if you aren’t afraid of possible jail time. Let’s quickly sum of some of the more major and conventional methods.
Banner / Graphical Advertisements:
Considered one of the more traditional methods, banner advertisers are simple and to the point. You get to display what you want in the form of a static or animated gif, jpg, or flash file. Sizes vary from site to site, but banner ads are generally very good performance wise because they are usually easily visible.
Text Link Ads:
The SEO wizards will say that text link ads are the most important and helpful in improving search engine rankings through advertising, because they are simple and direct links. While this may be true, text link ads can be a lot harder to spot, especially depending on the site you plan on advertising through. Some do an excellent job of making sure their visitors can tell what they are clicking on is an ad, and others hide their link ads all over the place, including in the footer, where they are much more likely to go unnoticed and un-clicked.
Viral Advertisements / Social Networks:
Is it possible to advertise on a social network? Yes. But it is very effective? Not usually. Posting every single one of your articles on digg may bring a few stray visitors here and there, but unless you have a lot of friends and a lot of diggers behind your back, these types of free self-promotion advertising methods will do little for you. If you don’t make the homepage, you are not going to see much return. Of course if you could shell out the amount of money it would take to directly advertise on any social networking site, such as Digg, the incoming traffic would be a totally different story.
SEO / Hit Boosters:
One of the biggest gimmicks I find in the industry, and something I totally do not recommend. There is no doubt you’ve seen these so called services plastered throughout the internet. Whether it is in forums, spam emails, or popup ads, you are sure to have been bombarded with this kind of stuff before. You know, services that offer you 10,000 unique hits in 10 minutes for $30, or whatever it may be. I have personally never tried any of these services and never plan to. Each of theme always looks extremely sketchy to me, and I’ve always wondered how the hell anyone would be able to send some couple thousand unique visitors to me site in so little time. And you can be sure that no matter what any of these services may claim, the traffic is not targeted and not worth a penny. (Anyone think otherwise?)
Page Holes / Tagging Services:
Page holes are another form of simple text link advertising that I’ve never quite understood. A quick browse around many “designer” forums such as Talkfreelance, and you’ll quickly discover that every want-to-be developer has their own page hole sites. Links for a dollar, what a deal! Regardless, what is one link, even if it is a PR6 site, really going to do for you when it’s smashed together with all other links? Not much. Page holes and link tagging sites seem all but useless and are all but sure to bring very little traffic your way, but if you don’t mind sparing a buck for fewer total visitors then a dollar is worth in pennies, then why not right?
Of the methods mentioned above, in my opinion the most effective and helpful ones are banner advertisements and text link ads. When targeted, they can quickly drive visitors to your site. Giving potential visitors a visual in the form of banner ads gives them something to connect to and draws them in much more than a standard text link would.
Where you advertise is entirely up to you, but of course, effectiveness will only increase if you advertise on a targeted and similar interest site that will bring in quality visitors who will be interested in your content. No offense, but if I was to advertise on a baseball site, I don’t think many of the visitors would care too much for design and development news. You have to make sure you are reaching an audience that will care about what the hell you are saying in your posts. Just because Joe’s Computer Site may offer you skyscraper size ads on all pages for $20 doesn’t mean a thing if your site is about swimming. Get my drift?
Also, you always want to investigate your possible advertisement places before making a purchase and commitment. Don’t believe what you read, because not everyone can be trusted. Make sure that your banner will really be found on every page if it says it will, and make sure that PR6 website selling links for $5 really is a PR6 after all. Also, whether you plan on using banner or text ads, placement is extremely important. You want your ads placed high up on the page, but you also don’t want them to be too obtrusive, because if their placement causes someone to accidentally click on them, that will only piss the person off and get them to close their browser window or tab even quicker. Even more importantly, and something you can do on your own end, is make sure the design of a banner ad looks good. Sh*tty looking banner will do very little in attracting anyone to your site. If a banner is animated, keep the animations limited and do not make them pause too much. Ideally, you want the person to be able to read whatever the banner is going to say before they have time to move away from it. If you plan on writing a story and adding in 30 frames to an animated gif, you are soon going to find out that not many people have the time or want to be bothered reading a novel just to see what you are advertising.
How do you advertise your site. When do you believe is the ideal time to advertise? Please share in the comments, and your tips may be added to the end of this article.