Basic HTML: Banners: Get Your Banner Out There

By Joe Burns

(with updates by editorial staff)

Use these to jump around or read it all
Get Your Banner Out There
Where On The Page
Keep Track of Visitors
Activate Banners

At this point, it's most likely that you haven't created your own banner. My guess is that you have done a re-creation of what I did for this series of primers. Maybe you simply took this design and changed a few words around. If that's the case, start again. In all honesty, this is not a stunning banner. It says nothing about the page you are going to visit. It doesn't have a whole lot of information on it and it's kind of dull. But it was a great example for teaching you the basics of banner creation.

Let me again state what I did in Banner Primer #1. Take some time. Think about what makes your site great. Think about what colors would be most eye-catching without blinding the viewer. Try to come up with something that would make someone stop and watch your banner instead of scrolling down the page they came to visit.
     In all honesty, your banner is a bit of an intrusion. Think of your banner like a television or radio commercial. You're sitting there watching your favorite show when all of a sudden the good show stops and you're expected to watch five or six 30-second commercials for any number of things.

I teach advertising. I know. People put commercials in a poor light... until they see a really good one. Then they wait for it to come on. One of the main attractions during the Super Bowl is the commercials. I actually used to wait to see who would win "Bud Bowl".
     So, don't just copy what I've done here. Take a day or two, or three, and think about your site. Make the banner that people will stop and watch. Don't just hand them the same old, same old.


Get Your Banner Out There

The purpose of the banner is to act as an advertisement for your site. It is to sit on pages other than your own. This banner is meant to bring people from other sites to your site. I think we can all agree on that. Now the question is, how do you get the banner on someone else's site? Here are a few methods:

  • Pay for it
         "Ugh!" you scream. "Money?! No way!" Don't be so quick. Yes, I know sites that pull in millions of people a month ask for big money, but there are tons of sites out there that themselves are just like yours, trying to build an audience. And in the process, they would like to make a couple of bucks.
         The key to the entire process is finding your target audience. Let's say you have a page about watercolor painting. You'll want to get your banner onto other sites that have similar topics, sites that sell art supplies, artists displaying their work, pages about oil painting, etc., etc. The topics do not have to be exactly the same, but rather close enough that someone who would visit that page might like to investigate your site as part of their surfing.
         Now the part about price. I constantly receive requests from people asking me to advertise HTML Goodies on their site. And the prices are very low. I once got on a page with top center placement for a year for $30. Thirty bucks! Unbelieveable. I have it a little easier because I own a site that pulls in millions of visitors per month. Many sites come to me regarding advertising. You might have to seek out the sites yourself. Do it! Look around. Even if a site isn't displaying advertising at that moment, it doesn't mean they don't want any. Ask the Webmaster if they would be willing to accept your banner for a small sum. Work out a deal. You may get your own $30 yearly rate. Then again, you may not. See what you can get.
         But above all, remember that the pages where you place your banner must hit people that might have an interest in coming to your page. If not, then it's wasted money and ad space.
         BTW, please don't ask me if I will buy ad space now. Goodies has advertising representation and I am not supposed to buy my own advertising any more as part of my contract.

  • Trade banners with someone else
         What a brilliant idea! Go surfing for sites that are most like yours and write to the owners of those sites suggesting you start trading banners. You put their banner on three of your best pages and they do the same for your banners. Great! And it's free! If you get together with five or six sites, you can create a solid amount of cross-traffic. It's a great way to build your own visitors, maybe to the point where a real money-paying advertiser wants to get a banner on your site. Go figure...
         Again, I am represented by a company to sell advertising. I cannot accept any banner trades.

  • Join a banner exchange network
         These things are really popular. What happens is that when you join, you submit your own banner and in return you are given a bit of code to place on your page. That code is attached to the banner exchange people's computers. It keeps track of how many times your site displays banners. Now, some exchanges display your banner once for every 10 or so times you display a banner, while others just do a straight random display of banners. Either way, there's really not a guaranteed number of displays, and you must be running their banners to get yours displayed. Plus, you often do not have a say in what pages your banners display on. You may be missing the target audience completely. You may also get on pages that you wouldn't want to be on. Then again, it is free. Just be sure to read over the parameters of how large your banner can be and how may bytes it can contain. It's their banner exchange, they set the rules and you have to follow them.
         I was a member of a couple banner swap programs for a short time and have since left. I wasn't happy with the number of displays and clicks (people clicking on the banner to come to my page) I was getting. You may have more luck. Some people swear by these things. The number of banner exchange sites has grown since I used them and many are quite targeted. Heck, there's one just for people with pages devoted to KISS.
         The one I hear about most is Link Exchange, but look at a bunch before you decide to place your banner. Yahoo! provides a pretty good list of all the exchanges available here.

  • Offer it on your site
         This sounds a little goofy but it has been fantastic for HTML Goodies. I offer two banners, a big and a small one, at the very bottom of my home page. People who come to Goodies often ask if they can post the banner on their page as a link to the site. I can't tell you how many banners I have out there just from people posting them out of the kindness of their hearts. If you're one of those people, I can't thank you enough for doing that. I truly appreciate it. You have been quite helpful in building this site into what it is today. Word of mouth and links on other pages built this site. I didn't pay for the traffic, it came because other posted links and banners said it was worth seeing.


Where To Put It On The Page

This is a good point of debate. The most popular placement is the top center, but I don't know that that's always the best place. You see, these things take time to load up, especially if they are animations.
     If the banner does not load quickly and the page has set aside all images with height and width commands, then all of the page's text comes in and a hole is left where your banner should be. Users will simply start scrolling downward without ever seeing the image. It will come in and if you're using a program to count the number of times the banner displays, a count will be made. But did the user really see the banner?

I offer these suggestions to get your banner seen as often as possible:

  • Go as small on the bytes as possible
         The lower the bytes, the faster the load.

  • Make the first image in the animation an eye grabber
         It might make then stay for the rest of it.

  • Try a placement lower on the page
         See the CNN Home Page for a lesson in this. I always wait to see the top story. By the time I read the headline and start scrolling, the smaller advertisements half-way down the page are up and ready for my viewing. Yes, there are banners across the top, but I wonder if the banners down the pages aren't the better buys. It's a great method of placement, but you have to have a page design that will stop people for a moment, then get them to scroll.

  • Try to get on more than one page on a site
         If you are only on the home page, and someone misses your banner, you're done. But if you are on three or four pages, then your banner is cached from its having been loaded on the home page. Now, when the user goes to the next page with your banner on it, you pop right up.

  • Be sure to use the ALT command
         If you don't know about the ALT command in images, read about it here. This command allows for the little yellow box that pops up when you roll your mouse over an image. But, in addition to the rollover, the ALT command places text in the boxes set aside by the height and width commands. So even if your image doesn't pop up, there will at least be some text there to catch some attention.

  • Be sure to use the height and width commands
         So there will be a box for the ALT text to pop up in.

  • Run your banner off of the server that is displaying the page
         This isn't always possible, but when you can, do it. It will lessen the number of possible problems and speed the display.


Keeping Track of Visitors

How do you do it? Good question. If you have your banners on five different sites, how do you know which sites are being good to you and which are not? The method is so simple and so good, I shook my head in amazement that I hadn't thought of it earlier.

Let's say you are advertising on three sites, A, B, and C. You have four home pages that are exactly the same. The first page is the original home page. This is the page you see if you come to the site through a Yahoo! search or by being given the address.
     The next three home pages should be labelled in accordance with the three pages you are advertising on. The advertising banners you are running on site A should all be pointed to a home page called indexa.html. All the advertising on site B should be pointed at a home page called indexb.html, and finally site C should have all of its advertising banners pointed to indexc.html. Put a counter on each page. Now you can keep a fairly straight record of which advertising is doing best for your site. Plus, you can see if the advertising is working at all. If the original index page is bringing in the most traffic, then you know the sites running your advertising ain't working.
     You will need to rely on the site you are buying advertising space on to provide you with simple information such as number of displays versus number of clicks. HTML Goodies has two seperate programs running to keep track of that data, but smaller sites might not be as well equipped.


Activating the Banner

Okay, you have a site that offered a price you can afford, or wants to trade with you. The site asks for the code to run your banner on their site. What do you send them?
     I would first suggest you set it up so that you can run your banner off of their site. If your banner is being run on their pages, from your server, there are a ton of things that can go wrong. But if you are running your banner on their pages, off of their server, there are still things that can go wrong, just not as many.

Don't get fancy with the code. Don't try to run an applet or any fancy image flip deals. Simple is easiest. Here's the basic code. I feel this is sufficient.

<A HREF="www.yoursite.com/yourpage.html">
<IMG SRC="banner.gif" BORDER="0" WIDTH="468" HEIGHT="60" ALT="Come to my page!">
</A>

But a lot of people like the onMouseOver look where text pops up in the status bar. I think it's a bit much and might cause problems, but here it is before you ask.

<A HREF="www.yoursite.com/yourpage.html" onMouseOver="window.status='TEXT IN STATUS BAR'; return true">
<IMG SRC="banner.gif" BORDER="0" WIDTH="468" HEIGHT="60" ALT="Come to my page!"></A>


Good Luck!

You now have the basics of banner creation and use. Is there more? Oh, yeah. Will PaintShop Pro do more than I showed you? Oh, yeah. But that's for you to find out on your own. You have the basics. Now go and make your site a banner.

Get Your Banner Out There
Where On The Page
Keep Track of Visitors
Activate Banners

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