Categorized | Banner Exchanges

Promotions: Marketing and Sales 8.8. Banner Exchanges

Let’s say you truly are running a shoestring venture with precious little cash to spare for Web advertising. You can leverage the value inherent in your Web site by joining a banner exchange where you trade ads with other Web site owners. In essence, you get to place ads on other sites for “free.” But not quite free. In return for having your banner ad displayed on a site on the network, you have to display a banner ad on your site for some other network member’s site.

Banner exchanges, then, are networks of Web site owners willing to trade banner ads with each other. If the network is large enough, you can get precise contextual or audience targeting on a well-trafficked sites. If the network is too small, however, you get general targeting on sites that see very little traffic.

Typically banner exchanges work on a point system or a “2 for 1” exchange. For every two ads you display on your site, you get one of your banner ads displayed on a member’s site. These “exchange rates” are sometimes expressed in percentages. A 2 for 1 exchange is a 50% or 0.5 system, that is, you get 0.5 impressions of your ad for every one exchange member ad you display on your system. A “3 for 2” exchange can also expressed as a 60% or 0.6 system. For every 0.6 impressions of your ad on member’s sites, you have to display one ad on your site. [If you’re scratching your head about the math, here, read on. We’ll explain it.]

Banner exchanges require that you apply for membership. After you sign up, a real live person vets your site to make sure it meets certain standards, i.e., no porn, hacks, criminal activities, or other undesirable activities. The exchange’s robots survey your content and rank words on your page in the same way search engines do. This allows the service to place the most contextually appropriate ads on your site. You submit a banner ad, specify keywords, and, in two or three days, the exchange service approves your ad or sends it back for revisions. Once your ad is approved, the service starts loading banner ads on your site and starts serving your ads to other sites using the appropriate exchange rate. Each time your Web site displays a certain number of ad impressions, your banner ad enters the queue. All banner exchanges offer tracking software or administrative sites that allow you to monitor and track when and where your ad has been served as well as track the ads served on your site. The latter is important. You want the ability to blacklist any ads that you think are inappropriate or, worse, are ads for direct competitors.

To prevent cheating, banner exchanges use sophisticated monitoring systems. There are a number of ways to “cheat,” including automating your computer to load pages from your site over and over and over again to generate more impressions for your ad. Such cheating obviously doesn’t benefit other members of the network, so you’re getting a free ride for your own ad impressions. The exchange software monitors usage very closely. Abnormal traffic patterns usually result in your membership being pulled and all your credits revoked. You want to evaluate an exchange’s monitoring system very carefully. The more rigorous and punitive the system, the better your ads are going to perform.

There are literally tons of banner exchanges out there including highly specialized ones (horror banner exchanges, Christian family values banner exchanges, and so on). Because they don’t make lists of member sites available, you don’t know if the sites are appropriate, relevant, or even well-trafficked. In general, the more sites in the exchange, the better your results will be. If you can find a specialized exchange that is spot-on relevant to your site and product, you’re better off being a part of that exchange rather than some everyone’s-at-the-party exchange.

So how do these generous folks who run the exchange make any money? Despite the best efforts of the most brilliant capitalist minds, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to suss profits out of “free.” Well, remember when the math above seemed kind of goofy? If the system were a totally free exchange, then the 2 for 1 ratio would make no sense, right? After a while, nobody’s ads would be appearing because nobody would have enough credits. So where do the extra ads come from to sustain the 2 for 1 ratio? If you haven’t guessed, then go to the back of the class. To sustain a 2 for 1 ratio, at least half the ads have to be paid ads. If you stretch the time period long enough, about ½ of all the banner ads appearing on your site are from banner exchange members. The other half is paid. That’s how the exchanges make money and put their executives in shiny new cars.

Buy before you try.

If you’re serious about banner exchange, a good rule of thumb would be to buy before you try. That is, before you start exchanging banners, purchase a few impressions, say, 10,000 to 20,000, without exchanging banners. This should set you back anywhere from $4 to $8. If you sign up with thirty banner exchanges with the sole intent of buying before trying, the total cost for buying 10,000-20,000 impressions on each exchange will clock in at around $100 to $300―not bad. You can then measure your click-throughs and conversions using your Web analytics software or the exchange’s admin pages. You should only sign up with the exchange that sends you the most or the best quality visitors, i.e., visitors who buy something or contact your through your site. If the exchange requires that you become an exchange member before you buy, simply don’t insert the code on your pages or insert the code on a null page until you’ve discovered which banner exchange will work best for you.

8.8.1. 1800Banners

http://www.1800banners.com

With 14,000 member sites, 1800Banners is one of the most well-respected banner exchanges. They follow the industry standard 2:1 exchange rate, but they distinguish themselves for low-priced paid ads and for their 0.2% click-through guarantee. The exchange promises two click-throughs for every 1,000 impressions or they will give you free impressions until you hit the twenty click-through minimum. Of course, a 0.2% click-through rate is nothing to write home about, but no other exchange promises a minimum click-through rate.

Paid ads cost $0.30 per 1,000 impressions. Combined with the same minimum 0.2% click-through rate, that means that you’re paying a maximum of 15¢ per visitor. That’s something to write home about!

1800Banners also has one of the most prestigious lists of paying advertisers, such as NetZero, AOL, and Dish Network, as well as third party advertising placement services such as DoubleClick and Adserver.

8.8.2. Click4Click

http://www.click4click.com

Click4Click is a banner and exit exchange (see 8.9) with almost seven thousand members. They offer a slightly better than 2 for 1 exchange at 3:2 or 60%, that is, you earn two impressions of your own ad for every three impressions of exchange served ads displayed on your site.

8.8.3. eBannerTraffic

http://www.ebannertraffic.com

eBannerTraffic offers one of the most generous exchange rates (3:2 or 60%). Because eBannerTraffic supports ads from button ads to skyscraper ads, the system assigns points for every ad impression. Larger ad formats earn and cost more points than smaller ad formats. You can purchase ad impressions and, unlike other services, you can sell ad placement points you’ve earned back into the system.

8.8.4. E-BannerX

http://www.e-bannerx.com

E-BannerX has an exchange network of over 18,000 members and serves 70 million ads per month (that translates to 35 million free ads per month and 35 million paid ads per month). Ads are based on a 2 for 1 system that takes into account ad size. So you earn points for every impression of an exchange ad on your site (more points for large ads and less for small ads) and you spend points every time your ad appears (more points for large ads and less for small ads). You can also purchase impressions at rates ranging from $0.18 to $0.70 per 1,000 impressions depending on the size of your ad.

8.8.5. Exchange Ad

http://www.exchangead.com

ExchangeAd has the most generous exchange rate (up to 4:3 or 75%) and one of the lowest CPM prices (minimum of $1 per 1,000 impressions) of all the banner exchanges we’ve studied. Simply signing up with the exchange gives you 250 free impressions of your ad. The network has several standout features: the ability to rotate ten banners, automatic weighting to insure the best performing banners go to the front of the queue, and the ability to target by day parts as well as categories or keywords.

The exchange ratio depends on where you place ads on your own site. Ads placed at the top of the page earn a 4:3 ratio; ads visible without scrolling the page earn a 3:2 ratio; ads that are not visible until a user scrolls the page earn a 2:1 exchange ratio.

If you want to buy rather than exchange impressions, Exchange Ad has a bid model rather than a flat CPM fee. You can bid as low as $1 for 1,000 impressions, but the higher you bid, the more your ad will be displayed on exchange member sites.

8.8.6. Neobanners

http://www.neobanners.com

NeoBanners is both a banner and exit exchange (see 8.9 for exit exchanges) with 2 for 1 exchange ratio (50%) for both banners and exits. Impressions are earned through credits―you get more credits for displaying a large ad on your site rather than a small ad. NeoBanners also runs ClickLeisure (http://www.clickleisure.com), a banner and exit exchange dedicated to the travel and hospitality industry.

8.8.7. SkyscraperAds.com

http://www.skyscraperads.com

SkyscraperAds.com is an exchange network devoted solely to skyscraper ads, the vertically tall ads that appear in the side margins of Web pages. As part of the network, you agree to place skyscraper ads in the left or right margins of your pages from network members. As with banner exchange programs, you “earn” skyscraper ad placements at an exchange ratio of 2:1, that is, one impression of your ad for every two skyscraper ad impressions on your site.

The SkyscraperAds technology allows you to specify keywords and context to target member sites best suited to the audience you’re targeting. In addition, the exchange technology prevents ads from direct or even indirect competitors from appearing on your site.

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