Ancestry's Interactive Banner Yields Higher Click-Throughs

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Genealogy site said it is capturing 63 qualified leads -- requests from users for more information -- each day through a single interactive search banner on family-oriented portal A gif banner on the same portal typically gets one sign-up a day.

The experimental rich-media banner will become part of a $10 million online and offline campaign for the Ancestry and brands due to launch in January. is a community site where users post family trees, while Ancestry is about their progenitors.

The Ancestry banner expands within the browsed Web page, allowing the user to stay on the same site while interacting with the banner. It will soon run on portals like Lycos, Excite and LookSmart, supplementing other banners in the gif format. Enliven, a San Mateo, CA, division of Excite@Home, developed the banner's technology.

"We were really looking for a way to let people experience and, at the same time, try to figure out a way to increase our conversion rate," said Richard Johnson, San Francisco-based interactive marketing manager at Inc., Ancestry's parent. "We also have a newsletter that we've been trying to increase subscriptions to."

The Ancestry banner looks like any other, though the experience is anything but. A user who clicks on the banner can enter the name of the ancestor sought, click on the "search" button and see this message, "Complete your search", as the banner expands. The user is then asked for first and last names, e-mail address, and whether he or she is interested in more information from the company or a two-week free subscription to the Ancestry newsletter.

If an e-mail address is not volunteered, the user is asked again for that contact detail and the free trial. The user can still search for ancestors if he or she resists registration. But if the user clicks on "More Info", he or she is whisked to the Ancestry where he or she is informed about the benefits of becoming a newsletter subscriber.

Each user who failed to subscribe to the newsletter but offered the e-mail address for more information will be sent an invitation for a free trial. This e-mail address will be linked to Ancestry's World Tree database that directly correlates with the user's last name that he or she provided. This last functionality was yet to be added at press time.

"The ultimate objective is to gain subscriptions to the Ancestry service but to gain those subscriptions at a higher rate than we would get from our normal gif banner," Johnson said.

Ancestry currently has 120,000 subscribers who pay either $19.95 a quarter or $59.95 a year to access 500 million names of ancestors from more than 1,800 databases.

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