Tips Before You Spend Online

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Marketers are flocking to the Internet and dedicating part of their ad budgets to that channel. A recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that online ad revenue soared to a record $3.9 billion in first-quarter 2006, a 38 percent year-over-year increase.

But any opportunity brings challenges, and the task of designing, implementing and managing an online campaign can seem complex for someone just starting. Also, developing an online ad strategy can be daunting given the constant evolution of the Web. Add in the heated competition among businesses for search terms, and you may question whether advertising online is worth the effort.

But through a few tips and tricks, a targeted online campaign can outweigh the challenges. Here are some simple rules to consider before you embark on your campaign.

Start with the basics. An online ad campaign will fail without clearly defined, quantifiable objectives that you can measure against. Think about your campaign goals. Yes, you want to convert clicks into sales, but what other objectives do you wish to achieve?

Define your audience. Many innovative tools can help marketers target their campaigns. So it goes without saying that one of the first steps for success is to define your audience. Once you know this, it's much easier to determine where your ads need to be.

Speak the language. Every industry has its own language. Online advertising is no different. There are targeting strategies such as "behavioral," "content," "keyword," "local" and "geo-targeting." You'll also hear acronyms like "CPM" and "CPC." Educate yourself so you speak the same tongue.

Integration is key. There are usually several ways to answer a question. The same idea holds true in advertising, where your customers complete the buying cycle in various ways. Often, an integrated marketing strategy will yield better results than limiting yourself to a single targeting tool.

Diversify. Everyone spends time online searching for information, but remember that search engines represent only a small part of the Web. The rest consists of content pages, which refer to anything that is published on the Web, whether it's by Joe Smith or Dow Jones. Engines command lots of eyeballs, but it's important to diversify beyond search to target the content pages your audience reads.

Combine ad formats. You've seen many types of formats designed to break through the clutter. A good combination would be to buy a mix of CPM display and CPC sponsored links. CPM refers to the amount an advertiser pays each time a user views the ad, while CPC stands for cost-per-click, or payment each time a user clicks on the ad.

Measure for success. Track your ad spend and the ROI of every ad purchase religiously. This will help you identify which ad format is giving you the best conversion rate for your dollars. Set up unique tracking for each type of online advertising you buy.

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