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Online advertising is more than just Pay-Per-Clicks and SEO tricks…

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As the world of internet marketing evolves, clients and their ad consultants are getting savvier in the strategies they develop to drive traffic to their web sites and increase brand awareness. As recently as two years ago, we were frequently called upon to design new sites for clients, without any real corresponding discussion about how the new site would fit into the client’s online advertising strategy. The relationship would begin something like “We really like what you did for Client XYZ, can we get something similar?” Only later would the client begin to ponder precisely how they were actually going to get noticed on the web. Shame on our clients for their shortsightedness and shame on us for not advising them better. As things progressed, the stock-in-trade solutions for an online ad plan relied on organic search optimization and Google pay-per-click. As a firm which frequently builds websites for new construction real estate projects, the concept of organic optimization is a thorny one for us. Most larger scale developers desire — and the market benchmarks these days demand — the enhanced entertainment platform that only Flash websites can deliver. The problem with this is that, as web developers know, Flash websites are tough to make “search engine friendly.” After having worked with scores of real estate developers, though, we’ve become skeptical that optimization is really critical for the average new construction housing development. Buying a new condo or house is a very intentional act and the traditional portals people use to survey the market are still viable. If I’m shopping for a new hard drive for my computer, I might very well start my search and buy from a vendor that floats to the top of a Google search. However, if I’m searching for a new condominium in Philadelphia, it’s highly unlikely that I am going to be swayed by the first listing that comes up through an organic search. There are many local and national portals on the web people can use to begin surveying properties on the market and, frankly, most folks still rely on the “call a well-known realtor” approach to getting the lay of the local real estate landscape. Beyond organic search optimization, Google Adwords or “pay-per-click” was the next ad strategy frequently mentioned by our clients as being attractive. Pay-per-click works well in partnership with Flash web sites, as it allows the client to compensate for their “optimization-challenged” natures, by allowing paid advertisements for their projects to show up when predefined search criteria are entered into Google. So, for instance, our clients can choose a search string in Google (“Philadelphia Skyscraper Living,” for example) and an ad and link will float to the first page of the resulting search page. As the internet matures, though, much more sophisticated marketing strategies are being developed. In the recently published, “Online Advertising Playbook,” authors, Plummer, Rappaport, Hall and Barocci discuss some of these. Many borrow traditional strategies and apply them to the interactive realm. For instance, Google now places their “sponsored links” (which are essentially Adwords messages) on contextually relevant sites for a given demographic. So, for example, if I’m on an automobile site, there’s a good chance that I’ll see auto-related Google adwords somewhere within the site. Besides, Google Adwords, though, similar strategies are being employed to place all manners of ads on sites deemed contextually relevant. Other strategies, many borrowed from the world of broadcast advertising, are being employed successfully on the web. For instance, the authors cite Kentucky Fried Chicken’s successful rollout of their “popcorn chicken” product, which was promoted through the use of “daypart advertising” on popular general interest web sites, such as msn.com. Daypart advertising basically relies on the idea that you run an ad at a particular time of the day when either your target market is expected to be online and/or is in a buying mood for your product. In the case of KFC, the ad was run between the hours of 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, when a large percentage of the online audience is contemplating their lunch choices.

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