Jon Ostler, technical director for First Rate, an Auckland based search engine marketing specialist knows all about generating business through the web. His team works with clients to maximise the performance on online marketing campaigns – campaigns that can often be up and running and returning measurable sales in a matter of hours.

Three years ago when ‘banner ads’ still ruled cyber-space the company was already promoting “search engine optimisation” (the technical process to make your website content and purpose as apparent as possible to search engines). This process is very important because surveys have shown that 70 percent of searches never look at results beyond the first pages and a further 20 percent don’t go beyond page two.

Today First Rate also specialises in search engine advertising (such as Google’s new ‘adword’ or text ad campaigns) and marketing effectiveness measurement using the company’s Media Tracker software.

“We work with client to identify the KPI of their website”, says Ostler. “What are the business goals of the site – is it to generate prospects, make online transactions, or to communicate with customers?”

Once a campaign is underway First Rate can report back to clients based on numbers of sign-ups, or dollars generated from a particular banner ad or search engine approach.

Ostler says they can gauge the success of campaigns in “real-time”, to maximise a client’s return on expenditure.

In The Right Context

Contextual advertising is another recent development in online marketing.

Contextual advertising places, in real-time, an ad on a web page based on the specific content of that particular page. So for example a publisher may have a sports channel and has traditionally sold this as a placement option with the same ad displayed on all pages in the sports channel. With contextual advertising an ad for tennis shows would appear on web pages about tennis events, while an ad for golf clubs would appear on a web page about golf events.

Google’s AdSense program supports this technology – not only placing ads based in context, but also on the popularity of the ad (click through rate). This means badly performing ads get eliminated and the only ads presented are those relevant to the content and popular with visitors.

As for banner ads on the web, it’s Ostler’s view that they should primarily be used for new product awareness campaigns and run on a “cost per click” basis. The latest generation of banner ads utilise Macromedia Flash technology to seemingly ‘float’ on the web page.

Other web-enabled options for marketers include email advertising – placing an ad in an email sent to a list owned by another website – for example an advertorial in a site’s regular newsletter. There are also permission lists where subscribers have given permission to receive emails for companies offering specific products or services. Of course, permission is the golden rule – advertising on a non-permission list is called ‘spamming’, and let’s not go there!

Email marketing (as opposed to email advertising) is the process of sending out email newsletters or messages to an ‘in house’ list of recipients or in response to a form or email contact. This form of marketing is more about closing prospects or generating repeat business.