Work those ads!
If you're a publisher, the success of your advertising will depend on various factors, including how well ads are targeted to your audience, and the amount of visits, or traffic, your site receives.
Increasing traffic isn't easy, and it's a subject we'll need to go into separately. Targeting, however, is certainly something you can have a hand in, not simply by choosing contextual ad formats like many of those featured here, but also by thinking hard about the type of ads you choose for your pages.
It's important to try to understand the general character of the audience you're trying to attract. Will they be excited by large, colorful banners, or simply find them irritating? Are inline text ads and other, more subtle methods likely to appeal more?
Many of these considerations will certainly be influenced by the general look and feel of your site or blog, but it's essential to remember that YOUR preferences for ads may not be the same as your users'.
And although it's difficult to quickly build up a profile of your vistors' tastes - you'd need to spend some time studying the success rate of many different combinations of ads - other, highly successful websites will have already done this kind of research. So take a look at well-established sites with similarities to your own to see what kind of ad formats they are using, where they're positioned, etc and see if you can learn anything from this.
Formatting and color
As you know or will discover, most ad companies allow you to change the appearance of your ads in various ways - especially text ads, where it's fairly standard to be able to change the colors of the heading, main text, link etc. The appearance of your ad is a hugely important factor in how well it will perform, so it's worth taking a little time to think about these options.
I want my ads to stand out, right?
Most people's immediate response to coloring text ads is that they want their users to see them. But in fact, in many cases an ad is more likely to be be successful if it's NOT glaringly obvious.
Web users today are so familiar with ads that they have a tendency to simply ignore them as they're skimming a page. By colorizing a text ad so that it actually looks quite similar to the rest of the content - a technique known as 'blending' - there's certainly a greater chance that it will actually be read rather than completely ignored.
Some publishers go even further and style their ads so that they're identical to the copy. This is worth experimenting with, but there's also a chance that users may become irritated by this technique, especially if they suddenly find themselves reading an ad they really hadn't noticed.
If blending is something that interests you, it's worth knowing that some companies allow far more customization of ads than others.
Google Adsense has restricted options for changing text color (although it does feature an interesting color rotation option). On the other hand, text ads by companies such as Miva, Adtoll and Adbrite are much more flexible in terms of color scheme and even allow you to change fonts and sizes.
Fancy a change?
Whatever approach you take - and for some sites and audiences a less subtle one might work perfectly well - it's worth dabbling with different formulas, especially if your ads don't seem to be performing as well as you'd like; it's usually very easy to change an ad's appearance directly from the admin area provided by your company.
And even if your ads do seem to be working well, it's always worth changing things occasionally, just to see if this has a positive impact. Most sites are likely to attract repeat users, who quickly get used to the formatting and placement of ads on your pages. Subtle, though noticeable, changes may have the effect or re-generating interest and curiosity among regular vistors.
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