Tuesday, March 30, 2010

22 Ways To Find Advertisers For Your Website

Selling advertising deals is one of the most profitable ways to monetize your website. Some time ago I wrote an article titled How to Find Advertisers for Your Website, where I covered the pros and cons of using this method, what you need to have in place before getting started, how much you should charge and so on.

The most difficult part of the process, however, is to actually find the advertisers. I included some places where you can look for in that article, but I felt that it would be useful to have one post listing all the ways you can use to find advertisers for your website. That is what the list below is all about.

Leveraging Your Own Site

Your own website should be the first port when it comes to finding advertisers. Why? Because people who are familiar with your work will be more willing to discuss possible advertising deals.

1. Put an “Advertise” link on the menu bar
If you have a navigation menu bar, you could include an “Advertise” link there, making it point to a page where you describe the advertising options of your site. This link will help you in two different ways. First of all it will allow interested companies to quickly find the page where you display your advertising information. Secondly, it will also let all visitors know that you do accept advertising deals.

2. Use an “Advertise Here” banner as placeholder
If you have unsold ad spots, you could include an “Advertise Here” banner as a placeholder on one of them. This banner will act just like the “Advertise” link on the navigation menu, but it might be more effective because it will show potential advertisers exactly where their ads will be displayed. Just make sure to not use an “Advertise Here” placeholder on all of your unsold spots, as this would send a negative message to advertisers (i.e., no one is buying any ads on your site, so why should they?).

3. Write a post welcoming advertisers
If you have a blog, you could write a post inviting advertisers. This technique works pretty well because it allows you to elaborate your offer. On the post you’ll be able to explain what kind of audience your blog has, what kind of traffic it gets, what are the advertising options available and so on.

4. Email your list
Do you have an email list? Then send the same information that you posted on the blog to these subscribers. The only thing you should not include is the price. Why? Because if you don’t include it interested people will email you asking for that, and this will give you their email addresses and an invite for a conversation, where you’ll have better chances of convincing them.

5. Put a message at the bottom of blog posts
If you post often on your blog you could attach a message at the bottom of every post. Something like “Want to showcase your product to our audience? Then check our advertising options.” Obviously you should include a link to your “Advertise” page on that message. If you are using WordPress, you’ll just need to edit the single.php file to make this message appear on all your blog posts.

6. Put a message at the bottom of your feed
Similarly, you could also put a message at the bottom of your feed. This will make sure that both website visitors and RSS subscribers will see it. If you are using WordPress, you can create easily create a custom message to be displayed at the bottom of you feed with the RSS Footer plugin.

7. Examine who is leaving comments
It is a good idea to examine who is leaving comments on your blog. You are basically looking for people who work at companies that have relevant products to your audience. Once you identify someone who does (either by the link he will leave or by the domain on his email address), you’ll just need to contact him, asking if his company would be interested in becoming a sponsor. This technique works well because the person will already be a member of your community.

8. Examine who is linking to you
Apart from examining who is leaving comments on your blog you should also check the people linking to your blog posts. If you notice a link from a company blog, you could again contact the company asking if it would be interested in becoming a sponsor. If they liked your content enough to link to it, they will certainly consider an advertising deal.

9. Reply to all press releases and review requests
Once your website gets somewhat popular inside its niche you’ll certainly start receiving many press releases and review requests via the contact form. Instead of sending these to the trash bin, you should reply to all of them, stating that you found their product/service interesting, and that you believe they could benefit from advertising on your site because your audience would be a good match. Then give all the details about the advertising options, and wait to see if they are interested.

Exploring Ad Networks

If you can find companies that are already spending money on online advertising, your job will be halfway done. Advertising networks represent an excellent opportunity to do this.

Just by visiting the homepage of this ad network you’ll be able to see a list of “Sample Advertisers.” Most of those are big online spenders. After that you can also check the publishers listed on the directory. Just click to visit the homepage of each site, and check what companies bought banners there. You’ll be able to find hundreds of potential sponsors.

On the navigation menu of this ad network you’ll find a link titled “Site Directory.” It is basically a list of all the websites that accept ads through the network. You’ll just need to browse through them, checking what companies are buying banners there. The interesting thing is that you can also filter the websites by niche, making sure you’ll only contact relevant companies.

ClickBank is not an ad network per se, but rather an affiliate marketing one. That being said, you could still signup as an affiliate and browse its marketplace looking for sponsors. Just avoid contacting the top selling products, because those already have hundreds of affiliate promoting them. Focus on the middle range of the marketplace.

Once you signup as a “Blogger” on this ad network you’ll be able to browse its marketplace, which contains a list of companies who are willing to pay bloggers to review their products/services. Guess what? After that it will just be a matter of contacting them.

This network works pretty much like the previous one. You’ll find fewer offers here, but it is still worth a look once in a while. Additionally, if you setup a low review price for your blog you’ll be contacted by interested companies on a regular basis.

Vising other sites in your niche

A very effective way to find advertisers for your website is to visit other sites in your niche, looking for companies advertising there already.

15. Contact the banner advertisers
First of all you’ll want to contact the advertisers who purchased banner spots. Usually these are companies who contacted the site owner directly, so they will be more open to discussing new advertising opportunities with you.

16. Contact the AdSense advertisers
If the site you are visiting uses Google AdSense, you could check the companies that are putting ads there and then contact them . Mention on your email that your saw the company ad on the XYZ site, and that you believe your site would be a good match for their products/services, too.

17. Contact the site owner
If your website is larger than the one you are visiting, you could also contact the site owner to see if he is not interested in purchasing one of your banner spots. This could help him to get more brand awareness and new readers. Secondly, you could also try to establish a partnership, where you refer advertisers to each other.

Using Google

Whenever you need to find something online, Google can help.
18. Search for relevant products and contact the organic results
Companies that sell products or services relevant to your audience will certainly consider the opportunity to advertise on your site. If that is the case, all you need to do is visit Google and start searching for these companies. If you have a site about baseball, for example, go to Google and search for “baseball bats”, “baseball gloves” and so on.

19. Search for relevant keywords and contact the AdWords advertisers
Apart from finding companies on the organic results you can also look for the ones already spending money on Google AdWords. These are the “Sponsored Links” that will appear on top and to the right of the organic search results. Notice that you don’t need to search for products here. Searching any keyword that is related to your niche should already trigger the sponsored links.

20. Search for websites thanking their sponsors/advertisers
Many websites publish periodic posts thanking their sponsors. You could use Google to find these posts, as they will come with a list of companies you can contact. For example, you could search for “thanks sponsors” on Google. Alternatively you can also filter the search to specific websites that are related to your site. If you have a tech blog, for example, you could search for “site:techcrunch.com sponsors”, which will give you a list of all the posts on TechCrunch.com that talk about sponsors.

Using Social Networks

Social networks are among the most popular websites on the Internet these days. As such, companies are starting to direct their advertising efforts there, and you could use that to find sponsors for your site.

21. Sponsored Tweets
Twitter created one of the fastest growing online platforms, and many companies started to leverage the “sponsored tweet” idea. They basically pay a certain amount of money for people willing to send a message talking about their products or services. Most of these companies require people to disclose the ads with hashtags. Two popular ones are #ad and #sponsored. If you search for those hashtags on Twitter, you’ll be able to find a huge list of sponsored messages. After that you’ll just need to contact the companies who sponsored them.

22. Facebook Ads
Facebook is the largest social network on the web, and they also have a self-serving ad platform that works similar to Google AdSense. As a result many companies are purchasing ads there, and you could try to find some that are related to your own niche. You just need to browse around the site (while logged in), and the ads should appear on the right sidebar. On some pages you’ll also find a link titled “More Ads,” which will send you to a page with a list of advertisers relevant to your profile.

Bonus Tip

This tip helped me find dozens of advertisers over the years. It is a really simple but very effective one. The tip is: create a folder on the bookmarks of your browser named “Potential Advertisers” or “Potential Sponsors.” After that you’ll just need to pay attention while browsing the web to companies and/or websites that have something related to your website and that could be interested in advertising there. Whenever you come across one, bookmark it. If you use the Internet a lot you’ll find that this bookmark folder will grow very quickly, and it will just be a matter of getting in touch with the companies listed there.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eight Rules for Effective Web Forms

1. Build Conservatively and Design With a Purpose

Let's face it: No one likes spending a long time filling out a form. Keep it short and simple and eliminate elements that aren't absolutely necessary or that don't offer a tangible benefit. Make sure every part of your form is pulling its weight, and your users will thank you.

The structure of your form should serve just as much of a functional purpose as its elements. When laying out your form, keep in mind that, at least in the Western world, people read from top to bottom and left to right. They also often use the Tab key to move around the form. Your design should reflect this through intuitive labeling and natural placement of elements. And, of course, your form should never look scattered or haphazard — make sure everything is evenly spaced and neatly arranged.

Here are a few standard form layouts that you should use as a starting point for more creative designs:

Left-Aligned Labels With Vertically Stacked Fields
Form with left-aligned labels and vertically stacked input fields

This form features left-aligned labels with neatly ordered fields stacked on top of one another. This gives the eye an easy-to-follow path down the form, which is especially helpful if you're asking questions users may not be familiar with. Because they're able to read down the list of questions without the visual interruption of an input field, they'll be able to concentrate more on what you're asking. This layout does tend to make for longer form completion times because of the amount of time it takes for the eye to move from the label to the input field.

Right-Aligned Labels With Vertically Stacked Fields
Form with right-aligned labels and vertically stacked input fields

Right-aligning your labels can help make them easier to distinguish and quicker to read, and also eliminates awkward spaces between labels and input fields. However, this can be harder to read. It also looks jagged, which can be a bit unattractive.

Top-Aligned Labels
Form  with top-aligned labels and input fields with variable stacking

Top-aligned labels like these make for a form that's quicker and easier to fill out because the eye doesn't have to move as far between the label and the input field. This type of layout also gives you the freedom to place related fields next to each other, which can save space.

2. Tailor Your Form to the Situation

Every form you make should be tailored to the specific situation it addresses. When you're planning the design of your form, ask yourself the following questions: What are you asking? Why? What does your Web design look like with and without the form? Is the form something users want to fill out, or is it something they're required to fill out? Your answers to these questions should help dictate the layout and content of your form.

3. Use What You Need

When deciding whether to add an element to your form, ask yourself if you could do without it. If the answer is "yes," don’t use it.

One element that's almost always unnecessary is the Reset button. These relics still make an appearance now and then, but they should be avoided. Think about it: When you want to change information on a form, it doesn't matter if the field is already filled out or not, so why would you even need to erase all the information? The only thing the Reset button is good for is accidentally clearing all the information your user just entered and aggravating them enough that they'll go somewhere else instead of taking the effort to fill out the form again.

4. Use Short, Clean Descriptions When Necessary

You may need to explain why you are collecting certain information on your form, especially when users are loathe to share it, like with phone numbers or e-mail addresses. This not only helps reduce user confusion, but also ensures that the data is accurate and correctly formatted.

Any descriptions and comments should be clean and concise. You may also want to format them with different colors, sizes, or styles to help set them apart. Just be sure not to overdo it — after all, you don’t want your descriptions to look tacky or drown out the rest of your form. This form, which asks for information in order to provide a quote for printing services, is a good example of a form that effectively uses descriptions:

A form requesting containing short but informative descriptions

5. Be the First to Communicate

Make sure the wording in your form is friendly and user oriented. Here's a simple trick for writing conversational copy: Pretend you're actually talking with your user.

If you want to know someone’s name, you aren’t going to stare them in the eyes with a rigid expression and demand, "Full name." That would just be creepy. If you were looking to garner a positive response from this person, you would instead open with a smile and say, "Hi, what’s your name?"

Keeping this in mind, instead of prompting your user with the label "Full Name," try something a little more personable, like, "What's your name?"

6. Divide the Form Into Bite-Sized Sections

Communication involves the exchange of ideas in small, manageable sections. You introduce yourself, and the other person does the same. You mention what you do for a living, and the other person has a comment or question. You remark back, or answer, and this prompts another response. In a good conversation, the information is a steady, back-and-forth flow.

A form, being another method of communication, should be the same way. You may be asking for quite a bit of information, but that doesn't mean you have to throw it all at the user in a huge block. Try using horizontal rules, colored bars, meaningful images, or headings that match the design of your site to separate the information into small, easily understood chunks. If all else fails, spread your form out across multiple pages and add a progress bar across the top so users know about how much they have left.

7. Include Meaningful Contextual Error Messages

Your error messages should be helpful and clear. Specify in the message which field caused the error, and highlight the label and/or the field itself. After all, no one likes hunting through a form for an elusive field they overlooked the first time around.

8. Release the User

When the user clicks the Submit button, they think they're done, and they're ready to move on. They’re basically saying, "Here's the info you wanted. Talk to you later!"

In a real conversation, you'd give them a wave, say, "Bye," and walk off, or give them some other way of acknowledging that the communication is done. Your form should be no different. Have your form programmed so it sends the user to a custom page that tells them something like, "Thank you for your submission! You'll be hearing from us shortly." There should also be a link back to the main page of your Website.

And that's it! Keep these rules in mind when designing your next Web form, and you may be surprised at the quantity and quality of feedback you receive as a result.

For more information about Web Form Builder or to download the free trial, click here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Download CSS Drop-Down Menu

  • Modular, with themes. Not only HTML is separated from CSS, but even CSS definitions are categorized into structural and thematic types. Thus creating a new css drop-down menu means creating only a new theme since structure is permanent. What is more, creating a new theme is easy with available templates and takes 10-15 mins.

  • Easily deployable. The code and files are well organized. Available channels to hook up to your CMS or other tools as well as existing websites in XHTML format.

  • Easily transformable. Can be transformed by changing class name only. Available transformations: horizontal, vertical left-to-right, vertical right-to-left, horizontal linear, horizontal upwards.

  • Cross browser. Configurations available for Windows Internet Explorer 5 or later, Mozilla Firefox 1.5 or later, Opera 7 or later, Apple Safari 2 or later, Google Chrome 1 or later, etc.

  • JavaScript only for IE. Minimal JavaScript code only for IE 6 or earlier. Can be used with popular JavaScript libraries Jquery or Scriptaculous. Everything else is pure CSS.

  • Super Fast. Having the above mentioned features it is not affected by any disturbances whatsoever.

  • Continuous development. The project is constantly revised and improved.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How to Make Money Online Without a Website

If you've got some successful keyword research and PPC advertising under your belt for your own website, why not capitalize on that and make money online without one? Affiliate marketing through pay-per-click makes it possible.

MSN adCenter and Yahoo Search Marketing both allow direct linking to sites that are not your own. (But don't try this with Google AdWords.)

Direct linking means that you can join affiliate programs, create ads for their products, and send click-throughs directly to the merchant's site. There's no need to build an intermediary site or use your own site to direct traffic. When your click-throughs convert, you get a commission.

It's a way to create an extra stream of income--or several--with some big advantages:

  • It eliminates the time, effort, and costs of building and maintaining web pages. The only time you'll have to pay is when someone clicks on your ad.

  • It allows you to do affiliate marketing without cluttering up your own site with links that might send potential customers away. You can keep your site clean and focused on its job of selling your product, but still make commissions off other people's products.

  • It eliminates an extra click for users. One click less for them means more commissions for you.

  • While direct linking is a good opportunity, though, it's not a walk in the park. The PPC programs that allow it restrict the number of affiliate ads that can point at the same display URL that shows on the ad itself. So ads by experienced affiliate marketers who know exactly what they're doing can bump less skillful ads.

If you want your ads to be seen, here's what you have to do.

Step 1: Start with a big, broad market

Choose a broad market where there's a lot of searching going on. You want to get as many eyeballs as possible.

Step 2: Do some keyword research

Don't build your ads on broad, untargeted keywords, though. The competition for those will be fierce--and expensive. Your objective here is to find neglected, low-cost keywords within a broad, high-traffic market--and that's why it really helps to have keyword research experience.

And as I mentioned in an earlier article, you need to look for specific problems that are shared by a lot of people within a market. Then find relevant keyword terms that clearly show a clear intention to buy or find out more information. Those terms are much more likely to convert. And remember, you pay for every click, but you get paid only when they convert.

The Microsoft Advertising Intelligence tool can show you almost anything you'd like to know about any given keyword, including similar keywords, traffic, cost per click, and much more. The free Google AdWords Keyword Tool is also a quick and handy way of getting ideas for keywords with high search volume and low cost per click; just keep in mind that you can't use this strategy with Google.

Step 3: Find a good affiliate merchant that targets your niche

In order to find a merchant that offers a relevant product and pays you a good commission, check out these affiliate networks and directories:

When you're choosing affiliate merchants, ask these questions:

  1. Do they offer a product that directly solves a problem you've identified?
  2. Do they allow direct linking to their sites? Some don't. Check the terms and conditions before you commit.
  3. Does the landing page generate pop-ups? If so, then forget it. This is not allowed. The back button on the page also has to be functional.
  4. Is there a strong landing page for the product? If you send click-throughs to an irrelevant page, a confusing sales process, or a site that's just plain unappealing, then they won't convert and you'll end up wasting your money.

Step 4: Write a PPC ad that drives buyers to the affiliate merchant's site

Take a good look at the landing page your ad is pointing at and make your ad directly relevant to it. Your ad must:

  • address the specific problem you've identified.
  • include the keyword you've bid on, preferably more than once.
  • reflect the keywords of the landing page.
  • highlight a benefit of the product.
  • include a strong call to action.

You can give your ad an extra boost by adding your keyword, or part of it, to the display URL at the bottom of the ad. The actual target URL will contain a big, ugly affiliate ID number, but the display version can show the domain name plus a subdirectory with a word or phrase that makes it look relevant to the search, like this:

Display: internetmarketing.com/affiliates_ppc

Target: http://www.internetmarketing.com/aff-iduao74elksdjdo-2u023f

Before you create your display link, check out the PPC competition to make sure it's unique so your ad won't be bumped. The better your ads, the higher the click-throughs will be, which means your ads will be rewarded with better positions for the same money. It's worth polishing them, and then testing them to see which ones are performing the best.

Running a pay-per-click affiliate campaign probably won't generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for you right off the bat--but it is the easiest way to leverage the keyword research and PPC skills you've developed in building your own site. And when Microsoft adCenter and Yahoo Search Marketing join forces sometime this year, you'll get the traffic from both, even if you only advertise on one. That makes direct linking even more appealing.

Allen Moon is Director of Marketing for the Internet Marketing Center. He leads a team of internet business experts who stay on top of the changing online landscape. They constantly research the latest approaches and test them on real commercial websites, then pass on their knowledge in easy-to-use, internet marketing tools, instruction materials, and training services.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top 10 Useful Tools for Evaluating Web Design Accessibility and Performance

Testing for web accessibility (how usable a website is by individuals with disabilities) is an often neglected part of web design and development. Web accessibility is important not only because your content will reach a wider range of audience, but also because correcting web accessibility issues have secondary benefits such as cleaner and more semantic code and better indexibility on search engines.

In this post, you’ll find Top 10 free useful tools to help you evaluate and correct issues which decrease your website’s accessibility. There was a high emphasis on the ease-of-use during the selection of these tools.

1. Firefox Accessibility Extension

Firefox Accessibility Extension - screen shot.

The Firefox Accessibility Extension is a Firefox toolbar that allows you to inspect every aspect of a web page to determine its accessibility. A helpful toolbar feature is the Text Equivalents menu which allows you to generate lists of elements such as images and links to see whether each are standards-compliant. You can also launch 3rd party applications such as the WC3 HTML Validator and Link Checker services directly from the toolbar.

2. aDesigner

aDesigner - screen shot.

aDesigner, developed by IBM, simulates the experience of visually-impaired individuals so that designers can better understand how a web page is interpreted by screen readers. It has a plenty of features including a summary and detailed report of compliancy to web accessibility guidelines and simulations for blind or low-vision impairment.

3. EvalAccess

EvalAccess - screen shot.

EvalAccess is a web-based service for testing your website’s accessibility. You can either point to a web page, an entire website, or directly enter your HTML source code. It checks your mark-up against the WC3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) and provides a summary of the number of errors and warnings and a breakdown of each error.

4. WebAnywhere

WebAnywhere - screen shot.

WebAnywhere is a browser-based web application that works similarly to screen readers such as JAWS. It’s an excellent way to see how a web page is read and navigated by assistive technologies.

5. Web Accessibility Inspector

Web Accessibility Inspector - screen shot.

The Web Accessibility Inspector, developed by Fujitsu, is a desktop application that indicates web accessibility issues. You can specify a file, folder, or URL to run the inspection on. It has the “View on the screen” option which opens the web page in a browser window with markers that point out elements that have issues.

6. Vischeck

Vischeck - screen shot.

Vischeck simulates how a web page or image will look if viewed by people affected with color-blindness. It simulates three types of color-blindness. You can conduct the test by entering a URL or uploading images.

7. Accessibility Color Wheel

Accessibility Color Wheel - screen shot.

The Accessibility Color Wheel is a web-based tool to help you select the background color and font color. You can enter the hexadecimal values of the colors you want to test, or you can hover over the color wheel to select colors.

8. Colour Contrast Analyser

Colour Contrast Analyser - screen shot.

The Colour Contrast Analyser, developed by Juicy Studio, is a Firefox extension (currently in alpha) that checks all the elements in the Document Object Model for color contrast to insure that content is accessible by people who are color-blind or affected by other visual-impairments. It uses the color and brightness differences algorithm suggested by the WC3 “Techniques For Accessibility Evaluation And Repair Tools” (AERT).

Juicy Studio also has other web accessibility evaluation tools such as the Readability Test, CSS Analyser, and Image Analyser.

9. TAW Web Accessibility Test

TAW Web Accessibility Test - screen shot.

The TAW Web Accessibility Test evaluates your website’s accessibility based on the WCAG 1.0. It marks trouble spots directly on the web page, allowing you to quickly see where the errors are. Clicking on the error/warning indicator will bump you down to a summary of the issue. It’s a great way to visualize the areas of a web page that needs work.

10. Web Accessibility Toolbar

Web Accessibility Toolbar - screen shot.

The Web Accessibility Toolbar (WAT) is an extension for Internet Explorer or Opera that offers designers a ton of useful tools and features to help in the analysis of a web page’s accessibility. One helpful feature is the Greyscale (Colour > Greyscale) feature which renders the web page in black in white to help you find low-contrast spots in the design.