Search Engine Optimization

Marketing Your Online Presence: Banner Ads or Text Links

12 Nov , 2008  

In case you didn’t know it, the days of traditional banner advertising on websites with high volume traffic solely for the sake of getting traffic are pretty much over.  That’s right, I said it – there’s just no ROI in banner ads.  Conversions are low, prices are still inflated, and there is little or no SEO benefit.  Most website visitors are just too sensitized as to what an advertisement looks like and click on them with less and less frequency.  Sure, there are some modern variations besides the typical 468 x 60 top of page banner, such as dancing animations, small square blog banners, etc., and they do perform a little better.  But for the most part people simply don’t like graphic banner ads.

Take, for example, that big obnoxious banner on the right side of this page for ITCN SEO and Web Design.  Yeah, you can see it, and maybe you even realize it’s my own company, but you can obviously see that it’s an advertisement and you probably don’t think twice about clicking on it.  In fact I know you don’t because I know how many clicks that banner generates.  But what if I were blogging about SEO (which I am), and I put an intriguing text link in the middle of my content which said something link “these guys are the best SEO consultants in NJ” (which I just did).  Not only are you are more apt to click on it because it’s context-sensitive, but in crawling this site Google sees it as a link with keywords for which I want to rank.

So I think we can safely say the days of text links for the purpose of improving organic search results are here to stay (at least for a while).  Google ranks websites for keywords based on the links which point to them; and the weight given to those links is based on the PageRank or authority of the incoming link site.

For example, let’s say your home page has a Google PageRank of 7.  If I had a link on your home page with the keyword NJ SEO linking to my site, then I would rank better for the term NJ SEO in Google results.  If your home page only had a PageRank of 3, however, it wouldn’t help me as much at all, even if you had thousands visitors a day to your website (which you probably wouldn’t).

Now you could have a graphic banner ad and use some on-page SEO factors such as a title tag in the href code, and keywords in the alt and title tag of the image code – and that does help.  But it’s my bet that nothing is going to beat a good old-fashioned text link any day of the week – especially since Google discourages the practice of buying links, and what says you paid for a link better than a standardized ad banner size in a common ad banner placement position?

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15 Responses

  1. tata says:

    Interesting. I’m inclined to agree that text links are here to stay and that they are more inclined to get clicks. I just haven’t figured out how to improve my Google PR! Ah well. I don’t do it for the PR, so I really should relax in that respect.

  2. Barry Wise says:

    @tata – I wouldn’t do it for the PR, either. The truth is, it’s just a number and it really doesn’t mean much. If you keep writing great content, people will begin linking to you naturally, because you’ve got something worth linking to!

  3. Tower SEO says:

    Google is great at determining which graphics are paid advertisements. This is easy for them because standard banner sizes (468 x 60, 125 x 125, etc) have been used for ages as paid ads and Google discounts their value.

    Try testing some graphics that don’t conform to standard sizes, and you will see they do offer some SEO benefits and will help even more with the proper alt text. :)

    I can’t agree more with the poor ROI on banner ads. Some of these sites need to run Adsense for a while in the same spots and determine just how much revenue is generated. In 99.9% of the cases I am sure Adsense revenue will be much lower then what they are asking private advertisers to pay.

  4. Maneet Puri says:

    I totally agree! Companies that still invest in banner ads and wait for results should re-check their audience intelligence.
    Strategic placement of links within the content body works better anytime.

  5. Barry Wise says:

    Lisa Barone is liveblogging from Pubcon this week and she posted some excellent notes on buying text links:

  6. I reckon Google’s probably pretty good at identifying paid-for text links too – especially if traded through a broker like TLA or LinkXL. Private deals are probably a lot safer, but not everyone has advertisers queuing up outside the door, unfortunately.

  7. SEO says:

    I agree that great content will be linked to naturally, but it’s getting that great content noticed first! Using anchor text in good related content on related sites is the best way to get your site up there with the big boys in the industry!
    I feel that you need to give your site a boost, especially in the beginning stages, with some link building.
    What do you say Barry?

  8. Barry Wise says:

    @SEO It can definitely be difficult to get your new sites noticed. But Google is reporting more each day that paid links will be penalized, so it’s a fine line you’re walking if you consider paying for links. If you do, Google guidelines maintain that the links must be designated as nofollow.

  9. Banner ads are usually more expansive and provide lower click-through rates than well positioned text links. Some would argue that banners have more branding value but if you are getting more visitors with your text link, they will see your brand once they end up on your website anyway. If I had to use a banner ad, I would probably pick a well targeted newsletter.

  10. SEO says:

    I’m not suggesting buying links at all, in fact, I’ve never bought a single link in my life.

    What I’m saying is to get a new site off the ground, I like to think that my new site can be of value to a more established site in my industry and get a link from them by providing some value to their readers.
    Getting a few high quality links to your new site can be very effective for getting indexed and an initial ranking.

  11. Travel Guy says:

    How about flash ads? I somehow agree with your banner ads concept, but if you use good flash, doesn’t that make people click on it?

  12. Barry Wise says:

    @travel – Yes, Flash certainly will help entice users to click on banner ads. I was speaking more about static graphic banners.

  13. internet marketing consultant says:

    The key is the way to use the anchor text in appropiatte places, in order to get very quality links.

  14. Well, if it’s a consumer product you are selling, you have probably to use all kinds of advertisements to build you brand, because text can’t show your logo.
    But as always, what is a return on your investment? Long term strategy is very important. In other case you are just wasting your time and money.

    Barry, it was a pleasure to read your posts.
    Take care

  15. yes – ROI is the first thing to think about when you start your campaigns. otherwise you may spend hundreds of hours and get nothing for the money and time spent. and that is still true – less and less people click on banners on the one hand, and text links became more important for search engines and SEO. so, for sure, text links are more important than banners.

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