Making a banner look like a link
( Site promotion Secrets #2 )

One common mistake that websites make all the time, is to attempt to promote their sites, using a substandard banner. Making a banner is difficult enough in it's own rite, for example, creating a successful, strong image for your company, and describing yourself in 4 words is tough enough.

Then, take into account the space and size limitations, and you have a difficult job on your hands.
Surf the net, and have a look at how the others do it. Using a  LinkExchange  banner for example, you are limited to an image size of about 10-12k.

Now, that can be tough... specially since you've just spent 3 hours designing the mother of all animated banners in glorious 16.7 million colors, and you find that the whole thing looks like a schoolboy's scrawl when reduced to 16, or even 4 colors!!
Remember, that Microsoft pay money for their banners...whereas you are more likely to be availing of a free offer.

Either way, from a business point of view, a short, snappy banner can be even more effective than a winking work of art. Having asked some other webmasters what their objective was in designing their banners, I frequently hear quotes such as "my mission is to create the best, most professional banner possible for my website".

Bunch  of crap, basically. Your mission is not to design the Mona Lisa, nor to make your business look professional.
Your business, is to distract someone's attention for a split second, in order to get them to click on your link, and visit your website.

There are two main ways to do this.

The WHAT? factor is very very difficult to get right. Big companies spend millions on getting teams of advertising people to sit around thinking about this kid of thing all day long. The old "Dont Click Here!!!" trick isn't gonna work, because internet users are quickly becoming jaded with that sort of approach.

A variation on this theme is to present the user with a question like... "What's the difference between Pamela Anderson and a banana?", which is supposed to capture the viewers imagination, and make her/him hungry for an answer. 
Our advice? Just don't bother.

However, one thing that does seem to work is 'making it look like a link'.
In that split second before someone clicks,  the brain has often not distinguished between a banner and a part of the page. Putting blue underlined text under a 5 word comment like "Click to Download Websecrets.doc" is sure to generate at least a few clicks, and the poor unsuspecting user mistakes the banner for a link.

Another very important thing, is the benefit factor.
How many of you have been at a search engine, when an IBM advertisement jumps out at you, saying something like,
"Click for free developer's CD and more goodies!".

Yep,  it works... I know... I have about 20 free CD's lying around, for use as coffee mats.:-)
It's only when I'm getting something for free, that I am enthusiastic about giving my name and address, and email address, and my dog's name, etc. Get the idea?

Generally speaking, though, free banner advertising does a whole lot more for the banner company, than it does for you.
If I were a suspicious kind of a guy, I'd even venture to say that many companies depend solely on the freebie sites to advertise their paid businesses for them.
However... I'm not that kinda guy... and I'd never say such a thing. Jeez!  :)

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