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500,000 Clicks Worth Of Twin Lakes Area Experience
Over the last four years (2010, '11, '12, '13 ) all 2Cooleys ads on all 2Cooleys sites had a little over 121,200 clicks, about 30,000 a year. We have run banner ads since 1995.   Between then and through 2009 we had another 380,000 plus banner clicks. I'm sharing here what I learned from a half-million ad clicks on area tourism banners over 18 years.  Each of those clicks carries technical and user data used for increasing click rates. As can be expected, some banners get many more clicks than others.

So What Makes an Ozark Recreation Banner Produce Lots of Bookings? It is not fast and easy for sure. It takes a little work, and it takes a team effort between us and the customers. It is rare that a banner produces a good return on the first try. Despite all my years of experience I can say that banners are as much luck as skill. However, it does not take a great deal of effort to watch results and adjust accordingly, but you must do just that - test. Though it sounds complex and time-consuming, our top-producing banner campaigns each take about 3 to 5 hours of time over a year.

It Takes Multiple Banners. You can't run just one banner design all year and expect year-around results if you want top results.   If you use just a summer theme banner,  you can expect fewer results than if you run both a summer and fall banner.  If you have two or three banners with different season themes rotating in your spot, you'll double or triple your results. It will vary with each customer. If the majority of your summer bookings come in late winter and spring, that's when you run your summer banners. If your fall bookings come in June, July, and August, that is when you run fall banners. If you need short-term action, then run for the current season. It all depends on your goals.

The List
The list below summarizes, but obviously does not detail, what you need to know. It is meant as a guideline only, and applies only to Twin Lakes Tourism:

1. A banner's purpose is getting visitors to your Web site.  Your web site, not the banner, is what sells.
2. Banners have a fraction of a second to attract attention, then 2 or 3 more seconds to earn a click.
3. People don't like ads. The more banners look like advertisements, the fewer clicks they get.
4. People read banner text, but click only if text is short, informative, and hype-free.
5. Banners must be season relevant. Few click summer banners in the fall. Rotate multiple banners in your spots. It is not expense to do so.
6. Banners must match site content. The closer the match, the more clicks you get.
7. Due to cognitive shifting, a banner's page position is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!
8. Logos do not generate clicks. Use logos only if branding is your primary objective.
9. 1 or 2 month banner runs are too short unless the spot gets 15,000 views or more a month.
10. To increase clicks you need more metrics than just clicks and views.
11. Banners should be on static display, or static rotation, but never on auto rotation.
12. Having a text link under the banner image is important for several reasons.
13. For metrics gathering, images and links in the same banner need different tracking codes.
14. Tourism banners work best when they show a price or price range.
15. Testing and fine-tuning banner design over a period of time is the most productive effort you can make. Testing and adjusting pays off many times over. You can't just "stick one up there and see what happens". If at first your banner does not produce, don't give up. If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. The race is won by the Tortoise, not the Hare!

FAQs

Time & Complexity
Sound like a lot of work? Sound complex? I have helped many customers run effective, sophisticated banner campaigns. In most cases it takes about 10 hours a year of the customer's time. There is very little to learn. What you do need to learn takes about an hour, and that time is spread out over three or four 15 minute sessions.

Costs
All of the above can be accomplished for less than $500 per spot per year. You can get a good banner program for $350 to $750 a year. You can get a producing banner for much less. You can get a sophisticated multi-banner program for about a $900 a  year.

How Much Money Will A Banner Make Me?
People click a banner because they anticipate landing in a site offering something they want. If they land on your site and don't see what they thought they would see, or if they see it, but don't want to pay the price, they will not convert into a booking. This is why your banner must match what your site offers.

However, even with the best match between banner and site, and even if you have the best prices, best facilities, and the best of what ever else is needed, you will get 2 to 3 bookings for every one hundred people who click your banner. I have seen higher conversion rates. I've seen them as high as 12 bookings for every 100 clicks. But that is not the way to bet. Instead plan on 2 to 3 bookings for every 100 clicks. If you do better, great! Figure out what your average booking rate is, and from there you can calculate what your banner will produce in minimum gross sales based on your click guarantee.

How Many Clicks Will I Get?
Click counts vary considerably. If the ad is fully optimized, plan on about 1,000 clicks a   year. I see ads getting 1,000 or more clicks in six months. I see some ads get less than 100 clicks per month. Most ads on 2Cooleys sites will get between 800 and 1,200 clicks per year.

The Best Money-Making Banner Strategies
1. Start out on a simple level, learn the basics. Then go for more advanced efforts.
2. Test and fine tune banners. Forget hitting a home run on the first swing. It will not happen. The difference between the pros and the amateurs is found in the testing process.
3. Once you buy a banner spot, run at least three different banners in that spot.
4. Based on what you learn during your tests (test results show up in your ad metrics control panel for free) develop additional banners, and serve those banners using advanced serving options.

What Are Advanced Serving Options?
By applying specific programming to each banner you can have it display, or not display, or display different banners, based on city, state, time of day, day of week, search engine terms, popularity of the banner based on all of the former, and just about any other factor you can think of. For example, if someone enters a site displaying your banner for fishing, but the person used lodging as a keyword, your lodging banner displays instead of your fishing banner. Further, if that person was from Memphis, you could have a lodging special for people from Memphis display. But let's say that Memphis special should display on Monday and Tuesday only because it is for the weekend, then the display for that Memphis Lodging Specials will display only on Monday and Tuesday. It goes from there.

What Is An Ad Metrics Control Panel?
If you have ever purchased a banner ad and the seller gave you one of those little password protected sites where you can see how many views and clicks your banner has had, that is a very basic panel. A true ad metrics control panel offers far more than just views and clicks.

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