Banner ads (also known as display ads) have been a popular marketing strategy for ecommerce businesses. Big and flashy, they're designed to catch the user's eye. However, if the content of the ad isn't relevant to site visitors, those potential customers are very likely to ignore the ads, not matter how pretty they look. Keyword-targeted banners are promotions that appear to users based on both related searches they've made and the content of the page they're visiting.

Stay on target

Targeting makes it easier to serve up banner ads that are interesting to the customer and are more likely to generate engagement. That's a win for the retailer, who is eager to highlight products and prompt a conversion; but it's also a win for the customer, who by search history has displayed a genuine interest in these products and a desire to satisfy the search.

With 55 percent of online advertising under its rubric, Google is the most popular vector in the world for keyword targeted marketing. Google Adwords pays websites for the right to place advertisements, then advertisers bid to have their promotions appear on AdWords' display network. Using Google's search algorithms, AdWords matches an ad's keywords to the page's content so that visitors will only see ads that are relevant to their interests.

For instance, a user visits a fashion blog that hosts paid advertisements in their side head. They look around and find a fascinating article about the season's latest handbag trends. Meanwhile, you have paid for a keyword-targeted advertisement that features your own high-margin handbag. Because of the confluence of your selected keywords and the context of the article, the visitor will see your ad will be more inclined to click on it because it matches his or her interest.

Keywords are key

Targeted keyword systems generally charge for ad space based on the popularity of the associated keywords and the number of places in which their ads appear. Many advertisers make the mistake of choosing very general keywords in the hope of casting the broadest net possible. However, this strategy costs more and often produces middling results.

A better strategy is to utilize what are known as long-tail keywords. A long-tail keyword is a series of keywords (or a phrase) designed to narrow and specify a match. For instance, the general keyword "shoes" will receive many thousands of searches per day, but the results will be vague and scattered. However, the keyword "patent leather shoes" will return a much more specific and relevant result.

A merchant advertising a new line of patent leather shoes would do well to only advertise to people who are looking for or reading about patent leather shoes. It limits the number of ads they have to pay for and puts their banners in front of only people who have a direct interest in the subject.

The trick of finding good keyword chains is to know your customers and know what they want, thereby anticipating their searches. Google also offers a Keyword Planner, which helps advertisers find the most relevant and popular keywords for their industry.

Managing placements

Since ad placement is automated, pure keyword placements may end up on any website that has rented out space to a display network. This can lead to ads ending up in irrelevant places or worse, sites with problematic subject matter for the advertiser.

Services like AdWords offer advertisers the ability to narrow their focus beyond keywords, however. Managed placements offer advertisers the ability to specify which websites their ads will appear on or which to exclude. Combined with keyword targeting, an ad may only appear on a specific website - and only on pages that contain keyword-relevant content.
Relatively few visitors will see the banner, but those who do will be the ideal potential customers.

Display ads, if well targeted, are still a good way to find customers; but blanketing the Internet with flashy banners can be a waste of money. Since every advertising dollar counts, keyword targeting places banners in front of the people most likely to care, saving money and increasing relevance. Selecting long-tail keywords with strong associations to your campaign is essential to successfully targeted banner ads. If you understand your customers, you'll know the best places and strategies to capture their attention. Search-based marketing display networks use powerful software to give users what they want, and you can use that power to your advantage with a little planning and research.

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