Trailblazer: Stretching SPACE

How can marketers ensure their post-campaign analysis is both accurate and useful? Deborah Bonello finds out.How can brands improve the ranking of their products and services in both natural and sponsored search listings? Emma Rigby finds out.Jon Clarke, managing director of Eyeconomy, tells Emma Rigby how a new format, called SubLines, will change the banner options that web sites can offer advertisers.

Eyeconomy, the company behind pop-under ad format SubSites, has a new offering. SubLines takes the clickable points of a web site and effectively condenses them into a transportable 'toolbar', which sits discreetly on top of the site. Users run their mouse over the slim, 30-pixel bar to view cascading, scrollable menus of information such as products, offers, interactivity, streamed video and commercials. This provides publishers with more space to sell to advertisers, and offers a means of promoting a client's entire online offer across other web sites.

Jon Clarke, managing director of Eyeconomy, explains: "It is an ad format that isn't blocked by pop-ups and is usable on every web site. It fills a new space, so it generates more revenue for publishers." A sniffer code determines the user's connection speed in order to serve tailored content. "Sometimes we will just serve a product shot and a link to a client's web site," he says. "Or we can provide streamed commercials online. SubLines is a small file and the videos only download once the user begins to interact." The ads can be tailored and branded for different advertisers, and can incorporate a search box too.

The format is currently being used by Norwich Union on over50s.com. Clarke believes that SubLines will also boost Eyeconomy's SubSites, which launch an ad after a user has closed a browser, and aim to sell additional ad space outside the usual perimeters of web sites. Clarke reckons pop-unders and SubLines work because they effectively offer new inventory. "Publishers like them because it is new ad space and consumers like them because they are immediate."

Eyeconomy launched SubSites in 2001 and works with 400 web sites. Clients include eBay, which "invested heavily". Gaming Corp (GMC), which owns sites like casino.co.uk, was so impressed by Eyeconomy that it bought it in May 2004 for £600,000.

Eyeconomy also manages SubSites for other agencies to ensure it is served appropriately and frequency capped. There have been imitations, resulting in lost revenue of up to £500,000, Clarke reckons. But the firm hasn't suffered too much from negative pop-up press and the launch of Microsoft XP2 this May with in-built pop-up blockers. "We've lost a couple of clients," he says. But the firm aims to stay ahead through innovation. "We're always looking for new ways to sell advertising online."

He thinks TV advertising online is an important area. Having spent 13 years in TV marketing with BMP, Universal McCann and Ogilvy & Mather, he knows the sector. Eyeconomy was a media-buying agency when Clarke joined in 1999 and he welcomed the chance to evolve TV ads online at a time when advertisers were only running display type ads.

SubLines can be used to broadcast and enhance TV ads on the internet.

Universal Pictures used the technology to promote the DVD release of sci-fi film Pitch Black and the release of The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury last year. Users could watch streamed videos of both films on an ad placed across movie-related web sites, such as Empire Online and Sci Fi UK, and also link to the microsite and purchase products.

According to Jupiter Research, 55 per cent of all e-commerce transactions originate from a search engine link. And when a user types in a term, it's down to search engine marketing to make sure a brand's products and services rank highly on both the natural and sponsored listings.

According to E-consultancy, research last summer showed that 70 per cent of traffic arriving at web sites from search engines came from natural listings, but sponsored search listings generate higher sales conversions.

This is not surprising given that sponsored listings have a direct commercial aim and users trust 'natural' results more.

But search engine optimisation (the process of designing or modifying a site so that it appears high up in natural results) and search engine advertising (which tackles paid-for listings) should be considered together in search engine strategies.

Ashley Friedlein, CEO of E-consultancy, comments: "Natural search is about providing high traffic volumes, value, ROI, and quality of life-time customers. PPC offers higher conversion rates and is best for specific campaigns and products, and where a time factor or seasonal offers are involved."

Organic or natural search results are ranked according to how well the content of a site fits with the search query, as well as a host of other factors. Paid placement involves a brand bidding to appear in the sponsored results that feature on web portals when a user searches for a particular term or phrase.

What do you want to do?

Deciding exactly what you want from your search marketing strategy - and paying attention to both forms of listing - is key to success. Start by deciding what cost-per-acquisition you'd like to see and why you want to drive users to your site. Do you want to generate traffic volumes or convert clicks into sales?

Tino Nombro, managing director at search marketing agency Ambergreen, says: "Begin by monitoring your ROI on natural search and paid search, and see how they relate to each other. Nothing happens in a vacuum - audiences use both." It is important to understand your audience and how they search. "Some market research is vital," adds Nombro.

With your basic goals decided, it may be time to approach an agency and ask them to manage the process. Although, for many marketers, the process can be managed in-house, specialist agencies can run the entire strategy and, as with the listings themselves, you might only have to pay for results.

Graeme Findlay, head of online at Alliance & Leicester, offers some pointers to finding the right agency. "Ask the agencies to demonstrate what value they add for the commercial terms they offer, and ask agencies to demonstrate how their performance ranks alongside their competitors," he comments.

"Ask the agencies to explain how their bidding and tracking tools operate, and explain the range of search strategies they can work to. There's a plethora of software and tracking systems available." And then you can get cracking.

Optimise ranking

It is a basic requirement to optimise your web site, and understand how search engines index and rank sites. It's a way of getting traffic without having to continually bid on popular, and expensive, generic key words.

Each search engine, such as Google, Ask Jeeves or Yahoo! sends out an automated 'spider' to look for web sites that are relevant to each user's search. These spiders use a unique 'algorithm' to rank each web site against the search term.

Optimisation improves a web site's ranking on a search engine by understanding these algorithms and designing the site to meet its requirements. This includes editing the html code, copy, and page titles, as well as improving navigation and links to related sites. How frequently your links are clicked on in the search results will also help to boost the ranking of your pages.

Mike Grehan, author of Search Engine Marketing and CEO of search consultancy Smart Interactive, explains that spiders start at the top of a page and read the title, followed by the sub-headings and then the content in your first paragraph as html text. "The most important tag is the title tag, which should reflect the subject matter at the top of the page," explains Grehan. It is key to include as many relevant keywords as possible as html tags to please the spiders.

But, the way in which large amounts of information are hosted on your web site can create restrictions. "Crawlers are reluctant to access a database because they have no idea what size it is or how many pages there are. Bring out any pages that do not need to be in a database and present them as separate, plain html pages," continues Grehan.

If another site links to yours, the search engines will view this as an endorsement and rank your site higher. "Link building is the single most important thing to do to get a rank, says Grehan. "But the only way to attract good links is to get great content."

Paid-for listings let advertisers pick a keyword that users are likely to type into a search engine and bid to appear in results when a user searches for that term. The highest bid will get the highest ranking.

Google, Overture, Espotting and Mirago offer sponsored listings and provide results to all the major web portals, but before a business (or its agency) approaches them, it is important to consider what you want to achieve through sponsored search.

"Are you looking to sell something online, capture customer data or provide information for an offline sale?" asks Martin Child, managing director of Overture Northern Europe. "If seasonal demand affects your business, then think about the times of the year when people are most likely to be searching for your business, and then adapt your budget and search terms accordingly."

The amount that advertisers bid on a keyword will dictate its position in the labelled sponsored results (appearing distinct from natural results), with different rules for each search listings provider. Different providers also offer bid management tools to increase and decrease the amount you pay (up to a capped amount) to ensure that you stay at a set position. The results are labelled and are presented separately from the organic listings.

Nick Hynes, CEO of search marketing agency WSPS, asks: "What is your budget? There's no point in spending £20,000 a day if you are limited to a budget of £100,000 a month."

Establish strategy

A strategy is determined by how many customers you want, how many products you have to sell, and how much you want to pay customers to buy your product, points out Barney Jones, head maximiser at Google UK. He advises that marketers establish the cost-per-click first. "If a SME can afford to spend 10 per cent of the purchase price of a product on advertising, then they cannot afford to exceed that cost per keyword," he explains.

Hynes adds: "Understand what your margin is on different products. Selling a cheap flight to New York will have different margins to a villa in Ibiza. This defines whether it makes economic sense to bid on different products. You can't just bid £1 for the flight and £1 for the villa - there are completely different margins involved."

Picking the right keyword is important, continues Google's Jones. "Which keywords indicate what it is you want to sell? And in what terms will customers think of your product or service? You don't have to be clever about it - to get started, imagine what your mother might type in."

As a general rule, generic terms will bring in more traffic but a lower conversion rate because they are less targeted, while specific terms will generate less traffic but a higher sales conversion.

Sponsored results appear with a title and a short description of the client's choice. Getting the creative right for each term is critical.

Each search result looks exactly the same as every other search result - the same font size, the same number of characters and the same colour - so, what an ad says can make all the difference.

Overture's Child points out: "Relevancy really is key. Your search term, title and description, and web site need to be directly relevant to each other. Where possible, include the search term in both your title and description. Our research shows that including the search term in your titles and descriptions will give you a 50 per cent higher clickthrough rate."

When Admiral Group-owned car insurance aggregator Confused.com wanted to deliver targeted business to its web site through paid-placements with Overture, it used both generic and specific search terms and included them in the title and descriptions. Paid placement now accounts for a quarter of the company's marketing spend and drives the second-highest number of quotes to the site.

Overture's Child adds: "Landing site optimisation (optimising the site a user arrives on after clicking a search result) is a crucial factor in converting clicks to sales. Once a potential customer clicks through to your web site, the process to their search destination should be as clear as possible. Deep-linking gives us a direct URL to the relevant content."

Track everything

Tracking is vital. Advertisers should track which terms, titles and descriptions are working best in order to allocate budgets more effectively and optimise the number of clicks to conversions. This can be managed in-house using the bid-management tools offered by providers. For example, Google provides a tool that can track when users click on keywords and if it converts to a sale. "They can see how much that user is worth to them," points out Jones.

However, when a brand is operating a search campaign across a number of search engines, with a large number of keywords, there are benefits in using a specialist agency. Hynes from WSPS explains: "If you are a large business, you should be looking at registering 50,000 words per search engine, and working with three to four search engines. You are managing something like 200,000 key words. Each word has to be managed on an individual basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

There is no point in just using a generic title and description; you have to tailor it for each keyword, and there are different editorial rules for different search engines: "You can't cut and paste results into different search engines," warns Hynes.

It is important to manage this properly as the products and services being advertised will change to compete against other brands. "For example, if you are deep-linking to a page selling a Kylie album for £16.99 when all around you there are links saying '£14.99', is it worth paying 50p for that link?"

If a web site offers a large number of products and services - "a travel site will typically have about 5,000 different types of product," suggests Hynes - an agency will manage availability and time issues.

It would be a waste of time for a travel brand to advertise a villa that isn't going to be available until May to a user looking for Easter holidays.

Time strategy

Similarly, if you are selling car insurance, a user might decide to research the produce online but buy it offline. If you are paying 60p to get someone to your web site but the call centre is shut, that's a waste of money.

"You need to employ a time strategy to fit in opening times and any restrictions," he points out. "And there's no point in driving traffic to your site if you have nothing to sell."

It is important to only pay for the number of sales that you need. If you are selling flights to New York and have 100 tickets, you shouldn't pay for a surplus of traffic. Hynes adds: "You need this information on a timely basis - there's no point in finding you have sold all your products two weeks later."

MASTERCLASS PANEL

Nick Hynes is CEO of search engine marketing agency WSPS. Formerly, he was founder and MD of Overture Europe. He also launched Airmails' electronic points system and co-launched the e-points loyalty scheme for Sainsbury's reward card.

James Hamlin is online marketing manager for Match.com International and leads its strategic online marketing operations in Europe and Asia. Hamlin joined the firm in October 2003 after Match acquired Udate.com where he was online media manager.

Mike Grehan is CEO of search consultancy at Smart Interactive and author of a number of books including Search Engine Marketing. A specialist in search algorithms, he was formerly managing director, Europe, at search engine marketing firm iProspect.

MATCH.COM TURNED TO ESPOTTING TO DRIVE REGISTRATIONS

Dating service Match.com, which claims over 1.2 million UK users, turned to Espotting to increase members while maintaining its target cost-per-acquisition.

Its core customer base is made up of professionals in 30s, though it targets a wide age range.

The firm wanted to drive users to its registration site, rather than pushing specific or time-sensitive products. It also wanted to be flexible, and be able to allocate more budget and generate a bigger push around big events like Valentine's day.

It manages all sponsored search advertising in-house and has devised its own bid management tool to track ROI. Match.com works with espotting to identify which terms are under-performing in order to maximise ROI.

James Hamlin, online marketing manager at Match.com, says: "We have a target acquisition cost, track the performance of keywords, and bid the price that we know will give us the best ROI." Match.com bids on about 1,000 terms, which are both general, like 'love', and more specific like 'single women Birmingham', using up to four words and doesn't need to rotate the terms it bids on.

"Search-for listings are most important to us. Our search marketing isn't offer-led and not really product-led. We offer the same thing all the time. The most successful path is to get people to the registration page, so they can start searching internally." To keep search results fresh, Match.com rotates its titles and descriptions on a monthly basis.

Match.com saw a rise of nine per cent in conversions from clicks to registrations when it worked with espotting, which beats its CPA target by eight per cent.

Hamlin points out: "The challenges come as smaller competitors want to get involved and PPC is the first place they go - they tend to come aggressively for a short amount of time. We have to rely on the strength of the brand in the sector."

Site optimisation is "something we are working on - the most important area for us is paid for listings", he adds.

TOP TIPS ON SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING

1. What's the objective? Brand vs ROI? Be clear about your targets for the campaign to assist you in setting your bid prices.

2. Know the marketplace. Understand the main distributors (Google, Overture, Espotting, Mirago and Webfinder) and the differences between them. Use both PPC and SEO to give your presence maximum impact.

3. Use bid software to manage your time and therefore save money.

4. Buy as many relevant keywords as possible - listing providers have tools for identifying the available ones. Group keywords together in categories that reflect either your company or the likely conversion rate of the user.

5. Write bespoke titles and descriptions for every keyword for maximum relevancy. Track and measure the performance of each keyword.

6. Regularly monitor and review the campaign to identify trends. Be aware of seasonality; January is a bumper period for finance, say.

7. Remove affiliates from brand terms - there's no need to pay for your brand twice.

8. Send users as deep into your site as you can. If your campaign is for car insurance, a user searching for 'car insurance for women' should be sent to a page saying how great your insurance for women is. Content is king, so ensure your site has quality information and is easy to use.

9. Title tags are vital. Use keywords to say what each page is about within 100 characters.

10. Submit your web site to search engines and search directories, such as the Google Directory.

Thanks to Richard Gregory, COO, Corporem Global

CHECKLIST

Questions to consider when thinking about search engine marketing

- Goals and objectives: analyse the competition. Do you understand your users and your aims?

- Does your agency understand your business, objectives and margins?

- Have you determined cost per acquisition and your budget?

- Is your site optimised with html keywords, with a clear title, sub-headings and first paragraph? Are all images tagged with text labels?

- Are there enough high-quality links from sites with excellent content to push your site? Is your site search-engine friendly? Have you checked for broken links or areas under construction?

- Are your sponsored keywords relevant? Carry out keyword analysis and prioritise vital terms. Use keyword generator tools from providers.

- Do results link to specific, relevant content?

- Are your title/description creative and specific?

- Tracking is vital - do you know what's working?

When the internet debuted on the marketing scene about 10 years ago, one of its strongest selling points was its measurability. Unlike television or radio, the structure of the web and online advertising allows for users' footprints to be seen and registered, rather than simply estimated through the use of a representative panel or paper diary. Fast-forward a decade and online advertising is still the most accountable of all advertising mediums, but gone are the days when clickthrough rates were the sole indicator of an online campaign's success. Now, it is a case of choosing what you should use from a myriad metrics and working out how best to use them.

Either way, measurement has become more of an integral part of online marketing. Clients are slowly but surely waking up to the opportunities and benefits of learning from internet campaigns. Tracking ads online has become a much more common, though not ubiquitous, part of the service that is offered by agencies and it is infinitely more sophisticated than just looking at the clickthrough rates.

Not only does online ad tracking give clients the value-for-money they're looking for, but also allows agencies to justify the percentage of budget spent online and, hopefully, help to boost that share in future. Online's share of overall ad budgets stands at up to three per cent and it is growing every year.

Dominic Finney, account director at media specialist Quantum New Media, says: "The level of ad tracking provided by digital media is far superior to offline media as it can provide tracking from the first viewing of an ad through to a completed transaction. Tracking can monitor each and every stage of a customer's response, which enables agencies to quickly and accurately measure how a client's digital advertising has performed against their key business targets," he adds.

However, the problem, according to Andrew Walmsley, co-founder and chief operating officer at planning and buying agency i-level, can be deciding which metrics to use. "You can measure pretty much anything, but it's worth remembering what Albert Einstein said, that 'not everything that can be measured is worth measuring, and not everything worth measuring can be measured'," he adds.

There is no standard method of measuring online advertising. How it is done and which technology is used varies between agencies, clients and technology companies. Broadly speaking, they are all looking at the same areas - it's how they use that information to draw conclusions about the success of an ad campaign that can vary. Most agree the key to understanding online advertising and its effectiveness is not to look at a campaign in isolation but to combine web site user data with online ad data to gain a broader picture.

What agencies measure depends very much on the client's marketing objectives: are they trying to generate web site registrations through a banner campaign, for example, or encourage potential car buyers to book a test-drive or order a brochure? It should be the objective, rather than a standard framework or the technology available, which determines the metrics that are used to measure the success of a marketing campaign.

The monitoring of online advertising falls into two general categories: direct marketing and branding.

Scott Spencer, vice-president of DART product management at technology specialist DoubleClick, says: "Direct marketers leverage return-on-investment (ROI) metrics immediately to fine-tune campaigns, adjusting the creative, media placement and offers. Brand advertisers leverage longer-term ROI information in order to validate spending, but the learning cycle is typically longer since the consumer response is more indirect."

In the case of direct response, there are short and long-term elements to measuring an online campaign.

Most internet advertising is served by third-party companies, such as DoubleClick, 24/7 Real Media and AdLink, which allows them to guarantee the delivery of the campaign and provide the client with feedback on its performance.

Damian Burns, head of digital at Zed Media, points out: "Networks have invested millions in systems that will get ads live on the web rather than having to rely on the publishers to do it themselves. It's a bullet-proof way of making sure we get what we pay for."

The technology provider can provide agencies and clients with information on the success of their campaign: who had an opportunity to see their ad (number of ad impressions); the number of unique users it reached; the number of people who responded to the ad directly (number of clickthroughs), and what those users who clicked through did on the site.

With real-media executions, tracking will not only show who saw the campaign but also who actually interacted with it - by playing games or doing other activities that are now afforded by new technologies - without clicking through to the client's web site.

James Booth, managing director of digital marketing company TangoZebra, says: "The ability to give an advertiser access to how well a campaign is performing in real time is something that the internet offers."

Danny Meadows-Klue, former chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, points out: "Whether it's purchase intent, brand imagery or simply awareness, online offers you the chance to measure your campaign while it is running. Smart marketers can then use this to adjust the campaign's flow."

Crucially, agencies can see how well their creative executions are working in real time compared to others and adjust their campaigns to make them more effective.

Dan Calladine, an account director at Carat International, elaborates: "The most obvious example is where banner A is not working but banner B is and, using this information, banner A is removed from the campaign and replaced with banner B. We work like this every day to ensure campaigns continually improve as they progress, and that future campaign-planning incorporates past results and learnings."

Quantum New Media's Finney suggests: "It is inevitable that certain web sites, placements and creative will perform better than others on the schedule. All these areas will then be optimised in order to maximise a client's ROI. Real-time optimisation is most common within paid-for search as keyword bids can change on a minute-by-minute basis, and they will therefore need to be managed and optimised accordingly."

Spencer at DoubleClick points out that adjustments like these can be automated to make it easier: "DoubleClick offers creative optimisation to advertisers where the best performing creative is selected based on ongoing clickthrough, post-click and post-impression information."

Acting on the feedback retrieved from ad campaigns is essential. According to Walmsley: "People don't act on what they measure. Much of the measurement that goes on is effectively academic - it's a butt-covering exercise. What's crucial is to measure what you can act on, and then act on it. This takes resources (people), skills and technology - in that order."

Stephen Priestnall, managing director at internet company Syzygy, agrees that this costs both time and money: "Real-time campaign management is not that common in practice, although it does get a fair amount of rhetoric by measurement software vendors. The reason for this is that real-time campaign management requires additional resources to update campaign executions a number of times to tailor them to specific customer groups. As such, it is currently reserved for particularly high-profile campaigns, not for every campaign."

It's also important to leave a sufficient time window between launching a campaign and making any adjustments to it later on. Robin O'Neill, head of media at Tribal DDB, warns: "It is dangerous to start a campaign and then, within 48 hours, look at how it is performing and start saying 'we need to change this and we need to change that' - you need to give it time."

In the longer term, the key to understanding the effectiveness of online advertising on a brand's broader web strategy is to combine the data from online ad campaigns with what happens on a web site if, and when, the user gets there.

Adrian Jarvis, senior consultant at Ogilvy One, explains: "With online ad measurement, a lot of it is the equivalent of having cameras in a supermarket watching what everyone does and then forgetting to notice what they buy at the till. The real measures of a client's business aren't the ones you can see just by following consumers round the supermarket."

Tracking behaviour on a site helps online advertising feed into a brand's overall web strategy, be it activities such as registering online, the way users navigate and, if relevant, the transaction process.

This kind of information can show companies any weaknesses in the structure of their web sites and where users are dropping off and losing interest.

For example, behaviour tracking might show that a five-page transaction process on the brand's web site is proving to be a bit troublesome or far too time-consuming for a lot of visitors.

Passing that kind of information on would enable the web host to make some changes to the navigation and reduce the transaction process down to, say, three pages, in order to hold on to more customers all the way through.

Online tracking also helps advertisers to reduce the chance of duplication.

Tracking might reveal that an advertising campaign is being seen by the same customers because they use more than one of the web sites that are running the campaign. Zed Media's Burns points out: "They might discover that they can leave some web sites out of their campaign because they share audiences with other web sites and there is some duplication going on."

This can save precious pounds as one web site might be more expensive to advertise on than another, so this gives the agency the chance to opt for the cheaper media if it is still delivering the same audience, so saving the client money.

Crucially, data also enables brands to compare the audience who sees their offline ads with those who see their online ones, which increases the opportunities to reduce excess spend in other media, as well as creating greater synergies between their various cross-media marketing activities.

In the longer term, there is still much that can be understood about online advertising and much to learn from it, and this brings us out of the issues of direct marketing and into the realm of branding.

The thinking is that just because an internet user doesn't click or interact with a banner ad, search-engine listing or other kind of online promotion straight away, that doesn't mean it won't have any impact.

Technology such as Nielsen's AdIntelligence service tracks this kind of activity. David Day, managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Nielsen//NetRatings, points out: "Much advertising is branding, and the focus on measurement of direct response is to a certain extent at the expense of other factors, including branding."

Some tracking systems allow agencies to look at this after-effect - how people behave when they have been exposed to an online ad, even if they haven't actually chosen to interact with it. Research shows that these users will often visit a web site days or even weeks after they first saw an online ad for it. They just didn't do it straight away.

Still on the subject of branding, effective post-campaign analysis can provide some important insights into the success of a brand's campaign and help to inform its future marketing strategy. Companies such as Dynamic Logic, for example, carry out web surveys before, during and after an online campaign, canvassing users who have and have not been exposed to advertising to track things such as changes in brand perception and users' propensity to buy.

Carat International's Calladine explains: "This means that we can identify the effect that online advertising has on traditional brand measures such as awareness. For example: 'I have heard of X car'; image association - 'I think that X car is fashionable', and purchase consideration - 'I would like to buy X car'."

As we've seen, there is no shortage of metrics available to advertisers to track their online advertising. If anything, the problem is working out what to measure and how to combine the plethora of information available.

But, are clients aware of the wealth of possibilities that exist at their fingertips?

Burns at Zed Media says: "A lot of clients are very conversant online; for example, those from the travel or finance sectors who do a lot of transactions or business online. They understand how deep they can track the consumer online and that goes for advertising too. They get the clients that are new to online and don't quite appreciate the depth we can report on. There are loads of statistics available, but it's about pulling out the important stuff."

However, Quantum's Finney believes client knowledge is often quite basic: "Clients have a clear understanding of what the elementary campaign statistics can deliver to their business. However, depending on the client-agency relationship, the client's understanding of how the full range of media activity can affect their business is more limited.

"The key areas in which the client's understanding is more limited is in how the offline activity effects online responses and tracking the performance of all digital media tools (display, paid-for listing, natural search, email, affiliates) in order to establish the optimum mix of on- and offline activity," he adds. Yet, the IAB's Meadows-Klue believes the situation is getting better: "Fortunately, as the medium has matured, so too has the approach to campaign measurement."

Online adspend has been on the increase year-on-year and DoubleClick's Spencer believes that this is a positive sign: "The real question is: are advertisers setting realistic, measurable goals for their campaigns? Most indicators would say 'yes' since advertisers are able to measure the return on investment and, in seeing the benefits of advertising on the internet, spend is increasing," he adds.

Both online agencies and media owners have some way to go in educating their clients on how tracking online advertising is key to the success of their internet marketing strategy and future growth of their business overall. A failure to make the most of the measurement opportunities afforded them by the internet means that their clients and, eventually, they themselves will lose out.

ONLINE ADVERTISING: WHAT CAN BE MEASURED?

Response

The response to any ad can be measured, even when the user does not actually click on it. This is done using an adserver; a technology that sends a cookie to the user's computer when they view a particular ad and recognises them when they arrive at the client's web site.

Once on the client's site, arrivals can be tracked at different pages, sales values, sales details (what was bought etc), requests for more information, etc.

This can then be traced back to the ad that was first seen, to determine (in aggregate) which ads, sites, days of the week and so on are most effective.

All of this is anonymous.

Branding

The effectiveness of a campaign can be measured in terms of driving the brand by using pop-up questionnaires; for example, through Dynamic Logic.

These work by identifying samples of users who have seen an online campaign, and those who have not, and comparing their responses to identical questionnaires.

Traditional media measures

The traditional ways of measuring media include campaign reach and frequency - how many people saw the campaign and how often they saw it. This is done through either the adserver or by using a research tool like Comscore or Netratings.

It is important to use this in combination with branding studies because it would show, hypothetically, that if 20 per cent of the audience became aware of a product, this translates to 600,000 individuals.

Keywords

The effectiveness of each individual keyword in a keyword campaign (for example, on Google) can be measured and tracked through to actual sales, registrations and so forth.

This information is then used to adjust the bid prices that are paid for keywords, based on their effectiveness on a word-by-word level.

Rich media

Interactions with rich media ads that can be measured include how many people saw a video ad all the way through, how many people played an online game within an ad, and how many people operated an expandable banner, say.

Key advice

Do always insist on tracking online advertising, whether you are a client or an agency.

Do teach your clients, if you're an agency, exactly what they can and can't expect to get from tracking online advertising. Manage expectations.

Do find out what you can do, and how you can do it, if you are a client.

Do combine your online advertising tracking with your web site centric data if you are a brand doing business online. This will show how your online advertising feeds into how people go on to use your site.

Do invest in real time campaign management - it can make all the difference.

Don't measure online advertising regardless of client strategy - tailor what you measure to what the client wants to achieve.

Don't rush into real-time campaign measurement.

And make sure you leave enough time between the launch of your campaign and making any alterations, so that you give it time to get up to critical mass.

ZED MEDIA TRACKS BMW INTEREST

Zed Media ran an online ad campaign for the BMW 7 Series model in the second quarter of this year.

The objectives were to drive awareness of the BMW 7 Series, convey the brand attributes of the car's performance, and drive brochure requests.

As well as using standard banners and skyscrapers for the campaign, Zed used expandable banners, which enabled customers to insert their email address if they wanted to receive more information.

The campaign was spread across various motoring, business, finance and entertainment web sites.

All advertising interaction and site-centric activity was tracked by Zed. It picked up a daily figure for metrics such as click volume, response rates through different creative and site traffic.

It also showed how many of the users who saw the ads ordered a brochure later. All this information was crucial to the campaign.

Site placements were either weighted up or down by Zed in order to boost web site traffic and achieve the ultimate objective of generating more requests for brochures.

Damian Burns, head of digital at Zed Media, says: "The agency's reports show that, during the campaign for the BMW 7 Series, daily management of the advertising saw creative and placement performance rise by some 40 per cent."

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