Ad rates for our redesigned site are currently under review. Existing agreements will, of course, be honored through the duration of their term. In addition, as existing agreements come due for renewal we have already committed to working with those that have honored us with their trust in the past to make the transition to the new advertising rate structure as painless as possible. That last comment should be a hint: based on information that our new design makes available it is likely that rates are going to be trending upward. Several factors will influence rates.
Position Within the Site .:. On What Pages is an Ad Displayed?
It should come as no surprise that some pages of the site see more traffic than others. As a site that started exclusively for the beach camera views, the cam pages remain the highest traffic generators. Our home page also gets significant page views and our information content pages are already growing fast, even as they remain under development.
For the most part, ads will remain "run of the site". For some advertisers we will discuss special rates if the nature of their business or their location dictates that only certain pages are likely to generate meaningful ad views for them. We will treat these arrangements as discounts from the rate card (once established) reflecting their absence from other areas of the site.
We are also going to be developing rates specific to the information content pages. Clearly the pages dedicated to charter fishing are likely to draw the interest of charter operators more than any other class of advertiser. Likewise the restaurant and attractions areas. These pages will have rates specific to their markets.
Position Within the Page .:. Above or Below the Fold?
The phrase "above the fold" is a holdover from newspaper advertising. As the most important articles were on the top half of the paper, folks would fold it for ease in reading. An ad "below the fold" was less likely to be seem.
While the analogy doesn't hold as well in the digital media environment, there is still some applicability. A visitor who is "fast surfing" to see if the page holds the content they are seeking isn't likely to scroll all the way to the bottom. Therefore, ads in the upper region of the page are going to get more eyeballs than those much further down.
To be fair, however, some ads are going to do just as well regardless of where they are on the page. This is particularly true of pages where the valuable content is evenly distributed on the entire page. If you're scanning area events, the date(s) you may be looking for may well be several screens down. Or you may be reviewing an entire list of restaurants. In these rate determinations, position will carry less weight in the ad cost analysis.
There is also some value in left and right. As we read from left to right, our eye starts in the upper left corner of almost anything we read. That's why the Beachview.com-related beach house enjoys that position in the upper left corner. We won't say we won't sell it, but it won't be cheap!
As noted in the position discussion above, the majority of ads will be run of the site. However, we will consider the traffic counts for individual pages when we cost the special content pages. This will likely mean that ads that appear only on these pages will enjoy lower initial rates (they are new, and don't have the counts the entire site enjoys). In the long run however, we're going to be looking closely at click-through rates (see below) to determine the real value of these pages to their very targetted market segments.
Nearly all ads on Beachview.com now rotate. Even single advertiser positions (again we refer to the upper left beach house slot) uses multiple versions of the ad set to rotate at approximately twenty (20) second intervals. We believe that the changing content draws the viewer's eye. It also means that in a given ad block there is an equal chance of all advertisers getting the "top" position. While your ad may only appear in the block every other rotation, it's got two or three chances in a given page visit of jumping to the top and attracting the eye.
Our initial deployment standards call for any ad position to be (at most) sold at a rate of two-to-one. An ad block with five viewing positions will carry (at most) ten ads. Our average time on each page is currently about forty-five seconds. At a twenty second rotation this means that each ad will be present (on average) for about half that time and the position will update at least once.
These values are undergoing constant review and as we develop more (or more accurate) data they will be adjusted accordingly (along with these references).
"I want to be the only restaurant in the rotation on the main Destin cam page!" Okay. We can do that. Prepare to pay a premium. If we are effectively blocked from selling any other ads in a given category then that revenue must be recovered in some fashion. We honestly don't expect this to happen often, but if you want it, let us know.
Market Rates and Ad Value Calculations
One of the biggest eye openers related to this deployment was the real value of a Beachview.com ad in the marketplace. This is being determined in large part by the performance of the Google AdSense ads on the left of each page. Google AdSense is, in effect, an ongoing auction. Advertisers set a price that they are willing to pay if someone clicks on a given ad. It's not how many times it's seen that they care about, it's whether a visitor comes to their site as a result of the ad.
Click-Through versus Impressions .:. What Matters?
In the early days of Internet advertising, the technology didn't exist to allow direct reporting of all the traffic. Ads were priced based on (largely speculative) estimates of the number of people that would see the ad. There was no Arbitron, no Nielsen, no audited circulation numbers... people just guessed and came up with a rate accordingly.
That's changed, largely due to Google and AdSense. AdSense pays only for clicks. Period. We are strictly prohibited from discussing our exact AdSense numbers, but suffice it to say we've been pleased. Really, really, pleased. And based on the click-through payments thus far so are our Google advertisers.
This raises the question, should click-through be all that matters? Honestly, in some cases, yes. If you are a hit and run advertiser primarily targeting the half of our viewers that arrive via referral link or web search, you don't have time to make an impression (pun intended). Either the visitor sees and clicks on your ad (and it becomes your job to deliver content that takes them to the buying point) or they don't. They're not going to see you over and over and remember you when it comes time to buy.
But (in our case, due to our fifty percent repeat users) there are just as many instances where impressions (the number of times your ad is presented) really do matter. Those repeat viewers are often regular visitors to the North Florida coast. Getting your name in front of them has value. They may click, they may not, but if they see you often enough it's going to translate into some percentage of sales.
Click-through versus Impressions .:. Which Do I Want?
A better question is which can you afford. In general terms we are earning around fifty cents from each AdSense click. We know that Google wants to make money as well, so it's our conservative estimate that those clicks are costing advertisers around seventy-five cents ($0.75). There isn't a single current Beachview.com advertiser that we would not convert to a click-through pricing model right now. That should give you an idea about the clicks on our existing banners. One advertiser would see his current monthly cost more than quadruple. Several others would see only very modest increases. Nobody... NOBODY... would pay less.
So why don't we do that? Several reasons. As noted in our discussion on the page on traffic, our page views have a seasonal variation -- a very significant one. We want revenue all year long. We're willing to "throw away" some revenue in the peak season to guarantee revenue in the off season. That's true of many businesses. Get an air conditioning service contract and you'll pay a nice even rate all year long. But I don't think you'll need it much in December. (Okay, it is Florida, so maybe so.)
Click-through programs are typically capped, as well. Unless you have an infinite advertising budget (call today!) you want to know that you won't pay more than X amount in any month. If you hit X on the tenth, you lose all the "impression" benefit for the next twenty days. Never forget that as a local advertiser you benefit both from traffic directed immediately to your site and the long term impression (there's that pun again) you make on the visitors.
We will be offering a mix of plans, but they will be based on the revenues that the market deems as reasonable. We expect to see some resistance from some advertisers. That's okay. We understand your skepticism and concerns. It's our job to demonstrate that we deliver the eyeballs. And that's what we'll do. That's also why we'll be making some adjustments for current advertisers that wish to continue but have some price concerns. We are going to demonstrate our value!
So What's It All Mean .:. What's it Really Gonna' Cost Me?
Uh... I don't know.
It will be early July before we finalize numbers. We want the full month of June with the new design, tracking, and revenue figures to develop base costs. At that time, our baseline rate card will be published. Take a look around and see how many other sites actually do that! It's pretty rare. It won't be an easy read. All of the variables discussed above are going to come into play, and there will be different advertiser options. But at the very least, you'll know what we consider the essential value of a Beachview.com ad. Want to negotiate? We'll be up for that, to a point. We know how much traffic we're driving to our current advertisers. We're convinced we can do the same for you. And we don't plan on giving that away.
Check back in July for updates!