October, 1999 Newsletter

Advertising on the Internet

What are your objectives when you advertise?

In the case of advertising (and premium listings) on the Internet, we propose you want architects and engineers to come to your website and use your product data in their plans and specifications.

Once they get to your website, architects and engineers want usable product data and lots of it.

They want access to all of your data, including specs, CAD details and product data sheets, not just brochure pages and product data summaries.

If you are planning to rework your website, review our WebFormattm proposal for ideas on how to present your data in a format usable by design professionals.

Why is the Internet Different than Other Advertising?

The Internet provides quick accountability for advertising results. Unlike print ads, you can easily measure results. In this way, Internet advertising is closer to direct mail than to print.

Our July newsletter (online in the Getting Specified area under Newsletters) discussed tracking where your visitors come from. It is essential that you track where your visitors came from if you are playing for advertising or paying for search engine placement.

You need to track the number of visitors in addition to the statistics provided by the media. In general, your numbers should be higher than the media results due to people returning to your page and being counted as having come from the media a second time.

Costs per Visitor/Action

Do you track the costs and results of advertising and conventions? Your table would include all advertising and marketing expenses for the year and track the effective cost per visitor or inquiry or action. This will give you a measure of effectiveness. Obviously a convention contact will have a greater value due to personal contact, and that should be taken into consideration.

Cost Table

Typical Internet Advertising Models

Internet advertising is typically priced using three major pricing models.

1. Cost per Impression - CPM for cost per 1,000 impressions. The counter is increased every time your banner is displayed.

2. Cost per Action - also known as cost per click. The counter is increased every time the hot link is clicked and the visitor goes to the website or other location.

3. Flat Rate - a flat annual or monthly cost regardless of results.

In addition, there are hybrid models, typically combining a flat rate and a performance guarantee.

Additional Information:

CPM Models

Most construction-related websites charge $50 CPM. This means that every 1,000 times your banner is shown, there is a $50 charge. Most banners receive 0.5% to 2% click throughs or visitors to your website. This means that for 1,000 impressions, you will receive 5 to 20 visitors, for a cost of $10.00 to $2.50 per visitor. There are several advertising groups that will run banners across a group of construction-related sites for $50 CPM.

As part of our website promotion and for research on this newsletter, we paid for 10,000 banners on an Internet newsletter going to architects. The cost was $50 CPM or $500. The results for the first 10,000 impressions was 70 visitors or 0.7% or $7 per visitor.

This is a typical result. Banners seldom get above 1% click throughs. The Internet newsletter actually ran 25,000 impressions (the remainder were free) and the total click throughs were 165 visitors or 0.66% average for a final cost of $3 per visitor.

Cost Per Clickthrough

This pricing model is used on some consumer sites where the website will run banners on a per click through or per sale basis. On some websites, this is a variation of affiliate programs. This is one reason you see many websites selling books through Amazon. One Internet search engine - goto.com - has a low-cost click through program that works for some manufacturers. 4specs.com uses goto.com as part of our advertising program.

Flat Rate

This is a typical advertising model used for construction.

The flat rate pricing model also applies to banners and special pages on some construction-related websites, with a flat fee per month or year. You need to evaluate the costs and results when making decisions to place or renew the advertising.

4specs.com uses a hybrid model. Our advertising programs do not use typical Internet banners, but rather a "yellow pages" model of:

Free hot-link listings for all qualified manufacturers of "specified" products, and

Paid premium listings in both the top and alphabetical sections which include an image and 55 words.

Our published rate card is based upon a flat charge per year for showcase listings that covers a 12 month period and is based on the number of referrals made the prior year. We have an informal policy for our premium listing advertisers that the cost per click through will be under $1.00. We will adjust the renewal rates based on the actual click-through performance and may extend the run in compensation if we do not meet these numbers.

For more information on Internet advertising, I recommend Advertising on the Internet by Robbin Lee Ziff. This book helped me refine the 4specs.com advertising program.


Perhaps now it will be obvious why it is essential that you track each incoming referral to your website. Without knowing where your visitors came from, you cannot measure the effectiveness of your Internet advertising and the cost per inquiry.

Questions are always welcome, and may be part of a future newsletter.


1. Convention costs are estimated using booth space, shipping, travel and employee time against number of people stopping by for information.

2. Print catalog costs are for Sweets, and the results are estimated. The results will vary by the type of product and manufacturer.

3. Direct Mail is based upon a post card pack such as the CSI or Architectural card packs with a 1% response. Costs for your own direct mail program are much higher with better results.

4. Internet banners are based upon 20,000 banners, a $50 CPM and a 1% click through rate, with a yield of 200 click throughs.

5. Architectural binder costs assembly, printing and shipping.

6. 4specs.com advertising costs are based upon premium listings in 2 sections and uses the median (half above, half below) number of click throughs received by advertisers.