Can Banner Links Help With SEO?

September 8, 2008:

The other day a client e-mailed and asked:

“We will be purchasing banner ads and sending the traffic directly to our site.  Do the links on these publishing websites provide any SEO value?”

Here is how I answered (actually, I added a few of things here):

Hi John,

As usual, the answer is “complex”.

If the URL you are using in the banner is static, without tracking codes, then the link itself COULD have value.

(if you do need to have a tracking URL in the banner to measure conversions on your site, then there is another conversation that needs to be had – including 301 redirects and web analytics).

But:

The link needs to be pointing to a page on the site that is publicly available, indexed in engines & is well-linked to the rest of the site.

That same page also needs to be linked to from within your own site.

The page that the banner is on should have the same characteristics as numbers 1 & 2 above, but within that site’s own structure (i.e. the page should be publicly available, indexed in SE’s, linked to from within its own site, etc.)

The link in the banner should not use javascript to shuttle users from the originating site to yours (which is common with publishers to facilitate their own tracking).

The link should not have a “no follow” attribute.

It also helps if the page the banner is on has some SEO value of its own, such as has links pointing to it from other sites, is visited often, has low bounce rates, is crawled frequently, etc. (bottom line – your banner should be on a good page, on a good website).

However, assuming that Google continues to put some weight on link text (which they may be moving away from because of abuse), then the graphical banner link has less value than a good text link.

Note – Google has a policy of having webmasters make it clear on a site that the paid links are indeed paid links.  Which can lessen the value of banner advertising for SEO purposes.

A valuable banner ad to acquire (with some SEO benefit) might be on a trade association, non-profit, educational institution, government site, etc., and not be a paid banner, but rather part of the site’s mention of members, partners, affiliations, etc.


Summary of Characteristics of a Good Banner Link (for SEO):

Good

1. Static link – no tracking codes

2. Link points to a page on the site that is:

a. Publicly available,

b. Indexed in engines

c. Well-linked to the rest of the site.

3. The destination page needs to be linked to from within your own site.

4. The page that the banner is on should also be publicly available, indexed in SE’s, & linked to from within its own site.

5. Page the banner is on has some SEO value of its own.

Not Good

6. Link uses javascript to shuttle users from the originating site to the destination page.

7. The link has a “no follow” attribute.

Best (if it has to be a banner, and not a text link)

8. Not on a page designated with a “paid links” notification

a. “Naturally occurring” banner on a site somehow affiliated with yours (trade association, non-profit, educational institution, government site, etc.,)

b. Within a section of the site that is publicizing the company’s/organizations members, partners, affiliations, etc.

c. I am not advocating finding sites that do not report their paid links!!

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What is the Real Value of a Link?

  • Scott Alden

    So just how effective are you finding these banner ads really are? We got totally out of the banner ad game long ago. Companies telling me that 1.5% click through rates were amazing, we were paying through the nose, and the conversions were low. Then with the introduction of Ad Blockers, we threw in the towel. I’m sure there is “some” value here but really, we have felt straight SEO and PPC has given us a much larger bang for our buck.

  • http://www.komarketingassociates.com/ Andy Komack

    @Scott – This post was definitely centered around the value of banner ads from a link building/link popularity perspective. I see now that I did not provide an opinion on whether or not this was an effective tactic.

    My philosophy on link building in general is that you should only pursue an individual link opportunity if there is intrinsic value in being present on the site, and don’t do it JUST for link building. This goes for banner ads and text links alike.

    If you are responsible for generating leads, then pursue a link if you think it will help with this goal (e.g. people will see the banner/link and click on it to come to your site and convert).

    If you are responsible for generating traffic only (this would be too bad because this means you are probably not effectively targeting profit goals) – then you would care about the CTR of the banner/link.

    If you are responsible for generating ad revenue on your own site – you would want a combination of a high CTR & engagement on your site once people arrive (e.g. high pageview counts, low bounce rates, viewing the most valuable content, etc.)

    If you are responsible for branding – then you would look at a combination of impressions for the ad/banner/link & visits to the site + engagement on your site after arrival).

    To answer your question directly – not all banners are created equal. It will depend on the quality of the site you are placing the ads on, the creative you use for the banners, etc.

    That said, I personally encourage clients to pursue banner advertising as one of their last options.

    Hope this helps!

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