A significant number of firms, from small businesses to multinational corporations, incorporate online advertising into their marketing strategy. This is even true of firms which conduct their business through more traditional brick and mortar channels. In response to this demand, a number of firms specialize in facilitating online marketing. Therefore, online advertisements typically involve at least two separate firms: the advertiser or agency which purchases or sponsors the advertisement and the publisher or network which distributes the ad for display. Additional parties may also be included, such as an ad serving technology provider, a third party sales network, or other combinations.
In capitalizing on the increasing importance of the Internet as a marketing medium, the online advertising industry has developed specialized technical systems to manage the ways ads are distributed and viewership totaled. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has established guidelines for the counting methodology, size requirements, and other aspects of the business.
Because of the close relation between technical innovation and online advertising, many firms specialize in both. For example, most search engines couple their search service with an advertising program, exploiting the benefits of keyword-based search technology by including ads in search results. Many technology firms specialize in ad serving, the systems used to select the ads to show, optimize results, and generate reports.
Legitimate Email advertising is often known as opt-in email to distinguish it from spam.
Affiliate marketing is a form of advertising where the advertiser allows a potentially large number of small publishers to pick specific creative elements or offers to market in exchange for payment should such marketing create sales or other revenue. This is usually accomplished though a self-service online system, such as those offered by third parties Performics, BeFree, CommissionJunction, or Linkshare. Affiliate marketing was an early innovation of online retailer Amazon, which has used its program to generate enormous volumes of low cost brand exposure.
Many advertising networks display text-only ads that correspond to the keywords of an Internet search or to the content of the page on which the ad is shown. These ads are believed to have a greater chance of attracting a user, because they tend to share a similar context as the user’s search query. For example, a search query for “flowers” might return an advertisement for a florist’s website.
Another newer technique is embedding keyword hyperlinks in a webpage which are sponsored by an advertiser. When a user follows the link, they are sent to a sponsor’s website.
Ads and malware
There is also class of advertising methods which may be considered unethical and perhaps even illegal. These include external applications which alter system settings (such as a browser’s home page), spawn pop-ups, and insert advertisements into non-affiliated webpages. Such applications are usually labeled as spyware or adware. They may mask their questionable activities by performing a simple service, such as displaying the weather or providing a search bar. Some programs are effectively trojans. These applications are commonly designed so as to be difficult to remove or uninstall. The ever-increasing audience of online users, many of which are not computer-savvy, frequently lack the knowledge and technical ability to protect themselves from these programs.