overview, and a small study
Does it strike you as odd that a banner exchange works by
inviting people to leave your site for another?
It's something about human nature: we love to explore.
For many of us, the world wide web is the ultimate resource.
There's always something new, always something familiar,
always a way back to your home page. And we can spend hours
following links to undiscovered territory. If that weren't
the case, there would be no banner exchanges. It's that
inquisitiveness which gets us to click a link or banner in
search of another useful resource. This article examines
banner exchanges as used on hundreds of Macintosh-related
There are lots of banner exchanges to choose from, but
only two Mac-specific ones, Mac Web Network and Macseek.
Following are the more popular exchanges on Mac-related
- Mac Web
Network (aka MacInSearch), the first and largest
Mac-related banner exchange.
the upstart, begun December 1997.
Exchange, the most popular general purpose banner
Clicks, the second most popular general purpose
Except for Smart Clicks, these exchanges use a
standard 400x40 banner. Smart Clicks uses an
unconventional 400x50 design, which means you can't use the
same banner on Smart Clicks that you might use on the
other exchanges. Macseek displays a 40x40 Macseek
icon next to each banner (for 440x40 total). Link
Exchange incorporates a 40x40 icon with your 400x40
banner to create a 440x40 banner (but it is all in one
image). Link Exchange has also launched a premium
service with a larger banner and more add-ons (counter,
etc.). Drawbacks to this premium service include the need to
design yet another banner, slower loads for the larger
graphic, and the requirement that it appear at the top of
your page. Since many sponsored sites promise that location
to paying advertisers, requiring that spot for a banner
exchange rules out this service for sponsored sites.
I attempted to visit over 400
Mac-related sites while researching this
Web Network listed 385 sites on its
members page while I conducted my
had 57. In cases where I did not see a
banner on the home page, I went to a
second page on the site to verify that
there were no banners displayed. This is
not 100% accurate, as some sites may
display banners only on specific pages,
but it is a reasonable test for
Remember, click-through numbers are
based on a survey only of sites displaying
banners from two or more exchanges. Sites
displaying a single banner may have
Mac Web Network
My first surprise was the sheer number
of sites listed in the directory which
either no longer exist, have moved without
updating their link, or no longer display
a Mac Web Network (MWN) banner.
I attempted to visit all 385 sites
listed as members. Of those, 184 (48%)
actively display the banner, 61 are dead
links or bad URLs (16%), and 140 (36%) are
not displaying a Mac Web Network banner
(at least not on their main page). They
are NOT keeping up on maintenance.
Of the active MWN sites, over half
(103, or 56%) participate in two or more
banner exchanges, with 78 (76% of that 103
or 42% of all active sites) display
banners from two exchanges. (Some sites
may be involved in additional banner
exchanges which I didn't recognize. Unless
a banner was marked as part of an exchange
or known to me, I assumed it was not part
of a banner exchange.)
For sites displaying two or more
banners, I emailed a survey to the site
owner, when I could find an email link.
The feedback consistently showed a higher
click-through rate for Mac Web Network
compared with other banner exchanges.
Each of the 23 sites reporting
click-throughs on two or more exchanges
participate in Mac Web Network.
Click-through: the average
reported click-through on Mac Web Network
was 2.52%, with a range from 0.80% to
9.50%. Because members earn one credit for
each two banners displayed, this works out
to 1.26% of banners displayed on the site.
The median (middle) click-through was
2.00% (1.00% per banner displayed on
If we throw out the highest reported
score as probably spurious, the range is
from 0.80% to 4.50%, with an average of
2.20%, or 1.10% per banner
displayed on that site.
Being a newer banner exchange, almost
every site listed is an active participant
in the Macseek banner exchange. Of 57
sites listed, I found the Macseek banner
displayed on 43 (74%), no Macseek banner
on 12 (21%), and was unable to reach 2
sites (3%). Thirty of the 43 active sites
(70%) participate in two or more banner
exchanges, and 21 of those 30 display
banners for two exchanges. Eleven of 21
reporting sites display Macseek banners.
Again, I emailed surveys to any site
displaying two or more banners, in cases
where I could find an email address. I
received reports from 12 Macseek sites.
Click-through: the average
reported click-through on Macseek was
0.75%, with a range from 0.30% to 1.21%.
With members earning one credit per banner
displayed, there is no need to adjust this
figure. The median click-through was
I didn't explicitly research non-Mac
banner exchanges. However, a few did show
up on several Mac-related sites, so I
queried webmasters for hit information.
Link Exchange is the most popular non-Mac
banner exchange among the sites surveyed.
Fourteen of the 23 reporting sites display
Link Exchange banners.
Click-through: the average
reported click-through on Link Exchange
was 1.18%, with a range of 0.37% to 4.10%.
As with Mac Web Network, sites earn one
credit for each two banners displayed,
making the final figure 0.59% of
clicks for pages displayed on the site.
The median click-through was 0.98%, or
0.49% per banner displayed.
Dropping the highest score as possibly
spurious (over twice as high as the next
one), the range becomes 0.37% to 1.80%,
with an average of 0.95%, or 0.48%
per banner displayed on the site.
Several other banner exchanges also
showed up in this survey, including Smart
Clicks, Kids Hyperlinks, Millions of
Banners, and Bannerswap. However, among
those reporting click-throughs, none of
these exchanges was reported more than
Using the membership list for Mac Web Network
and Macseek <http://www.macseek.com/xchange.shtml>,
I attempted to visit every site listed. I kept a spreadsheet
open to record websites, whether they displayed a banner for
the exchange that listed them, and how many banner exchanges
they participated in. For sites participating in two or more
exchanges, I emailed the site owner with the following
survey (slightly modified as necessary):
- I notice that your site has
banners for the Mac Web Network and Link Exchange. I am
doing research for an article on banner exchanges on
pro-Mac sites and looking for feedback from sites using
banner exchanges that are not Mac-specific.If you could
answer the following questions, it would be most
- 1) What is your
click-through on Mac Web Network?
- 2) What is your
click-through on Link Exchange?
- 3) If a member, what is your
click-through on Macseek?
- 4) If you are on any other
banner exchanges, please list them and your
- Thank you. I hope to compile
this information in the coming week for an article on the
Mac Webmasters site.
A few messages bounced, many received no response, but
several webmasters were forthcoming with the requested
information. I believe this is the first detailed study of
banner exchanges as used on Mac-related web sites. I hope
the information will help you determine whether
participation in a banner exchange could benefit you and, if
so, which exchange or exchanges you should use.
I discovered a few things I find frustrating while
visiting all these sites. I'll list them now and get them
off my chest.
- Sites where the so-called home page is only a link to
another home page.
- Sites that play music automatically. Not only noisy,
but sometimes locks up my Mac.
- Too many frames. (But I also saw some excellent use
- Sites that moved but never updated their URL with the
- Sites that don't display any banner exchange on their
main page even though membership in the exchange benefits
- Sites that can't make up their mind and have 3-6
banner exchanges plus several rings on their home page.
Not only is this busy, but it makes for some very slow
The biggest surprise was the great number of sites listed
as participating in a banner exchange that showed no sign of
participation when I visited their sites. Second to this, I
was disappointed at how many sites moved without updating
their URLs with the banner exchange.
Put your banners where your customers are. Mac-related
link exchanges provide consistently higher click-through for
Mac-related sites than the generic link exchanges. Mac Web
Network is the winner when it comes to click-through ratio
(even calculating in the 2:1 display ratio) and breadth of
Mac-related sites. Macseek is a solid second, providing a
good click-through ratio and a Macintosh focus, but
currently lacking the breadth of Mac Web Network. For
Mac-related sites, Link Exchange is a distant third. It and
other banner exchanges are better used for general purpose
sites, not Mac-related ones. With the majority of surfers
using Windows (70-75%), only a minority of those seeing your
banner on these exchanges are predisposed to visit a
Macintosh site (and they call us Bigots).