Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ham Banner Exchange is back!

As you may have noticed by the banner at the foot of these pages, the Ham Radio Banner Exchange is back. This is thanks to the expenditure of a lot of time, effort and even hard cash by Fred, WB4AEJ.

As I reported back at the beginning of March, the original Ham Radio Banner Exchange operated by G6DPP stopped working, presumably because the web hosting bill hadn't been paid. Fred contacted me a while after that to see what we could do. We had both attempted to find out the whereabouts of G6DPP, but could not find a complete name or address anywhere on the web. He appeared to be from Loughborough, so I contacted the Loughborough amateur radio club. No-one there appeared to know him, though someone thought they had an idea where he lived, and even drove down that street but found the house they thought was his QTH up for sale. With no way to contact G6DPP there was no hope of simply taking over his existing site.

At this point Fred decided to start from scratch with a brand new banner exchange. He tried using some open source software, but that wasn't much good, so in the end he forked over $45 of his own money to buy a commercial banner exchange script. You can see the result at Ham Banner Exchange.

I think you'll agree that it's very professional looking. What it is not is intuitive to use. This isn't Fred's fault. The principal users of a script like this would be advertising professionals who understand terms like campaign and impression. So far, Fred hasn't found a way to add a step-by-step help page into his turnkey site. But I expect he'll crack it soon.

First, you need to create an account at the banner exchange site. You'll then receive a credit of 5000 impressions - number of times that your banners will be displayed. Note, I wrote banners, plural. If you have more than one ham radio site, you can create campaigns for each of them under your one account. This is an improvement over the old banner exchange which required me to create an account using a fictitious callsign to run banners for my Ham Directory site.

Next, you must "Add New Campaign." This basically means uploading a 468 x 60 pixel GIF banner advert and then filling in a few other details of your site. Creating the banner itself is the hard part, which probably puts most people off bothering, but there are a number of free online banner makers you can use (just type "online banner maker" into Google) or you could try the 7 day free trial of Easy Web Graphics.

After that (and this is the bit that is not obvious) you need to "Manage Impressions" and transfer some or all of the free impressions you were given to the campaign you just created.

Finally, go to "My Campaigns" and click on "Get Code". This will give you a bit of HTML code that you need to copy and then paste into your own web pages. This code will display the banners of other Banner Exchange participants on your pages. Each click on one of those banners will earn you two more impressions to add to those you started off with, so your banners will keep on appearing after your initial credit has run out.

Please make Fred's work worthwhile and join the Ham Banner Exchange. It's a good way to get new visitors to your ham radio website, and a fun way to find out about other ham websites as well.
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