Democracy has come to advertising. The ancient business of subtle manipulation has gone online and is finding that Internet users, not slick ad men, have become the copywriters. The question no longer is what sly appeal will pry open the customers’ wallets, but what information does the user want to learn and how does he demand it be presented?

The two steps of online advertising — bringing people to the site, and leading them to the purchase-urging information they seek — mandates a new kind of search optimization. “You’ve got eight seconds to funnel that browser to exactly what he wants. Then he hits the ‘back’ button,” says Frank Montero, founder of Monterey Internet, and qualified advertising professional for both Google and Yahoo.

To help business people understand the value of the precise, right words in online ads and sites, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce has asked Montero to present “How to Use Google AdWords to Grow Your Business,” on Wednesday, August 19, 7:30 a.m. at the Erdman Center in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Cost: $30. Visit www.princetonchamber.org.

Since 1996 Montero has developed cutting edge online marketing advertising and user analytics. Growing up in Monterey, California, with an accountant father, Montero originally followed the family trade, graduating from Florida International University in 1978 with an accounting bachelor’s. After being lured into a variety of ventures he deemed more interesting he finally ended up as president of NNC Inc., a firm that oversaw 70 healthcare and rehabilitation centers. “This is where I got my first taste of the strange and new world of Internet marketing,” Montero says. He marketed his company’s services on Google, Yahoo, Overture, and SEO until 2003.

Montero then launched simultaneously Economy Printing Service, Ryan Ranch Printers, and Monterey Internet. He has come east to operate his Internet advertising services and to support his wife, an executive with ETS.

“Google is, above all, an advertising company,” says Montero. Those keyword purchases and display ads bring in 95 percent of their revenue. In return, you get your information placed in the most relevant context — but only if you do it right and listen to your browsers.

One little word. “The whole goal is to pick words that people are looking for, then analyze the response, and adjust it accordingly,” explains Montero. If you are a plumber with a shop in Princeton, you might go for the obvious “Plumber” and then add a geographical modifier “Mercer,” which is your business range. Makes sense, but which is the better listing to buy: “Mercer Plumber” or “Plumber Mercer?”

Each of the listing choices provides a broad scope to a broad client base. And more broad usually means more costly. For a small extra price, our plumber might purchase what’s termed a long tail specific, such as “Kohler Rialto 123 Toilet.” It’s obviously something few others would bid on, and thus is cheaply obtained. However, the individual seeking that replacement will find our Mercer Plumber alone and at the ready.

Contextual ads broaden the advertiser’s scope and allow for some great mutual piggybacking. The producer of specialty kitchen appliances might go beyond his own and his vendor’s websites and try placing an ad on Martha Stewart.com. The trick here is to study the site and follow the path that leads to your ad. If it’s under the “Daily Inspiration” section, the wording must differ vastly from the more traditional “Home Tours” section.

Testing the waters. The real benefit of online marketing lies in the evaluation. The same tech miracles that are placing your ad in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, can instantly analyze the most effective way for this spot, today. And it can guide how to keep changing it according to browser acceptance. Suppose a bank is seeking the most effective landing page. Should their opening picture be large or small? Should the customer depicted be a black-suited business man or a young couple with child in tow?

“A good online analytic firm will simply do an ‘A-B split’ to determine the value of each,” says Montero. Such a firm will set up both sites, and see how long what kind of browsers remain with the small vs. the larger picture. Ad professionals don’t theorize on preferences, the users provide the facts. “It’s not impossible to do this kind of analysis in-house,” says Montero, “but it’s a little like trying to do an appendectomy on yourself.”

If a link is properly set up, the company can arrange it so the user’s click takes him past the vendor’s site, right to the picture and text describing the product. The browser immediately views the product, then, if he wants it, can backtrack to the actual vendor’s landing page and make the purchase. Such direct funneling is a win-win for producer, vendor, and customer.

Business stages. How far along your company and product has come determines how you advertise, Montero feels. If your new non-slip ladder holder is barely beyond the invention stage, and the company has just formed, people don’t know to ask for it. They won’t search conventionally. The best plan is to employ social networking, a la YouTube, LinkedIn, et cetera, and work to establish contextual ads with known companies.

“This is also a good stage to use behavioral targeting,” says Montero. “If you are selling products for Yom Kippur, you can go to various Jewish journals and sites online.” He also notes that some companies might plant a benign spyware to find out if the user has been browsing flights to Israel, and thus might be interested in this product.

As the product becomes known, the user moves on to the consideration stage. He knows he wants a new television, but he has not decided on which one, nor whether to splurge on a huge plasma model. At this point the advertiser’s copy should best point toward comparison. Mention the factors that differentiate his company and product — and set him above the competition.

In the final stage, the user has already opted for a Sony model 123 plasma TV, much to his wife’s horror. Now he is going online and hunting for price. “At each stage, the ad wording must reflect the need,” says Montero.

In the pre-cyberspace days of advertising, repetition and high claims were the style. Ad giant BBD&O once mandated that every 30-second spot announce the company and product name at least five times. “Better” and “best” were the most common adjectives. But consumers have now armed themselves with sophistication against such heavy handed ads.

Montero always advises against the use of superlatives in any Internet ad. “People nowadays are looking for information and value,” he says. “They want to find our about quality from others’ recommendations.”

In many ways, the interactive web 2.0 has come to emulate traditional life 1.0. And that’s not a bad model.

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