A focus on differentiation and creativity separates any online advertising effort that genuinely builds awareness and attracts potential buyers from one that fails to make an impact.

Web advertising hit double-digit growth in 2010, outpacing traditional media and surpassing newspaper ad revenue for the first time, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Although these figures are from the US, Australia experiences similar trends.

Now, more than ever, what matters most in web advertising is gaining cut through. To improve the click through rate (CTR) of online ads, marketers can now look to advances in Web site optimization and progressive profiling to maximize results.

When embarking on your next web campaign consider the following five key tactics to improve your online advertising ROI.

No. 1 – Target the buying cycle. Firstly pay attention to the buying cycle stage of the prospects you’re trying to reach. Instead of targeting your ads at the educational phase of the buying cycle consider using the progressive profiling to target your buyers in the solution and vendor selection phases.

No. 2 – Leverage social advertising. There is an ever growing list of niche blog or community sites to advertise on. In addition, Facebook and LinkedIn have ad optimization capabilities built into their platforms. Use their list of tools to analyze results and measure performance and ensure ads are performing.

No. 3 – Contextual messages have the biggest impact. Web ads should align with the content topics on the Web page that attracted an audience to view it. Advertise on sites that attract your company’s target audience in significant numbers and focus primarily on driving awareness.

No. 4 – Integrate using inbound strategies. Online ads are small and can’t hold a lot of copy so use them to support larger inbound strategies and position them on sites that prospects may visit based on search. Action is dependent on the content’s relevance to make prospects take the next step. Think carefully about a landing page strategy to provide prospective customers with more relevant information.

No. 5 – Measure and measure again. If your web advertising strategy is sound your ad will drive an action (e.g. downloading content, completing a form, driving through to a landing page) or a transactional sale, and will contain a discount or coupon code. Tracking click through conversions should be compared with actual sales to determine your online effectiveness.

Remember this is still new marketing territory so testing should play a prominent part in any advertising program to define success and determine if better results can be gained. Test not only the effectiveness of ad content and targets, but also design and outlet effectiveness. Good luck.