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Hired by hearst New Media to further its CD-ROM business and other alternative media, Brian Sroub soon found himself in charge of building an online brand: HomeArts (http://

Over the past year, the umbrella site for Hearst home and lifestyle content has grown to an average 500,000 visits per month, thanks in part to Mr. Sroub's strategy to build HomeArts' name recognition through banner ads and content syndication.

Mr. Sroub and New York media planning shop i-traffic last winter began testing a Web ad campaign that resulted in significant new traffic to HomeArts.

Working with strings of similar words on search services and pairing them with banners touting HomeArts content, the test yielded 8% to 10% click-through rates, and in one case a 25% click-through on major search sites. Most ad banners hover below 5% click-through.

"We don't `buy' the words, we `rent' them," Mr. Sroub said. "And we watch our creative carefully."

Once the HomeArts name began to grow on the Web, Mr. Sroub and Jay Bobowicz, Hearst New Media VP-operations and business development, began work on a long-term strategy to grow the HomeArts brand through content syndication deals.

Mr. Bobowicz oversees deals with Internet service providers and online services, while Mr. Sroub handles search engines.

Next on the horizon for HomeArts? A redesign scheduled for October and a continuation of the ad campaign that will-hopefully-keep HomeArts in the consumer eye.

Betcha didn't know: Mr. Sroub renovates older homes. His family lives in a 200-year-old house (with 5 computers) in New York's Westchester County. Last summer, he dug up a sunken fountain on his property.

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