Are banner ads really “worthless real estate”? Don’t write them off just yet! In recent years, banner ads have earned a (deservedly) bad rep: many lack credibility, are poorly designed, and are not effectively optimized for clicks. In 2015, Nielson reported that banner ads are one of the least trusted forms of advertising among consumers, second only to mobile text ads. Compared with the top trusted ad formats (branded websites, online consumer reviews, and editorial content), more than half of all Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z distrust banner ads.
Trust isn’t the only problem. Despite unprecedented micro-targeting capabilities, average click-through rates are abysmal. Only one in 1,000 people click on an ad, reports Ad Age. Compounding the problem: ads are too small to build brand awareness and too simple to generate emotional engagement. Worse, people read in an “F-shaped” pattern online, skipping the right sidebar real estate where banner ads typically live.
Don’t put the final nail in the coffin for banner ads just yet, however. When correctly designed, banner ads can still be an effective component in a comprehensive inbound lead generation program. The key is to get smart about analytics, design, and optimization. Here’s how.
Problem: No one clicks on your banner ads
Solution: Better placement, higher relevancy.
Yes, the right sidebar is pretty much a banner ad wasteland. (Google has tacitly admitted to this with its elimination of right sidebar AdWords.) Ads at the top of the page or to the left of content perform best. Put your ads here, match the surrounding content, and make them interactive. Consider this used car sales ad experiment: Marketing Experiments tested two ads, one listing cars for sale and a second with search functionality for car listings. Adding search functionality increased the ad’s utility and value. Finally, don’t discount the importance of relevancy! If the ads being served on a website are completely irrelevant to the site’s content, site visitors will ignore the ads– no matter how visible they are.
Problem: Lots of data, no optimization.
Solution: Optimize for peak user activity and audience segmentation.
Stop throwing banner ads at the proverbial wall and hoping something sticks. You can’t create compelling content if you don’t know what type of content connects with your audience or when your audience is most active. I like Bannersnack Analytics’ advanced statistical analysis based on user data across all devices. For example, the insights dashboard shows how clicks and metrics change depending on the screen size you’re displaying the banner ad on. Use the banner ad heatmap to understand where a visitor is clicking and where he isn’t. Understanding the kind of content, you need to create, the days you need to create it, and the best times to run your display ad will significantly improve your ad’s ROI.
Problem: No money for a professional designer.
Solution: Master the basics of banner ad design.
The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text, according to Bannersnack Academy, a helpful free online resource for mastering the basics of banner ad design. You don’t have to pay a professional designer big bucks to create visually compelling and persuasive banner ads. You just need to understand a few design basics. First, choose high-quality images that are professional, crisp and clear. Be sure the images you choose support and reinforce your main message.
Finally, choose colors based on display environment. If you’re creating ads for Facebook, steer clear of blue (which will blend in) and opt for a contrasting orange, yellow or red instead. Throughout the design process, keep this mantra in mind: cut the clutter. The most compelling banner ads feature a single headline, a single call to action, and a single image/focal point. Follow this design recipe: streamline the information, use a single image to grab attention, and write a compelling CTA to drive home your message. Simplicity is key for banner ad design, just as it is for other types of lead generation.
There’s no hiding from the truth: people don’t love banner ads. That said, an advertising tactic doesn’t have to be loved to be effective. By honing in on what people don’t like about banner ads – they’re annoying, visually unattractive, and contextually irrelevant – and fixing these problems, you can create a positive experience for your target audience.