Better Banner Ads

Tricks for More Clicks

Web banner ads are just one of the essential tools in the B2B marketers’ toolbox. And like every advertising tool, the secret to improving performance is both art and science. However, following a few simple guidelines will help maximize your return on investment.

See the Sites
Begin with an understanding of the demographics of the site on which your ad will appear. Targeted ads typically pull twice as well as general interest ads. When it comes to clicks, traditional direct marketing techniques still apply. Make a specific offer. Give the reader a reason to take action. Be as specific as possible.

Beware Banner Blindness
The Mad Men long ago learned that imitation soon transforms unique to mundane. While the mediums change, human behavior does not. After seeing the same thing in the same place for a length of time, we tend to simply overlook it. This phenomenon has made the once ideal top of the page banner placement nearly invisible (dubbed banner blindness). So what is the best place for your ad? Each site is unique, but here are the latest rules-of-thumb for more clicks-of-mice:

- No scrolling required. Ads above the fold perform better than below.
- Stay centered. A center-placed ad draws best.
- Close to the action. Ads placed near navigation or rich content benefit from the interaction nearby.

Again, first you must consider the individual site. Consider the visitor and what they’ll be looking for and how they’ll interact with that particular page. Where do visitors look first?  The best placement will be next to the best content. Essentially, we want to get noticed, while integrating the ad into the page. (Avoid annoying the visitor).

Keep it Simple
For most B2B sites, clean and uncluttered is the way to go. Animation, done tastefully, generally increases response rates. Most importantly, the visual, headline, copy and offer need to be clear, concise and consistent with your overall brand and promotion strategy.

Studies have shown that for information-rich sites, matching the font, point size and colors of the host site (while keeping logos and offer elements small) can double click-through rates. This approach helps avoid “banner blindness” without attempting to “trick” the visitor (i.e., disguising an ad as editorial).

Size Matters
Both Google Adsense and Doubleclick studies reveal a direct correlation between banner size and click-through rates, with the 336x280 (large rectangle) performing best. Again, with a caveat, the banner ad must “fit” the specific webpage. An ad that overpowers content, may indeed get noticed, but not necessarily appreciated. However, one of the beauties of the online world (vs. print) is resizing art to fit the vehicle is relatively easy and inexpensive.

Testing, Testing, Testing
Another beauty of the web is that we can test options, measure results and modify tactics quickly. Test sites, sizes and positions. Test different headlines, offers, and layouts (while of course retaining your brand identity). Do this for both your ads and your landing pages. Measure click-through rates and bounce rates. Your ad may be catching prospects, but your landing page might be letting them slip away. 

Click-through rates are not what they once were. Double Click’s “2008 Year-in-Review Benchmarks” published in June 2009, revealed that while clicks and interaction rates correlate strongly to ad size, the average click-through rate is now at .1%. (Yes, that’s one/tenth of one percent.) New research is revealing that banner ad’s role is shifting from direct response to one of image and awareness.

The novelty may have worn off. Now the banner ad joins the rest of the tools in the marketing toolbox as a potentially valuable component of a strategic campaign. With Web traffic continuing to rise, the exposure and clicks provided by banner ads can be very cost-effective... when approached as part of an overall integrated marketing campaign.