Display ads were once the most popular form of advertising on the Internet. In recent years, however, text ads, driven by search engine marketing, have become more popular. The effectiveness of banner ads relies on volume because click-thru rates are very low, averaging 0.5 percent. This means for each thousand display ads purchased, you can expect five click-thrus.
Since the average Internet user is exposed to hundreds of display ads each day, most have learned to look at display advertisements without seeing them--a practice referred to as banner blindness. Banner blindness means Internet users focus on the content of a page and ignore the advertisements. This is especially true for bright, flashing ads, and ads unrelated to the website content being viewed.
Since display ads have a lower click-thru rate than text ads, many marketers challenge their effectiveness as a tool for generating sales. At the same time, however, marketers recognize the contributions that banner ads make to a company's unaided brand awareness. Unaided brand awareness is important to marketers because it contributes to future sales when web surfers remember an ad they've seen--even though they never clicked on it.
Unaided brand awareness is also an important indicator of brand dominance. There is a high correlation between unaided awareness and market share. When people shop, they begin with the brands that they know first.
Standard display ad sizes include:
- Banner ads (common)
- full banner (468x60 pixels)
- half banner(234x60 pixels)
- vertical banner (120x240 pixels)
- leaderboard (720x90 pixels)
- Skyscraper ads (common)
- skyscraper (120x600 pixels)
- wide skyscraper (160x600 pixels)
- Button ads (infrequent)
- button 1 (120x90 pixels)
- button 2 (120x60 pixels)
- Rectangular/pop-up ads (infrequent)
- rectangle (180x150 pixels)
- medium (300x250 pixels)
- square (250x250 pixels)
- vertical (240x400 pixels)
- large (336x280 pixels)
The effectiveness of display ads is determined by their size and location on a given web page. People read web pages in an "F-pattern", narrowing their focus as they scroll down a page of content. Readers focus on the content at the top of a page, read a little bit further down, then give up and go back to the beginning of the same or subsequent page.
This means that display ads that appear on the top and top-right side of a page have higher visibility than ads placed on the left or further down the page.
When creating display ads, marketers can optimize their click-thru rates by considering best practices:
- Target your message. Tailor the design, content and offer in your display ad to appeal strongly to a specific subgroup instead of to everyone in your target market. Create several versions of the ad that appeal to different subgroups and rotate them. Determine those that perform best and use them more frequently.
- Keep it simple. Avoid clutter. Don't try to use a display ad as a substitute for visiting your site. Choose complementary colors that grab a visitor's attention. Highlight a specific offer.
- Create a sense of urgency. The best display ads promote a product or offer with high demand, but limited availability. Phrases such as "Hurry!", "Limited time!", and "Special offer!" promote urgency.
- Promise and provide a better destination. Your display ad should promote your ad's landing page as a better destination than the current website. Create a landing page that's specific to the ad, rather than dropping visitors on your homepage. The landing page should be targeted toward the consumers and the specific offer described within the ad.
Don't be discouraged if your display ads don't generate instant click-thrus. As with any advertising format, it's important to experiment with different designs, content and offers to determine what works best for your company.