Banners are an integral part of an online marketing plan. They are easily recognized by most Internet users because they have been around a long time. In fact, they became a guidepost for how innovative online advertising could become. Banner ads are designed to drive traffic to your site. You pay a host site to publish your ad and their visitors can click on the ad to be redirected to your website.
It is important to know if banner advertising is appropriate for your business. This depends entirely upon the type of business you have, the products and services you sell. It can be an expensive undertaking if you do not know what you are doing. And, if you expect little traffic in return because you have a specialty website, it may not be financially feasible to implement a banner ad campaign. Even if you decide to proceed, it is unlikely you will rely solely on banner advertising regardless of your business focus.
It is equally important to consider that since banners have been around awhile, many Web users simply ignore them. This has been dubbed “banner blindness” because users simply tune them out. This can make it quite challenging to get your ad read. Fortunately, when developing banner ad campaigns, there are multiple best practices that have been established to help you along the way.
1. Location is Key
This should go without saying. In truth, online marketers still waste precious money placing ads on sites that have absolutely no chance of contributing to a successful banner ad campaign. The best sites are those that are relevant to your ads and website content. Visitors to the hosting site should be the same type of visitors you would expect to get at your own site. Also, consider where your ad is located on the page. Ads at the top of the page are seen more than those placed at the bottom simply because many site visitors never make it to the bottom of the page.
2. Traffic Flow
Although the host site might, at first glance, seem the ideal publisher for your banner ads, if they do not have enough traffic to insure a sufficient number of clicks, it may not be worth your time or money to include them on your host list. One way to ascertain a host site’s potential for success is to look at their PageRank. Sites that have high PageRanks are more likely to have better traffic flow than the ones ranked lower. It makes sense to publish your banner ads on those with the higher rankings. Free tools are available online you can use to check site rankings.
3. Research Competitors
Online marketing is more than advertising. It is actively recruiting users to choose you over your competitors. To accomplish this, you need to know certain things about your competition. Like, who they are. There may be obvious “big name” competitors but too many smaller competitors can have just as large an impact on your success as the major ones. You can go to websites that cater to your industry and look at the banner ads posted to identify competitors. Compare ads to see if you can identify the ones that are the most effective.
4. Keep Ads Short & Sweet
You don’t have much space to work in, and you don’t have much time to get readers’ attention. So the shorter your banner ad, the better it will perform. You will have to be creative in your ad design. Create short messages with large fonts. It may take a brilliant wordsmith to get a complex message across in few words. Many consultants are available to help with banner ad designs. An experienced SEO company can be the ideal all-around solution for your campaign.
5. Incorporate Keywords
Keywords are used for search engine optimization (SEO) for a reason. Even people who are unfamiliar with SEO use keywords without knowing it. It is how they search for things online. So use those keywords to attract their attention. Also, take a look at the host site and identify keywords that may have drawn visitors to that site. If you are not already using them, you may want to incorporate at least one in your advertisement. By doing so, you will also be using the keywords for SEO targeting. This means that your ads could be included in search results for those keywords. It is a secondary benefit of banner ads.
6. E3 = $$$
Your goal should be to engage, entice, and educate users. Engage them with a fun language. Entice them with great deals. Educate them about your site. Ultimately, it is all of these that will draw them to your site through the banner advertisement. The most important thing is to advertise something in particular, whether it is a product or service. There are better ways to notify the public your business in general that are more cost effective.
7. Include Call to Action
Be clear what you want the reader to do. Include specific call to action language such as “click here” or “get discount today”. Otherwise, they will look at your ad and then continue perusing the page. Make sure they understand what they get by clicking through to your site. It can be something free or something they pay for. Whatever it is, they need to know the only way to get it is by clicking on your advertisement.
8. Accessorize with Color
Use color strategically as an attention-getting tool. But stay smart with your choices. While you may want to use your corporate or website color scheme, you need to first consider where your ad will be published. If your ad has a black background, it will be visible on a web site that has a white background but will disappear on a site with a darker background color. You also want your ad to be obviously different from the other ads on the site. Use a color scheme similar to one already published, and your ad will probably be ignored.
9. Connect Ads to Website
This is more than the literal sense of making sure ads link appropriately to your website. It means that the content of your banner ad should be related to your site’s page to which they are redirected. Do not link your ad to your homepage if there is no direct relation to your ad content. Once they click on your ad, if they do not immediately see what they are looking for, users are likely to simply leave. Take this opportunity to convert visitors to customers seriously. If you are selling something, make sure they can buy that as soon as they get to your site.
10. Follow Instructions
Wherever you decide to publish your banner ad, there will be specific guidelines relating to the size of your banner advertisement. You may not have unlimited space to work with. If there is no size restriction, consider the time it takes your ad to load. The larger the file, the loading time will be longer. You will lose views as you wait for your ad to load. Take this under advisement if you are thinking about animated banner ads. While they are definitely attention-getting, they can also be slow to load, not to mention annoying to site visitors. This type of ad may be more appropriate after you have an established online presence. And if you are not familiar with certain file types, take a crash course or have someone who does now what they are doing help you out so you don’t waste time.
11. Test Ads
This involves two separate processes. You want to actually test the appearance as well as the performance of ads. Ads can appear different based on the browser used by site visitors. When developing your ad, test it in all the browsers to make sure you are satisfied with the resulting display. You also want ads to be effective. Create a couple ads and use each on different sites at different times to see which one performs better. All of your ads do not have to look exactly alike. Keep your logo intact but change the wording or other graphics you use. Continue to use the ads with high click-through rates.
12. Actively Monitor Results
As with any type of online advertising, the only way you are truly going to succeed is if you constantly monitor the return on your investment. This means tracking results and immediately making changes when necessary. If your banner is not getting results on a particular site, take it down and get it published somewhere else. Track conversions as well. High click-through rates coupled with low conversion rates suggests your website may need to be overhauled.
You cannot work in a vacuum when trying to implement a banner ad campaign. There are many decisions that need to be made that are dependent upon outside information. And when all of these factors come together and your ad is exposed to the right audience, you can have a very successful banner ad campaign.