7 steps to better-converting banner ads

Created: Inessa Bokhan
Categories: 7 things, PPC, UX, Web design

Banner ads are still a popular format of promoting your products and services online. It'll be true to say that banners are now having their second life, mostly due to the fact that they are now designed in a much smarter way – to attract users’ attention, provide useful information and look consistent on any site’s page.

Avoiding the common faux-paw of banner ads (banners with unsolicited sound, video auto-plays, offensive slogans and images, etc.) will help a lot, but following some more practical tips will do even more good for your online advertising.

Outlined here are recommendations to help you design suitable, effective, and profitable banners ads targeted at conversions.

1. Make headlines stand out

Make the headline short, concise and captivating. Nope, "look here!" won't do. Think of something that would entice site's visitors with a strong offer and try to draw them in to click on the ad.

Here are some options to make the headline more attractive:

  • mention a discount offer or a limited time offer
  • include your strongest selling proposition
  • be informational and add useful data on product's features.

The copy that follows the headline should become its logical continuation. First - captivate, then - quickly explain more about the offer.

2. Talk about your experience

Sometimes your experience is your strongest benefit that you can highlight in the ad. However, if you can't sound really impressive regarding the time you've been in the industry, talk about experience related to the number of "happy customers," "successfully delivered goods," and so on.

3. Use contradictions

Don't be afraid to play with contradictions - contrasting phrases (just as contrasting colors!) can help you prevent "banner blindness" and significantly improve the CTR of ads. 

Take a look at this ad for instance:

Germans have always been known as one of the most organized and diligent nations in the world, so using the phrase "Chaos. German style" makes this stereotype work brilliantly in the ad!

Think how you can combine what's difficult to combine and you will achieve some really outstanding results.

4. Make content and images "on target"

Using images is a strong and a good-working method to attract viewer's attention. But images have to be "on target" with the content. It means that if you sell pesticides, a young beautiful woman will certainly attract quite a lot of attention, but when users read the "Innovative pesticides now on sale" headline, they'll probably feel that something is wrong with this ad and won't click on it. Even if they get enticed by the lady, and instinctively click on the ad, you'll soon notice how high your bounce rate is and how low the conversion rate is. 

Some decent examples of images on target that work like magnet for users (those are mainly print ads, but they’ll give an idea of inspiring and effective images for online banners):

IPod ad:

Meccano contrsuctor sets:

5. Inspect your banners’ calls-to-action

The CTA is the final logical point of your banner ad. Ideally, after a user gets attracted by  the headline, then gets more reassured by the ad copy, they are ready to perform an action - the action you've planned for them. That's why your CTA should also be the logical continuation (and  the strong final point!) of the ad. 

Inspect your banner CTAs and make sure that:

- CTAs are well-positioned

Place your CTA instinctively within the eye path of users - if you have to look for longer than a second to find the CTA, you'd better reposition it.

- CTAs look prominent and have enough "breathing room" 

- CTAs have a unique color that stands out from the ad

- CTAs use common shapes - buttons. Surely, now almost anyone knows that the whole area of  the banner is clickable and will bring you to the page, but it doesn't change the fact that we  prefer clicking on traditional buttons.

Take a look at these well-designed call-to-actions:

Site remark:

Templatic:

Droplr:

6. Mention one offer per ad

Users are too busy while surfing and have little time to read all the offers you've put on a single banner ad and they are even less likely to choose from multiple calls-to-action. So, 1 ad equals 1 offer and ideally your landing page linked to this banner should also focus on this exact offer.

McDonald’s:

Ikea:

7. Keep it simple

You've tried some cool animations, contrasting ads, photo collages - and what not - but the ad's performance still leaves much to be desired... Okay, now try to keep things really simple - a short simple headline, a copy written in simple language, and a traditional red-colored CTA button.

You may be surprised at how well your ad will perform after all this simplification.  While most banners on the page will try to stand out, your simple banner will naturally stand out on their cluttered background.

Examples of well-designed simple banners:

Vizir:

Lego:

Ikea:

The final thoughts

Before you rush to create new multiple banners for your online campaigns, remember the following:

Always optimize file size

The rule of thumb is the smaller the better. It's recommended not to exceed 50kb per banner. Making light-weight banners, you ensure they'll quickly get loaded to grab user's attention.

Always measure success

The only possible way to know if your ads are effective is to measure how they are doing. Monitor the most important metrics, such as CTR, conversion rate, sales. Monitor which sites are more effective and exclude websites that produce too many clicks (eating out your ad budget) with few conversions.

If you are only starting with online banners, consider launching the first campaign using Google AdWords - you'll get the most comprehensive guidelines and video tutorials to help at the very beginning.

Vary your banners depending on the type of placement

If you place banners via the ad network (such as Google AdWords for example), make your banners more universal. The thing is, they’ll be shown on thousands of various web resources and you can’t be sure who will see this ad.

When you place banners on exact specific websites, make your ads more targeted. Here’s a simple example with a furniture shop banner ad.

A banner for an ad network (includes a message on discounts, types of furniture offered, it’s quite universal and targets many users):

The second banner is a bit more targeted, as it focuses on people working from home. This ad will perform greatly on a blog for freelancers, mompreneurs, etc.:

Create message match between an ad and a landing page

In one of my previous posts I’ve already touched the point of a strong message match and would like to repeat it again – make sure that your landing page is an expanded and comprehensive version of a banner ad. Sometimes a banner is well-designed with a good specific CTA, but when it leads to a homepage, instead of a related landing page, the conversion rate can be very low. Don’t waste your ad budgets and think of the message match before you even launch the first banner.

Do you run banner ads? How effective are they for your online biz? Let's discuss this in the comments!

Image credit: Theen Moy via Flickr

Author: Inessa Bokhan
joined WebMeUp on a part-time basis to work on content and outreach. She covers the "7 Things" series for WebMeUp blog and manages our affiliate campaigns. Inessa also works as Chief Marketing Manager at SEOlots, search marketing consultancy for small business companies. Iness brings with her a wealth of experience (over 6 years) having worked in-house and agency-side in SEO and PPC.