From as far back as I can remember banner ads have been a staple part of the online marketing and advertising mix. Display advertising is an affordable way to raise brand awareness and its outcome is measurable via the number of people who click through to your site (or chosen landing page).
As banner ads have such a large presence on the web, viewers have become more immune to their content and sometimes banners can go unnoticed or not entice users to click them – this can often be attributed to the design or clarity of the content. To make your banner stand out and compel people to click it you need to consider the content and, most importantly, the audience. Follow my advice below on how to create a targeted, purposeful online advert that will catch your audience’s attention.
Decide on the purpose of your ad
Before you create a design or write any content for your banner, you must decide its purpose. A banner without a clear goal will not be as effective as one which is targeted and defined.
The two things you really need to think about are:
- Why do you want a banner ad?
A banner must always have a reason to exist, if you’ve decided to start advertising then there must be some motivation behind it. As a whole, it’s probably to drive sales, but that isn’t targeted enough. You need to know exactly what you want the banner to do and what the outcome should be :
- Want to entice people to buy products? Then you need to decide which ones and why, and don’t forget to give people a reason to buy them. Make it clear that people need to click the banner to buy the products from your site.
- Maybe you want to get people to call you about something. Firstly decide why you’d want them to contact you (perhaps to get a free quote or some information) and make it clear to the viewer why they should call you. Make sure your phone number is big and easy to read.
- Perhaps it’s to inform viewers about a new product and entice them to buy it. Then make sure you showcase the product and its benefits, and don’t forget to let people know that they should click the banner to purchase from you.
- You want to advertise a sale or promotion and get people to buy. Then make it clear what the offer is and ask people to click through to your site to see it.
- Maybe you just want to raise brand awareness. Advertising can be useful to get your brand name into people’s minds. Make the banner purposeful though, a logo and piece of generic text won’t do – make sure you let people know who you are, what you do, why people need you and who will need you. Also tell them what to do if they do need you: “If you need help with xxxxx visit our site”.
- Who is your audience?
There aren’t many products or services that will be useful to everyone and every point in their life, so you need to work out who your audience is and when they’d need you. Take, for example, a standard household product like scissors – pretty much used by everyone, right? Yes they are, but we don’t need them all the time and you don’t often realise you want to buy something until you need it. You wouldn’t advertise them as “Scissors, everyone should have them” it’s just too generic, you’d target people who need them now – “Need to cut some paper? You should buy some scissors”. This is what you need your banner ad to do, find out who needs/wants your product/service right now and target them. For example, if you were an accountant then a good ad to run late December/early January would be a campaign aimed at small businesses and sole-traders who haven’t completed their tax returns yet (as they are due on the 31st January). By offering a helping hand at the right time you could entice people to use you.Many of the banner ad systems allow you to target your audience – some by specific age, sector, location etc. and some are even cleverer as they look at a user’s browser history to see their interests and what websites they have visited. In a study, 58 percent of people said online banner ads are not that relevant to them, by targeting people via the banner ad systems you can make sure the audience that sees your ad is more relevant to your message.
Your banner ad design
You’ll only have a second or two to capture the audience’s attention so you need your banner to be engaging, clear and obvious. A survey by AdKeeper found that 43 percent of people say online banner ads don’t seem interesting or engaging – so here are some tips on creating an enticing banner design that viewers will want to click:
- One clear message
A single message per banner, not too much text. If you have lots of different products, services or offers then it would be better to have several banners running, each with a different message.
- Uncluttered text and visuals
Visually your banner needs to be clear, easy to read and attractive so that it is appealing to your audience.
- Don’t include too many colours or images.
- Make sure that the text and background colours aren’t too similar and that they don’t clash, a good site to use to try out different colour palettes is http://color.adobe.com, it’s a wheel that allows you to find out what colours complement each other. Also make sure that you mainly use blocks of solid colour, don’t use too many gradients as they will be distracting.
- Your text should be in a big and clear font. You should use different size text so the most important messages, like your headline, are larger than the rest – this will help create a clear hierarchy of text and the key messages will stand out when a viewer glances at the banner.
- Make sure your banner ad follows your brand guidelines. When someone clicks on the banner they will be taken through to your website (or landing page) and if it looks very different to your banner style then the visitor might think they are in the wrong place. Consistency will build trust and brand awareness.
A viewer’s eyes are often drawn to content inside a frame. If you have a colourful or graphical background on your banner that goes all the way to the edge then you might not need to frame it, although sometimes a frame in these circumstances can just add a finishing touch. But if you have a white background on your advert then a frame is essential – many websites where your ad will be placed may have white backgrounds and your advert will get lost if not contained within a border. If you just want a subtle outline then go for a light/medium grey, one pixel border.
- A clear call to action
A banner ad’s main purpose is to get viewers to take action, this is normally by enticing the user to click on it, but sometimes it might be to get them to call you. The best banners have a clear call to action that tells their audience exactly what they should do and what to expect when they click on the ad (or call you). For example “click to start your free 7 day trial”, “contact us for a free quote”, “click to download our free ebook” – or they could be something slightly simpler like “shop now”, “switch now”, “get started”. A call to action is normally in the form of a button or clearly defined area that makes it clear that the viewer should click it.
- Choosing a popular size
The different banner ad systems will have various sizes you can choose from, some sizes work better than others. Google lists their best performing ad sizes on their site: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6002621?hl=en&rd=1 – choosing a size that has a good performance rate is always a smart choice, as an advertiser you need every single advantage you can use.
Although not part of the banner design itself, it’s important to consider the placement of your banner. Ideally, you want your banner featured above the fold (this means above the bottom of the screen, so a user doesn’t have to scroll to see your ad) and close to the main content of a webpage.
This Aviva advert is a great example of how a great banner should look. It is animated and has 4 stages. It uses the pension auto-enrolment deadline to create urgency and to create context, it then tells you how they can help and finally it has a compelling ‘call to action’ button at the end that tells users exactly what they are clicking through for: a “FREE no obligation consultation”. It is also branded perfectly in the Aviva colours and is clear and uncluttered.
Your landing page is a very important part of your banner ad campaign. Once the banner has done its work and got the viewer to click through to your site you need to make sure that the visitor is converted into a customer. A banner ad should rarely send people to your homepage, it should take them to a page that follows through from the banner’s message. So if we take my example above where I spoke about an accountant, who could entice sole-traders/small businesses to use the accounting firm to do their tax returns, then the ideal page for the viewer to land on is one that explains about the tax return process, how they can help and details of how to contact the accountant. If you don’t have a landing page suitable then make sure you create one especially for the banner ad campaign.43% say banner ads aren't engaging, read how to make ads that people will want to click on… Click To Tweet