Heck, I didn’t used to know the answer myself. But I do now, and it reveals quite a bit about how and where ads perform best on a site.
It is stating the obvious — but it needs to be stated anyway — that the click-through rate is the ultimate quantifiable response measurement for a banner ad.
It is stating the well-known that click-through rates continue a downward trend because of ad blindness and the overwhelming volume of ads on an overwhelming volume of Web sites.
What is less obvious or known is that site publishers can influence the rate of clicks by tracking them for every ad position and experimenting with where the ads are placed and what kind of creative is used in those positions.
The right position can result in click rates above 1 percent compared to the Internet average of about 0.1%.
Tracking Click Rates
Most ad serving software packages provide click rate reports for ad positions.
What they don’t always do is provide the kind of analysis and graphing that provides insights about click trends.
For anyone using AdSense, the date is readily available, but again some tweaking is helpful.
A simple way to provide those insights is with a spreadsheet that gets updated once a week with every ad position.
Each row contains the rate for that position. The rows should show a fairly predictable rate over time.
Place an average at the beginning or end of each row, then order the rows from highest to lowest or vice versa. Use that average as a benchmark.
In my experience — and you might find something different — the rankings of the rows rarely change much if at all.
One lesson from the experience is that certain ad positions perform well and others do quite poorly.
Another lesson is that experimentation can lead to higher click rates for poor performers.
It only makes sense to take that insight and start playing with ad positions.
Visible impressions is a growing concept in online advertising that embraces the notion of ad positions that are seen by anyone who visits a site.
That means the ad positions are near the top of the site pages and don’t require scrolling to view the majority of what they display.
As a result, two of the most common ad sizes at the top are 728 x 90 pixels and 300 x 250 pixesls.
But it doesn’t stop there. Are the ads above the logo? Does content wrap around them? Are they on the right or left side of the page? Are distracting logos or graphics next to them?
There often is no right answers because every site has unique qualities that produce somewhat different visitor behavior.
Even in the case of a single ad, the exact placement matters. Moving it an inch can change the results. Moving something away also can change the results.
Make a change and let it ride for a few weeks until the tracking spreadsheet shows a trend either better or worse than the previous one.
Do this for all ad positions.
Build an amazing Web page with beautiful graphics. Then put a dull ad next to it.
The odds are good that the ad won’t get many clicks — if any.
From an advertising perspective, the most important and eye-catching graphics on any Web page should be the ads rather than the site logo, photos or other images.
The entire point of advertising is to capture attention. It is more important than ever online because of ad blindness.
Layout is one element of site design, and ad positions are part of layout. Graphics is another element of site design, and ad creative is part of it as well.
So when possible, choose images, fonts and colors that complement the site design but at the same time stand out from that design.
If the site design makes the ad positions and creative a poor cousin, why have advertising at all?