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Online Banner Advertising: 6 Rules for Best Results

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Banner ad design

Online banner advertising gets results for publishers and clients by following six simple ideas.

The ideas may be obvious, but following them consistently is key to success. But following them consistently also is not a given because publishers and clients get distracted by other priorities and may forget to follow at least some of them.

1. Ad Sizes

Follow the Internet Advertising Bureau standards. The most important positions include the:

  • 728 x 90 leaderboard
  • 970 x 250 billboard
  • 300 x 600 (HPU or half-page unit)
  • 300 x 250 rectangle (also called pillow ad and the MPU or mid-page unit).

Although other sizes are acceptable, it’s not uncommon for publishers to ask about random sizes because they may have some other purpose.

One example is print publishers with an online presence who want to convert print ads into similar-sized online ads.

Others simply don’t know the IAB standards.

2. Ad Positions

Try to provide two to four banner advertising positions per page. Any more than four will be overwhelming to the visitor and slow down site performance because of server calls that deliver the ads and page weight from the graphics on the ads.

Search engines downgrade slow websites in search rankings even when the delay is in the hundreds of milliseconds. Google has found that website visitors can detect a difference of only 300 milliseconds in speed.

The new viewability standards, which measure ads based on whether they are viewable without scrolling, also put pressure on sites to minimize the number of ads per page.

Regardless, ads in a prominent position will almost always perform better than ads in an obscure one. Ads at the top of the page perform better with click rates than ads at the bottom.

Publishers will find the most effective way to know for sure is by experimenting with various ad positions.

3. Ad Relevance

Contextual ads from Google AdSense and others perform well if the content is specific to a narrpw topic or geographical region (as opposed to something as broad as “news”).

Bing and  Google use algorithms to detect which ads to display on a page based on the page content.

Likewise, publishers who use their own banner  ads in addition to network ads will have a similar strong performance if they are specific to the content rather than general.

Try using an ad delivery system that allows for targeting ads to certain pages or sections. If the site is local or regional, use geo targeting to limit the distribution to people within that area and display national remnant to people outside of it.

4. Ad Creative

Site visitors see an enormous amount of Web advertising in part because the average surfer visitors more than 100 sites a month and up to seven or eight sites in a single session.

Research indicates that Web advertising needs to be simple and display about three to five elements — with an element being a single word or a single graphic. People scan Web ads the way they scan outdoor billboards as they zip past them on the highway. They just don’t spend the time to read them in detail.

Almost as importantly, what should be the most dominant graphical element on a page? When a logo or photo is larger than an ad, the eye will naturally go to the logo or photo first. So keep them smaller than the ad to improve ad performance and click rates.

5. Ad Rates

Sites that sell online advertising directly to clients rather than or in addition to having remnant ads should have a rate card based on cost per thousand impressions somewhere between $5 and $20 cpm.

They also can offer discounts based on length of contract and volume of impressions.

Visit competitor sites to see if they publish rates and adjust accordingly.

6. Ad Frequency

Research shows that the typical Web visitors can see the same ad about three to five times before they shut it out of their minds.

Update creative once it runs enough to be seen that often. Set a cap on the number of impressions per visitor.

Search engine traffic that comes to a site once and leaves again, never to return, is not a problem.

Loyal visitors who come to a site weekly or daily do become a problem because they are the ones most likely to click on the ad. If they see it too often, the click rates will go down.

A related tactic is building more than one version of the creative. Watch the results for each one to see the click rates and adjust the poor performer.

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