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Ad Placement and Prominence = Advertiser Value

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The best online ad placement is an important consideration for any site with advertising accounts.

The site can have all direct sales clients or entirely Google AdSense.

Either way, the ad placement has a big impact on results for the advertiser and revenue for the site.

A site with poor ad placement runs the risk of losing direct sales accounts because of performance problems — especially if the campaign is based on CPM or cost per thousand.

It also will see much lower ad revenue from national networks such as Google AdSense because they have the means of tracking results.

If the results are poor, they will simply provide ads with a lower cost per click.

Screen Resolution Matters a Lot

Some designers with large monitors or expansive screen resolutions might be tempted to design a page that displays fully on their screens.

A review of site analytics will show the average screen resolution for site visitors and whether it makes sense to keep the page dimensions modest in order to provide the best display for ad placement.

A design with a wide display and ads on the right will have the ads cut off from view on screen resolutions with narrower dimensions.

Start with Above the Fold

Google heat map

Google heat map shows the locations with the highest click rates. But what’s best for ad clicks isn’t always what’s best for the site.

An important concept from the newspaper industry that also is used in online advertising is “above the fold.”

For a newspaper, above the fold means the top half of the page or anything above where the paper is folded in half.

Below the fold means anything in the bottom half of the page.

Applied to online, they mean anything above or below the status bar on the browser or the point at which the viewer needs to use the scroll bar to see the rest of the content on the page.

Whether it’s a newspaper or Web site, anything above the fold is considered a more important placement than anything below the fold.

User analysis shows that a high percentage of people do not use the scroll bar because they assume (and usually they are right) that they will find what they want in the top half of the page.

As a result, content and advertising above the fold tends to get higher click-through rates.

So the most important ads should go above the fold.

Below the Brand

But it doesn’t stop there. In the case of the 728×90 leaderboard, many sites place it above the fold and either above the site logo or to the right of it because of its awkward horizontal dimensions.

It’s a logical choice for using space efficiently and giving better play to content.

It’s also the worst choice for the ad and the advertiser.

I’ve tested ad placement on many sites and found that a leaderboard placed above the logo has the worst click rate, a leaderboard to the right of the logo has a better rate and a leaderboard below the logo has the best rate.

It is important to keep the brand and any content next to it shallow so that the space and the leaderboard below it don’t push the rest of the page down too far.

Unfortunately, that placement also creates a design problem.

The ad displays best if centered on the page, but now the challenge is what to do with the space to the left and right of the ad.

Some sites leave it blank, which makes the ad pop out even more. Others will put button ads or promotional teases in those spaces, which detracts from the leaderboard.

Two is the Limit

The next popular placement is a 300×250 pillow/rectangle ad. It usually goes on the far right side of the page and sometimes on the left.

The 300×250 also might be swapped out with a 300×600.

If the resulting page has two ads — the 728×90 and 300×250, the odds are good that trying to get any more ads above the fold will result in a page that is either too crowded or detrimental to content.

Make sure to view the page in various screen resolutions to ensure that both ads are fully viewable on average monitors and resolutions.

Below the Fold

The answer for placing below the fold is … it depends. It depends based on the site, plenty of experimentation and what else is available below the fold that competes with the ads.

Generally, placement on the far left or far right seems to work with while ads in the middle don’t perform as well.

Whether the ads are image or text also is a factor, as well as whether there are photos or graphics nearby that attract the visitor’s attention.

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