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How Online Ad Placement Impacts Clickthrough Rates

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Online advertising
Credit: Maya Maceka, Unsplash Creative Commons license

Online ad placement is a major factor in whether ads have good or bad clickthrough rates and happy or unhappy advertisers.

Website publishers who review ad delivery reports will gain useful insights from the results of moving ads around a page.

Three simple tips for online ad placement will improve banner ad effectiveness and response rates:

  1. Keep two ads visible above the fold.
  2. Use at least the leaderboard 728×90 and rectangular 300×250 or 300×600 (which may be cut off by the bottom of the browser status bar).
  3. Minimize nearby distractions, i.e., large photos or graphics.

Here are some examples of how the banner position impacts the revenue.

Visibility Counts

A site launched with two ad positions – a 160 x 600 (also called a vertical or skyscraper) at the top of the right sidebar and a 300 x 250 (also called a pillow, rectangle or Mid Page Unit) in the main body of the page.

Both ads are Internet Advertising Bureau standard sizes and among the most common sizes on the Internet.

Over the course of the month, these two ads delivered an average click-through rate of 1.2 percent, which is far above the Internet average.

For the record, the Internet average is so low because the huge volume of ads available dilutes their performance.

The site in question has a higher average in part because it has specialty content. It’s also because the banner ads are contextual, meaning they deliver ads highly relevant to the content on that page.

Out of that 1.2 percent average click-through rate, the 160 x 600 had a 1.4 percent click rate while the 300 x 250 averaged 1.0 percent.

A third ad position below the browser status bar — meaning the visitor had to scroll to see it — produced an average far below 1 percent.

Leaderboard Placement Matters

The 728×90 leaderboard is a popular ad unit, but it often ends up in several possible locations on a page.

There are three options for a leaderboard at the top of a page:

  1. Above the site’s nameplate.
  2. To the right of the nameplate.
  3. Below the nameplate and centered.

Above the nameplate: Testing indicates that putting the ad above the header and nav will lead to poor performance and the lowest click rates of the three options.

It is easy to understand why. Visitors come to a contentsite to find information; they don’t come to it to look at the ads unless the site has a classified focus like Craig’s List.

Visitors looking for content know better than to bother looking at the nameplate or anywhere above it because content doesn’t generally go above the name of the site.

Beside the nameplate: Putting it to the right of the nameplate will somewhat improve the performance.

On the great majority of sites, the navigation bar lies right below the nameplate. Visitors looking for information will go to the navigation bar if they can’t find what they want on their landing page. The odds of seeing the ad go up.

Below the nameplate: Putting it below the nameplate will improve it even more.

Improving Ad Response Rates

The ad is now wedged between the navigation bar and what is usually the most important content of the page, which gets placed at the top.

In the case of one specialty site, putting the horizontal ad at the top of the page delivered a 2.25 percent click-through rate. At the same time, the other two ads maintained their previous averages of 1.4 and 1.0 percent, respectively.

Not only does the leaderboard ad have a greatly improved response rate, but the other two ads don’t deteriorate in performance.

Keep in mind that the performance of online ad placement depends not only on the ad position but the quality and relevance of the ad itself.

Any ad with poor graphics, no call to action or selling something irrelevant to the landing page will likely get a poor click rate no matter where it is placed.

Even Low-Click Sites Improve

Some content sites have low click rates because they don’t attract high-quality advertising. These categories include news, sports and weather.

A particular news site has a 160 x 600 ad in the right rail that is partly cut off. It gets an average click through of 0.17 percent.

But then it adds a leaderboard to the top of the page between the header and main content.

That ad averages a 0.33 percent click rate or nearly double the other one.

Whether a site has a local advertiser or national one, brand promotion ads or contextual ones, it’s important to place ads in top-level, highly visible positions that deliver the highest possible click-through rates.

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