Banners are high converting for remarketing, display, email and other forms of marketing, but when it comes to affiliate, many people pass them up. For good reason too. There’s banner blindness (people naturally ignoring them), ad blockers which recognize them as ads so they get blocked, and poor design quality as they’re made for lifestyle, branding or to balance like artwork so they blend in with the site and the purpose gets ignored. But that doesn’t mean they can’t or do not work.
It is true they may not perform as well in most cases as in text or product links, but that’s because the affiliate normally treats banners differently. There’s no pre-selling, value statements, proper placements, etc… And that’s what this post is about.
Banner ads are still important for affiliate marketing because they do in fact work. You just have to know how and where to use them or have an affiliate manager that knows how to monetize and do SEO. You also need good design (not pretty, lifestyle and art wise) and proper strategy based on the specific situation or scenario which includes a traffic and SEO analysis.
There is not a one size fits all banner strategy, but this post will give you what you need to know to audit your affiliate banners and some ideas to help get you started implementing them so they may be able to work for you too. I do this regularly with some of my monetization plans for clients, and banners are almost always a part of it because they do work.
Good Affiliate Banner Design
There are a few things that make these unique from other channels like a de-emphasis on the brand and branding statements. Here’s what goes into good affiliate banner design and why:
- Unbalanced design – if it is art work, it’s going to blend in. Set something a bit off and even remove the lifestyle aspect so it pops out and doesn’t get ignored. You can keep lifestyle images, but make them complement the message, not take away or be the focus.
- Strong, clear and concise messaging – if everything is about branding or the person and lifestyle shot, the message disappears. If you sell blue widgets, make sure the main point “Blue Widgets For Sale” or “15% off Blue Widgets”. Pretty pictures are great for attention, but they should lead directly into the message.
- CTAs – your call to action should be directly tied to the message both in theme and in placement. Be cautious with the words you use as they should match and the colors should also flow through to the landing page for consistency.
- Logos – try to place the logo next to or after the CTA, don’t place it at the top for the affiliate channel. For remarketing, etc… absolutely. Affiliate is the outlier. If you have a funny, unique or weird name, or if the person knows you already and they see a deal, they’ll type your URL in direct and skip the banner meaning the affiliate doesn’t get credit.
- Sizes – it’s not just about the standard 6, make sure you have mobile and email available before the partner asks. I cannot stress how important that is. You don’t want to have someone doing a newsletter drop to 100K people with no standard email banners. I can tell you from personal experience.
Now that we know some of the important things with regards to the design of effective affiliate program banners, let’s go into some of the ways to use them as far as placement and strategy.
Where to Use Affiliate Banners to Help Make Sales
(please note, the links below are advertisements and I’ll get a commission if you shop through them. If any of them aren’t, if I find an affiliate program for them in the future, they certainly will become ads.)
Now that we know what to look for, here are a few of my favorite places to incorporate banners in as well as the base strategy on how I sometimes begin to implement. The reason I’m not giving full strategy is that each case is situational. That is important to remember. Even if you have a similar scenario, there could be one thing different like an organic ranking or Pinterest vs YouTube traffic that makes it different. You can contact me for help with your site if you’d like.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you’ll remember I used to have author boxes (which are coming back soon). The author box would contain two or three 125×125 banners. I gave my bio and above the banners I put something like “my marketing firm relies on these services”. Then it showed the main services, a CTA and the logo. That was it. This was very high converting and worked great. But again, it is situational.
My content is all about marketing on this site so I had tools that I use in my marketing firm there. The banners said how the tool helps the readers and because my posts are long, if they made it that far down, they probably liked what I had to say and were pretty sold on my knowledge…or used it to make a case that I actually didn’t know what I was talking about. Either way, by the time they get there, they see which tools I personally recommend and they would engage and it could convert. It’s because I added trust to the brand, but they were just properly placed banners that spoke to a majority of the readers.
If you’re a cooking blogger or a fashion blogger, share specific niche stores or things, like a specific shoe designer or scarves or a unique type of meat or cooking tool that is not normally available in as many other places. You could also do a specific cookbook you’re obsessed with or that you used on at least 2/3 of your posts for inspiration. All of these can help to presell the banner and potentially help create engagement and shopping. But the banners have to be relevant to the majority of the traffic since it is on every post you ever wrote and not just specific ones. The traffic has to be relevant to the store and product too. That is the big catch.
Email and Newsletter Campaigns
Next are email campaigns. You could do text based emails, but that banner space in a relevant newsletter can be valuable. You can incorporate a store that provides solutions with a discount code. But make sure it occurs after the pre-selling and has a “click here to save” style button. You can also place a text link that has the affiliate link over the coupon code and says “click here to save XY at XY store” above or below the banner.
The easier one which also works is to have 600px wide banners that are the actual email campaign itself. The banner in this case works as the newsletter or as part of it. The big thing to make sure you have is a relevant and matching landing page both theme, product, color and cta wise. Without that it becomes less effective. Using a banner as an email is also not always the best use of it and you’ll need a few other things to help make it convert better, but this is where it goes case by case and scenario.
After a Form, on a Thank You Or Post-Optin Page or During a Redirect After Taking an Action
This is another great place for them. When someone fills out a lead form, when they sign up for a newsletter or when they hit a thank you page and you’re going to be redirecting them, they took an action on your site which means they trust you for one reason or another, at least enough to engage and interact. That trust is why a banner can work in these situations.
Yes, you should absolutely offer the person to go back to your homepage or some relevant resources, but you could also cross sell it depending on the action they took and say, check out our sister company or a banner that says click here to save XY% on this complementary service to further do ABC.
Think about a service that speeds up a website through a CDN, what if they offer a compressor or caching plugin like this one (save 15% with “ADAM15” at checkout). Once the person has made the purchase and the experience for that site is over, use the banner for an enhancement or increased performance with a discount to sell the additional benefits and convert another sale.
During a Cross Sell or In-between an Action
This is a huge one. I know one affiliate site that’s generating about 2,000 leads a month using a banner ad here. They’re about to switch the space over to one of my clients after careful negotiations so it is a very exciting time.
As the end user finishes an action item like entering a contest, completing a form, submitting answers through a quiz, after they’ve shared on social media, or doing another engaged action item, they’re shown an interstitial ad before the final step and that ad is just a banner. There is zero incentive to engage, but if the banner is relevant and shows value, they can and in this case do.
The banner is just a clear and concise message that provides a relevant service that complements why they’re on the site or engaging with the system, and then also has a strong CTA like Click Here and save XY% on ABC. That’s it. Without the banner, they’d be out of these leads that are commissionable as well as the sales and commissions that come from it.
Cross-selling and using banners as upsells after can be a great way to get extra conversions, just like with the author box, this is a visitor that is engaging with you so there is some form of trust. That trust carries over to the other company and if it’s a fluid and proper user experience, you could use this banner ad space to generate considerable revenue, if you have the relevant traffic for it.
As a Sponsorship of a contest, Organization or Site
Banners are great for getting clicks if you’re sponsoring something. It could be you’ve sponsored a contest, a charity or a website or conference. By being a sponsor and recommended by the website, there is not only some form of authenticity, but there is trust. If you have a unique or odd name, have a clear message on how the person will benefit by clicking through and using your services, you could use a banner here to get that visitor to your website and hopefully to shop.
As I mentioned in the beginning, everything with monetization and banners is situational and should be customized. Sometimes you need to combine the banner with a text link above, below or next to it. Other times you need to make it off-balance and modify the messaging for the audience or specific page or position. The bottom line is that banner ads are not dead for affiliate marketing, you just need to use them right. Even placing a branded banner for a store with a discount at the bottom of a review of the store can work.
Avoid side bars, don’t place them in a footer and the top of a page or website is fairly useless to affiliate wise. Media and other types of monetization can benefit from this. Remember to be strategic and make sure the banners provide value and complement. If you do this, there is a good chance that banner ads can help increase your revenue with affiliate marketing and sometimes even compete (although it is more rare) with in text and product based links.