8 Things to Know About Effective Banner Ads & Marketing Channels

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One common mistake designers and marketers make is assuming that all banners are created equal.  Although a banner can perform very well in one channel, then it works in another, that does not mean that it is good for every channel.  Some channels like Affiliate have specific needs that you would probably never want to try with retargeting and your retargetting banner ads are probably not a good fit for a general media buy.  Here are 8 differences between banner ads based on channels and some tips on how to adjust your banner ads for different channels including Affiliate, Media, Retargeting, PPC and banners on your own site.  Feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

Creating Effective Banners Ads for Affiliates, Media Buys, Retargeting & More!

1.  Branding and URLs – Every company wants their brand and sometimes their urls on their banner ads.  However, especially until recently when I found myself doing it, not every channel should have branding and urls on their banner ads.  Some Affiliates won’t use branded banner ads on their content sites or blogs because it encourages people to go to your store directly without setting their cookies.  This is what I did off of an Affiliate site.

I saw what was an effective banner ad but instead of clicking it, I typed the store name into Google.  When I realized I did that, I went back to the site and it was an Affiliate site.  That Affiliate had effective banner ads on their site, but because of the branding and url, they would have lost the sale if I didn’t know to go back and look.  Instead of using branding and urls, give a solid marketing message with a call to action and a short, sweet sales message.  Make your branding secondary or take the url off so that the banner gets the website visitor to click through and the Affiliate can get credit for their sales.  This is probably a very small loss when it comes to effective banner ads and Affiliates and you have to separate this from media buys and retargeting since the traffic is 100% different.  The only time urls and branding should be on an Affiliate Banner is if the banner ads are within the body of the post and the post is all about the store or service.

One other time when using a logo or url as a main message is ok is when you have a shopping comparison site or coupon sites.  Some of them want you to have a small 88×31 banner that is your logo or url so that they can show your prices and branding without a ton of space being taken up and compare them across different merchants.  Other times they want a 125×125 with the coupon or special and your branding because they know people will click since they are there for the coupons and click through to the store names.  These are usually used in the category pages.  Content sites have the opposite problem so make sure you have two versions available to make everyone happy and have effective banner ads for everyone across your program.

2.  On site banners – One thing I see with some sites is that they include their urls and branding with banners for their own store on their own site.  The branding is the main message and the sale or deal is lost.  People are already on your site, so they probably know who you are and where they are.  Instead of focusing on your branding with your banner ads, focus on the deal or sales pitch that will get the person to click through to the section or products you are advertising.  Having a reminder that they will stay on your site is great, but it can also be done with wording like “check out” our or “shop our”, etc…  To help make these effective banner ads that can drive revenue, try making the sales pitch or reason to click through to the section of your site the main focus and your branding the second.  Also remember that you have a very limited space so effective banner ads use this the right way and by not wasting too much onsite banner ad space with branding and urls.

3.  Remarketing banners vs. other channels – One beginners and sometimes advanced mistake I come across is that because a banner works for remarketing or retargeting companies, you should now use it as a banner for Affiliates, PPC, Media Buys, etc…  Although this can work because you have strong calls to action and brands like Save 50% off blue widgets with coupon XYZ at store ABC, it might not work as well.  The reason these may be effective banner ads for retargeting, but not work as well  with media is that the person was on your site, may remember your company, was looking at that specific brand/style/product, etc… and now they have a better reason to come back and buy.  Sending out a message on a general site that is very focused isn’t going to attract as much attention or be as targeted and relevant.  This means that they may not be effective banner ads for that channel because they are a first touch point and message exposure and not a second or third or even from someone who looked at specific products and left.

If I sent out a remarketing banner for a green lacoste polo shirt, but people were looking for shirts in general and did not like or know the lacoste brand, the banner ads probably won’t be as effective as saying dozens of styles of polo shirts or varieties of shirts on sale.

Because I love Lacoste and I love Nordstroms and other stores that sell this brand, these stores have my computer tagged.  They show me the specific products and styles that I usually buy the most making them very effective banner ads.  However, if they would show me their tennis wear, tshirts and hats, these banner ads probably wouldn’t do much since I don’t like them.  At the same time, a first time banner ad showing me Lacoste is having a 50% off sale would be and would get me to click through.  Sometimes small tweaks can turn irrelevant banner ads into effective banner ads that can generate sales and revenue.

4.  Remember your message & call to action – The most important thing to remember, unless your goal is to spend money and get no return, is your message and a call to action.  Images are great for attracting attention, having your brand pop out can be nice, but if you want click throughs and sales, find a great image to grab attention and then make your marketing message pop out.  Once the person has read your message, have a clickable call to action that matches the theme of the banner ads messaging right below.  You’ll also want to have this same wording style, theme and consistency after the person clicks the banner and gets to your landing page.  Having colors, wording and styles change when people land can be a bit confusing, especially if the products, images and colors are completely different which may also result in a lower conversion rate.

5.  Be cautious with coupons – If you leave a coupon on a banner, and people take the banner and upload it to their database you could end up never being able to get this coupon down and having customers call you for years complaining that they want a discount because they saw your banner ads.  If you use coupons on banners, have an expiration date on the banner ad (this can also add a sense of urgency).  If you cannot have the expiration date, don’t offer the coupon until the person hits your landing page.  You can say click here to get your 50% off code until XYZ.  You can also keep the landing page live with the date that the code expired helping to let consumers know it no longer exists.  One other option is to have a smaller discount that changes which will help keep the customer happy and your banner ads and marketing messaging making sense.

I am usually opposed to codes on banner ads because if you only offer one sale a year, you could have angry customers the rest of the year from end users finding and sharing codes and deals.  I am not opposed to coupons, couponing or offering discounts, I am mostly against having coupons on banner ads in specific channels.  I did see a coupon code on a banner that I liked and I clicked through to buy.  I ended up not remembering the code and when I called customer support to get it, they wouldn’t give me the discount either.  I ended up leaving that store and going to one I knew that had a code and bought the same product.  If you offer codes, make sure the people at support know them and know how they can be found and who should get them or have an alternate code to offer with a similar deal.

6.  Have two versions of each style of banner ads – Remember that you probably want a banner that stands out and gets attention.  A website owner probably wants something that looks nice and doesn’t take away from their content.  By having two options of your banner ads, one that pops and once that can blend in with most sites, you can help to provide each type of website with the option they like the most and hopefully get more people to use your creatives.  You may also want to be careful with adding borders or what colors hit the edges of the banner ads for the ones that are supposed to blend in.

7.  Don’t try games, races, etc,,, – The ad networks love telling you that you can increase your click through rate by using a game or contest as a way to draw attention to your banner ads.  This can help to increase click throughs, but if you aren’t actually showing a relevant message to your service or product with actual imagery, your conversion rate is probably going to suck.  Click throughs and traffic can be great, but relevant traffic that converts is what you want and why you should avoid these types of banner ads. They can be effective banner ads to drive clicks and traffic, but may not be able to drive sales.  If you pay on a CPC basis as well, they are making more, but you are probably losing in conversions and cost per conversion as well.

Think about your messaging on these games as well for banner ads.  Even if you say hit the XYZ with the hammer and learn to save money on XYZ insurance, it can be somewhat relevant and drive traffic, but probably not a huge lift in sales and your cost per conversion probably increases.   Showing a real ad that has the actual message and a real reason to click will probably help to drive more relevant traffic, lower your cost per conversion and increase your conversion rate, not to mention be a better spend for your money.

8.  Rotate and change your designs – Banners ads have a lifespan and can die off after a short time.  It’s important to always have fresh designs and banners to feed out into the world.  If you constantly show the same banners on the same sites, the visitors become immune to your images and messaging.  By changing them and the colors you can keep their eyes coming to your banner ads and keep them new.  Now you are getting the attention of the website visitors while having effective banner ads that keep their attention until they are ready to click through.

A lot of people complain than banner ads don’t work.  Banner ads can work and can help to drive sales, but you have to know how to use them.  Try finding a banner geared towards your audience, make sure the messaging is right and stays consistent until check out and also make sure you have solid calls to action on and around it.  Sometimes you may even want to add a text link above or below the banner ads to help make them more effective.  By doing these things and remembering which banners to use for which channels, you may be able to drive more relevant traffic and sales with effective banner ads.  There are a lot of other things to remember with banner ads, but this list should help get you started with optimizing how you use banner ads across different channels.

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2 thoughts on “8 Things to Know About Effective Banner Ads & Marketing Channels”

  1. Hi Adam
    Funny I have just been asked to create a banner ad for a client – a horse vet – so when your email landed on my desk today about banner ads I immediately clicked the link to read more…
    Your advice is right on the money and i think i will send the link to my client who wants me to list veterinary practice services (features) on a very small banner rather than focus on benefits . I will be holding out for a less is more approach with a nice visual as a background to a benefits message (e.g. improve your horse performance) + a call to action rather than a list of services. Still a tall order in just 250×200 pixel space though.
    Regards Gailstorm

  2. As a blogger affiliate, I can say it is helpful to have a wide variety of sizes. A lot of times, I want to use a larger size for the top of a blog post. I have seen these called a Blog Hero. Other times, I just want a button for my sidebar (125×125) or for an above the fold spot (300×250). The more options we have to choose from, the more likely we will post a banner. I cannot tell you how many times I went “shopping” for a banner and because they only had a few sizes or options I passed and went to another program. The visual appearance and how it will fit with the rest of the post/page are really important and we are experts on our own site. We know what people click and do not click on OUR site — if what works is not available then we will choose to post an ad for something else!

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