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10 Tips to Improve Your Banner Ad Design and Click-thru Rate
Banner ad advertising is hot! And according to Comscore (a media giant that tracks advertising trends for business and ecommerce) market trends show that banner ad advertising in the future is even going to get hotter as more and more businesses go online. But as a small business owner, how do you know what type of banner ad design is more effective than another?
Although there are many elements that go into banner ad design, there are some general rules and guidelines that even as a small business marketer you should know and can use to increase the effectiveness of your banner ad campaign.
The following guidelines should help you to make those decisions . These rules apply whether you will be designing a banner ad yourself or whether you will be outsourcing your design to a professional graphic designer. You want to make sure that you effectively use every tool that you can in order to impact your click-thru rate and customer response.
1. Define the Purpose of Your Banner Ad
Are you designing this ad so that you can get more traffic to your website? Do you want to get more leads? Are you designing an affiliate ad? Are you offering a free ebook or report? Too many small business marketers go off willy-nilly without thinking through the purpose or objective of why they want a banner ad in the first place.
You need to think through what is the "most wanted response" (or MWR) you want from your prospective lead. Answering "click-thru" is obvious; but the question is why do you want them to click-thru...in order to do what? For example, If you want them to click-thru in order to download your e-book, how do you intend to deliver this ebook to them? Do you have a well designed landing page in order to capture this interested audience? This is the question you need to determine even before designing your banner ad.
2. Know the Message You Want to Convey
While banner ad design is important and well designed graphic elements do matter, the message you are conveying is even more important! There are plenty of ugly banner ads on the internet with the right message that pull in traffic for their website owners. Of course, those banner ads might be more effective with great graphic design. But when you weigh both options, the priority of good copy wins over graphic design 99% of the time! Of course, it's like pulling teeth to get a graphic designer to admit such a thing could be true but I have worked with enough professional marketers to know, that even if the design is stellar...the copy better be even more so!
3. Keep Your Message Brief and to the Point
Remember to stick to brief, concise content for your banner ads every time. This is not the place to brag about your company or cram a lot of data into your banner ad, it’s better if you use the banner ad to lead them to your website in order to get this information. Keep the message short and make sure you provide a strong call-to-action. Follow the rule of emphasizing one benefit and one call-to-action per banner ad. Include too many call- to-actions and very likely, you will confuse your prospective lead and your click-thru rate will suffer.
Attractive graphic design is secondary to the message of your banner ad. If you can get a good professional copywriter, to write your ad that is even better. Try to hire someone who has written good PPC (Pay Per Click) Ads and knows how to use or pack a powerful message in a few words.
Remember that while the graphic design may attract their attention, it’s the strong message that is communicated that will improve your banner ad’s effectiveness. However, as stated earlier a strong compelling message coupled with great graphic design can be like a two punch blow in effective ad design.
4. Choose the Right Color or Colors
Choose colors for your banner ad that get attention and will contrast to the background color of your website or landing page. But don't go overboard, and throw a kaleidoscope of color in your ad. A few colors that can be associated with your brand or a few colors that will emphasize the type of ad you are creating will do the job. Several studies have shown that people respond to certain colors over others and the right color or color combination increases ad effectiveness. This does not apply in call cases but is a general rule of thumb. This is where testing two different ads will pay off.
5. Keep the Design Simple
Save the fancy and intricate designs for your website or print media advertising. Train your eye to see or observe the ads of major corporations or companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Ford and Adobe. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their ad campaigns and graphic design in order to market their products; so, you better believe they keep an eye on their budgets and on what works. They, and other companies like them, are a good model of best practices in banner ad design. Train your eye to pay attention to attractive ad design.
6. Use Relevant Pictures or Images
Make sure that you use relevant and compelling pictures or graphics associated with either the message in your banner ad campaign or your small business' product or service. While you may not be able to afford professional product photography at this time, there are several stock photography websites that have high quality photos available for a low fee. For example, if you sell crafts, include a high quality picture of your crafts and your message. If you are a lawyer, include a graphic that immediately associates your business with your profession. Remember you have about two seconds to grab the attention of the typical internet surfer! Make those two seconds work in your favor!
Sample of New Coca-Cola Banner Ads
7. Use Legible Text or Fonts
Since the surface area of most standard banner ads is small, make sure that you use legible text or fonts. You would think this is obvious but even major manufacturers have made this error. Verdana and Arial are very popular fonts for the web because they are easy to read. I'm not suggesting that these are the only fonts to use, but what I am saying is that they were created for the web and therefore are examples of simple, legible fonts. Try to stay away from script fonts unless you are designing a larger banner ad and even then, you should be cautious. Keep in mind you want your prospective lead to read your message and ideally act on it. Don’t make this process difficult for your prospective lead by using hard to read fonts.
8. Provide Interactivity if Your Budget Allows
Provide interactivity to improve customer interaction and click-thru rate. Have your banner ad ask your prospective lead to fill out a survey, answer a question, or participate in a poll or offer a contest. Studies have shown that some type of interaction in your banner ads will improve click-thru rate. However, keep the interaction relevant to its purpose. Motion graphics added to banner ads usually increases overall graphic design costs.
9. Use Animation to Enhance Your Banner Design
Use animation only if it enhances your message. Make sure that you do not include animation for animation’s sake. Using animation without a purpose in the design of your banner ad will only diminish its click-thru rate and will ruin the overall appeal or message you are trying to make. I'm sure we all remember those early animated gif banner ads back in the 90s that became annoying irritations to internet users over time and the click thru rate dropped dramatically. Banner ad design still suffers from the bad reputation created by these types of animated ads.
10. Test Your Results and Tweak the Design
Make small tweaks to your design and message to see what works and test your results. Use free software like Google Analytics which will give you great information on the traffic to your website and click thru rate of any banner ad located on your website. This tool will help you track the metrics and overall effectiveness of your banner ad campaign. Of course, you will have to use other means of tracking for ads on other sites.
Use a simple procedure called A/B testing to test your banner ads, Google ads or Facebook ads. The following article takes an in depth look at A/B testing for Facebook ads and explains the process in full detail. There is a website called Crazy Egg which offers tracking software that enables you to see how your web traffic navigates your website. These are just a few examples of software available to help you track your ads and make sure they are effective.
Google Product Ads
Good Video Covering Design Principles
Books on Banner Ad Design
This book covers the various aspects of writing for the web such as how to reach your target audience, how to structure your web copy, how to write about your unique selling proposition, etc. It also includes information about web advertising trends and categories written in a down to earth, no frills style.