While it is true that banner ads have become a somewhat less effective tool than other online advertising approaches that fact remains that they still can be effective and do remain a necessary element of many ad campaigns. They may take less of your budgeted resources, but they should not become a total afterthought in your campaign or they will indeed under perform.
Done right banners can still drive traffic to your site and build brand awareness (personal or product). There are three major umbrella steps to banner ad success. Get these three factors right and your chances of seeing a good return on your ad are very high.
Step One: Keeping copy king
Next to proper placement of your ad (even an award winning banner ad for hair gel is not going to move product on a ‘Bald and Loving It’ website) copy is probably the most important factor in a banner ad. This may seem surprising since the ads are so small and there are often so few words on a banner. But it is precisely this economy of size factor that makes the words so important.
Many marketers start the process of creating a banner ad with the visuals. They spend the majority of their time thinking about the graphics for their banner ad and leaving the copy for a last minute afterthought. The results for this backward approach show in the poor performance of the ads.
Your first step in creating a banner ad should be the copy itself. Ask yourself a few questions to help you narrow down what the message you want to convey is:
- What is the problem or issue that my customer has that I can resolve for them with my product or service?
- What is unique about what I am offering as opposed to my competition?
- What image or feeling do I want to project (i.e. humorous, clever, polished, business-like etc…)
Now that you have an idea of the message you want to get across the next step is to brainstorm copy that will effectively accomplish this in the fewest words possible.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the copy is the call to action. Ask anyone who is in sales the importance of asking for the sale. The call to action on a banner ad is similar. You need to tell your reader what to do. In this case we want them to click on the ad.
You can go with something as simple as “click here” but the phrase is so overused and tends to remind a reader that they are reading an ad. In most cases I would suggest tweaking the phrase a bit either by adding to it, for example, “click here to find out how” or changing the wording to, for example, “find out how.”
Don’t forget to use your alt tag with your copy. Those blocking images or having issues with downloading graphics will then still benefit from your well crafted message.
Now that you have your copy you can move on to the graphics for your ad.
Step Two: Taking the graphics challenge
The truth is the copy and design will often go hand in hand. Most likely you were already starting to think about the design of your banner as you crafted your copy. This is totally fine. The idea is really to simply avoid letting copy take a total back seat in the development process. It should at least be an equal partner with the graphics and in most cases should be given more weight.
So you may have an idea already of what you want your ad to look like. Consider the possibility of adding an animated element to your banner. With so much competition for your customer’s attention you only have a few moments to engage him. Animation can be the key to grabbing his over-stimulated attention for just long enough to create curiosity or interest.
If you are anything like me you may harbor a secret fear of being involved in any project with bad animation. You know the kind of which I speak. Spinning words and bouncing smiley faces that you have seen a million times on websites that scream “my 12 year old nephew designed this for me.” Don’t worry, I am not encouraging bad animation. But I am encouraging you to think about how you might effectively use some kind of movement in your banner.
If you happen to know flash (or a designer who does) banner ads are an excellent place to use this skill. You can create interesting effects—like fades, transforming texts, and changing pictures—while keeping your file sizes nice and small. This brings me to my next important point.
Step Three: Avoiding slow loading file denial
Since you only have a couple of seconds to capture a surfing customers attention a slow loading banner can be the kiss of death. No one, and I truly mean absolutely no one, will wait around for a banner ad to load. It is extremely important to keep your ad file size below 15k. An even better goal is to shoot for 10K or less. Think of it as a challenge: one that has the potential to pay off handsomely.
Follow these three easy steps and as long as you are targeting the right audiences I can almost guarantee that your next banner ad will be worth the investment you make in it.