7 Best Practices of Creating Effective Banner Ads

Ever hear the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand online sales?" Well, it may be still catching on, but it's certainly true in the case of banner ads.

Banner ads. For something so small, they sure are a big deal, and rightfully so. Banner ads get your name out there, drive traffic to your site, and deliver new customers to your front door. They're the internet equivalent of the town crier standing on a corner yelling, "Hear ye! The local shoppe is now selling your favorite jellies!", and who couldn’t use that kind of publicity?

But with the amount of banner ads out there, consumers are experiencing “banner blindness.” They’re less likely to seriously look at blinking, flashing and dancing banners (in other words, ads that are trying too hard ). In fact, they often do the opposite and avoid clicking them like the plague. With this problem in mind, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I get my banner ad noticed? How do I design banner ads that work?” It’s simple—get back to the basics.

Here are seven tips to help create effective banner ads that will stand out from the crowd:

1. Do your research

It's time to size up your opponents. Find the biggest names in your field and look over several of their banner ads. Take some mental notes of the good, the bad, and the glorious to see if you can find any common factors. Things you should look for include colors, pictures, size of text, amount of text, and how well the ad attracts your attention.

2. Keep it simple

Banner ads that have a lot of design elements and text result in lesser clicks and lower brand recall. What you want is a few big, necessary things (such as your logo), and not several little things that can lead to distractions.

3. Be picky with your words

The mantra “less is more” definitely applies to text on banner ads. To make your ads as effective as possible, use larger fonts and fewer words. Text that’s too small will bury your ad within the website and other ads. Text that is boring or misleading will do the same, but in a different way. Make sure to also use call to action words and keep consistent with your brand’s voice.

4. Keep the file size low

Whether you’re given a size limit or not, it works in your favor to have a fast-loading ad. Files that are lower in size will load faster than larger ones. Anywhere from 45 to 70 KB is a good size for an average banner ad. Another good rule of thumb is to examine your target market when determining the file size. For example, if you're selling advanced computer software, chances are that your audience probably spends a lot of time making their machines run as fast as possible, so slow load times aren’t a big worry. On the other hand, if you know most of your customers live in rural areas, then slow times will probably be an issue.

5. Choose colors with context in mind

Too many businesses make the mistake of using the same banner ads on several different websites without keeping context in mind. The site your ad will appear on probably has its own branding and company colors, so make sure your banner and its host play well together. Also check out other banner ads on the website to make sure that your ad is the prettiest girl at the ball.

6. Find the right place for them

Your ads are like sharks. It’s no question that sharks are highly effective predators. They’re also very specialized, which means that if you put them in a very different environment (i.e.: land), they don’t do nearly as well. Your ads are specialized machines meant to attract your specific audience, so put them in an environment where they’ll thrive. Before you put your ads on a site, study the audience it attracts. You want their demographic to match your target audience as closely as possible. Can’t tell if you chose the right place? Find out using Google Analytics. It shows where your website traffic is coming from under its “Traffic Sources” button.

7. Deliver on your promise

Make sure there’s a rock-solid, functional, and eye-catching website behind your ads. Otherwise, your visitors won’t stay long enough to turn into customers. Your store and your banner ads are a dynamic duo, and both need the other to be at their best. One easy way to track their combined success as a team is looking at your ROI, which in this case means how many of your clicks turned into sales. That way, you can easily see which ads are sinking and which are swimming.

With some research and work, you can create effective banner ads that will inevitably lead customers to your site not just to visit, but to purchase. And that, after all, is what the best banner ads are all about.