DTC 372: Display Ads That Crush

Recipe blog sites be like… 😵

While that’s a little overboard, most businesses need at least one banner or display ad on their site to drive clicks, generate leads, and grow their business. 

However at one point, display ads across all industries had an average click rate of just 0.05%. Yikes.

Luckily, a handful of psychology-based and data-backed strategies, from placement to design, help your ads crush the measly average.

Here are four easy but effective tips to increase the performance of your banners, display ads, opt-ins, lead gen, and more! 👇

1️⃣ Place ads in the “F-Pattern”

The “F-Pattern” describes how users tend to read or scan web pages: 

  1. Horizontally across the top of a page;
  2. Scanning vertically down the left side of a page;
  3. Stopping occasionally to read from left to right, with decreased time on the right side of the page as they move down.

Source: F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Content, Nick Babich

In other words, users tend to pay the LEAST attention to content on the far right side, especially toward the bottom of your page.

According to eye-tracking data, ads near the top left of a page tended to have more visibility than other areas (but notice how the static topbar banner performed poorly):

Source: Beating Banner Blindness: Saving Display Ads, Infolinks

With all that in mind, here are a few quick tips for better ad placement:

  • Left-hand side > right-hand side
  • Place ads higher up on the page (although banners at the very top may be easily ignored)
  • Use heat mapping to determine where to put ads inside content blocks or other areas on the page where people spend most of their time
  • Test unconventional ad placements, such as full-screen sliders or pop-ups (just make sure they’re easy to exit out of, relevant, and not annoying… more on that in a bit!)

2️⃣ Text: a Goldilocks balance

Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to text on ads and opt-ins, but there’s definitely a bit of a Goldilocks balance to strike.

Since you only have a short window to capture someone’s attention, you want to use the least amount of text required to get your point across but not so little that you leave people scratching their heads.

For example, this ad from Guinness doesn’t have any text to provide context, and the image, well… Is it a beer? Or a flashlight? Or both? Haaalp. 😕 

And the QR code is also so small users may not even notice it. 👇

On the flip side, here’s an ad that gets away with no text because the image is so good. 👇

This ad from Grammarly, on the other hand, uses mostly text but just enough to get the point across and no more. 👇

And then there’s the ad with way too much text that you probably won’t even bother reading. 👇

People won't take the time to read a novel. You have a split second to capture their attention, so use as little text as possible while still getting your point across. Often, that looks like:

  • One clear headline
  • One clear CTA
  • (Maybe) One-sentence subheadline

If you use an incredibly descriptive image, you can get away with less text or none at all.

3️⃣ Design to break “banner blindness”

Strike a balance between making your ads visually interesting and impressive, *without being disruptive to the user.*

Your goal should be to overcome scrollers’ “banner blindness,” which is ignoring (consciously or unconsciously) irrelevant ads that may disrupt their site experience.

One way to do this is to use eye-catching colors and bold fonts that differentiate the ad from the rest of your site. 👇

You can also use GIFs and animations in your ads to grab your shopper’s attention! 👇

Another lever to pull is your ad size. 

You may think bigger is better here, but data shows that’s not necessarily the case. Medium rectangle (300x250) banner ads tend to get the most impressions compared to other sizes. 👇

Quick tips for breaking banner blindness:

  • Use bold colors and fonts that stand out from the rest of your site
  • Use creative, eye-catching imagery, GIFs, and animations
  • Medium-sized ads tend to perform best (300 x 250) but test different sizes to see what works best on your site
  • Experiment with different ad placements

4️⃣ Don’t force it

Last, but certainly not least: don’t make your ads soooo huge that people can’t avoid them or hide the (X) in the bottom right corner where no one can find it.

While these tactics may lead to higher click-through rates, they will also make your data useless because you don’t know if the clicks were intentional or accidental. And your users will surely get annoyed. 😤

📌 The best way to increase ad performance is to create content that addresses your target audience's interests, engages them meaningfully, and curates a positive experience for the user.

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