Banner ads can work magic when selling products online, but like every form of marketing, they must be done correctly.
The inherent problem with banner ads is that you have to disrupt what the visitor was doing in the first place for someone to click on an ad. Right off the bat, you’re creating friction with the person you’re trying to target.
With a little creativity, you can create banner ads that grab your audience’s attention and make sales. This guide will walk you through the basics of clickable banner ads, web banner design, and how to create web banners.
What is banner advertising?
Banner advertising is when you use graphic digital displays to promote a brand and/or get people to click on the ad so it’ll direct them to your online store’s landing page. These ads are rectangular and stretch across certain sections of a website or social media page.
Where do marketers use banner ads?
In 2021, banner ad spending increased by more than 18% in the US. Marketers are using banner ads more than ever. There are psychological tactics to make your ad more visible and effective.
If you want your ad to stand out on a website, it should be as close to the website’s content as possible. For example, this Cadillac ad will most likely be seen by more visitors than any ads at the bottom of this CNN article.
The Cadillac ad is placed in a high-traffic area—at the top of a “front page” or “hot” story. In a study done by Columbia University, 59% of people said they only read the headlines of social media posts and articles. So, if you can get your ad at the top of a website, near the headlines, you’ll be more likely to increase your click-through rate, increase sales leads, and generate more sales.
This sidebar is also attractive on the CNN site because it’s a fairly large banner ad (almost a full third of the width of the page). It’s right next to the page’s main content, making it more visible to CNN visitors.
It’s also great to get a banner ad in the middle of an article or piece of content, like this Semrush ad the middle of a Snopes article. Even though the Amazon ad for Lovebug toddler probiotics is in a good area next to the article, having an ad in the middle will be more likely to catch a reader’s eye.
Banner ad sizes
There are many different types of banner ads and they come in all different sizes. Here’s a list to help you decide which works best for your business.
- Small square (200 pixels x 200 pixels): Not very visible, can look cluttered because of its small size. Not very popular amongst ecommerce businesses.
- Square (250 x 250): Ideal for smaller ad spaces. More versatile than a small square, but still a little small for business advertising.
- Standard banner (468 x 60): Often placed above the navigation bar or between the web page’s main content. It’s much bigger than square banner ads, but you must still strategize your ad to fit the thin space.
- Leaderboard (728 x 90): A larger size that is much more noticeable than square banner ads. Is usually placed above navigation bars.
- Large leaderboard (970 x 90): Larger version of the standard leaderboard.
- Medium rectangle (300 x 250): This is the type of banner ad most popular with businesses. Works best if placed in the sidebar between organic content.
- Large rectangle (336 x 280): Works best if placed in sidebars and inside the website’s main content. This is a common banner ad choice for online publishers.
- Skyscraper (120 x 600): Best suited for sidebars because of its tall shape. Best for ads that have downward descending visuals.
- Wide skyscraper (160 x 600): A wider skyscraper used mostly in sidebars of websites. Because of its wider size, it tends to have more impact than a regular skyscraper.
- Half-page ad (300 x 600): Very large with very high visibility. This ad covers nearly half of a web page.
Banner ads cost
Depending on where you decide to advertise, your ad costs will vary. The average cost of an advertisement on Google Ads is $2.32 per click. The average cost per click of an ad on the Display Network is less than 58¢.
However there are a few different types of ad payment models. Make sure to choose the one that most aligns with your business goals.
- Cost per thousand (CPM): You pay a fixed price for every 1,000 users who view your ad. Bear in mind, the user doesn’t have to click on the ad; all they have to do with this model is view the page your ad is on for it to count toward your 1,000 impressions.
- Cost per click (CPC): You pay a fee every time a user clicks on one of your ads. This payment plan is good for those business owners looking to increase their click-through rates.
- Cost per action (CPA): Used almost exclusively for affiliate marketing. You provide a banner ad to an affiliate partner like a social media influencer or celebrity. The affiliate partner pays for the fees to install that ad on their social media page or website. Then the affiliate partner gets a commission for every sales lead that pans out.
- Cost per view (CPV): You pay for each view of your ad. This is usually used when using video ads. A view is only counted if a user watches your ad for at least 30 seconds of your video or interacts with your video ad (whichever comes first).
- Cost per lead (CPL): Similar to the CPA model, except you pay for the desired action a user takes. For example, having a user sign up for a newsletter, register an email address, follow your business’s social media accounts, etc.
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9 effective banner ad examples
Let’s look at nine banner advertising examples you can’t help but click:
- American Express
- Star Wars: Andor
- Capital One
- Mini Cooper
This vertical banner catches your eye with a simple but effective visual of a shoe on a blue background. Allbirds uses this digital marketing campaign to attract internet users who share its vision to support sustainability and the environment.
MrFluffyFriend’s web banner creates a sense of urgency with a countdown feature that offers a limited-time 60%-off offer.
3. American Express
American Express uses an animated GIF to communicate multiple messages about its account options through its one small square banner ad. The movement of this animated banner is sure to attract more eyes to this banner ad.
4. Star Wars: Andor
Using a beautiful photograph or piece of artwork is a great way to catch the eye of people browsing the web. This ad campaign for the new Star Wars series, Andor, is a great example of an advertising banner that will stand out on any web page.
Sometimes simple is more eye-catching on a busy site than an ad jam packed with information and visuals. Ōura uses a straightforward background, image, and font with this square banner ad to make its product stand out.
6. Capital One
For digital advertising, video ads are one of the best ways to capture someone’s attention. Capital One uses a combined static and video ad to promote its banking services here.
If you have the budget, take advantage of large banner sizes to get your ad noticed. This Enfamil ad put up by Walmart is able to use the higher specs of this half-page ad to include better graphics, pictures, and more information.
8. Mini Cooper
BMW MINI Cooper does a great job using humor to catch your eye to promote its new electric line. The funny image of a polar bear captures your attention, and the copy expresses how electric cars are still fun to drive.
This large rectangle banner ad by Manscaped uses the celebrity of Pete Davidson to capitalize on his fanbase and reinforce Manscaped humorous and male-centric ethos.
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Where to buy banner ads
There are two primary ways to buy banner ads. You can deal directly with the website, or work with an ad network. Here's a rundown on each option:
One-off banner ads
Depending on your industry, you may know of some niche websites that are very popular and have an advertising program. Reach out to the operators of those sites and find out their advertising rates. These sites can sometimes be the best bang for your buck when it comes to banner ads.
Another thing to consider is becoming a resident advertiser. The longer you advertise on these sites, the deeper the relationship you can build with their loyal visitors.
This is when you need to think about how your ads change with time and what themes you want to run with. If you can freshen up your ads every month and make the site’s visitors smile, you will strengthen your brand with those visitors.
You can join an ad network for a shotgun spread approach. Ad networks are middlemen between you and the websites your ads reside on. The benefit is that you’ll access more websites with less work. The downside is that you might not get the best rates and don’t get to build a close relationship with the website operators.
Aside from Google and Bing, another popular website advertising network is BuySellAds.
We recommend exhausting the first approach of building close relationships with publishers directly. If you still need more advertising spread, begin by contacting ad networks and find out which network is the most suitable for your needs.
How to create banner ads
Decide where you want to display ads
First things first: you need to decide where you want to host your ad. Ensure the websites, affiliates, and networks you use align with your business goals and that they will reach your target audience.
You can decide to approach companies individually and work out a deal one to one, or even advertise strictly through social media. You can also join networks like the Google Display Network or IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), which will place your ads on hundreds to hundreds of thousands of websites that fall within the respective networks.
Membership fees to join those types of networks would be in addition to whatever payment model you choose. But the access those networks give you could be invaluable.
Pick the right tool to create your ad
Don’t worry if you’re not graphic savvy and don’t know how to use Photoshop. There are plenty of ad creation tools. Many CRM and ecommerce platforms have ad creation tools built into their programs. Make sure you know what features you want and what file types and specs your ad creation tools support.
Next, it’s time to choose the right size for your ad. Remember the banner ad sizes listed above and their pros and cons. Know which format your ad will mostly be seen in. For example, are your shoppers mostly going to your sites through mobile devices or on laptops, etc.
After you know what size you want your banner to be, it’s time to choose a background color. Know the type of sites your ad is going to be placed on. For example, if your ads are mostly on blogs or newspaper sites, choose a bright color that will contrast the white background color those sites tend to use.
Now, pick the right images, video, or animations you want to include in your ad. Make sure to use high-quality images that aren’t blurred and are composed attractively. Remember, you have a limited amount of space to make an impact and you’re competing against other ads and distractions.
The text of your ad
This is where you entice viewers to pay attention to your brand. You can use discount offers or clever or inspiring wording, or provide succinct information.
Some guidelines to follow:
- Use a font that is easy to read but still represents your brand’s aesthetic.
- Make the most of your ad space without cluttering your banner ad.
- Include with your text is a call to action (CTA). You can add a clever button asking people to sign up for a newsletter or visit your store’s homepage.
Get your landing page in top shape
Now that you have your ads and calls to action in place, it’s time to make sure your landing page is ready to receive visitors. Much like the thought process you put into your banner ads, you need to use a similar process with your landing page.
Ensure your landing page is pleasing to the eye, easily navigable, and in keeping with your brand image. You can even display advertising on your landing page with discount offers for specific products. This is your chance to use an entire web page to continue to interest your visitors so that interest will lead to sales.
Just take a look at Gymshark’s landing page. The menu bar is clearly displayed and the font is easily readable, and Gymshark uses its landing page to promote a featured item and new releases.
Tips for creating successful banner ads
The key to making banner ads work is understanding the problems mentioned above and thinking about how you can get attention or help the web surfer with your ads.
Here are a few ideas on how to do just that:
- Only put your banner ads on relevant websites. If you plaster your ads everywhere possible on the web, you will be paying a high price for poor ad performance. Therefore, only choose websites where your target audience hangs out. The more niche the website, the better.
- Be creative while addressing the web visitor’s problems. It sounds obvious, but plenty of retailers put the bare minimum of creativity into their ad artwork. What’s going to get someone’s attention? What will your target audience care about?
- Test. The first banner ad you publish is just to see if it works. You need to iterate on your message, destination pages, and artwork. You need to measure and track what ads best affect your web analytics.
You should think about where you send your banner ad traffic. Depending on what your banner ad message is you can send them to:
- Your home page. We rarely recommend sending traffic to your home page. If your advertisements are more about your brand, sending traffic to your home page is acceptable. But don’t expect it to convert into sales!
- A category page. If your advertisement has to do with one of your categories of products then send the traffic to your category page. You might want to pre-sort your products on your category pages to show the lowest-priced items or the most popular ones.
- A product page. If you’re advertising a specific product, send them directly to the product page. Ninety-nine percent of the time this will result in higher conversions.
- A promotional page. In some cases, you may be giving something away or having people enter a contest. In these cases, don’t make them work to find the promotion, just send them to it directly.
Market your business with banner display ads
It’s no secret that a display ad is not your first thought when considering ad placement for a campaign. They often disrupt the shopper's experience and can upset them. But with a little creativity, you can create banner ads that drive traffic and conversions, and make more sales for your ecommerce store.