6 ways to improve click-through-rate on your banner ads without being spammy

Spammy Banner Ad

Image credit: psflannery

By Zach and Elizabeth

It’s no secret that banner ad click-through-rates have been declining since the beginning of the web.  As Andrew Chen mentions in a blog post, in 1994, the click-through-rates on banners were as high as 78% and have waned down to < 0.1% today!  Lots of marketers combat this by creating banners that stand out in a “spammy-esque” way to achieve a high click-through-rate, but how do you do this without being spammy?

In our ad network for email, (which supports both text ads and banner ads), we found some interesting data and have insights into creating banner ads that have higher click-through-rates.  (Note, these insights only apply to the part of our network that are running banner ads, not text ads.)  All of the specific ads mentioned below have well over a 1% click-through-rate.

1) Text-heavy banners get high click-throughs.

Most banner ads are filled with graphics and colors.  But, these don’t stand out, because all banners look like that.  And these banners don’t say anything about the products or the services they represent.

SourcePad -- good example of text-based banner ad

Instead, use your graphical real estate, like this SourcePad ad, to explain your value proposition in 1-2 sentences to improve your click-through-rate.  Consumers will take notice and will be more compelled to click when they read about your value-proposition (assuming it’s good :) )

2) Calls to action are overrated.

Pusher great ad example

Here’s an example of a high-click-through-rate banner from Pusher that has no call to action.  It does not even tell you to sign up for anything.  Best practices would tell you that having a “fake button” or a “fake link” within your banner is helpful for higher click-throughs.  From our data, this is not the case.  We don’t see any difference between banners with strong calls to action vs not.

3) Adding your price on your banner kills click-throughs.

If you are paying on a flat-fee basis, I’d recommend *not* adding your price to get more people going to your site, where you have a better opportunity to sell someone with more real estate.  If you are paying on a cost-per-click basis, this is a good way to filter potential buyers up front.  Note: lots of cost-per-click networks, such as LaunchBit, will favor ads that have a greater click-through-rate, so you may also end up getting fewer impressions if you add your price as well. :)

4) Adding people’s faces to your banners neither helps nor does not help your campaign.

We have heard from other entrepreneurs that adding photos of people is helpful for click-throughs on banners.  However, we aren’t able to statistically conclude whether people’s faces increase or decrease your banner click-through-rate.  To be fair, we did not try to slice and dice this data based on how famous the people in the banners were or how good looking/ugly people were.  This could be probably be an entire blog post someday.

5) Free products (generally) work!

Ok, quick caveat here — if you offer used cat litter for free in your banner, I can’t guarantee that your campaign will have a high click-through-rate.  (maybe it will for the wrong reasons).  I’m going to assume that you have a reasonable product that has fairly good traction already, because that’s how we sliced this data — freebies from later stage  startups who are relatively well-known and are doing well.  This AppSumo ad, for example, offers free Google Analytics secrets and has a high click-through-rate.

AppSumo ad - freebies work

However, other caveats: free shipping, though free, does not make a difference.  Free services — consultations, assessments are a wash — these are neither helpful nor unhelpful to your click-through-rate.

6) Discounts are a wash

You’d think that if free products work, discounts would also work in helping your click-through-rate.  But, we don’t see that data in our network.  Discounts sometimes work and sometimes don’t.  So, I can’t conclude that discounts will have an impact on your click-through-rate.  Note: this could be related to the fact that some banners also publish product prices (which we found in #4 reduced click-through-rate) to highlight the discount.  We did not slice and dice this data based on who published their prices + percentage off vs just the percentage off.

The good news from our findings is that it’s possible to make these higher click-through-rate banner ads without a lot of design-thought.  If you are reasonably good with Photoshop or equivalent program, it’s possible to make these banners yourself.

Disclaimers: these tips are only about banner click-through-rates, not on conversions.  And, it’s only based on data from our network.  It’s quite possible that the data may be  different on other networks.  It’s also quite possible that your campaign may not fit these patterns.  Moreover, now that I’m writing and publishing this post publicly, if lots of people start adopting these banner practices, it’s also possible that these insights will stop being true, because consumers may alter their click-behavior accordingly.  :)

  1. Rob Toledo says:

    Nice point on heavy text ads — one thing I notice when testing those is that the clicks are far more valuable because you’re not having to trick anyone into visiting your website. They know what they’re going to get when they land, so bounce rates drastically decrease.

  2. hyderali says:

    Nice post on banner ads. We are running a banner ads campaign & the results are worse. The click-through are always below 1% & without any conversions.

    We don’t show price but yes “Free Shipping” “Discount” are some text we added to our banners which could be the real reason for the low click thru. I’ll definitely apply your first point “Heavy text” & will see the impact.

    Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Hyderali — I’d be curious to hear how that goes (the text-heavy banners). Feel free to send me an email if you want to chat more. (elizabeth [at] launchbit) The only data we have is from our network, so I can’t say if it works on other networks.

      Most of the click-throughs in our network for banner ads is << 1%. The ave is around 0.1%. So, the ads presented above are certainly an anomaly.

  3. Tom Atkinson says:

    I’ve seen decent CTR increases when we show the price, but then again I just ran a pivot table across an all time report of 14,000 ads with 53M impressions and found my ads with $ in them got 0.09% ad without it got 0.11%. So yeah this could be true. Shrinking time range down to 4 months and 8.8M impressions only made it more clear: 0.14% without the $ and 0.08% with it.

    • trevor says:

      However, the CTR is not the end of the story or the sales funnel. Its just the beginning.
      And in your case, even though your CTR fell when you put the $ on the banner, the visitor who arrived on your site knowing what the price was already, is deemed to be more valuable.

      So, ultimately, what was the comparison for the actual lead or sales conversion data? I bet, that your super qualified visitor converted more readily.

  4. ClickController® says:

    Thanks for sharing your findings. It’s always helpful to see what is working and what isn’t across other networks.

    As was stated in the disclaimer, these results are based on Elizabeth’s findings from one network. While it’s recommended to test new theorys and ideas, advertisers who are starting without a control should be careful to model their initial display creatives after banners which are proven winners within thier chosen field or industry. What is working for one vertical may not work for all. Testing new theories will also produce more meaninful results when their is a control to compare them to.

    Mike

    • Elizabeth Yin says:

      Hey Mike — totally agree. These are just our findings — other people’s mileage may vary. In general, doing lots of testing is best :)

  5. Henry says:

    Hi

    I am thinking to start a CPM banner advertisement for a male health product but I am absolutely clueless about what should I put in my banner. I would need some professional help from banner to landing page. Does anyone know where to find professionals for banner ad management? Perhaps someone could help me here?

    Every info is well appreciated

    Thanks

    • trevor says:

      Henry, try using a product like spyfu or adbeat or semrush or some other analytical tool to see what your competition is doing.

      Check particularly for long running ads, as they have a greater chance of being successful ads.

      Then model your content after successful ads that you have discovered.

  6. frank bill says:

    I have different banner ad sizes. I want to reach potential buyers who are interested in our home based internet business called MOBE. I want
    individuals to click on my banner, go to our landing page & give us their email… and then be taken to our sales page.

    Please call me at 480-253-7120. Thanks in advance… frank

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