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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.
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.
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.
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. :)