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5 Secrets to Creating Great Banner Ads

Believe it or not, people do click on banner ads on websites. There are so many people using the web that thousands of them are bound to. The trick is capturing their attention.
Display-ad advertising is usually way less expensive than search-based advertising, especially for professionals like attorneys or doctors who have to bid on absurdly high-priced keywords. Google can place your ads on some primo websites for a lot less money through their display ad network. The question then becomes “how do I make my ads effective?”
Our experience in Internet marketing tells us it’s entirely possible possible to create great banner ads that generate leads. The following lists observations we’ve made based in the process of marketing Rocket Matter, our legal software product.
1) Offering information will increase click-throughs.
Why are people going to click on your site? There has to be a motivating factor, and conveniently, one of the main reasons people surf the web is for information. So if you can lure them in with more information, i.e. a white paper or e-book, you will have a better chance of getting someone to click.
The banner ad below, for example, is for our 60 Apps E-Book. The goal in this case is to introduce a large audience to Rocket Matter gradually, not a smaller, more qualified audience for the product itself. There are opportunities and a time and place for both tactics.

2) You need a great CTA (call to action).
Your CTA should jump out of the advertisement with high contrast and clear language. It should be draw the eye and be irresistible. It should be an action verb that focuses on things people like to do. Use words like “click”, “discover”, “explore”. Avoid words like “learn”, “understand” or activities that seem laborious.
In the ad below, the call to action is on a bright pink, high contrast, three-dimensional button.

3) Attractive women earn more clicks, from both men AND women.
Unfortunate as it is for those of us who like to operate a higher moral plane, the fact of the matter is that having attractive women in your advertisements undeniably increases click-throughs. Half of you are saying “duh” right now, the other half is likely offended. But numbers don’t lie, and as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, we get more clicks from both men AND women if we feature a good-looking woman in our ad.
The ad below, which was designed to increase click-throughs on the more difficult proposition of getting people interested in our time and billing legal software, was one of the ads that proved out this idea:

4) The word “FREE” works well.
Some words are just trigger words. People like free things. If you can’t give away a free portion of your product or service, give away some free information. Create a utility and give it away for no charge.
As is the case with our Evernote e-book above, the ad below for our Law Firm of Tomorrow book was more conservative than a lot of the work we do, but it was effective because of the word “free”, the obvious call to action, the strong professional branding, and the lure of interesting information.

5) Have a banner ad for all Google Display ad sizes.
If you’re going to run banner ads, you might as well allow those ads to be served up in a variety of sizes. Doing so allows your ads to be served up anywhere – in YouTube videos, on the New York Times, everywhere that Google has a Display Network deal. The sizes you need are as follows (click here for more information directly from Google, where this list originated).

  • leaderboard (728×90)
  • banner (468×60)
  • half banner (234×60)
  • button (125×125)
  • skyscraper (120×600)
  • wide skyscraper (160×600)
  • small rectangle (180×150)
  • vertical banner (120 x 240)
  • small square (200×200)
  • square (250×250)
  • medium rectangle (300×250)
  • large rectangle (336×280)
  • half page (300×600)
  • mobile banner (320×50)
  • large leaderboard (970×90)

6) Great banner ads have a sense of style.
You need to look professional, but at the same time you need to stand out from the crowd. Ads need to be eye-catching. They need to be different. They need to present you as a serious, professional, quality organization. An ad will often be someone’s first impression of your brand, so if you look like an amateur, you might as well not play the game.
That’s our thing. We love the challenge of adding high style to the conventions set forth for great ad click-through rates. Our most recent Saul Bass-style ad is a perfect example: