How Banner Ads Work

What Makes a Banner Ad Effective?

There are no concrete rules about what makes a good banner ad. As in all advertising, an effective banner ad is the product of a number of different factors, and there is no sure way to predict how well any banner ad will do. A lot of successful banner ads are the result of extensive trial and error experimentation: A Web site puts a banner ad up and monitors the response it gets. If that doesn't work, the site tries something else. What makes a good advertisement is largely a mystery.

That said, there are a few qualities that generally make for more effective banner ads in many situations. If you are mounting a banner ad campaign you should keep these suggestions in mind:


  • Post banner ads on pages with related Web content -- the more related, the better.
  • Advertise a particular product or service in your banner, rather than your site generally.
  • If you do advertise a particular product or service, link the banner ad to that part of your Web site, rather than your home page.
  • Put banner ads at the top of the page, rather than farther down.
  • Use simple messages rather than complicated ones.
  • Use animated ads rather than static ones.
  • Your graphic content should pique visitor curiosity, without being too obscure.
  • Keep banner ad size small. If the page takes too long to load, a lot of visitors will go on to another page.

The most important things are to make visually appealing ads with interesting content and to intelligently place the ads so they are exposed to audiences that would be interested in them. Combining these qualities is a simple notion, but effectively accomplishing this is a complicated art. And like any art, advertising is constantly evolving. New approaches to banner ads pop up all the time.

One interesting development that has been around for a while is targeting. Banner ads that are targeted appear based on the Internet user's activity. For example, advertisers can buy keyword advertising on a search engine, such as Alta Vista or Yahoo, so that their ads are displayed when someone performs a particular search. If an advertiser buys up keywords related to its product or service, it can probably increase click-through rates, because the visitor has already demonstrated an interest in finding sites on that particular subject.

The Internet is an attractive medium to advertisers, because cookies allow sites to gather information about each visitor. It's a good bet that the future of Internet advertising will involve extensive use of this technology to target individual Internet users. Many Web sites are already experimenting with presenting each visitor with specific banner ads that would be likely to interest them, based on information gathered from surveys and the visitor's Web-surfing activity.