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Marketing Specialist

How to Design Ad Banners that Drive CTR

Advertising | Tutorials | Last updated January 22, 2019

Banner ads are the oldest type of online advertising. They have been around for more than 20 years, and they come in a variety of shapes and formats, such as JPG, GIF, or HTML5.

Besides their flexibility, they are also affordable, easy to measure, and if used correctly, highly effective. And so, they quickly became a standard in every company’s advertising strategy.

But they also have downsides – with so many brands using banner ads, their quality is, more often than not, poor. And people easily learned to hate banner ads, especially the intrusive and irrelevant ones.

But before we get caught up in talking about banners, let’s ask the most important question.

1. What is design and why is it important?

definition of design
  • Creating a logo in Illustrator.
  • Creating a building plan.
  • Split testing a website to improve user experience.
  • Coming up with a new model of shoes.

All of these actions can be referred to as design. But they can also be broken down into categories. User design. Graphic design. Urban design. Industrial design. Interior design.

As Todd Olson put it in one of his posts about design:

“[…]the term design could be regarded just as a great big basket that holds many things that have no clear relationship to one another, except for the fact that someone, somewhere, calls them design.”

And he also came up with one of the best definitions for design:

“Design (verb), as a discipline: plan the creation of a product or service with the intention of improving human experience with respect to a specified problem.”

The more qualitative the design is, the better it will solve the problem and the more value it will provide.

But how does this apply to banner design?

Lately, banners took a wild turn.

Instead of providing users with value, it usually just spams them to insanity. And that’s because many brands ignore a very important factor in banner advertising.

Context.

When it comes to banner ads, 3 in 10 respondents said they find traditional advertising distracting, and they will avoid sites where banners disrupt their experience. But when retargeting came in, people were 70% more likely to convert.

SIDENOTE. We covered all this data (and more) in a previous article where we addressed all the advertising campaigns that you can run with Coinzilla. You can check it out here.

So, the best thing you can do when creating a banner advertising campaign is to know your audience. By delivering your ads to the right people, not only you increase your conversion rate but you also improve your brand reputation and awareness level.

2. Popular ad sizes and positions

popular banner ad sizes

As we previously mentioned, there are numerous banner sizes and formats. And it’s only natural for some to perform better than others.

coinzilla banner sizes

Based on our metrics, the most popular and successful ad sizes are:

  • 300×250 – Medium Rectangle
  • 300×600 – Half-Page Banner
  • 970×250 – Billboard
  • 468×60 – Full Banner
  • 728×90 – Leaderboard

When it comes to banner design, the most important aspect that you should consider is the hierarchy of the information and/or elements that are displayed.

1. Company logo – In most cases, you’ll want your logo to be the first thing the user notices. This will help them easily identify your brand, and if they’re a customer, they will most likely check out the rest of the content.

2. The Value Proposition – This is the most important item on your banner. It should be as visible as possible (but not as visible that gauges your eyes out) the thing that your users should care about, what you can do for them.

3. Call-to-Action – text or button that invites users to click. Phrases like “Learn more” or “Get started” or “Watch now” are great examples. This should be a clear focal point of the ad.

3. Choosing the right color

choosing the banner color

The top candidate for a color palette should be the one you use for your brand. But there are instances where it would be better to go with a different palette, based on the objective and the overall theme of your campaign.

It is well known that each color has one (or more) meanings, and based on the context, some fit way better than others. So let’s run down some of the most common colors, and see how you can use them.

  • Red is a powerful color, and it is best used with discretion. It is commonly associated with passion and sexuality, and many avoid it because of this. But if other brands are avoiding it, using it might help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Yellow – the color of the sun. Yellow symbolizes optimism, happiness, and sometimes intellect. But at the same time, it is used in life vests, police cordoning tape, and hazardous areas. Some shades of yellow can look cheap, but that feeling can be easily countered using great design.
  • Orange blends the power of red and the optimism of yellow. It is usually well suited for youthful and energetic brands, and best avoided for luxury, traditional businesses. It represents creativity, youthfulness.
  • Green has two very common meanings that are quite paradoxical. One is nature and environment, the other is finance and wealth. Usually, they are differentiated through shade – a brighter green symbolizes growth and vitality, while a darker shade of green represents wealth and abundance.
  • Blue is one of the most commonly used colors, perhaps due to its versatile qualities. It conveys reliability and trustworthiness, all while expressing authority and officialdom of organizations. Just like green, depending on its shade, the color can represent tranquility and calm but also sadness and even depression.
  • Purple is usually associated with royalty or nobility and is best used on luxurious brands, but can also express a certain amount of mystery.
  • Brown is usually used in products related to organic food or beauty products. It is a simple color, and it can suggest that your brand has better things to care about than superficial colors.
  • Black is perhaps the most powerful color of all. While it is used by many brands, only a few use it properly. Black represents power, luxury, sophistication, and exclusivity on one hand, and death, evil, and mystery on the other.
  • White represents the simplicity of a product both in its form as well as function – just look at Apple. Using white is the best choice when your brand is all about minimalism, simplicity, and transparency.

4. Crafting an effective call-to-action

banner call to action

The Call-to-Action is the message that encourages your action to take action. “Buy now!”, “Click here!”, “Sign up now!”, “Get your free e-book!”

It is important for your CTA to be specific and to set the right expectations for the user regarding what happens after he/she clicks it.

1. Use power words

Power words are words that can influence people’s opinions or emotions. And they’re not bogus. They are based on scientific research, psychology, and genetics.

SIDENOTE. We won’t cover the explanation behind every power word (because we’d end up turning this post into a research paper), but you can read in detail about power words over at enchantingmarketing.com.

When it comes to power words, they’re easier grouped in 3 main categories.

Persuasive words

…that convince users to take action:

1. New – reimagined from the ground up, re-invented from inside out, innovative, groundbreaking;

2. Free – Everybody wants free stuff. So offering your users free tokens, a bonus on a purchase, or a free e-book on sign-up will make them think twice before scrolling past your ad.

3. Imagine – Imagination is a powerful thing. The moment you start imagining what your life would be like with a certain product – a better car, a larger TV, a smarter phone – you’re more likely to make that purchase.

4. Because – Giving people a reason to do something triggers an automatic response. And it doesn’t even have to be a good reason.

In 1978, Ellen Langer, a professor of Psychology at Harvard, conducted an experiment testing the power of the word “because”.

He had people request to jump the line at a copy machine, using 3 different excuses:

  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

And the results were quite surprising.

With the first phrasing, only 60% of the people accepted the request. But when a reason was included, the acceptance rate jumped to 93% for the 2nd phrasing, and 94% for the 3rd.

5. Instant– The power of instant gratification is huge, and this concept is hardwired in our DNA. We are not designed to think long-term.

Our ancestors foraged for millions of years, and when they would find a bush full of berries, they wouldn’t eat some and save the rest for later. They needed to consume as many nutrients as possible and convert them into energy.

This feeling is also backed by the “pleasure principle”. If we have a certain need or want (and it doesn’t have to be physiological) that we don’t satisfy quickly, we become tense and anxious.

And that’s why instant gratification is a great concept in marketing. Providing your users with something right now will satisfy one of their primal needs. And phrases such as “Instant access”, “free bonus on registration” or “no credit card required” can convince them that they can receive something without any risk.

6. How to – People love to learn how to do something new. That’s why learning a new skill or finding out something new feeds so good. Well, as long as we care about that particular skill or piece of information.

You didn’t think that the countless “How to…” posts and videos that are taking over the internet are just a coincidence, did you?

Emotional words

…that appeal to people’s feelings.

The best way to appeal to people’s emotions is by considering the 8 primary emotions provided by Robert Plutchik:

  • Joy – love, tender, devoted, seductive, ecstatic;
  • Trust – trustworthy, proven, absolutely, research-backed, facts;
  • Fear – banned, threat, abusive, failure, anxious;
  • Surprise – jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, remarkable, terrific, astonishing;
  • Sadness – heartbroken, lovesick, resentful, grief-stricken, shame;
  • Disgust – outrageous, vulgar, obscene, ridiculous, repulsive;
  • Anger – rage, irritating, annoying, tantrum, grumpy;
  • Anticipation – little-known, inspiration, charming, forgotten, discover.

Sensory words

…that help people experience your content.

  • Visual – sparkling, enormous, glowing, gloomy, crooked;
  • Tactile – fluffy, rough, smooth, sticky, hairy;
  • Auditory – buzz, humming, deafening, earsplitting, loud;
  • Taste & smell – rotten, juicy, stale, bitter, yummy;
  • Motion – to grab, blown away, paralyzed, to crawl, hurry.

Power words are…powerful. But in order to craft a persuasive CTA, you need to know how you can help your users. So put yourself in their shoes.

How can your product improve their life? What pain will your product take away?

Once you answered that question, you’ll know exactly what you need to offer.

2. Be aware of FOMO

We keep swiping on Tinder because the next person might be the love of our life. We check our Facebook feed while out with friends just so we won’t miss out on something more interesting. We text while driving so we won’t be left out of an “important” conversation.

The Fear of Missing Out is the consuming sensation that everyone around you knows something, owns something, or does something, and you’re missing out on it. It has become a driving force behind the decision-making process in today’s world, simply because we don’t want to be left out.

If all your friends are planning to go on a trip, you’ll probably go as well. Even though you don’t think it’s a very good idea. The pure social pressure and the fear of missing out will drive you to do it, regardless of how you feel about it. In most cases, that is.

But be careful.

Manipulating people into buying something isn’t exactly ethical. Especially considering that extreme cases of FOMO can lead to depression.

But there are ways of using it to encourage people to take action, without putting too much pressure on them.

Limited offers. Bonus on sign-up. Free guide on sign-up.

Statements that instill a sense of urgency or that offer something to the user in return for him clicking your banner are great at converting – as long as what you provide is useful.

SIDENOTE. FOMO is a much more complex issue than it seems at first glance. Writing an ad that states “All your friends signed up” will be perceived as a scam, and will most likely drive people away. Therefore, trying to take advantage of it to increase your conversions will most likely hurt your business. But CTA’s that instill urgency and ensure people of no risks are known to greatly impact CTR.

You can read more information on the topic of FOMO in Psychcentral’s blog post.

3. Keep it short

A CTA shouldn’t take up more than a few characters. Don’t use it to attract users – that’s what your value proposition is for. Your CTA should just direct users to their next action, and set their expectations correctly.

5. Animated vs. static banners

static vs animated banners

An animated banner allows you to create a completely different experience for the user than with a static banner. You can deliver more information in a better manner, and wow them with slick animations.

But are they better than static images?

It’s hard to tell. Because it depends on the actual campaign that you’re running. Before deciding whether you should go for a static or an animated ad, you need to think about your campaign objectives, your messages, and your budget.

If you look at the statistics, animated banners had a lower CTR than static ads. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that a static banner is better. If your animated ad was too long, or displayed the call to action too late, you will fail to convert.

Users spend most of their time below the fold, so in order to get their attention and have them take action, you need a quick and simple animation. That’s why static banners tend to perform better – they deliver all the information at once, and users will decide whether they’re interested or not in a matter of seconds.

But there are also downsides for animated banners.

6. Mind your file size

banner file size

File size is an important banner property, because it affects the loading speed of the page the banner gets displayed on. And usually, static banners tend to have a smaller file size than html5 banners.

And you’ll have to choose between loading speed and image quality.

While a static banner designed for mobile might lose quality, a HTML5 banner will remain responsive across all devices.

But no matter the format you’re going for, make sure you stay below the file size limit of the platform you’ll use it on.

For example, at the maximum file size that we allow on our platform is of 200 kB, for both static and animated banners.

Final thoughts

Designing a banner isn’t an easy job. But it’s not impossible.

There are many factors to consider – hierarchy of information, color palette, words, phrasing, dimensions, style. But if you know your audience, you’ll have a much easier time deciding on what is the right option for you.

However, the best advice that we can give (and which doesn’t apply to just banner design) is this:

Always run tests. Never rely on someone else’s research on a certain topic, as that research might be biased or faulty. Split test your campaigns, see what works best for your product, and go with the option that produces the best results.

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