Banner ads were one of the first forms of digital marketing. Today, they can seem like throwbacks. Most digital marketing research or guides skip right past banner ads to focus on search rankings, paid social media placements, email lists, and other “core” channels — but that’s a mistake.
When used well, banner ads are one of the best ways to increase conversions and revenue from your affiliate marketing blog or website. You can also create banner ads to run on other sites through paid traffic networks, but in many cases, you’ll get more value out of banner ads you choose and place yourself.
In this guide, you’ll learn 11 tips to help you understand how to create effective banner ads, and where to place them on your website and/or blog for maximum engagement — whether you’re considering them as one of several options or are just wondering if it’s a good idea to use them at all.
How to create banner ads that work
1. Check with your affiliate offer owners for premade banners
Many affiliate programs include a range of visual media for affiliate use. Product-focused affiliate programs are also likely to have pre-made banner ads, which you can often insert into your site with snippets of code or by downloading the ad resources and uploading them to your site.
Using premade banners for relevant products can save a ton of time. If you run a bigger blog, consider subscribing to paid image-optimization services, most of which run as WordPress plugins and offer a good volume of bandwidth on content delivery networks (CDNs).
5. Making your own banners
If you’re not design-inclined, you can create banners with one of many template-based cloud design services, like Canva.
Template-based design services are the easiest and fastest way for non-designers to create high-quality branded images. However, templates will restrict your ability to create truly “custom” ad shapes, sizes, and looks.
Most people will never know you started with a template. But if you want to be unique and the templates on offer aren’t sparking joy, you might want to consider hiring a professional designer...
6. Working with a conversion-focused graphic designer
When hiring a graphic designer, make sure you look for one with experience creating banner ads. Creative-service platforms like Fiverr and Upwork allow providers to display portfolio pieces, and you should also be able to search by keywords, such as “banner ads” in this case.
Take your time to evaluate any prospective designer’s claims, pricing, and portfolio before hiring someone. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on banner ads. You also don’t want to lose out on conversions and sales because you went with the “budget” option over a slightly more expensive but massively more talented alternative.
7. Key design considerations for banner ads
Banner ad design is neither art nor science, but you can’t create banners that work without taking cues from both.
Artistically speaking, your banner needs to stand out from the rest of your content while providing a compelling reason for viewers to click. A banner that blends into your site is easy to skip over or ignore. Don’t create banners that reflect your brand unless you’re using them to promote your site. Keep banners on-brand with the offer(s) they promote, not your site.
Scientifically speaking, you should take your cues from banner designs used by similar sites to promote similar offers. A successful high-traffic site has probably tried many banner ad variations before settling on whatever you’ll see today — so competitor research can therefore help you skip a lot of research and A/B testing time.
Where to use banner ads
8. Size matters for on-page placement
Different-sized banner ads work in different places on an affiliate marketing blog or website. Wide billboard-style banner ads will make more sense at the top or bottom of your pages, while vertical banners are usually placed to the right or left of page content in visually distinct areas.
9. Should your banners hover (stick in place) or stay static?
You can get pretty creative when you’re promoting affiliate products that don’t provide messaging guidelines or restrictions. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Sticky or hovering banner ads are a key example. You can use code that “sticks” your ad in the same position on the screen as users scroll. The mobile leaderboard ads we examined earlier are the most prominent type of sticky banner ads you’ll see online.
Overusing sticky ads can hurt your reputation with viewers and make people less likely to stick around long enough to care about whatever you’re selling. Sticky banners can also be harder to place on paid ad platforms. Google has a set of guidelines for using sticky banner ads on its networks. Other paid traffic networks may have their own rules.
Sticky ads are unavoidable by nature. Use them judiciously, or not at all, unless you’ve got an offer you simply must get in front of an audience immediately, regardless of the consequences.
10. Focus on the right psychological triggers
Banner ads, like any other CTAs, work best when they touch interest triggers and pain points already activated by the rest of the content on a page.
You’ll get many more clicks with a banner ad about dog toys on a blog post about playing with your dog than you would with that dog-toy banner on a page about HR software.
You’ll even find your conversions may improve based on where you place the banner within your content. For example, that blog post about playing with dogs may have many paragraphs, but the one about squeaky rubber balls will convert better than the one about going to the dog park, simply because the connection is clearer between the banner (dog toys) and your content’s immediate focus (squeaky rubber dog toys).
11. Prompt specific actions with strong CTAs
This tip applies mainly to banner ads you’ve customized to fit specific content elements or page sections.
Most CTAs are either text-based links or are linked to buttons or icons, the latter of which are usually just stylized sections of text on websites. We’re used to them now, and if we’re not focused on a website’s content, they’re easy to skim over.
If your affiliate offer(s) naturally connect to your content, you can use stylized banners in place of text or button CTAs to “stop the scroll” and force people to pay attention. You can also use customized banners to prompt other actions beyond buying an affiliate product. We’ve seen banners used to promote email list subscriptions, webinars, “free” gated content such as ebooks or printable PDF guides, social media profiles, and even other websites (typically for SEO purposes).
Your use of banner ads is ultimately limited by just three factors: restrictions from advertisers and/or offer owners, usability considerations, and your own creativity. If you can clear the first two bars, you’ll have tremendous flexibility when it comes to creating and testing banner ads on your website.
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