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Display Advertising 101

‘Tis the season for display advertising. Well, actually, every season ‘tis the season for display. Whether you’re on your favorite blog or watching a How-To video on YouTube, you’ve seen a display ad.

If the average person is exposed to over 5,000 ads a day, how do you make sure your ads stand out?

Once your display ads have best practice foundations, you’ll know what it takes to get served, get the engagement, and, ultimately, get the conversion.

Display Ad Best Practices

Display advertising is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of ad. So it’s important that you start with a foundation of best practices.

  1. Avoid Ad Fatigue: Ad fatigue, or banner blindness, happens when your audience sees the same ad so many times they no longer pay attention to it. Which means you’d still be getting impressions but no engagement.One of the easiest ways to fix this is to make sure you make several different ad designs in the building phase so you can switch image assets out every few weeks.
  2. Test multiple messages: No one gets it right the first time. Some of the biggest brands like Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Apple, etc. all test different messages. Why? Because what works at one point may not work in the future.While you may not have Coke’s $4 billion ad budget, you do have the ability to test your messaging to see what works the best. This means headlines, descriptions, and in-image copy. Be sure to have at least 5 versions of headlines and descriptions ready to test so Google has as much info as it needs to help you put together the perfect ad.
  3. Branding continuity is important!: Make sure your display ads match your branding across all of your channels. Brand colors, logos, taglines, etc. should all be the same across your ads, social, landing pages, website, etc.It can take a user up to 7 times to start to recognize your branding and logo, so consistency is important because you want your brand to be memorable and you want your intended audience to recognize it and get the same user experience across platforms.

Remember that Display ads are disruptive. Users aren’t searching for your ad when it is served. Users on a partner site they’re visiting for some other purpose like reading an article or getting a recipe.

With this in mind, it’s important that your Display ads are designed to stand out. Be consistent with your branding elements across platforms and tailor your messaging so it’s informative but invites the user to learn more. The impetus is often to put everything you can in an ad, but don’t! Let your ad copy intrigue and invite so the user is more likely to click to learn more.

Be sure to uncheck to Search Network box when creating your Display campaign. Google will have it selected but it’s best to keep Display to the Display network and Search to the Search Network.

The Anatomy of a Great Display Ad

Now that we know some of the best foundation practices, let’s talk about what a display ad looks like. There is no one way a display ad will look. As you create your ads, you’ll notice Google will prompt you to provide several different sizes of image assets and several different versions of headlines and descriptions.

Why is that?

The short explanation is that Google wants to get paid which only happens when your ads are successful. Because of that, Google requires different versions of things so it can create different ad combinations in order to find the one or the ones that get the most clicks. We’ll talk a bit more about that in the next section.

For now, let’s review the 5 parts of a great display ad:

  1. Cohesive branding: Make sure your logo and brand colors are consistent with your landing pages and your website. The last thing you want is for someone to click on your ad and feel like they’re in the wrong place when they land on the landing page or the site. Consistency also helps increase brand recognition which means your brand will be more easily and quickly recognized by your intended audience.
  2. Compelling headline: You have less than a second to capture attention. It’s imperative that your headline speaks directly and succinctly to your target audience. Avoid the temptation to be too clever, you want your users to know that you have a solution for them.
  3. Target messaging: Don’t forget to use keywords that your audience will respond to. While you can’t target keywords in display ads like you can in text, it’s still important to use keywords that trigger responses in your audience. What is their problem? What is your solution? What do you provide? Be succinct!
  4. Clear, concise, call-to-action: This is where the temptation to stand out can get in the way of your CTR. While you may want to add something fun as your CTA, avoid the temptation. In “Building a Storybrand,” author Donald Miller uses this example:If your client is on a treadmill, the more clicks, the more cleverness they need to decipher, the faster they have to run, the more calories they have to burn to get to your point. Most of your target audience won’t want to burn all of those calories just to figure out what you’re saying.So, help your audience burn fewer calories by making your CTA simple so they know what’s going to happen once they click that button.
  5. On-brand, Original Design: If you can, always try to create your own design elements for your display ads. There are several tools available to help you do that if you don’t have an in-house designer or you can work with an agency like us, which has a team of designers ready to create on-brand, original designs.Avoid stock photos when you can and especially avoid a picture that has little or nothing to do with your content. It creates annoyance and visual confusion with your target audience and will greatly reduce your clicks.

Display ads should always be consistent with your brand. Remember that users must see your logo/branding several times before they’ll actually start to recognize and register it.

Avoid the desire to add a lot of text! You have a small space and only a few seconds to make an impact. Know your audience and let them know you can solve their pain point.

Avoid clever calls to action. Studies have shown that “funny” or “clever” calls to action get fewer engagements. Don’t make your users burn too many calories figuring out what they’re supposed to do. It may be boring but things like Learn More, Sign Up, Shop, Download, etc. will get you better results every time.

Top Performing Google Display Ad Sizes

With display ads, size can matter. Be sure to design various sizes of your ads as you will not have control over which ad image is served when.

Be sure to think about the browser and mobile users and create ads that are just as effective on a small screen as they are on a big computer monitor.

According to AdEspresso, ads that are 300×250 or larger get the most clicks. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have smaller ad size designs!

Several size variations are critical to ensure your ad can show anywhere. Some sites only take smaller ad sizes, while others prefer leaderboards. If you only provide Google with 2 or 3 size options, you’re limiting your ads’ ability to show.

Know the Lingo

300×250 is called the “medium rectangle” and is one of the most widely used display ad sizes.

336×280 is called the “large rectangle.” Creative, right? This size gives you just a bit more room for text in the image than the 300×250.

728×90 is known as the “leaderboard” because it’s typically shown at the top of a page. It is a good ad size to use when you want more impressions.

300×600 is referred to as a “half-page” but don’t let the name fool you. While it is rather large, it doesn’t take up a half-page, but it is large and prominent on the page.

320×100 is also called the “large mobile banner.” This is a more ideal ad size for mobile and acts as a kind of leaderboard ad and can help increase visibility and engagements on mobile devices.

Speaking of mobile devices, it’s important to look at your site metrics and see how much of your traffic is coming in through mobile vs. desktop. It’s important to note that we live in a Mobile-First era, so Google looks kindly upon those advertisers that provide mobile-centric ad sizes.

Common mobile ad sizes are listed below:

  • 300×250 or the Inline Rectangle ads are also referred to as “medium rectangle” but the IAB. This ad size generally converts well so it’s popular with advertisers.
  • 320×50 or Mobile Leaderboard is the most popular banner size for smartphones/mobile devices.
  • 728×90 is an interesting one for mobile. Technically, mobile ads don’t have a leaderboard so this size appears as a large ad and, according to the Institute, makes up about 25% of global display ad inventory.
  • 320×100 or the Large Mobile Banner is one of the top five ad sizes used for mobile display. Because this size is the width of a mobile device screen and twice the height of a 320×50, this ad size provides you with a lot more space for your mobile display ads.
  • 336x 280 or Interstitial Ads are ads that show during something else. Let’s say you’re playing a mobile game and you’ve just ended a level, as you’ve probably experienced, in between levels or after a loss an ad will pop up. That’s an interstitial ad. These take up the entire screen of a mobile device and can be interactive. The mobile game usage is just an example! There are a lot of ways you can use interstitial ads to your advantage.

One More Thing…Don’t Forget About Mobile

Don’t just think about desktop ads, be sure to think about mobile and tablets, too! According to Statista, over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. If you’re focused too much on the desktop you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.

Not convinced? Here are a few stats from ZoomInfo to think about:

  • 70% of B2B buyers use mobile devices to engage with ads
  • 50% of B2B searches are made on a smartphone
  • 57% of users would not recommend a site that was not optimized for mobile
  • 40% of online purchases are made via a mobile device

With everyone in quarantine, mobile browsing, and online shopping for both B2B products and services and B2C products and services is exploding. Ensuring that your Display ads follow best practices will help you be more visible, more competitive, and more profitable.

In the time it takes to read this sentence, you could be on your way to a well-oiled demand generation machine. Ready for your blueprint?

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