This post has been updated as of June 2019
In April of 2009, we decided to look at running some banner ads
on several high-profile, design-related sites. Over the last
decade, advertising in our corner of the web has come a long way.
There are loads of highly trafficked design sites with excellent
content and affordable ad slots. On top of this, the rise of
targeted ad networks such as The
Deck has made it much easier to get in front of the right
What are banner ads, and how do they work?
A banner ad, also known as banner
advertising, is a method of brand advertisement on websites
that makes use of a rectangular image that’s stretched across
either the top, bottom, or side of a website.
These banners not only promote a brand, their services, and
products, but they also tend to link directly to a page where
internet users can get more information and possibly even make a
What makes a banner ad effective?
Effective banner ads make it very clear what the brand is
promoting to viewers. There’s very little wiggle room for teasing
here, as the entire idea is to give the reader a solution to a
problem and hope they click on your ad to get more information.
Another reason these ads are considered adequate is that
they’re generally placed right within the reader’s eyesight,
making it very prevalent. These ads can also be used with modern
targeting practices to help get your ads in front of those who’d
find them the most useful.
Are banner ads worth it?
While banner ads have proven effective in the past, as more and
more marketing efforts are moving towards email and social media
marketing, the overall effectiveness of banner ads has been rapidly
According to Marketing Insider Group,
banner ad click-through rates have fallen to less than 0.1%.
Does that mean the creation and use of banner ads is a dead art?
Not necessarily, and here’s why.
Between 1994 and today, the total number of people who have
access to the internet has
grown from 30 million to more than 7 billion. With that said,
banner ads are expected to see a 7% growth this year alone,
amounting to more than $44 billion.
While banner ads are still considered relevant to many
marketers, here’s why they’re quickly falling out of favor:
Bots – Automated scripts scour the internet
and click on advertiser banners for various reasons, including
attempting to gain revenue for sites that solely rely on banner
clicks for revenue.
View fatigue – Viewer fatigue is very real.
Internet users feel so bombarded by ads that most of us have
trained ourselves to tune them out and even report them as
Ad blockers – Internet users are sick of ads
and go out of their way to download various ad blockers to keep
What our 2009 research found
We put together several banners, dedicated landing pages, and
put conversion tracking in place to measure the results. When
looking into this process initially, there weren’t many write-ups
from advertisers on what worked, what didn’t, and just how
effective the ads had been for them. In the interest of helping
fill that void, here’s the process we went through, and some of
the surprising results that eventuated.
Coming up with the ad creative
As part of the merger between Campaign Monitor and MailBuild a
decade ago(!), we added a stack of new features to
make it easy for designers to earn passive income off their clients
through email marketing. In a nutshell, you can create a
sub-account for each client, set the price they should pay, and
earn a profit every time they send.
We figured this was something many designers would find useful,
and it became the focus of our banner ads and associated landing
pages. Here are the three ads we ran with initially.
For the final design of these ads, we enlisted the help of the
clever team at Newism, the
same team that coded various versions of the Campaign Monitor site.
We couldn’t have been happier with the results.
The landing pages
As well as testing multiple ad creatives, we decided to put
together several dedicated landing pages for the campaign. We’d
randomly display a different landing page for each visitor and
measure which one converted best. We brought in the
Bennett-Chamberlain (who designed our website way back when)
and Brad Hayes to help with
Landing page 1: Earn money in your sleep
This key for this page was to promote the idea of earning money
in your sleep. We highlighted the three simple steps involved
(rebrand, resell, and then profit) and included an inline signup
form allowing those interested to sign up and start using the app
on the spot.
Landing page 2: Are you a designer?
This was definitely the most controversial landing page of the
four. We took the fact that Campaign Monitor is built for designers
to the extreme by including a modal window that overlays the
landing page, asking the person if they’re a designer or not.
If they clicked “You betcha,” they’d be shown the page
below that highlights how easy it is to resell with Campaign
If they clicked “Nope,” the landing page behind the modal
would fade out with a message explaining that “It’s not you.
It’s us.” We then linked to several other ESPs that they might
consider checking out that are built for a less targeted
We received several emails from people complimenting us on being
open and honest with people. The truth is that we’ve always
referred potential customers to our competitors when we know
they’re not the right match.
It’s how we’d want to be treated, so it’s only fair that
we do the same to our customers.
Landing page 3: Modal-free just for designers
In the interest of testing what sort of impact the modal window
might have on conversions, we also tested it against the very same
landing page modal-free. The page was exactly the same otherwise,
so should provide a nice comparison.
Landing page 4: Our home page
In the past, we’ve just pointed people to our home page,
which, in itself, is a landing page aimed at converting people to
give us a try. Will it out-perform the dedicated landing pages that
have a clearer connection to the ad creative?
We set up a redirect script on our servers that’d choose one
of the four landing pages above for each visitor and pass through
any of the required parameters in the URL so we could track
everything with Google Analytics.
We had several goals set up, so we could track important things
like a customer signing up, sending a test campaign, and becoming a
We judged the performance of each banner ad and landing page on
the number of visitors that signed up to Campaign Monitor, as
opposed to basing it purely on revenue.
The best performing banner ad
The blueprint banner ad outperformed the other two with a
conversion rate of 3.5% resulting in 370 people signing up for
Campaign Monitor. Here are the full results.
|Banner Ad||Conversion Rate|
The best performing landing page
This one surprised everyone. We were concerned that the modal
window would result in a lower conversion rate because of the
barrier of an additional click. I was pleasantly surprised to see
this page gave us 25% more conversions than the
next-best-performing page. Possibly the biggest surprise of all was
that the “Earn money in your sleep” page with the inline signup
form didn’t give us one new customer. Here are the full
|Landing Page||Conversion Rate|
|Landing Page 2: Are
you a designer?
|Landing page 3: Modal-free
just for designers
|Landing page 4: Our
|Landing Page 1: Earn money in your
The best explanation we could provide for this is that people
like to check out a product more before signing up (there was no
link to the product from the page; the focus was on the signup
form). The other landing pages provided links back to the site
where an interested customer could take a feature tour, check out
the pricing, etc. before signing up. On top of this, the form had a
total of eight required fields. Reducing this to the bare minimum
and asking for the customer data after they signed up might have
helped convert more.
The best performing advertiser
From the day we turned these ads on, Fusion Ads was consistently our best
We also saw good conversion rates from other advertisers, which
you can see in the results below.
It’s important to keep in mind that these are conversion rates
only, and don’t give any indication of the true return on
investment. For example, while The Deck has been our second-best
converter, it’s also more expensive than any of the other ad
slots. Because of the rates we’ve managed to negotiate with some
providers, we can’t share the costs associated with each ad
Was it worth it?
When this was originally published, we only recovered around
25% of all expenses in revenue from new customers. Having said
that, a large percentage of our customers continue to use our
software for an extended period of time. This means the exercise
was most likely worth it, even if it took us a while to see
The most important element was actually testing everything as we
went. By putting in a little extra work, we could quickly gauge
which ad creative, landing page, and advertiser was giving us the
best results and react accordingly.
We then continued to refine the winning landing page
using Google Website Optimizer to improve conversions further. On
top of this, we tried some new ad creative and threw a few new
advertisers into the mix.
Banner ads are advertisements that get right to the point,
something that many consumers appreciate. With little to no
back-and-forth, internet users can get right to a product that they
find interesting, with little hassle.
However, with the sheer number of ads online, people are tuning
out. In fact, more and more internet users are downloading at least
one ad blocker to help rid themselves of repetitive, annoying adds.
So are banner ads really worth the investment? That choice falls on
you and your brand.
Here are some key points to consider:
- Many websites rely on banner ads for their revenue
- While prevalent, banner ads are quickly losing favor over
social media marketing and email marketing
- While the revenue from banner ads may be there, internet users
are equipping more ad blockers to keep annoying adds out
Believe it or not, there are many types of digital marketing
advertisements that may suit your brand better. Check out these
5 types of advertising campaigns that are sure to help your
This post was originally posted in June 2009
Promoting Your Product or Service with Banner Ads – Is It Worth
It? appeared first on Campaign Monitor.
Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
Promoting Your Product or Service with Banner Ads – Is It Worth It?