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A recent (2006) study found that vistors tend to ignore banner ads. It's a phenomenon known as banner blindness. Funny enough, the types of ads ignored most are those with screaming, flashing images.

To be effective, today's banner ads must be simple and relevant to the page they're placed on.

There are no absolute rules about what makes an effective banner ad. As in all advertising, a good ad is the product of a number of different factors; there's no sure way to predict how well any banner ad will do.

That said, here are a few qualities that make banner ads more effective:

  • Keep it simple  less is more.
  • Focus on one message (like a billboard).
  • Use fewer words (about seven max) and bigger type.
  • Limit number of fonts (preferably no more than two).
  • Show rather than tell (i.e. images may be more effective than words).
  • Keep file size small.
  • Don't use sexy images (readers will assume porn site).
  • Design ad in context.
  • Choose bright colours that stand out.
  • If possible, use blue, yellow and/or green.
  • Use red sparingly.
  • Use bold graphics, high contrast.
  • Place ad on page with related content.
  • Often best to advertise a particular product rather than your website generally.
  • Have the ad link to the featured product page rather than home page.
  • Use subtle animation to draw attention (but avoid flashing, garish, annoying animation).
  • Don't “trick” customer into clicking (fake application screens, etc.)
  • If animated, ensure message and link appear in first frame and in last frame.
  • Have animation stop after a few cycles.
  • Use key/trigger words where possible.
  • The word “FREE” remains powerful. Include it if possible/appropriate.
  • Include a call to action, with button.
  • “Click Here” is okay as a call to action.
  • Even better if the call to action includes a specific benefit, e.g. “Click for FREE SAMPLE”
  • A large “Click Here” button is not necessarily more effective than a small one.
  • Test your ads. Develop more than one, test them against each other.
  • Rotate ads frequently, to keep messages fresh.

The bottom line: make simple, single-message, visually appealing ads with interesting content. Intelligently place the ads so they are exposed to audiences that would be interested in them.