What Are Banner Ads and How Do They Work? (2024)

Banner ads can work magic when selling products online. They have the potential to reach a vast and diverse audience. As an ecommerce store owner, this visibility is important for brand awareness, launching new products, or keeping an offer in the public eye. 

The problem with banner ads is that you have to disrupt the visitor’s activity to make them click. The very first thing you do is create friction with the person you’re trying to reach. However, there are tactics to make your ad more effective. 

With a little creativity, you can create banner ads that grab your audience’s attention and make sales. This guide will walk you through the basics of clickable banner ads, web banner design, and how to create web banners. 

What is banner advertising and how does it work?

Banner advertising is when you use graphic digital displays to promote a brand and/or get people to click on the ad so it will direct them to your online store’s landing page. These ads are rectangular and stretch across certain sections of a website or social media page. 

Here’s how banner ads work:

  1. You upload ads to online advertising networks or directly to websites. Ad networks manage multiple advertisers’ ads and distribute them across multiple websites in their network.
  2. For advertisers, targeting demographics and user behaviors is crucial to getting their ads in front of the right people. Targeting can include factors such as location, browsing habits, interests, age, gender, or device type. Effective ads are those that are more targeted.
  3. Real-time bidding (RTB) is used by many ad networks to show ads to users. In milliseconds, an auction occurs between different advertisers’ ads on a site, and the winning advertiser displays the ad.

Advertisers can optimize banner ads based on performance data by changing the ads, the targeting strategy, or the bidding strategy.

Banner ad sizes

There are many different types of banner ads and they come in all different sizes. Here’s a list to help you decide which works best for your business.

  • Small square (200 pixels x 200 pixels): Not very visible, can look cluttered because of its small size. Not very popular amongst ecommerce businesses.
  • Square (250 x 250): Ideal for smaller ad spaces. More versatile than a small square, but still a little small for business advertising.
  • Standard banner (468 x 60): Often placed above the navigation bar or between the web page’s main content. It’s much bigger than square banner ads, but you must still strategize your ad to fit the thin space.
  • Leaderboard (728 x 90): A larger size that is much more noticeable than square banner ads. Is usually placed above navigation bars.
  • Large leaderboard (970 x 90): Larger version of the standard leaderboard.
  • Medium rectangle (300 x 250): This is the type of banner ad most popular with businesses. Works best if placed in the sidebar between organic content.
  • Large rectangle (336 x 280): Works best if placed in sidebars and inside the website’s main content. This is a common banner ad choice for online publishers. 
  • Skyscraper (120 x 600): Best suited for sidebars because of its tall shape. Best for ads that have downward descending visuals. 
  • Wide skyscraper (160 x 600): A wider skyscraper used mostly in sidebars of websites. Because of its wider size, it tends to have more impact than a regular skyscraper.
  • Half-page ad (300 x 600): Very large with very high visibility. This ad covers nearly half of a web page.

📚Read: Top 18 Types of Google Ads: Full Guide With Examples (2023)

Banner ads cost

BusinessofApps found that the average search advertising cost per click (CPC) across all industries was 67¢ in 2022. For Google Display ads, the average CPC was $2.32.

However there are a few different types of ad payment models. Make sure to choose the one that most aligns with your business goals.

  • Cost per thousand (CPM): You pay a fixed price for every 1,000 users who view your ad. Bear in mind, the user doesn’t have to click on the ad; all they have to do with this model is view the page your ad is on for it to count toward your 1,000 impressions.
  • Cost per click (CPC): You pay a fee every time a user clicks on one of your ads. This payment plan is good for those business owners looking to increase their click-through rates.
  • Cost per action (CPA): Used almost exclusively for affiliate marketing. You provide a banner ad to an affiliate partner like a social media influencer or celebrity. The affiliate partner pays for the fees to install that ad on their social media page or website. Then the affiliate partner gets a commission for every sales lead that pans out.
  • Cost per view (CPV): You pay for each view of your ad. This is usually used with video ads. A view is only counted if a user watches your ad for at least 30 seconds or interacts with your video ad (whichever comes first).
  • Cost per lead (CPL): Similar to the CPA model, except you pay for the desired action a user takes. For example, having a user sign up for a newsletter, register an email address, follow your business’s social media accounts, etc.

3 effective banner ad examples

Let’s look at a few banner advertising examples you can’t help but click.

1. Sugarlips

If you want your ad to stand out on a website, it should be as close to the website’s content as possible. For example, this Sugarlips ad will most likely be seen by more visitors than any ads at the bottom of this CNN article. 

Image of Sugarlips banner ad on CNN website

The Sugarlips ad is placed in a high-traffic area—at the top of a “front page” or “hot” story. If you can get your ad at the top of a website, near the headlines, you’ll be more likely to increase your click-through rate, increase sales leads, and generate more sales.

This sidebar is also attractive on the CNN site because it’s a fairly large banner ad (almost a full third of the width of the page). It’s right next to the page’s main content, making it more visible to CNN visitors. 

2. Health Bloom

Vertical banner ad example from health bloom

The Health Bloom ad above is simple, yet effective. The Health Bloom logo and name are prominently placed at the top, so viewers immediately recognize the brand behind the advertisement.

The use of crisp, high-resolution photos of fresh greens not only grabs attention but also conveys the organic and fresh quality of the products. The ad also uses succinct text—“ORGANIC GROCERIES” and “Stock up on your everyday essentials.” Concise messaging quickly informs viewers of the core offering, without overwhelming them.

3. Allbirds

sidebar banner ad by allbirds with light blue background

This vertical sidebar banner catches your eye with a visual of a shoe on a blue background. Allbirds uses this digital marketing campaign to attract internet users who share its vision to support sustainability and the environment.

The ad’s clean, simple layout reduces distractions and places the emphasis on the product and its value proposition. The text “A Truly Sustainable Alternative Leather” speaks directly to environmentally conscious consumers. It informs the viewer about the unique selling point of the product without unnecessary fluff.

The “SHOP NOW” button is noticeable and invites the viewer to take immediate action. Its contrasting color ensures it stands out but doesn’t overpower the primary message.

Where to buy banner ads

There are two primary ways to buy banner ads. You can deal directly with the website, or work with an ad network. Here’s a rundown on each option:

One-off banner ads

Depending on your industry, you may know of some niche websites that are very popular and have an advertising program. Reach out to the operators of those sites and find out their advertising rates. These sites can sometimes be the best bang for your buck when it comes to banner ads. 

Another thing to consider is becoming a resident advertiser. The longer you advertise on these sites, the deeper the relationship you can build with their loyal visitors. 

This is when you need to think about how your ads change with time and what themes you want to run with. If you can freshen up your ads every month and make the site’s visitors smile, you will strengthen your brand with those visitors.

Ad networks

You can join an ad network for a shotgun spread approach. Ad networks are middlemen between you and the websites your ads reside on. The benefit is that you’ll access more websites with less work. The downside is that you might not get the best rates and don’t get to build a close relationship with the website operators. 

Aside from Google and Bing, another popular website advertising network is BuySellAds.

We recommend exhausting the first approach of building close relationships with publishers directly. If you still need more advertising spread, begin by contacting ad networks and find out which network is the most suitable for your needs.

Read: How to Create Google Shopping Ads for Your Store

How to create banner ads

Decide where you want to display ads

First things first: You need to decide where you want to host your ad. Ensure the websites, affiliates, and networks you use align with your business goals and that they will reach your target audience.

You can decide to approach companies individually and work out a deal one to one, or even advertise strictly through social media. You can also join networks like the Google Display Network or IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), which will place your ads on hundreds to hundreds of thousands of websites that fall within the respective networks. 

Membership fees to join those types of networks would be in addition to whatever payment model you choose. But the access those networks give you could be invaluable. 

Pick the right tool to create your ad

Don’t worry if you’re not graphic savvy and don’t know how to use Photoshop. There are plenty of ad creation tools. Many CRM and ecommerce platforms have ad creation tools built into their programs. Make sure you know what features you want and what file types and specs your ad creation tools support. 

Create striking visuals

Next, it’s time to choose the right size for your ad. Remember the banner ad sizes listed above and their pros and cons. Know which format your ad will mostly be seen in. For example, are your shoppers mostly going to your sites through mobile devices or on laptops.

After you know what size you want your banner to be, it’s time to choose a background color. Know the type of sites your ad is going to be placed on. For example, if your ads are mostly on blogs or newspaper sites, choose a bright color that will contrast the white background color those sites tend to use.

Now, pick the right images, video, or animations you want to include in your ad. Make sure to use high-quality images that aren’t blurred and are composed attractively. Remember, you have a limited amount of space to make an impact and you’re competing against other ads and distractions. 

Write compelling copy

This is where you entice viewers to pay attention to your brand. You can use discount offers or clever or inspiring wording or provide succinct information.

Some guidelines to follow:

  1. Use a font that is easy to read but still represents your brand’s aesthetic.
  2. Make the most of your ad space without cluttering your banner ad.
  3. Include a call to action (CTA) with your text. You can add a clever button asking people to sign up for a newsletter or to visit your store’s homepage. 

Get your landing page in top shape

Now that you have your ads and calls to action in place, it’s time to make sure your landing page is ready to receive visitors. Much like the thought process you put into your banner ads, you need to use a similar process with your landing page. 

Ensure your landing page is pleasing to the eye, easily navigable, and in keeping with your brand image. You can even display advertising on your landing page with discount offers for specific products. This is your chance to use an entire web page to continue to interest your visitors so that interest will lead to sales.

Just take a look at Gymshark’s landing page. The menu bar is clearly displayed and the font is easily readable, and Gymshark uses its landing page to promote a featured item and new releases. 

Image of Gymshark's landing page after clicking on a banner ad

📚Read: Landing Page Design: How To Create Better Pages That Convert

Tips for creating banner ads

The key to making banner ads work is understanding the problems mentioned above and thinking about how you can get attention or help the web surfer with your ads. 

Here are a few ideas on how to do just that:

  1. Only put your banner ads on relevant websites. If you plaster your ads everywhere possible on the web, you’ll be paying a high price for poor ad performance. Therefore, only choose websites where your target audience hangs out. The more niche the website, the better.
  2. Be creative while addressing the web visitor’s problems. It sounds obvious, but plenty of retailers put the bare minimum of creativity into their ad artwork. What’s going to get someone’s attention? What will your target audience care about? 
  3. Test. The first banner ad you publish is just to see if it works. You need to iterate on your message, destination pages, and artwork. You need to measure and track what ads best affect your web analytics. 

You should think about where you send your banner ad traffic. Depending on what your banner ad message is, you can send them to:

  • Your home page. We rarely recommend sending traffic to your home page. If your advertisements are more about your brand, sending traffic to your home page is acceptable. But don’t expect it to convert into sales!
  • A category page. If your advertisement has to do with one of your categories of products then send the traffic to your category page. You might want to pre-sort your products on your category pages to show the lowest-priced items or the most popular ones.
  • A product page. If you’re advertising a specific product, send them directly to the product page. Ninety-nine percent of the time this will result in higher conversions.
  • A promotional page. In some cases, you may be giving something away or having people enter a contest. In these cases, don’t make them work to find the promotion, just send them to it directly.

Market your business with banner display ads

It’s no secret that a display ad is not your first thought when considering ad placement for a campaign. They often disrupt the shopper’s experience and can upset them. But with a little creativity, you can create banner ads that drive traffic and conversions, and make more sales for your ecommerce store. 

Banner ads FAQ

What is a banner ad?

A banner ad is a type of digital advertising where an ad is embedded onto a webpage, usually displaying a rectangular graphic display that stretches across the top, bottom, or sides of a website. It’s supposed to drive traffic to the advertiser’s website.

What are banner ads with an example?

Online banner ads promote brands, products, or services. For example, a banner ad on a news website might show off a travel agency’s discounts on flights and accommodations, using appealing images and text to entice people to click.

Are banner ads still used?

Yes, banner ads are still used today to increase brand awareness, clicks, conversions, and sales, especially when strategically placed. With new technology, they now include rich media, videos, and interactive elements to engage viewers.

Where are banner ads?

Traditionally, banner ads appear on websites, placed strategically on pages to grab visitors’ attention, such as at the top (header), bottom (footer), or sidebar, but they can also be seen on social media platforms, mobile apps, and even email marketing campaigns. The ads are usually placed across a variety of sites by ad networks.

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