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Designing Banner Ads that Get Clicked!

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of September 2007 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

The following guest post was submitted by Shrihari from GotChance – a Geek’s Blog.

Advertising campaigns are undoubtedly one of the best sources of traffics from other high traffic website. Especially on huge blogs like TechCrunch, EnGadget etc.. and even on other big blogs like ProBlogger, John Chow etc.. There are primarily two factors that affect the click through rate of your banners :

  1. Position of the banners
  2. The Look and Feel of the banners

The second factor is what we will be discussing about in this post. So, how to design your banners and how not to design your banners ?

Informative Ads

The ultimate aim of every advertising banner is to tell the readers as much information as possible and get them to visit your website. This works for most banners, but sometimes turn negative. Especially when there is too much information, it maybe a turn off for the users. Consider these two banner :


The first one is stuffed with information. It looks attractive and people might be interested in clicking it. But, the second one, though it provides more information than the first, looks less attractive. With such a look, i might consider it as a SPAMmy ad.

Attractive Ads

While it is information that should work, what really works is the look of a banner. The more pleasing it is to the users, the more is the probability that he will click-through.


In the above ad, with the 300 x 250 large space offered, the advertiser could have easily included a lot of information about what they offer and also their domain name. But it simple reads “WordPress Themes for Free”. Also the WP logo looks very nice. So, i bet there would have been a lots of clicks on this one. It is always a good practice to hold back some information from displaying on your banner. The content that you should hold back, however, depends on what product you are advertising.

I found the following ad good-looking as well. It doesn’t say anything about what is being advertised, but can encourage a few clicks (though not as much as the above wordpress ad).


How & How not to color your Ads

A Banner can be made attractive(?) by two ways. One is by making it look good and the other is by making it ugly. An ugly looking ad would get more attention than a good-looking one. But, what the user feels is more important. While coloring ads, it is best to follow the color scheme of your own website (the one that the banner will be linking too). Also using some contrasting colors would be a nice practice. Not as contrasting as this one though :


So, it is always best to keep in mind the above points while designing banners. Also remember that “Success of a Banner = Information + Attraction”.

Have you had experience in designing Banner Ads? – What have you found that works (and doesn’t work)?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Its always hard to figure out what ad is attractive but its even easier to determine which ad is unattractive. Trying to find that right balance between enough information to garner a click and too much information, is also tough.

    I have found that is best to keep it simple and minimal. Start with minimal colors and words. And only ad one or the other when it adds value.

  • jim

    I totaly agree, I have found that an affiliate banner can allmost look as though it was created just for that blog.Picking the right size and color scheme is the key as is placement.

  • its hard to make a good attractive banner – you need to think about if readers are even looking at them since we are so use to banners we tend to just ignore them.

    but making them stick out out of the rest is just to gather clicks. I guess we need to make it bright yellow with huge fonts and animation!

    bad idea I think

  • Yeah, some ads are just so bad. I don’t know why the website they’re on would put them up or the website they link to would stand to have an ad like that.

  • I would like to know where or what software to use to make a good banner??? I’ve used a couple with some free software I have– and it seems to work good but is there somewhere else I can go?

  • There are a few good pointers in this article, but what is attractive is not the characteristic you should be considering.

    The only thing that matters is whether the ad gets clicks. If you want to decide between two ads, test both and look at the numbers.

    Banner ads work like any other ad. You have to place it in front of the right audience and clearly relay a promise or benefit that is relevant to that audience in order to induce action.

    And what may surprise many people is that what is unattractive often works best. For example, for the ad offering WordPress themes, I’d wager that a banner with the word FREE in large letters that read “FREE WordPress themes – Click here” would get more clicks that the one with the call to action in teeny little type.

    When in doubt, test. It’s the only way to know and the only data that matters.

  • All 2D graphic stuff can be made with Photoshop. I use it every day and I just can’t imagine myself doing designs in any other application.

    Designing the banners isn’t that hard. It’s hard to decide what text will you put on the ad.

  • Thanks Darren for publishing my post.

  • Great post! I love photoshop and fireworks, and use both programs regularly for my own works. It’s actually very simple.

  • Maybe there’s some reason they do it that I’m missing, but I’ve never really understood why so many organizations put ads on the web that seem specifically designed to look like cheap, downmarket, used-car lot type ads.

    Are they specifically aiming for a cheaper market in some cases? Is it ineptness? Or is this just a lack of resources devoted towards web ads so they assign any random intern to crack open Photoshop and crap out an ad with bad copy assigned by a marketing dullard?

    Sports team websites are one area where this practice is especially pervasive. As a sports fan, this is something that is bothersome. But it isn’t just in the sports world, it is all over the internet.

    If I was designing ads for the web, I’d be more likely to have a simple logo and short bit of text like that WordPress ad up above. Pretty interesting post and something I’d like to examine in more detail in the future.

  • What’s missing from this post is the call to action.
    Once of the most important elements of a successful banner is the call to action. It doesn’t matter if it’s a text ad or a graphic banner. The call to action is what gets people clicking.

  • I am trying to not spend any money on advertising Blog for Squares dot com, just to try it out. But the Banner advice is good and is the same techniques I use in advertising other websites I run.

  • The most difficult part with creating buttons, banners, etc. is choosing the colors that look nice together. There are some good tools out there to help with this (search for web color generators) but mostly it just comes down to trial and error. I have not had much success with it myself however.

  • @internet cash flow guy–I have adesclrpicker from and it matches colors perfectly. He has a trial download but the full version is on 10 bucks. You should try that.

  • Hi! Very useful and interesting post (for me) ;)

  • Having designed several banners myself. I prefer ads that are readable and straight to the point but still gives a reason to be clicked on. Animated banners are still good to have attract users.

  • I don’t have experience designing ads because I can’t do designing. But recently 2 volunteers helped me design a charity ad banner for a Malaysian Charity, Eden Handicap Service Centre.

    But after a while, I received an email from the ad agency that they’ve been receiving complaints that the charity ads were “ugly and old-fashioned”. I was soo sad to have to request him to remove the ads until I find other designers to help me with the ad banners.

    Perhaps somebody who’s reading this would like to offer their services, and help Eden design something prettier? Please…??

    My email is pelfism [at]

  • In the long run, I think if you rely on animated ads too much, people will subconsciously block out any movement on the screen.

  • Yes placement etc is important but I think the most important factor with adverts is the style of adverts. I have just written a post about how to cure advert blindness which was based from a Jokob Nielsons post.

  • Pelf, that’s a shame. But do you have any data on whether or not the ads worked? Sometimes an ad agency is not, surprisingly, the best one to tell you whether or not an ad works.

  • @Sonia: I’m not very sure whether the ads worked, but it wasn’t long after they were being served that the ad agency got a lot of bashing because of the “ugly” ads. And some bloggers even removed the ad codes to avoid having those “ugly” ads on their blog, which I think is sad, considering those are supposed to be “charity ads”.

    You may see the earlier ad samples on my blog.

    Does anybody know of any designers who would do this for us, for free?

  • Does anybody know of any designers who would do this for us, for free?

    Yes! If you have charity ads that you would like redone, you can contact me and I will work on ads for free (charity ads only please).

    I’m in the process of re-tooling my site to provide free stuff for people, including free adsense colour schemes with previews (which will probably be images of the final ads as opposed to just adsense ads). So at least with that area you’d be covered.

    I think that a lot of animated ads get too annoying, sometimes to the point where I wouldn’t visit the site even if it were something I’d be interested in. Tasteful amounts of movement can be great and draw attention to your ad, but too much movement can cause people to block your ad (using adblock or similar firefox plugins).

  • The more pleasing it is to the users, the more is the probability that he will click-through.

    Darren, I’ve read a few studies on the subject, and I don’t recall seeing any data that supports your theory. Sure, people say they like pretty ads, but what they actually look at and click on is another matter.

  • @Griffen,
    In regards to animated adverts, they need to be interactive, clever and not too eye straining (like I mention in my above article).

  • I think the first thing is that the banner needs to be relevant to the content on the page. If you are looking at a page on Poodle Manicures you really don’t want to see an ad for discount web hosting!

    Attractive banners will usually get more clicks but you need to test to be sure.

    In some cases ugly banners may get more clicks in the short-run, but in the end they may irritate visitors and make them less likely to come back.

    Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs!

  • @Chris: You may be right in regards to clickthroughs. I haven’t seen the data on it, but nice ads at least maintain your level of design. I think that credibility is an issue as well. If you have a bad ad design, it can negatively impact how people perceive your company or product before they even see any meaningful description of it. On the other hand, if you have a nice ad design, it does lend credibility to your site (or at least doesn’t take anything away).

    I’m interested in what studies have been done on the subject, but I will say that if your ads aren’t getting many clicks, the first order of business should be to re-evaluate how effective they may be — which could be design, message or placement. You may want to go from just putting them on Adwords (which I really don’t suggest anyway) to buying adspace directly from site owners. There are lots of different things you can do that don’t necessarily involve scrapping the ad altogether, but I think that a redesign is something that you should always consider when ads aren’t performing well.

    As always, testing is key.

    @Jermayn: Exactly :D