But really, who clicks on banner ads?


On one hand, many of us can remember a time before the Internet was widely available, so it may seem like it hasn’t existed for too long. We used to go outside for entertainment. Isn’t that crazy?

On the other hand, consider that the Internet banner ad has been around long enough that it can now legally drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in California. Not that they would, because banner ads are largely inanimate and don’t physically exist beyond their digital realms, and therefore cannot interact with tangible substances. Plus, they’re probably pretty health conscious.

The point is this: Banner ads have been in use for a long-ass time. Our web pages have been spangled with obnoxious images, flashing text boxes, and annoying interruptions since October of 1994 (or maybe before that, depending on who you ask). Banner and display ads continue to enjoy an impressive lifespan and a daunting prevalence, which is precisely why Internet users have become so adept at ignoring them. In fact, most users are so good at tuning display ads out that they don’t even have to consciously try. Researchers coined the phrase “banner blindness” to describe the phenomenon.

What’s banner blindness? I mean, I can probably guess, but…

Banner blindness is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a well-known reality that refers to a user’s ability to actively or passively ignore online advertisements while reading or viewing website content. To digital marketers, it’s quite a baffling and frustrating affliction.

If you’re trying to create a display ad that will entice a website visitor to click, the statistics are not in your favor. The typical web user sees roughly 1,707 banner ads per month, but most banner ads have a clickthrough rate of only 0.1 percent.

In other words, most internet users click only 1.7 banners per month.

That’s a pretty low number, but it’s not quite as low as, say, zero, for example. If 1.7 seems like way more banners than you would ever click in a month or your lifetime, it’s probably because you’re not part of the eight percent of all Internet users who account for roughly 85 percent of ad clicks. Not to mention, many of these clicks are accidental, especially for mobile users.

So then, why do banners still exist at all? Are they even profitable?

Despite all the crazy numbers I just threw in your face, banner ads are still — somehow — profitable. In fact, banner ads rake in a cool $3.5 billion globally. Online display advertisements can certainly net a positive ROI, but much like a Super Bowl commercial, one doesn’t simply spend some money and automatically see results. You have to do it well, like LL Cool J.

Rather than focusing solely on the amount of views or clicks your banner ads receive, marketers should track their visitors through the entire sales funnel. You advertising is only doing part of its job if it’s attracting a high volume of clicks, but your landing pages fail to convert leads into sales.

Your off-site banners need to bring traffic to your website. Your on-site banners should be targeted to your customers’ interests. Your landing pages should be optimized for conversions. When you acquire new leads, be sure to nurture them through your sales funnel in a way that is relevant and interesting to them.

So how do I get my banner ads noticed?

Online users ignore display advertisements for a multitude of reasons:

  • They’re interruptive
  • They’re annoying
  • They’re irrelevant to the user’s interests
  • They’re not trustworthy

To combat the interruptive nature of many common display ads, marketers will often turn to native advertising. While the practice can sometimes be viewed as deceptive, there certainly are ways to create informative native advertisements that cater to the user’s’ interests (which can also solve the problem of banners being irrelevant to the needs of your visitors).

Create banners that have a simple, clear intention. Do your visitors know where clicking your display ads will take them? Make sure the copy on your advertisements tells the viewer exactly why they should click your ads.

And don’t use anything that plays sound without permission from the visitor, like a video that runs automatically. Advertisements with audio are objectively distasteful, and are probably the fastest way to lose your viewers’ trust.

To address passive banner blindness, you can simply place your display advertisements in strategic locations. Since most viewers tend to scan pages in an F pattern, and the right side of a web page is largely ignored, consider placing your banner ads in a non-traditional spot. Like somewhere left-ish.

And you probably knew this part was coming, but we’re going to end this blog with a banner ad that (hopefully) is relevant to your interests, and is not at all annoying or stupid.

At this point, if you’re still reading, we assume that you might be interested in discovering more about the strategies and benefits of digital or inbound marketing. If that’s the case, you can learn more about the makings of a successful inbound marketing strategy with our free e-book, An Introduction to Inbound Marketing.

If not, then thanks for reading, anyway.