The Advanced Guide

In the Intermediate guide, I went through the types of display ads that are available to you on AdWords and Adroll. This can help you to decide which ads you should run to help your business succeed at display advertising. If you need a refresher on the topics discussed in this article, click here to read “What Types Of Display Ads Should You Run? — Part 2 (The Intermediate Guide)”.

Banner best practices have changed much since the very first banner ad appeared online in the 1990s. It is for this reason that I created this article to give you some tips and best practices on leveraging your display ads for increased success.

“ Meet people that matter and be a value provider” — Jennifer Gluckow ( Sales trainer, author, and speaker) @JENinaNYminute

What Should I Watch Out For When Running Different Display Ad Types?

In this article I will cover:

#1 Create Effective Display Ads

#2 Display Advertising Best Practices

#3 Tips For Optimizing Display Ads

So let’s move along…


#1 Create Effective Display Ads

The three crucial elements of a successful display ad are: the image, message, and design. This checklist outlines how to create effective responsive ads and image ads, so that you can improve conversions, brand recall, and engagement.

Checklist For Creating Effective Display Ads

1. Determine Whether You Are Optimizing For More Efficiency Or Control

  • If you want to drive more efficiency with your display ads, use responsive ads.
    Why: Responsive ads give you access to more inventory and reach by adapting to fit 2M+ apps and websites on the Google Display Network. On average, advertisers see 50% more conversions at a similar cost-per-acquisition when they use both responsive ads and image ads, compared to image ads alone.
  • If you want full creative control over your display ads, use standard image ads.
    Why: You can customize the colors, fonts, and layouts used in your ads.

2. Craft A Message That Is Relevant And Compelling

  • Tailor your display ads to the different stages of the purchase funnel.
    Why: Delivering the right message at the right moment can encourage response and help guide customers to purchase.
  • Include unique selling points, prices and promotions.
    Why: Make it easy for people to differentiate your service or products from competitors. People are also more likely to engage with ads that help them self-select before they click.

3. Make The Most Of Your Responsive Ads

  • Make full use of the long headlines feature.
    Why: 90 character headlines provide higher visibility and often perform better when rendered natively on a publisher’s site.
  • Make your description text different from your longer headline.
    Why: Descriptions and headlines aren’t guaranteed to show in their entirety, but you still want to avoid duplicating messaging on those placements that allow for more text.
  • Upload images with a strong visual focus and minimal text overlay.
    Why: Relevant images that support the main point of your ads tend to perform the best.
  • Include your logo.
    Why: Adding a logo will increase the number of placements you’ll be eligible for.

4. Create Striking, High-Performing Image Ads

  • Upload your standard image ads in high-definition (HD) sizes.
    Why: Ads with clear and crisp images are more likely to stand out.
  • Include the five most popular image sizes.
    Why: The top five sizes (300 x 250, 728 x 90, 160 x 600, 320 x 50, 300 x 600) can be automatically resized to fit 95% of the available placements on the Google Display Network.
  • Use HTML5 to create interactive or animated image ads.
    Why: Interactive or animated elements can help focus attention on your copy and call-to-action.
  • Ensure the message on your landing page matches the message in your ad.
    Why: This can have a positive impact on your users, conversion rate and quality score.

5. Test And Optimize Your Display Ads

  • Create multiple ad variations in your high volume ad groups using different messages and images.
    Why: Multiple versions let you test and optimize for best-performing elements.
  • Don’t forget lessons learned from earlier ad optimizations.
    Why: You’ve been optimizing your creative for a long time. Previous insights can also apply just as well to new responsive ads or image ads.
  • Consider setting your ad rotations to optimize automatically.
    Why: Improving ads is a trial-and-error process. With many ad tests running, it may be difficult to keep track of all of those moments when statistical significance is reached.
  • Rotate in fresh display ads every few weeks.
    Why: Even great banners can become less effective over time. Ad rotation prevents people from developing ad fatigue.

Tips For Creating Effective Display Ads

  • Use text, images, and color schemes effectively
  • Experiment with different display ad types and content designs
  • Create your own custom images
  • Generate display ads based on your existing text ads

To offer customers a more relevant ad experience, Sierra Trading Post began using Dynamic Remarketing, which automatically tailors ad content based on what visitors previously saw on its website. Someone who looked at men’s ski jackets on their site might, for example, later see ads featuring these jackets or related items as he or she is browsing other sites in the Google Display Network. With Dynamic Remarketing, Sierra Trading Post’s conversions increased 5X compared to regular remarketing campaigns. Read More Here.

#2 Display Advertising Best Practices

When producing display advertising campaigns, it’s common to cooperate with a variety of external services. This to make sure when creating and publishing display ads there are no issues. When working with external factors, it is necessary to put in place display advertising best practices. Also, many advertising networks have implemented their own best practices and guidelines. Ad creatives when using a chosen network must follow these rules.

General Best Practices

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), companies, and ad networks have developed a range of display ad best practices. In particular, the IAB has released a new ad portfolio on how to produce banners across devices. Some of the below are guidelines but ad networks and other publishing platforms follow them. Before building a display campaign, it is always worth checking the exact requirements needed. The networks and publishers you use will always need you to follow their exact requirements. This will make sure that approval for your campaigns is quick and without hassle.

Border Requirements
In its display ad guidelines, the IAB states that display ads should be “distinguishable from normal web page content”. It also stresses that the “ad unit must have clear defined borders and not confused with normal web content”. This best practice is often applied by ad networks too. It’s important to follow this rule so as to get swift ad approval.

The easiest way to fulfil this best practice is to make sure your display ad has a border. In addition, make sure your ad creative doesn’t blend into the background. Both this, and the use of a border, should be part of your banner design from the beginning.

Avoid Fraudulent Simulations
This goes without saying, but do not include fake computer simulations that could knowingly (or unknowingly) confuse viewers. This includes fake sounds too — anything that makes your banner feel like a computer notification. This is important as it not only stops malicious advertisers, and potential ad fraud, but it protects your brand’s reputation. Brand safety and transparency are crucial! Creating display ads that mimic computer actions is unprofessional and dishonest. And such “scareware” is often associated with rogue advertisers. Avoid at all costs.

Genuine Interactivity
Interactive display ads are now used more and more by online advertisers. But if you want to include such advanced features in your display ad, make sure the interactivity is genuine. Don’t make your display ad look interactive in a bid to increase your click-through rate. Take the time (and effort) to code, or use widgets, which give the viewer interactivity.

Animated Banners
Some networks have a max loop length for animated banner ads. Always check the networks and publishers you are using to make sure your ad complies with their regulations. The IAB recommends that animation length must not exceed 15 seconds. They also recommend to avoid flashing, high contrast, fast moving and bright coloured animations. Again, while this may gain a viewer’s attention, it is poor design, and reflects poorly on the brand advertising.

Fallback Images
Many networks need you to provide fallback images. These are static or .gif versions of your display advertisements. The reason for this is in case your display ad finds itself on certain (usually older) devices. Fallback images are especially important for heavy creatives such as video and rich media, when load speed can be an issue. Take the time to pay attention to the fallback image — it might be the first thing a viewer sees in some cases.

Video Banners
Video banners are more and more popular. According to eMarketer research, the most popular types of rich media ad is out-stream video — that is, ads that play outside of other video content, such as between paragraphs of text — and in-feed premium video ads on social platforms. As well as making awesome backgrounds, using them within display advertising is increasing due to greater user engagement. There are of course best practises when using video — load time being an issue. According to the IAB, for auto play video banners — like animated banners — the max duration should be 15 seconds. While the recommended max file size should be 1.1mb and 24fps — for lower bandwidths 18fps is allowable.

Display Advertising Best Practice

Monitor Script Size
It is well worth monitoring where, on the way to being published, a banner’s “weight” is added. Not all kb’s come from where you think (images, fonts, and animation, etc.). Sometimes the heaviest part of the total weight of a banner, is added by tracking scripts. Occasionally these alone can weigh more than 100 kb! These scripts normally come from your adserver. If you regularly have problems with your banners being too heavy, then don’t forget to check the scripts!

Best Practices To Increase CTR And Conversions

Once you have applied the requirements set by your advertising network, you can move on to the next stage of your campaign best practices. This means applying practices to help you produce and run better display advertising campaigns.

Relevant Advertising
Marketers and advertisers are able to customise all parts of their buyer’s journey, making offers personalised. This is possible with display advertising too.

You may wish to consider using the majority of your budget for networks or exchanges that have high-quality inventory and allow you to target your ideal customers. Studies have shown that relevant advertising is far more effective than general advertising. For example, users are more likely to click on your ads if they think they are useful. It is always better to show a relevant ad in the most relevant space.

Retargeting campaigns are an effective and proven type of display advertising campaign.
Yet a word of caution for 2018. GDPR is coming into force in May 2018 and rules around cookies are about to change. It is well worth finding out what your preferred advertising networks, media buyer, or ad tech provider is doing in regards to retargeting. This is because the time a tracking cookie can remain active (and retargeting is effective) is about to vary widely.

The truth of the matter is that you need to treat the user with respect. Retargeting is great but use it responsibly. For example, once your viewer has converted make sure you don’t continue to retarget them!

Dynamic Content And Feeded Ads
Take personalisation and relevancy to the next level with dynamic content display ads. Dynamic ads use web feeds to supply updating data into already published display ads. These updates are fast and regular, and can be performed every 15 seconds. These ads are particularly good for sports odds, and e-commerce stores but potential applications are endless.

By using this technique, you can always make sure that your display ads are relevant and up-to-date. If you have a product inventory, sell holidays, or currency exchange you should be using dynamic content. It will increase both your relevance and your click-through rate.

Test Copy And Call-To-Actions (CTAs)
It’s worth taking the time to get the fundamentals of your ad right. Short, catchy copy, and a solid call to action are solid foundations for even the most basic of ads. Read what industry experts recommend, and focus on how display advertising design uses copy, and CTAs. You need to excite interest and offer something to viewers that makes them want to click-through. One tip: the CTA should always be strong and eye-catching. The best way to achieve this is by using a button. Making sure it is eye-catching, is one way of encouraging a viewer to click-through.

Best Practice For Catch Copy

One sure fire way of finding the best creative is by testing different variations. If you can use analytics to optimize your ads it’s easy to a/b test and produce copy and CTA’s that convert. Better yet, use a platform, which allows you to update already published banners and you can apply these improvements in real-time.

#3 Tips For Optimizing Display Ads

Optimizing Your Display Campaign

Optimizing your display campaigns can help you to achieve better results. Once your campaign has been running for a while and has collected data that you can analyze, I would suggest you look at how you can improve you campaigns. Below are some tips for optimising your display campaigns.

  • Excluding irrelevant categories
  • Excluding irrelevant audiences
  • Reviewing reach using the dimensions tab. Remember to increase your budget if you wish to increase your reach
  • Reviewing ad performance based on geographic region and exclude any areas which regularly perform poorly (using the dimensions tab)
  • Adding click-to-call extensions if you are targeting mobile devices
  • Exclude mobile apps — Showing your ads in games and music apps probably won’t be beneficial to you. Most people accidentally click on the ads to return swiftly to the game. They’re looking to entertain themselves rather than make a purchase or seek B2B services. Avoid wasting money on these accidental clicks.

Display Ad Optimization Tips

  • The mobile banner 320×50 is best implemented as a docked/anchor unit. That’s when it performs better regarding CTR. Since it’s a small ad unit, when served as a regular banner, 300×250 and 320×100 units usually outperform it.
  • “Scroller,” an emerging ad unit that fills the screen without covering the entire content is one approach to ad-blocking concerns. According to the IAB’s report, this type of ad format is non-invasive (the users can scroll past them) and has outperformed expandable banners regarding creativity and enjoyment.
  • Medium Rectangle (300×250) remains to be the best performing banner size. Take advantage of the opportunity to implement it above the fold.
  • In-banner Video (IBV) providers favor 300×250 most of the time. They usually pay the best CPMs which you can compete against Header Bidding to push performance up. When running IBV, try to limit it to two units at most to avoid slowing down the page.
  • The “Large Rectangle” (336×280) is also a top performing ad size as suggested by Google. Make your ad unit flexi by adding it along with your standard mobile ad sizes (e.g., 300×250 / 336×280). It has been proven to perform well when embedded within text content or at the end of articles.
  • Aside from the ad size, one advantageous feature of mobile devices is the location service plus. This makes advertising more relevant to users and potentially generate higher clicks. If you are using an ad server, like Google DFP, geographical targeting will play a significant role. Most ad networks can specify the countries where they have campaigns available.
  • Check your ads for aesthetics. Keep only those ad networks that serve high definition quality creatives and ditch the pixelated ones regardless of the CPM’s they promise. You can’t afford to compromise on user experience. Ads that are non-pixelated tend to yield positive engagement rates and leave a positive impression on users.
  • You can have multiple ad sizes compete in the same ad spot to tighten competition. For instance, you can have 300×250 spot serve 320×100 and 320×50. When this happens, the smaller advertisements will always align vertically at the top.

“The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you — how great you are, and what you do — to statements about them.” — Jeffrey Gitomer (Presenter on Sell or Die podcast, #1 Business Podcast On Overcast) @gitomer


Display advertising is a form of advertising that will be around for many years, but you will want to know how to use it effectively so that your business can be ahead of its competitors. It was for this reason that I looked into creating these articles.

We are working to bring you more guides Display Advertising, so come back and visit our publication, Inside Revenue, for the release of these articles and more.

Inside Revenue

Helping sales & marketing teams hit their Revenue Targets

Samantha de la Porté

Written by

Senior Digital Campaign Manager At FetchThem - Helping Sales And Marketing Teams Hit Their Company's Revenue Goals

Inside Revenue

Helping sales & marketing teams hit their Revenue Targets

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