How to Reduce Banner Blindness and Use Effective Ads that Work - Blogger help, tips and hacks

How to Reduce Banner Blindness and Use Effective Ads that Work

Jakob Nielsen has published the results of new eye-tracking studies and affirms once again, that banner blindness is indeed a real phenomenon. According to Nielsen, visitors to websites do not pay attention to advertisements when they are searching for quick information or are engrossed in reading an article.

Nielsen also outlines the four types of ads which are most effective in getting eyeball attention from visitors. These include plain text, faces, cleavage and other private body parts and lastly, ads which look like content.

Regarded by Nielsen as an unethical practice, ads that look like content obscures the line between editorial sources and paid advertisements. Nielsen elaborates on this:

The more an ad looks like a native site component, the more users will look at it. Not only should the ad look like the site’s other design elements, it should appear to be part of the specific page section in which it’s displayed…Unethical ads will get you more fixations, but ethical business practices will attract more loyal customers in the long run.

Nielson’s article also suggests that advertising networks may provide poorer ROI for advertisers because networks don’t allow them to create customized ads for placement. This inability to blend well with site content will result in less visitor fixation/attention.

He then concludes that it might be better to buy ads by directly contacting publishers and arranging for customized integration of ads in specific locations.

The Problem with Selling Ads that Look like Content

Nielsen is correct is saying that ads visually similar to content lead to greater fixation. While ads made to look like content might get the greatest click through rate, it may affect visitor trust.

As I’ve previously shown in my article on how to optimize your Adsense link units, it is not difficult to create ads that look like content by simply using contextual advertising programs like Google Adsense.

However, from a publisher’s perspective I wouldn’t recommend using these type of ads for flagship sites, online communities or businesses which involve the selling of products. Excessive external links or integrated ads will lower sales conversion and site stickiness, particularly if they are very well blended with content.

There is a no benefit in creating these types of ads for advertisers as well, unless they are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to advertise directly on your site. You are essentially leaking lots of traffic and trust for a site you should be incrementally developing.

On Buying Advertisements that Work

There are many types of site-specific advertisements which work and text-based in-content ads work best because they are immersed within the editorial framework and may occasionally, come with a personal recommendation. Advertisements can also come in the form of sponsorship for awards or contests.

The exposure you get from sponsorships is legitimate and doesn’t come with the stigma of a ‘paid or sponsored review’. A recent example worth mentioning is the 2007 Plugin competition held by Weblog Tools Collection.

Weblog Tools is syndicated in every Wordpress dashboard and I’m quite each of the sponsors received a decent amount of exposure or traffic by sponsoring the competition. Apart from the purchase of on-site ads, other types of paid advertising programs will work too, so seek to diversify your advertising campaign.

SEOMoz has some other examples of other innovative online advertising methods which work better than banner ads. The Techmeme example is most similar to Nielsen’s category of ads that look like content, although they clearly demarcate the paid ads with a ’sponsor’ label.



Techmeme (by Dosh Dosh)

Three Ways to Reduce Banner Blindness

If you display your own ads or buy ads from another website, the following methods might help to reduce the likelihood of banner blindness.

  1. Ad Rotation. This is a common method used by webmasters to ensure that visitors don’t immediately overlook the specific ads they run. In the case of contextual ads, you can run rotate ads of different color schemes and formats. This might be useful although I recommend tracking clicks to monitor its effect. Wordpress powered blogs can use the Wpads plugin or Ad Rotator plugin.


  2. Incorporate Tagline and Unique Names. I’ve not seen this mentioned elsewhere but I think it will definitely improve the clickthrough rate. The trick is to make your ad message a similar variation or spin on the tagline or name of the site you are advertising on.

    For example, if you’re running a banner ad on Dosh Dosh, a tagline like ‘making money online‘ or some variation of that will increase the perceived relevance or usefulness of the ad. Use of the site name (”Dosh Dosh”) might help as well, but do confirm if the site owner is fine with attaching their name to your ad.


  3. Use Images of Faces. Nielsen mentions that the use of faces will attract visitor attention and I do think this is true. You don’t have to include racy pictures of cleavages but you can include an attractive face in your ad in order to make it stand out from the rest of the site.

    Most content-heavy websites feature lots of text and the use of faces in ads may ‘humanize’ the overall experience of the site. Here’s an example of a banner ad that uses a pretty face to attract visitors:

    AN Hosting (by Dosh Dosh)

Apart from the factors mentioned above, do keep in mind that relevance is still of primary importance. If your ad isn’t 100% relevant to the site, your future ROI will be poor, even though you might get a decent amount of click through traffic.

Remember that advertising is a means to an end and the amount of visitors you get from an ad campaign isn’t all important. It’s really about how they convert into customers, regular visitors and subscribers.


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