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The 5 Basic Laws of Banner Designs You Should Care About

So let’s make one thing clear before we proceed: Banners are NOT dead. They are not in a coma, either. They are around, and will be around for a long time.

Why? It’s because they live in a nice and comfortable home—Google AdWords, specifically, in the Google Display and Content Network. 

So if you are not using banner ads while advertising on the Content Network, boy, are you in trouble. You are really missing out on a huge slice of the proverbial tasty pie.

While AdWords competition is frantic and fierce, there are a few places where the killing fields are not as ugly. And one of these places is Image Ads, better known as banners. And for good reason, too—they WORK! Banner ads get better Click Through Rates (CTR), and similar conversions to text ads. And this means just one thing: banners are not only a part of a good advertising campaign, but an ESSENTIAL part that should be in any advertising campaign.

So what makes a good banner?

No, it’s not all about the aesthetics. A good banner can be really ugly, but if it works, it’s perfect.

What works, then?

Banner ads should fulfill one task—to generate a click. If a banner ad generates a higher than average CTR, then it works, therefore, it is good.

Your prime consideration should not be about the banner being glitzy enough so that people admire your creativity. While a professionally designed banner is a huge plus, being beautiful almost does not matter as much as its content. Your goal is to get measurable results, not “oohs and aahs”.

Here are some basic rules to start with.

The Basic Laws in Creating a Banner that Works

Law #1: Placement is Key 

It helps (a lot) to know the placement of your ads, or at least try to know where the banner ads will be displayed. Yes, this is easier said than done, especially if you are on AdWords’ automatic placement, hence you should expect that your banners will be placed on different sites. The worse thing is, you won’t know which websites they’ll be on. And while you can look at reports at a later time, you need information now.

What you can do is closely examine the potential placement of your banner ads when you have the chance. It won’t hurt to take down some notes while looking around.


Here are some questions you can answer to narrow down your investigation:

  • How many ads are currently in your target sites?
  • In what sections of the website do the ads appear?
  • Are there more text ads than banner ads?
  • How do the other banners look like and what are their styles?
  • Do they stand out from the rest, or try to blend in?
  • How about your placement, what does it look like?
  • What is your placement surrounded by?

The more information you have about your banner placement, the clearer and better it will be for you when you start creating your web banners.

Law # 2: Do Not Hold Back On Copy 

Remember, good copy always sells. This is applicable even in banners. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but here are some quick tips:

  • Your headline carries the weight of your banner’s success—nothing else will matter if your headline is wrong. The headline is so important that you should devote half of your copywriting efforts and time to working on it. You can get some inspiration from other successful banners and use them as a template, but make sure yours is unique and, well, more awesome.
  • Answer the questions a reader/viewer may have—here, you should answer the WIIFM or the What’s In It For Me question. You should also answer the WWH: Why? What? How? All of these questions are important and should be answered by your banner. People will click on your banner ads if they know right at the onset what they can get from what you are offering, why you are doing it, and how they can get it, and most importantly, why on earth should they care.
  • Call to action—this is another important part of your banner copy. Do not forget to include a stirring call to action that will push your reader/viewer to click. You may think that “Click Here” is cliché, but it isn’t. Tell them to do something, and spur them into action with simple, easy to understand CTAs.

Here are some examples of excellent banner headlines:

Law #3: Make Your Graphics More Convincing

As I mentioned at the onset of this post, your banner doesn’t have to be the prettiest thing in the world. But if you choose to go for a graphic banner, you have to make it convincing. How? It should bring specific information in the graphics itself. Don’t focus on aesthetics too much, but focus on the information and make sure that it is useful for the target audience.

The graphics should look nice enough so that your audience finds it attention-grabbing, enticing and would push them into action.

For instance, if you are making a banner for an online baby apparel store, you would be tempted to put images of cute little babies in onesies. That’s fine, but shopping parents would want to click on a banner that shows not only the cute baby, but also the brand of the apparel the baby is wearing, as well as their prices. This way, the entire banner ad is both aesthetically pleasing and informative.

Law #4: Grandma-proof Your Banner, Please Make It Readable! 

You are not alone; I too had seen my share of banners using fonts that are close to being unreadable. And it’s not just about the font! The style itself sucks with blurry letters, poor contrast, letters that are too big, paired with letters that are too small. You know what I mean, right?

The banner on the right has a perfect mix of readable and attention-grabbing fonts.

So here’s a quick tip: once your banner is done, show it to someone whose eyes are not exactly 20/20. What I do is show the banner to my grandmother and let her read it back to me. If she has a hard time reading it, I change the style and the font. Simple, right? Play with the design a bit and master the best font combinations for your banner design. You won’t regret it.

Law #5: Put Some Psychology into the Colors 

Our brains respond to colors in different ways, and colors can each mean differently in varying cultures. Your knowledge of your target audience is vital  in choosing the right color for your banners. There are different color theories, but the one in this site may help you understand colors better: Color Theory for Designers.

In all these colors, there are two that you should strongly consider: blue and orange. Odd? Take a look at Amazon’s use of orange buttons. Orange, after all, is the 2nd most noticeable color after red, without the negative emotions. Orange does not say: STOP, or DANGER, or LOOK OUT!

Blue on the other hand, is the color of security, authority and safety. It emanates a sense of confidence and trust, which is why it works great in headlines.

While you don’t have to use these 2 colors exclusively, they’re a good backup plan if you feel like you can’t make a choice. 

Final Thoughts

Remember, you only have less than 8 seconds to grab the attention of your audience, so you have to make them count. Create interesting, unique and appealing banners that trigger consumers to respond and take action. If you can’t do it, hire a professional who has a good track record in making highly effective banners.  !

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Six Things Every First Time Banner Marketer Should Know
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