How to Create a Banner that Performs

Improving the look and the position of your banner may improve the overall performance and increase the profitability of your campaigns.

Display advertisement is often considered unprofitable due to high cost and low CTR (click-through-rate). However, improving the look and the position of your banner may improve the overall performance and increase the profitability of your campaigns.

1. Banner position.
The best position is close to the user’s eye path, that is to what a user is looking for on the page. E.g. an order confirmation, a product description, a sign-up form. Banners placed outside the main structural blocks of the page will probably not be noticed. In fact, users have learned to filter and ignore the parts of the web page typically occupied by banners (the top and the right-hand side of the page).

Banners placed on the side of the page vertically typically get half of the clicks that the banners placed horizontally do even if they are placed on the same level.

If a user has to scroll to view the banner, this reduces the CTR  drastically, so avoid placing the banner at the bottom of a longer page, unless the user normally has to scroll to the end of the page (e.g. when reading an article).

Surrounding banners, graphics and text also have a direct impact on your CTR. Experience shows that a user normally skims through blocks of content, thus grouping parts a web page together. If your banner is placed beneath or next to a bulky blinking ad, the user will often dismiss  both your banner and the ad as one content block that is of no interest to him/her.

2. Banner design.
Recent studies prove that a banner that matches the overall design of the page (i.e. uses similar colors, fonts, spacing, etc.) performs better than a banner that is a contrasting or exceptional element to the page design. My experience shows that the following elements have practically no positive impact on the CTR: moving or blinking elements, pictures of objects or people, logos, colorful backgrounds, flash animation, etc. However, consider the whole of the user journey on the website, if a graphical element, e.g. an icon, appears several times on different pages of a website, consider implementing it on your banner.

3. Banner text.
Here be specific about what your offer is. Provide the benefit the user will get from clicking on the banner in a wording that is suitable for the audience you are trying to reach. Banner title is the most important part of the banner text, often the only part of the text that actually gets read. Make sure that it captures the attention of the user, without exaggerating what you actually offer.

4. Call to action.
Make your call to action the most prominent element of the banner. Be very brief and precise about the action the user needs to take (“receive your free copy”, “register now”, “proceed to the checkout”). It is always good to make the CTR button three-dimensional and/or contrasting to the main palette.

5. A/B tests.
These recommendations are of general character and will not necessarily work on any page and for any product being advertised. Consider running some A/B or even multivariant tests in order to find out what actually performs best, both in terms of CTR and how profitable and qualified the incoming leads are.

banner example

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Two Types of Online Users: Simplifying the Segmentation

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics.

There are numerous approaches to customer segmentation, some of which include a lot of hard and soft factors and fracture the customer base down to “a segment of one”. However, this micro-marketing is hard to apply in practice: modern online marketing is largely data-driven and the problem is rather to generalize and structure the massive amounts of user data and to incorporate it in simple procedures that you can actually manage and apply.

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics. All users can be subdivided into two groups. There is empirical data by Yandex proving the existence of these two user types, as well as some surveys  such as the one by Novomind  introducing the subdivision of online users/buyers into two main types.

Let us see how the theory can be applied to understanding the user behavior and conversion on a website.

Segment 1: “Experimenters”

Type 1 users, “experimenters”  or “synthetical” type are driven by emotions rather than reason.

  • They tend to “skim” through the page or read it “diagonally” paying attention to the parts that stand out or create a structural break in the page.
  • They are more likely to click on a CTA that is three-dimensional, large or made in contrasting colors.
  • They seldom read the text attentively and are not moved by detailed explanations.
  • If offered a choice of products, they make their decisions rather quickly without much scrolling and clicking, though having a lot of choice is important for them.
  • They tend to break off if prompted to type in extra data, or if forced to do extra clicks.
  • They leave the page rather quickly if they do not find what they want immediately.
  • They are often on the lookout for new, innovative or exclusive products.
  • They are prone to do spontaneous purchases if offered a good deal on the spot.
  • They seldom make repeat purchases and have less customer loyalty to an online shop.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be male or younger users.

Segment 2: “Readers”

Type 2 users, “readers” or “analytical” type tend to be more consistent and methodical when navigating a page.

  • They normally navigate the page “top to bottom” thus paying attention to less “visible” elements
  • They make less spontaneous clicks.
  • They react to CTA’s that match the background design of the page, as this makes them more “trustworthy”.
  • They tend to look thoroughly through the website and need time to make a final purchase decision.
  • They get irritated if the website lacks a clear structure or if there is too little information about the products or services.
  • They often  break off the buying process if feeling insecure about their personal data or feel pressed for decision (“limited offer, buy now!”).
  • If satisfied with service and products, they are likely to return and even become permanent customers.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be female or older users.

Implications of the Segmentation

Having in mind these two customer types helps to explain why the same conversion optimization measures yield completely different if not contradictory results when implemented on different websites (as their customer base may predominately have users of type 1 or type 2).

While the first user type require interactivity, large print and colors to attract their attention and reacts negatively to the informational overload, the second type, on the contrary, require clear and detailed information and dismiss anything that seems suspicious to them or resembles advertising.

If one is not quite sure what type of users a website has or if there seems to be a good mixture of both, balancing off the interests of both groups (e.g. additional information is easy to find, but can as well be skipped through) or even designing several types of interfaces for different landing pages may serve as a solution.

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A Different Approach to Conversion Funnel

Conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

In one of my previous posts, I shared some techniques applicable to conversion optimization on a website. However, conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

Set and regularly review your KPIs. Apart from absolute values, do apply ratios, such as the ratio of site visitors to the ratio of buyers/ newsletter subscribers, etc. Even if the absolute numbers seem to be growing, but the ratios are shifting, it is time to take a closer look at what might be happening inside your conversion funnel or even above it.

If a parameter is changing, evaluate the change from the time aspect (gradual vs. rapid changes).

A rapid change is likely to be caused by changes you made on your website, whether willingly or accidentally. As an example, conversion rates may change due to the change in design of a website, product range or the site navigation, but also due a technical problem or a faulty code. Try to exclude the possibility that your statistics are not gathered or displayed incorrectly, whereas nothing actually has happened to your website in reality.

Another reason for rapid changes or rather fluctuations are short-term effects such as a holiday vs a regular day, unexpected weather conditions or a promotional activity by yourself or one of your partners.

However, if the parameter has been changing gradually over a longer period of time, the reason is much more likely to be external. Seasonality is a major factor for cyclical effects, although natural business growth (growing or shrinking market) or the state of competition (market segmentation or consolidation) are likely to have long-term effects that are irreversible.

In this case, it is important to evaluate how the change is affecting your business and what steps can be taken to optimize your website to adapt to the changing conditions.

Another less obvious reason for changes in your KPIs, especially conversion rates is the structure of your marketing leads. It is important to understand that the way how leads travel through the funnel reflects the way these leads are or where they come from.

Imagine your website has not changed in any way for the past few months. However, you can observe that the click rates on certain products you display on the website have changed. If you exclude the possibility of a major environmental change (such as shifting demand for these products or appearance of a strong competitor), the only suitable explanation is that the actual user behavior has changed.

So if you had a recent campaign that was targeted at a new customer segment, you shouldn’t be surprised that these leads convert differently than the leads you have had before. It may even be that though the source of the leads has not changed, the structure of the leads visiting the source has been shifting. E.g. if you use a social network with predominately younger audience for generating the leads, but the network manager now wants to re-position it to suit older users, the leads you get may find your products/services irrelevant.

Unfortunately, the possibility of such external effects as a major shift in the leads structure is often missed out when interpreting the performance data, since it normally requires the change of the whole mindset and getting away from pulling the same conversion levers inside the familiar environment of your website. Moreover, measuring and evaluating the leads that have not actually converted is often difficult due to the missing or insecure data on these leads.

The information above can be summarized in the form of an extended conversion funnel, that demonstrates external influence on the actual conversion rates or other KPIs on your website.

extended conversion funnel

 

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Do You Know Your Personal KPIs?

The notion of Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs is by no means new in the business management world. With the growth of online businesses and the rise of real-time data collection the importance of structuring, sorting and filtering the increasing amount of internal data has increased as well.

However, most business do not really have insights into what KPIs are relevant for them and work with a standard set of metrics without adjusting it to the nature of their business. Here are some simple steps on how to build your personal system of KPIs.

Look at your business more closely. Two simple ways of doing it are designing a sales funnel for your business (that is the size of the target market, the number of leads at each stage of the buying process and how they are managed by your business system); or looking at the customer journey (at the stages a potential customer would go through in your system: from the lead to the buyer, including post-buying behaviour). The major difference between two approaches is that the fist one is more internally driven whereas the second one is externally driven or customer based.

By looking at how your marketing and sales funnel narrows through different stages you can work out relevant KPIs that will help to monitor the numbers in the funnel. Some examples are in the table below.

Total size of the target market Size of the segment you hope to reach with marketing campaigns
Number of customers who would visit the shop Number of customers who would start the buying process
Number of customers who would make the purchase Number of customers who would rebuy

Using the second, customer oriented approach you would analyse where your customers are coming from, when they mostly visit the page, and how they navigate through your shop and make their purchase decisions. This approach allows you to develop a series of “soft” or qualitative indicators that will likely be helpful in adjusting and analyzing the data you would derive using the first approach.

Hard facts about the customer: age, gender, location Soft facts about the customer: interests, hobbies
Buying situation: home, work, time of the day Buying behavior: time spent on site, number of revisits
Shopping basket: size, contents After purchase: feedback, cross-selling, rebuys

After you have a list of metrics that measure your business, decide on the most relevant indicators or KPIs that will be looked upon in the first place.

Design a dashboard for your KPIs that shows a snapshot of data you look at in the first place, as well as the development of indicators over time. In designing the dashboard you should consider the past data (e.g. average over the past month/year), the present data (think of how often you will update it: hourly, daily, weekly, etc), and the future data, i.e try to work out a system of variables in your system and incorporate this data into plotting a trend for KPIs.

Develop the data collection and management system that would meet your needs. Think of the tools you use (you could acquire a ready-made solution for data management, or design and program your own unique system, which will often be costly but will allow for the necessary flexibility and help to prevent data leakages). You should have basically two systems in place – one for collecting operational, daily data, and the other one for evaluating marketing or sales campaigns that only take place at certain intervals. Do not let both data flows melt into one in your system, otherwise you will have difficulty explaining the changes in KPIs over time.

Set the targets in your KPIs based on company business goals, historical values, industry average or benchmarking. Evaluate the incoming numbers at regular intervals, check them against the goals and predicted values you had set in your system, and if necessary, adjust those goals after more data has flown into the system.

Also, do not collect data just for the sake of collecting data. Your KPIs should actually be involved into your decisions, whether on operational or strategic level or at least give you valuable insights into your business and how it functions over time or under different conditions.

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Guiding the Customer: Website Conversion Optimisation

Using this advice you can optimize the performance and conversion of your website or a landing page.

The Internet is getting increasingly cluttered – thus, having your own web page does not guarantee the success of your business. Apart from attracting the traffic to your web page through advertising or SEO, boosting the conversion rates (that is, getting actual sales or having visitors perform other actions you want them to) is extremely important. Below are some areas you can use to leverage the performance of your online presence.

Landing page

Avoid using your home page as your landing page for every campaign you do. Because a visitor decides within milliseconds, whether to stay on your page or click the “Back” button in his browser, make sure that what he sees matches his current needs. Landing pages with too much information or too many functions act distracting and irritating, as the user is clicking through the areas of the web page struggling to find what he needs. Even if your website contains a lot of information and categories, try to limit the amount of information presented down to the minimum and make it easy to digest.

Websites with unusual, “creative” layouts may, on the one hand, attract the attention of the visitor, but due to the reduced usability, are very likely to decrease your conversion rates, as the website visitors (and the potential customers!) get lost in the jungle of JavaScript and Flash animations.

Another important point is the technical usability of your website, e.g. the compatibly with different browser types, the absence of broken links, and last, but not least, the speed of the website (the speed of the website is also an important factor in search engine optimization).

Call-to-Action

In order to convert, your website hast to contain clear and precise calls-to-action. Some guidelines to follow: the button should match the overall design of the website (so as not to be perceived as advertising or an external link), but on the other hand, provide a color or size contrast to the less essential areas of the web page.

The position of the clickable CTA should be within the normal eye path of the visitor: according to some experts, the location in the lower part of the page on the right-hand side is advantageous, however, this would not work for long pages, where you have to scroll or for smaller monitors (netbooks, mobile, etc). On the other hand, elements placed in the upper left hand corner often get the most initial attention by a visitor (Google golden triangle).

Conversion barriers

Some well or less well known conversion barriers include the areas of the web page requiring registration, long forms to fill out, CAPTCHAs (pictures with words or numbers you need to type in to prove your human identity), distractions in the form of cross-selling or external advertisements, extended visitor’s path (a number of clicks required to reach the intended goal) and all kinds of usability and performance problems.

Test and find out

In conclusion, it must be noted that the guidelines given above are of very general nature, in other words, only by testing and monitoring performance you can learn about the methods working in your particular case. Some testing methods are A/B tests (tests with a control group), mouse tracking and eye tracking tests, as well as thorough studying of customer segmentation and implementing methods of website optimization for different target segments.

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