“Banner advertising just doesn’t work for us. We’ve tried it and the results were not good.”

The above statement is without a specific author because it has been made by so many marketers from both the brand and agency side.  In full disclosure, I’m sure it is a statement that I’ve even made myself some time ago. However, this article is going to tell you why it is time to reconsider putting banner advertising back into your marketing portfolio.

Banner advertising, aka display advertising, has often been held to an unfair standard of measurement by most marketing people. Like so many other forms of digital marketing, the results can be measured with accuracy and in doing so, it just doesn’t perform like some of the other options such as paid search, organic search and even email marketing. The easy decision is to just remove it from the mix and place the budget where it works best. Sounds good, right? Well I’m here to tell you… not so fast!

Let’s start by considering the impact on your paid search program since Google removed the ads in the right sidebar.  With only 4 ads at the top of the page vs. the 11 total with the sidebar, competition for placement has gotten fierce. With an increase in competition for visibility comes an increase in cost per click (CPC). If you want to be seen and drive traffic, you need to increase your bids to get into the top 4 placements. I personally have seen this result in CPC’s that are 50-100% higher than what they were when ads were placed in the right sidebar. This means that budgets are not going as far, traffic to the site is down and conversion ROI has been negatively impacted. Whether your measure cost per acquisition (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS), the result is the same. Businesses are not getting the same results as before.

A reduction in traffic from paid search puts pressure on organic search (SEO) to make up the gap. But we all know that SEO has also not gotten easier either. And why would it with more businesses trying their best to rank on page 1 organically. SEO has become so challenging that many companies have grown frustrated to the point of giving up on it. In fact, you could almost argue that companies would rather increase their CPC bids than spend money on SEO where results are not guaranteed. The thought being, “if I am going to spend a buck I might as well get the click.”

Queue the music… this is where “display” re-enters the game!

When used properly, display advertising will have a positive impact on your other marketing channels. The results beneficiary of display advertising will be organic search from your brand name keywords and direct website traffic which occurs when a user enters your domain into their browser address bar. The user experience is simple. Your target audience gets exposed to 4-5 display ads, never clicks, but then does a search for your company name.

OK, I know what you are thinking. Is it really that simple? Yes, it is!

Thanks partly to the significant improvements in the Google Display Network and the steadily growing number of sites using GDN to publish ads, marketers can find hundreds of relevant locations for their banners. Google has even made it easier for marketers to create ads that work without the expensive costs to develop banner creative. Now don’t get me wrong on this. You are not going to win any awards for your Google created banners, but they work. And here is the best part… Cost per click prices are roughly 25% of what paid search clicks are.  How’s that for expanding your budget?

In addition to driving traffic to your site at lower CPC’s, you should also know that GDN has a vastly improved media planning tool.  This tool lets you find extremely targeted placements for your ads on sites where your audiences spend time reading articles and other relevant content. Marketers can target placements relevant to their keywords as well. And let us not forget about the use of Retargeting via display where you can serve ads to users that have visited your site but did not buy or convert to a lead. Who doesn’t want a second chance to capture that visitor?

Please allow me to circle back on an earlier point about unfair performance metrics. Holding banner advertising to the same standard as search will still leave you disappointed. Instead, look at the overall effect on your marketing portfolio. When done correctly, marketers can achieve higher volumes of traffic and conversions with display in the portfolio. The overall conversion metrics when blended with all the channels working together will be something marketers can be proud of.

Still skeptical? I understand. May I suggest that you keep your eyes open for banner ads over the next few days. You’ll notice a small logo in the top right corner of the ad which says “Ad Choices” as you roll over it. That is an ad served by the Google Display Network. See below for an example. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be amazed how often you see it.

Remember folks, marketing doesn’t have to be this hard!


Example of Google Display Network Banner Ad