Written by Caroline Cox on Jul 6 , 2022

Before you launch your next display ads campaign, here’s what you need to know. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • What display ads are
  • Why display campaigns are important
  • Types of display ads
  • Best practices for display ads

More than ever before, we’re living our lives online. 

Particularly in the last few years, everything from shopping and working to connecting with loved ones has become virtual. And digital marketers have noticed.

Global digital ad spending is expected to hit $645 billion by 2024 as more businesses turn to online advertising as an effective medium to reach prospects, grow awareness, and boost their bottom line.  

What’s more, Google display ad click-through rates for some industries rose to 0.84% in 2021. This highlights the growing efficiency of display ads as a bonafide marketing strategy. 

Curious about how to make display ads work for you? Read on.

peacock ad on vox

A display ad for streaming service Peacock on Vox’s website. (Image: vox.com)

What are display ads?

A display ad, also known as a banner ad, is a visual-based form of online paid advertising. You usually see these ads on websites, apps, and social media platforms. 

These ads typically feature a photo or designed graphic along with copy. The ideal result is an interactive display that encourages users to engage with the ad. 

To reach customers through display ads, you’ll need to work with a display ad network. (Google has one, of course, but there are dozens more.)

The benefits of display marketing 

Display marketing offers tons of business benefits. The visual nature of these ads helps capture the attention of your audience and convey your message in an eye-catching, direct manner. 

With paid search (also known as pay-per-click or PPC) ads, you can persuade users to click through to a landing page. This helps create effective brand awareness and, ideally, inspire visitors to take the next desired action. 

When placed on the right platforms, these ads help target people who are most relevant to your business and increase your online visibility while offering crucial data.

Common types of display ads 

When creating and running a display ad campaign, you’ll have to choose the ad type and format that will have the greatest impact. You can take advantage of several types of display ads.

  • Traditional banner ads: Ads that appear in a specific location on the website, mobile app, or social media platform. They come in static, animated, interactive, and video formats.
  • Interstitial ads: These pop up to cover the entire page or app screen. Users need to interact with the ad to proceed further by closing the ad or clicking the CTA. Ad types include text, images, videos, and rich media. (Google restricts certain interstitial ads on mobile pages because they interfere with satisfactory user experience.)
  • Remarketing ads: Ads that appear on websites, apps, and social media pages that visitors go to after they leave your website or mobile app.
  • Lightbox ads: These ads appear small at first but expand on the screen once the visitor engages with them. They’re great for improving user experience without the frustration of aggressive ads.
  • 360degree video ads: Ads that provide an immersive experience by responding to mobile phones’ gyroscopes. A user can interact with the ad by rotating the phone or moving.
  • Responsive display ads: For these ads, you upload the assets and Google will “automatically adjust their size, appearance, and format to fit just about any available ad space and improve performance,” the search engine explains.

Regardless of the type you choose, the key here is to understand your target audience. This way, you can opt for the ad type that’s most likely to encourage engagement.

vrbo ad on new yorker

A video display ad from VRBO seen on The New Yorker’s website. (Image: newyorker.com)

Best practices for successful display advertising

To make the most of display advertising and grow your business, using the latest best practices is crucial — no surprise there. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating display ads and executing your marketing strategy.

1. Get your targeting right

Successful targeting involves identifying your ideal client persona and doing research to understand your customers better. With keyword targeting, your ads will show up on websites whose contents match the chosen keywords. 

Placement targeting lets you choose the specific websites on which the ads will appear, while demographic targeting focuses on your audience’s demographic profile. 

Display targeting allows you to serve ads based on what users enter in search engines, and topic targeting involves selecting websites that fit within a certain topic.

2. Create ads that stand out

You not only want to attract the perfect leads, you also want them to click your ad and take action. That’s why content and design are such important elements of a successful display ad. 

Using high-quality images that convey a strong message can help elicit an emotional response from your ideal audience. 

You can also take advantage of programmatic advertising to serve various iterations of the same copy to differently segmented audiences. 

Lastly, short-and-sweet ad copy can establish urgency and serve as a teaser to make users want to know more.

3. Explore rich media

Unlike traditional static display ads, rich media features an element of interaction. This could be in the form of audio, video, Flash, or the ability to expand when a mouse cursor hovers over the ad. 

Taking advantage of the popularity of video content and the effectiveness of this form of multimedia advertising can capture the attention of your audience and keep them interested in what you’re offering. 

Although being more interactive comes at a (literal) price, investing in rich media can be worthwhile for your ROI if leveraged well.  

In 2022, when creating video ads, pay special attention to the sound. In fact, more than 66% of American web users find ads with loud audio annoying. That’s why outstream video campaigns are gaining popularity. They play the video on mute unless the viewer unmutes it with a tap.

When designing media for your display ads, make sure it provides sufficient information (such as captions or copy overlaid on the visual) without sound needed.

target at on apartment therapy

An example of a remarketing display ad from Target on Apartment Therapy’s website. (Image: apartmenttherapy.com)

4. Create effective landing pages

The main goal of any digital marketing campaign is usually to increase lead generation and sales. 

In addition to an attention-grabbing display that gets users to take action, make sure the landing pages you’re linking to are equally as thought-out and optimized. 

The most effective landing pages often follow a few guidelines, including:

  • An enticing call to action (CTA)
  • A design that’s consistent with the ad
  • An easy-to-complete form
  • A mobile-friendly experience 

See the Playbook our experts used to increase conversion volume by over 40% for clients like Microsoft, Honda and Verizon.

5. Ensure ads are mobile-friendly

Speaking of mobile-friendliness: Making your ads mobile-friendly will enable you to reach a wider online audience. After all, roughly 1 in 5 American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users, according to Pew Research

Designing your ads with smaller screens in mind will provide a great user experience for people who access the internet through hand-held devices. 

Your landing pages may also need to be optimized so that they adjust to different screen sizes. This process will go a long way in improving the customer journey and increasing conversion rates.

6. Take advantage of remarketing

We talk a lot about remarketing around here. That’s because we know it can be a highly effective tool to have in your marketing arsenal. 

It’s also worth noting that remarketing is evolving. With the third-party cookie phaseout slated for 2023, it’s wise to start focusing on alternatives to straightforward retargeting.

Right now, Google is working on an alternative to remarketing ads. It’s called FLEDGE (First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment.). This option should allow you to target previous website visitors without revealing their browsing history. 

Chrome describes FLEDGE as “a Privacy Sandbox proposal to serve remarketing and custom audience use cases, designed so it cannot be used by third parties to track user browsing behavior across sites.”

In 2021, 83% of marketers relied on third-party cookies for their marketing tactics. The faster you adjust to the alternatives, the more market share you can steal when the third-party cookie finally sunsets.

callrail display ads on smitten kitchen

A display ad from CallRail on the Smitten Kitchen recipe website. (Image: smittenkitchen.com)

7. Stay true to your brand

To make your ads feel seamless and professional, it’s important to prioritize brand consistency. Ads that mirror the look and feel of your website and landing pages will make it easy for users to connect them with your company. 

When both your brand and products are easily recognizable every time a user encounters your ads, you can create trust, promote brand recognition, and foster loyalty. 

Still feel like your Google display campaigns suck? One of these reasons could be to blame.

8. Test and measure your ads

The importance of measuring ads cannot be denied. A/B testing different ad formats will help you identify, optimize, and serve the most effective ads to your target audience. 

You can A/B test things like CTAs, images, and ad copy — just make sure to test only one element per A/B test. 

As you run your campaign, carve out time to evaluate whether your efforts are bearing fruit. Be sure to set up proper tracking at the beginning of your campaigns and have established KPIs to measure against. These include impressions, reach, click-through rate, and conversion rate. 

You can then use the data you collect to regularly optimize your targeting and ads to improve overall performance. 

Pro tip: Experts suggest spending about an hour a week analyzing ad performance. Don’t have the time? Partnering with an agency might be your best bet.

9. Explore mobile gaming display advertising

Mobile gaming continues to experience a significant rise. These days, active gamers span nearly all ages, genders, and occupations. 

With the number of gamers exceeding 3 billion worldwide, exploring gaming ads can help you reach a wider audience. Formats of in-game ads are similar to regular online advertisements. They include static, video, image, and audio ads.

The takeaway

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it provides a few tips that you can use to ensure you’re running successful display ads for your brand. 

With the numerous opportunities this digital marketing type presents, it’s worth trying out different techniques for your campaigns and seeing which ones resonate most. You may be surprised by the ROI you can achieve.

This article has been updated and was originally published in July 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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