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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 16 , 2020

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 advertising is important
  • Types of display ads
  • Best practices for display ads

More than ever before, we’re living our lives online. With millions of people still working from home across the globe, everything from shopping to connecting with loved ones has become fully digitized. And digital marketers have noticed.

Digital ad spending is expected to hit $225 million by 2022 as more businesses turn to digital advertising as an effective medium to reach prospects, grow awareness, and boost their bottom line.  

What’s more, Google display ad click-through rates rose to 0.6% in 2019 compared to 0.41% in 2018. This highlights the growing efficiency of display ads as a bonafide marketing strategy. Curious how to make it work for your company? Read on.

hawksem blog - peacock

A display ad for streaming service Peacock on Vox’s website.

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 can offer numerous 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 PPC ads, you can persuade users to click through to a landing page, effectively creating brand awareness and, ideally, inspiring them to take the next action. When placed on the right platforms, these ads help target people who are most relevant to your business and increase your online visibility. Lastly, these ads provide crucial data and support retargeting.

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. There are several types of ads that you can access. These include:

  • static ads
  • animated ads
  • interactive ads
  • video ads
  • expanding ads 

Regardless of the type you choose, there are a number of sizes and formats to pick from as well. The key here is to understand your target audience so you can opt for the ad type that’s most likely to encourage engagement.

Tips for successful display advertising

To make the most of display advertising and grow your business, following 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 be displayed 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.

hawksem - vrbo

A video display ad from Vrbo seen on The New Yorker’s website.

2. Create ads that stand out

You not only want to attract the perfect leads, but 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. 

Research suggests ads with 80 characters or less deliver 66 percent more engagement. 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 curious.

3. Explore rich media

Unlike traditional static display ads, rich media features an element of interaction. This could be in the form of an 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.  

4. Create effective landing pages

The main goal of any digital marketing campaign is usually to generate leads 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 impossible-to-ignore call to action (CTA)
  • A design that’s consistent with the ad
  • An easy-to-complete form
  • A mobile-friendly experience 
hawksem blog - display ads

An example of a remarketing display ad from Target on Apartment Therapy’s website.

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 one-in-five 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, but that’s because we know it can be a highly effective tool to have in your marketing arsenal. Remarketing (aka retargeting) serves ads to users who have clicked on an ad, been to your website, or shown an interest in your products in the past. It’s a great way to remind them about your company (and their previous interest) without being too intrusive.

Often, people who stumble upon your site for the first time aren’t necessarily in the place to make a decision. With remarketing, you’ll have a higher chance of converting these potential customers when you serve ads that can suggest they pick up with you where they left off. 

hawksem - smitten kitchen

A display ad from CallRail on the Smitten Kitchen recipe website.

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 brand. 

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. 

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 only test one element per A/B test. 

As you run your campaign, it’s key to carve out time to evaluate whether your efforts are bearing fruit. Make sure you set up proper tracking at the beginning of your campaigns, and have established KPIs to measure against. These include impressions, reach, clickthrough rate, and conversion rate. 

You can then use the data you collect to regularly optimize your targeting and ads to improve overall performance. Experts suggest spending about an hour every week looking at the performance of your 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 form of digital marketing presents, you can try out different techniques during your campaigns and see which ones resonate most. 

Want to tap into the expertise and experience of digital marketing professionals to fine-tune the campaign and maximize your efforts? Let’s talk.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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