High CTR Display Advertising Best Practices

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Winning in display advertising is hard because most people don’t notice these ads. One industry study estimated that 86% of consumers experience “banner blindness.” This finding is troubling for advertisers and publishers. 

The good news is that you have a tremendous opportunity to increase the effectiveness of your display advertising. There are two strategies to use – improving display advertising and strategies that go beyond traditional display ad methods.

Display Advertising: Best Practices To Create An Effective Ad

We’ll approach this discussion from the publisher’s point of view. Understanding these best practices allows you to sell more subscriptions, tickets, and products. Also, you’ll be better positioned to understand your advertisers’ needs and offer them a perspective. 

1. Craft Your Copy 

The copy in display advertising has significant constraints. Typically, display ads have very short amounts of copy: aim for ten words or less. With these constraints, focusing on a single, clear idea or offer is often best. 

Since a headline can make or break a display ad, it’s natural to feel pressure to get it right immediately. That’s a challenging game to win. Instead, use the rule of 10. Write ten headline ideas for your display ads. Then step away from your ad and select 2-3 promising ads for your needs.

Good display ad vs Bad display ad

As a starting point, focus your ad on either solving a problem or a benefit. Consumer brands often focus on sales and discounts because these are clear, easy-to-explain benefits. Simple benefit-driven headlines are proven to work. This type of headline should always have a home in your display advertising.

Direct benefits aren’t the only approach to winning display advertising. Focusing your display ad on a painful problem your audience is experiencing can also work well. The key is to express the problem in a specific way that clicks with your audience. For example, the headline “Worried about taxes?” is less compelling than “Worried about the April 18 tax deadline?”

2. Target Your Display Ad Effectively 


The best copy in the world will only succeed if it is aimed at the right audience. The best-targeting insights come from using first-party data. If a publisher has collected detailed demographic profiles (e.g., age, gender, income, and location) on their audience, targeting should be much easier.

Display ad targeting should also consider audience behavior and timing. For example, an audience segment that pays for a subscription may be more likely to pay for other premium content and experiences like events, streaming services, and other subscriptions. 

At the same time, don’t write off non-subscription buyers in your audience. Highly engaged audience members that regularly consume your sports content might be excellent prospects for a sports apparel brand. 

A thoughtful approach to timing the delivery of your display advertising can also lift your results. For example, displaying ads during the traditional 9-5 work day will likely attract a different audience than those displayed during off-peak hours. 

Device-based targeting is another way to target your ad. For instance, you can target desktop-only, mobile-only, and both. Cross-device targeting is often helpful. A casual mobile browser may see your ad for the first time on mobile and then click when they see it again on the desktop. 

Finally, keep programmatic advertising models in mind. Likely, your advertisers will not be selecting individual publishers directly. Instead, they may use platforms like demand side platforms (DSPs) to target demographics or broad interests (e.g., “beauty and fitness” or “home and garden”). 

3. Choose Your Design and Layout

The right design and layout decisions can go a long way to increasing display advertising ROI. At a minimum, having mobile and desktop-sized images for your display ads is critically important. Ad sizes like 250×250 pixels and 200×200 pixels can work well on both screen sizes.

In addition to display ad size, placement is an important consideration. A display ad at the top of your homepage may be more difficult to target than one in a specific section, like business news. A display ad that faces less competition from other ads may deliver more significant results. 

Large ad sizes may also drive up conversions. A 2019 study found that the best-performing ads were “leaderboards” (728×90) and the medium rectangular ad (300×250). 

4. Adopt An Experimental Mindset

It’s unlikely that your first display advertising concept will become an instant winner. To succeed in display advertising, it is crucial to have the patience to test and experiment. For example, your testing might target demographic segments (e.g., Gen Z vs. Millennials) and offers (e.g., 10% coupon vs. offering a premium). 

Some ad platforms offer responsive ad capabilities where different ad creative combinations can be tested quickly. If your budget allows, take full advantage of such automated testing. Just make sure that each test gets enough impressions over enough time.

Enhancing Your Display Advertising Results

A well-crafted display ad is table stakes to compete in the digital world. These ads may not be enough to attract attention, clicks, and conversions. Use the following strategies to increase your results further.

Use Arena Conversion Cards

Arena Conversion Cards are a powerful way to raise the effectiveness of your display advertising. Conversion cards can deliver CTR (click through rate) over 5% while traditional display ads typically deliver less than 1% CTR, which is a great benefit direct sales teams at publishers and media companies can leverage to drive revenue.

Arena Conversion Cards function like native display ads on your website. Choose your image, copy, and CTA button, and you’ll have your first conversion card style display ad ready!

Conversion cards deliver higher conversions for a few reasons.

First, conversion cards focus on getting conversions rather than other advertising goals like increasing brand awareness. 

Second, conversion cards perform better than traditional ads because they are part of an online experience like chat where your audience has already shown they want to engage. Leverage this engagement to promote premium subscriptions, content or sponsored ads sold by a direct sales team.

Third, a conversion card can be pinned to the top of an engaging experience like a live chat or live blog. That means many people in your audience will see it while they are paying attention to your website.

Conversion cards are best used for two types of display advertising: direct sponsorships and marketing your products. For instance, a live blog focused on baseball coverage would be an excellent opportunity to have a conversion card for baseball products.

Enhance Audience Engagement With Online Experiences

Online audiences are easily distracted. That’s one of the reasons why display advertising delivers poor results. What if there was a way to keep your audience glued to your content and ignore other media for a time?

It’s possible when your website offers a compelling online experience. Hosting an online event with a live chat room is one powerful way to keep your audience hooked. For example, invite your audience to breaking news coverage with some of your top personalities. Once your audience starts to engage with your coverage by posting comments and questions, you have their attention! Adding a few conversion cards to the event can drive much higher click-through rates (CTR) than conventional digital advertising.

How To Quickly Increase Audience Engagement

Developing a more engaged online audience is critical for publishers. With high engagement, you can collect better data on your audience. That better data makes your publication more appealing to publishers. Find out how Arena can help you increase online engagement.

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