8 Steps to Creating Online Display Ads That Work

Online display advertising continues to grow at a rapid pace. By 2017, Forrester Research anticipates that the online advertising market will reach $28 billion, with 17% annual average growth over the next five years. Online display advertising is growing because it’s working. It offers a unique combination of reach and targeting. Online display has extensive reach, because it enables marketers to serve ads to a select audience no matter where that audience travels on the Web. And it offers precise targeting, because of the availability of data on Internet users.

Here are eight steps to creating banner ads that deliver ROI.

1. Determine your objective — branding, nurturing or driving sales — and target your audience no matter where they are in the marketing funnel.

Online advertising is a versatile advertising medium and can have an impact at any point in the funnel, reaching prospects, leads, current customers, and it is most effective when doing all three at the same time. For example, online advertising’s flexibility enables you to:

  • Brand and build awareness to reach new prospects.
  • Nurture prospects already in the funnel.
  • Drive sales with special discounts aimed at customers already in your CRM system.
  • Offer a full funnel approach by doing all three simultaneously.

2. Create different ads and different calls to action based on where your prospects are in the marketing funnel. 

Online display advertising is all about building brand familiarity with your target audience to ultimately move prospects down your marketing funnel.  For high-level branding campaigns, this may be as simple as encouraging prospects to visit your website. For mid-funnel targets, the ad could offer a white paper in exchange for the target’s contact information. For prospects near the bottom of the funnel, the offer might be a discount promotion on a specific product.

3. The best online display creative relies on a single image, a provocative headline and brief copy.

The most effective display ads focus on a concise message and have a clear call to action. Strong banners use a single, attractive image, a compelling headline, and very short copy – the fewer words the better – to drive the target audience to take a specific action, such as visiting a landing page, downloading a white paper or ordering a discounted product. The pictured Domo ad provides an almost perfect example of a display ad.

4. Consider using rich media to attract your audience.

When developing the creative, consider online banners that feature Flash, rich media, pre-roll video or video-in-banner. Research shows that rich media and video banners attract more eyeballs than static banners.  A recent study from AdForm, for instance, indicated that users were three times more likely to click on rich media ads than traditional banners.

5. Integrate your banner with other marketing efforts.

Additionally, marketing professionals encourage integration of banners with other marketing efforts, such as print advertising. But these marketing pros also counsel against simply converting the print ad to banner format. Online display is a specialized medium and can often require its own creative approach – as opposed to shoehorning a print approach into a banner.

Beyond the creation of the banner, a landing page that delivers on the promise of that banner is essential. For instance, if you’re offering a white paper in the banner, make sure that white paper is easy to find and downloadable on the landing page.

6. When measuring ad impact, incorporate metrics beyond clickthroughs.

Choosing the proper metrics is essential to gauge if your online campaign was effective or not. The metric most associated with online banners is the clickthrough, or CTR, which can provide, in broad strokes, a general idea of how well a particular banner is performing. But most marketers and agency professionals look to other metrics, such as cost per conversion or cost per lead, to measure the performance of a banner campaign. Many marketing professionals consider conversions  — for example, prospects downloading a white paper and providing their contact information to do so – is often a better indicator of how a campaign if performing.

7. Optimize your campaign by testing and by investing in the most effective ads.

Marketing professionals recommend developing several creative approaches and many different offers, so that you can test the most effective creative and optimize the campaign for maximum performance. A simple optimization process is using basic A/B testing to see which creative or which offers perform best.

You should also analyze the campaign to see which websites are delivering the best engagement. And you can also analyze at when the campaign is working best. For example, some campaigns perform better in the middle of the week, while others – in markets where workers have limited access to the Web during the day – may perform better in the evenings or early mornings.

8. Consider retargeting, CRM targeting and company name targeting

Once a viewer has engaged with your online advertising in some way you can “retarget” them based on their interaction. Typically, a prospect is “retargeted” with very specific creative that takes into account their previous interaction with your brand. For instance, if viewers visit a specific product page, they may be served an ad offering a discount on that particular product.

Other more precise targeting options include CRM targeting, where ads can be directed to prospects in your database of they visit various websites. Additionally, company name targeting can serve ads only to those viewers from a particular company or industry.


Cyber Monday Traffic, Mobile & Ad Spend All Up on $1.46 Billion Shopping Day

Source: SearchEngineWatch, , November 28, 2012

Each holiday, it gets more difficult to decipher the various reports we receive, as more and more companies share their insights. Research and e-commerce companies give us a glimpse at the greater picture, though they do so through analysis of the data to which they have access. As a result, their figures often differ.

Does this mean one is “more correct” than another? No. It means that viewing the collection as a whole, rather than relying on any one source in particular, can give a clearer idea of which channels, strategies, and tactics were most successful over the given period of time.

For more information on the methodology, sample size or data used by any one company, please click through to read their full report (where available). Here are the highlights from each:

comScore – $1.46 Billion Revenue Makes Cyber Monday 2012 Heaviest U.S. Online Spending Day in History


Cyber Monday reached $1.465 billion in online spending, up 17 percent versus 2011, representing the heaviest online spending day in history and the second day this season (in addition to Black Friday) to surpass $1 billion in sales, according to comScore.

Other findings from comScore:

  • For the holiday season-to-date, $16.4 billion has been spent online, marking a 16-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.
  • Cyber Monday saw Digital Content & Subscriptions continue to set the pace among product categories with a year-over-year growth rate of 28 percent. Consumer Electronics, buoyed by gains in smartphone sales, ranked second at 24 percent, while tablet sales helped the Computer Hardware category post a 22-percent growth rate.
  • Nearly half of dollars spent online at U.S. websites originated from work computers (47.1 percent), down slightly from last year. Buying from home comprised the majority of the remaining share (47.2 percent) while buying at U.S. websites from international locations accounted for 5.7 percent of sales.

Marin Software – The Holiday Creep*


“Retailers are not only investing more dollars online, but they are doing it earlier in the consumer buying cycle,” said Matt Lawson, Vice President of Marketing at Marin Software. “Consumers increasingly rely on online alerts, ads and reviews to inform their buying decisions and advertisers are looking to keep ahead, especially during the critical holiday season.”

Marin found that:

  • Retailers increased search advertising spend 59 percent on Thanksgiving Day 2012, compared to 2011, indicating an earlier start to this year’s holiday season. Due to more investment on Thanksgiving, average cost-per-click for paid search ads also increased on Thanksgiving to 22 percent more than 2011.
  • In aggregate over the five days, paid search spend by retailers increased 43 percent and cost-per-click increased 20 percent over 2011, as competition among retailers for search terms grew, signaling the heightened importance online advertising plays in driving bottom line growth for retailers.
  • Cyber Monday continues to be the blockbuster day for retailers online, garnering more clicks than any other day, but the five day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is growing in importance as shoppers look for deals throughout the week.

*Marin helpfully pointed out in their blog post outlining these insights, “The ‘creep’ as it’s used in this blog post is in relation to “spreading” or “growing” – not the “creep” you may encounter at your company holiday party.” For that clarification, we thank them.

Experian Hitwise: Cyber Monday a Banner Day for Top 500 Retail Sites


Online traffic on Cyber Monday increased 11 percent YoY, as the top 500 retail sites received more than 206.8 million total US visits. So far this past holiday week of online traffic from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday to retail sites is up 8 percent for 2012 vs. 2011, wroteExperian’s Matt Tatham. Other highlights from their research:

  • Amazon.com remained the top visited retail site on Cyber Monday while Walmart received the second most visits. BestBuy was the third most visited site with Target and JCPenney rounding out the top five.
  • Among the top five sites, Amazon saw the biggest year-over-year growth at 36 percent.

IBM Holiday Benchmark Cyber Monday Infographic


On Cyber Monday more than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2011, according to IBM. Mobile sales reached close to 13 percent, an increase of more than 96 percent over 2011. Other findings from theirHoliday Benchmark Cyber Monday report:

  • Online sales increased 30.3 percent over 2011.
  • The iPad continued to generate more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, driving more than 7 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 6.9 percent and Android 4.5 percent. The iPad also continued to dominate tablet traffic reaching a holiday high of 90.5 percent.
  • While consumers continued to spend more, they once again shopped with greater frequency to take advantage of retailer deals as well as free shipping.This led to a drop in average order value by 6.6 percent to $185.12. However, the average number of items per order increased 14.1 percent to 8.34 compared to Black Friday.
  • Department stores continued to offer compelling deals and promotions that drove sales to grow by 43.1 percent over Cyber Monday 2011.
  • Health and Beauty sales increased 25.1 percent year over year with consumers once again choosing to pamper themselves this holiday.

Akamai – Cyber Monday 9pm Purchasing Peak 104 Percent Higher Than Black Friday


“Early browsing behaviors mirrored those of Black Friday quite closely. The only clear difference is that consumers chose sleep over shopping, as illustrated by the 25 percent decrease in browsing activities at 12AM,” wrote Akamai’s Elyssa Duboys. “Additionally, average page views dropped from 14.1 to 11, a decrease of 22 percent early Monday morning (12AM -4AM).”

They also found:

  • Midnight purchasing behavior was 12.5 percent below Black Friday’s post offline shopping sprees.
  • The shift in Cyber Monday’s favor came at 6 a.m. ET at a 32 percent increase in online purchases.
  • From 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., online spending activities were consistently 50 percent higher than those observed on Black Friday.
  • Purchasing activity peaked at 9 p.m., 104 percent higher than Black Friday at the same hour.

PM Digital – More Searchers Does Not Translate to Sales Boost


Product Listing Ads (PLAs) were a big component of performance this year, according to PM Digital.

“Brands selling direct to consumer saw their trademark CPCs rise significantly, as click throughs were diverted from their trademark search ads to the image-pleasing PL ads shown right on the search results page run by their retail partners,” they told SEW. “PLA spend made up 10 percent of the search spend, and advertisers who ran on PLAs last year saw 100 percent YOY growth on those ad placements.”

They found that:

  • In terms of year-over-year growth, Black Friday saw a higher level of search activity than Cyber Monday but not as high an increase in clicks or sales. This indicates that more shoppers were looking around on Black Friday than they did a year ago, but the purchase rate was still higher on Cyber Monday.
  • Client budgets were also up slightly on Black Friday in terms of YOY growth. Those decisions were made by advertisers earlier in the year when they saw such an increase in Black Friday impressions in holiday 2011.
  • Sales were on target with most of the Holiday predictions for 2012 with increased YOY revenue of 15 percent on Black Friday and 19 percent on Cyber Monday.
  • CPCs were up so significantly YOY for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday that it took everyone by surprise. (Last year, CPCs were down YOY for many categories of retail.) Aside from a general increase in the price of CPCs in the auction, another reason for the rise is that we saw a higher proportion of the sales increase come from generic keywords which typically cost more than trademark terms.

Kenshoo – Cyber Monday Sees Aggressive Growth in Clicks and Impressions

“Shopping continues to migrate online, and U.S retailers saw their biggest fluctuations of the season to date on what most now consider to be the biggest days for online shopping: Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday,” said Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo CMO. They found that:

  • Thanksgiving Day saw the highest YoY increase in average order value, up 19 percent, as consumers loaded up their shopping carts.
  • Black Friday showed lower YoY revenue growth compared to other key days but still delivered a healthy increase of 24 percent.
  • Cyber Monday saw the biggest increase in YoY impressions and clicks, reflecting heightened consumer interest and search activity, as well as aggressive budgeting and bidding strategies of retailers aiming to capitalize on this new online shopping holiday.
  • Overall, for the November holiday season period to date, conversion rates and return on as spend showed double-digit growth YoY as major retailers have become more sophisticated with their search marketing programs and deployment of technology solutions, including holistic management of Google Product Listing Ads.

Cyber Monday Paves the Way for Great 2012 Holiday Season for Online Retailers

“Despite some news reports suggesting that Cyber Monday might be declining in importance, the day has once again set an online spending record at nearly $1.5 billion,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “However, it is also clear that the holiday promotional period has begun even earlier this year, with strong online sales occurring on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Now, we shall see the extent to which continuing and attractive retailer promotions are able to boost sales for the remainder of the week.”

Study: Social Media Just Doesn’t Sell

Source: Inc.com, October 2, 2012

A new study finds just 1% of sales come through social sites. Are you spending too much time on making your brand look great on social media?

Social is looking a little tarnished lately.

With the share price of behemoth Facebook looking anemic and a handful of voices questioning the impact of advertising on such sites, the enthusiasm for social isn’t at quite the fever pitch it once was. And maybe that’s as it should be according to a new study from Forrester.

The research tracked the origins of 77,000 purchases to determine exactly what pushed customers to buy. The answer was almost never social sites. Only a measly 1% of sales came from the likes of Facebook, so what did work? Old stand-bys like e-mail marketing and search, Mashable reports:

E-commerce websites still convert more highly than any other channel, accounting for 30% of transactions. Thus it’s smart for retailers to promote their domain names as much as possible.

Following direct visits, organic search and paid search are the two biggest drivers of purchases from new customers, accounting for 39% of new customer transactions. That’s because the web continues to be a useful tool for what Forrester calls “spear fishers”–consumers who know what they are looking for and find it through search.

For repeat shoppers, e-mail is the most effective sales influencer: Nearly a third of purchases from repeat customers initiated with an e-mail. As such, businesses should up their efforts to collect e-mail addresses, and tailor their e-mail marketing messages to each recipients’ device and prior purchase behavior.

But while the study results might make you think more carefully about exactly how much your social-media marketing efforts are worth in terms of time and dollars, asthe MIT Sloan Management Review Improvisations blog points out, the research has limits and isn’t a total indictment of involvement in social sites. The post does a solid job of putting the findings in perspective, reminding small business owners that, “the research did not track small businesses, which…do perform better with social commerce, particularly in Facebook stores.” It continues:

Another important factor is that the research does not comment on whether those social sites were trying to deliver sales. It measures how social is being used now–and more often than not, social sites are not set up to produce direct sales. It also does not show if any sites that were set up to produce direct sales were done in any kind of effective or ineffective manner.

While investing in social may help you build brand awareness and inform customers of new developments, the Improvisations blog notes, that doesn’t minimize the harsh realities revealed by the Forrester research.

“We think the research does show precisely what it says: that at this point in time, sales are not coming directly from social sites. This fact should be an important consideration in how businesses think about their social business activity: in short, don’t count on it for direct sales,” concludes the post.

Do these findings make you reconsider how much to invest in social?

Cyber Monday Ranks As Biggest Online Spending Day Ever

Source: November 28, 2012 by MarketingCharts staff

American spent $1.465 billion online on Cyber Monday, up 17% from last year, making it the biggest day for US e-commerce in history, according tothe latest data from comScore. It also joins Black Friday as the second day of the season to pass the $1 billion online spending mark. For the holiday season-to-date (November 1-26), Americans have spent more than $16 billion online, representing 16% growth from the same period last year.

Cyber Monday’s results differ, according to various reports, though they all see solid growth. For example, while a new report [pdf] from IBM agrees that Cyber Monday was the biggest online spending day ever, it sees online sales as up by 30.3% year-over-year. Results from the Chase Holiday Pulse put Cyber Monday’s online sales growth at 21.8%, while Adobe reported growth of 17%, in line with comScore, but to a larger total of $1.98 billion.

Mobile Makes A Big Dent; Social Not So Much

Mobile has been forecast to have a strong influence on the holiday season, and the figures appear to bear out this trend. According to the IBM study, mobile devices accounted for 18.4% of site traffic on Cyber Monday, up from 10.8% a year earlier. Mobile’s percentage of total sales stood at 12.9%, almost double last year’s 6.6%. Of note, while the iPad dominated mobile traffic on Black Friday (see Black Friday link above), the gap between it and the iPhone was much narrower on Cyber Monday. The iPad accounted for 7.1% of total site traffic, just ahead of the iPhone (6.9%), but further ahead of Android devices (4.5%).

The Adobe report sees an even greater influence from mobile devices. That report finds mobiles accounting for 22% of total sales on Cyber Monday, double the result from last year. Adobe also sees tablets having a far greater role on Cyber Monday, accounting for 14.1% of sales, compared to 6.8% from smartphones and 1.1% from other devices.

But while mobiles made their mark, social media did not. The IBM results show social media sites referring just 0.8% of site traffic on Cyber Monday, and accounting for just 0.41% of total sales. As with the Black Friday results, Twitter referred no traffic at all, while Facebook referral traffic accounted for 0.69% of the total on Cyber Monday.

The Adobe report shows a similar trend, though with slightly higher results. That is, Adobe finds that social media sites referred 2% of total visits, double last year’s percentage. Facebook accounted for 77% of social referrals, and Pinterest 15% (more than double last year).

Paid Search Pays Dividends

Retailers certainly went all out trying to attract visitors on Cyber Monday, according toMarin Software, which found them spending 39% more on paid search this year than last. The result? While impressions dropped by 6% year-over-year, clicks increased by 26%.

Details from an RKG report also indicate that paid search investments paid off: same-site sales from the paid search channel were up by 42% from last year among RKG’s clients.

Similarly, a new report from IgnitionOne finds paid search spending and impressions up 29% year-over-year throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, leading to a 23% increase in revenue. For Cyber Monday in particular, spending was up close to 35%, with impressions and transactions up a similar percentage, and clicks and revenue up by around 25%.

Finally, a study from Kenshoo finds that search ad spend was up by 51% year-over-year on Cyber Monday, leading to a 66% increase in impressions, a 57% increase in clicks, a 52% rise in conversions, and 44% growth in sales revenue.

Other Findings:

  • According to comScore, the top gaining product categories on Cyber Monday were digital content and subscriptions (+28%), consumer electronics (+24%), computer hardware (+22%), video games, consoles, and accessories (+18%), and jewelry and watches (+17%).
  • 47.1% of dollars spent at US websites came from work computers. A prior Shop.org survey had found 56.8% of respondents planning to shop from the office.
  • Per the IBM report, online shopping peaked at 11:25 AM on Cyber Monday.
  • IBM also found that transaction volume was up, though average order value dropped 6% to $185.12. The Chase Holiday Pulse saw a similar trend for higher transactions and lower average order values, indicating that consumers are shopping more for deals.
  • The average conversion rate from mobile devices was 3.62% (up from 2.99% in 2011), compared to the overall rate of 5.83% (up from 5.71%), per IBM.
  • During the first half of Q4, paid search spend on smartphones was up 307% year-over-year, and search spend on tablets up 231%, according to IgnitionOne. Figures from the Clash Group found a 31% increase in mobile ad spend during Black Friday weekend (Friday through Monday) as opposed to normal shopping periods, double the spend from the same weekend last year. Those results also saw click-through rates from mobiles up 23% over the Black Friday weekend compared to normal shopping periods.
  • Figures from Chase show that in-store sales were up just 0.1% on Cyber Monday.

About the Data: The IgnitionOne data comes from one in a series of reports from IgnitionOne, which have tracked more than 91 billion impressions and more than 2.3 billion clicks on Google and Yahoo!/Bing search networks, Google AdEx, and other display networks from January 1, 2006 through November 26, 2012.

The data analyzed by Kenshoo reflects a representative cross-section of Kenshoo clients (advertisers and agencies) managing paid search programs for the retail vertical in the United States with active campaigns tracking impressions, clicks, conversions and revenue over the 12+ month period from November 1, 2011 through November 26, 2012. This index includes all major retail categories such as, but not limited to, electronics, books, apparel, appliances, shoes, sporting goods and more. The data set covers 10+ billion paid impressions and clicks on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing that delivered more than $500 million dollars in online sales revenues during the November 2012 period. All data is accurate as of November 27, 2012 but subject to change as delayed conversions are added in subsequent days. Final figures will be released in the full Kenshoo 2012 U.S. Retail Holiday Shopping Report, available in early January.

Online Content Exploration Varies by Demographic

Source: eMarketer, NOV 28, 2012

Articles get more clicks than videos when linked to from interesting online content

As content creators look to keep audiences interested and clicking on more assets, they would do well to consider audience composition, as research suggests demographics can have a substantial effect on how web users behave once they have found interesting content.

Research from content optimization firm nRelate shows that age is one major factor in how users engage with content online. An October 2012 survey found that younger US web users, especially younger males, had a high propensity to click on related articles and videos after reading online content. Older users tended to click on links to related content on a weekly basis, and women—especially older women—were more likely to be drawn to a story that featured a photo.

All groups were significantly more likely to click on articles rather than videos if they were linked to from content they found interesting.

For all groups, stories about local news, followed closely by national news, were the most likely to generate interest in further content. And for both genders, but especially for men, this behavior was more common among older web users. Drilling down into specific demographic groups, young women most often clicked on related content when they were reading about entertainment, men were significantly more interested than women in related sports content, and web users ages 18 to 34 were least interested in related home improvement content.

The research found that users across every demographic group preferred to click on links in search results; these links were used for research by 43% of respondents. Links at the bottom of articles that web users were already reading were popular with 25%, and were most popular among older women and least popular among young men. Just 7% said they were most likely to click on links they found on Facebook, though among 18- to 34-year-olds the proportion rose to 13% of men and 10% of women.


Cyber Monday Sales Up 30% From 2011

Source: Mashable, November 27, 2012 by 3

Who says Cyber Monday is dead?

Cyber Monday sales increased by 30.3% from the year before, according to the latest data from IBM Smarter Commerce, which tracks online sales for 500 retailers in the U.S.

Total sales increased even though the amount spent per order decreased, a fact that IBM attributes to consumers placing a greater number of orders this year. IBM found that shoppers spent an average of $185.12 per order this year, compared to $198.26 in 2011. Consumers purchased about one more item per order this year than last year, bringing the total to 8.34 items.

Cyber Monday shopping peaked early in the day, with the highest shopping momentum around 11:25 am EST. There was also a surge in shopping after work when consumers had more time to shop.

Cyber Monday Chart

Mobile shopping exploded on Cyber Monday, with 18% of shoppers accessing retailer’s websites from a mobile device, an increase of more than 70% from the year before. The iPad proved to be the most popular mobile device for shopping, driving 7% of the day’s online shopping, followed by the iPhone, which accounted for 6.9%. Android devices were third, driving 4.5% of sales.

Overall, IBM found that the majority of consumers (58.1%) shopped from smartphones on Cyber Monday, while 41.9% shopped from tablets.

Cyber Monday Chart

Consumers have been busy shopping online this holiday weekend. A separate study from comScore found that Black Friday online sales topped $1 billion this year for the first time ever.

Image courtesy of Getty Images; charts courtesy of IBM Smarter Marketing.

Reviews Turn Social Media into Gift Guides

Source: eMarketer, NOV 27, 2012

For mobile shoppers, reviews also key

Holiday shoppers are making a list and checking it against social media content—especially reviews, which they trust to help them make the best decisions about what to buy for friends and family members this season.

Product review and recommendation site ConsumerSearch found in an October 2012 panel-based study that reviews were the primary way US internet users would be using social media this holiday season for gift ideas. Just over four in 10 respondents chose reviews; wish lists were about half as popular.

Truly “social” functions, like talking to online friends about gift items, looking at trending items or discussing gift ideas with friends of the recipient were fairly uncommon, all clocking in at under 10% of internet users.

A September survey by Deloitte found even more US internet users planned to use reviews in their holiday shopping, at 47%. This research did not find reviews on top, however. Looking for discounts and sales was more popular, an option that wasn’t included in the ConsumerSearch survey, nor was the general “research gift ideas” response.

Reviews may also be popular among the mobile shopping set. Q2 2012 research from mobile ad network Greystripe found that US mobile shoppers were more keen than in-store shoppers equipped with a mobile phone to write reviews, at 49% vs. 31%. Earlier research has also shown that reviews are key to gaining trust among consumers, who are more likely to believe their peers than retailers pushing products.