How to create an effective ad

(Photo Credit ell brown via Compfight cc)
(Photo Credit ell brown via Compfight cc)

An effective ad requires a strong message, a distinctive design, and continuous testing.

Let’s take them one at a time.

Message

The advertisement should communicate a clear message to your potential customers about what your offer, and what they need to do next.

Who are your customers?

The ad is your first opportunity to winnow out people who are potential customers from those who aren’t. Can they afford your service, for example?

To do this, your messaging could include:

  • Indications of whether you’re offering a premium product or service, a low-cost one, or something solid and reliable but not too cheap and not too expensive. You can use visuals or language or show an actual price.
  • A sense of how technical your customer should be. Is your product easy-to-use and requires no technical skills? Or is it highly configurable and feature-rich but requires some expertise?

Who are you?

Your ad is also a way to position yourself in the market. In addition to setting yourself apart in terms of price or quality, and in terms of ease of use or features, you can also:

  • Tell customers what makes your company unique.
  • Tell your company’s story.
  • Create an emotional connection between your company and your customer.

Call to action

So your ad has convinced the customer that your product or service is a good fit for them. What now?

This is where the call to action comes in. You want to give your customer something to do, and a reason to do it.

You also want a sense of urgency, so that customers act immediately, instead of putting it off — and forgetting about it. You can have a limited time offer, or a holiday-related sale. References to seasons and current holidays also help keep your ad timely and fresh.

Some examples:

  • Click here for a free report.
  • Summer sale! Get your first month free when you order a new region!
  • Come check out our new avatars!
  • Mark your calendars: Mall Grand Opening Tomorrow!
  • We have a cool secret offer: click here to find out what it is.

Some more ideas for calls to action:

Design

You want your customers to notice your ad, and this is where the design comes in.

Your customer is reading the article in the center of the page, and the ad is in their peripheral vision. You want the ad to draw their attention, but not in a too-annoying or intrusive way.

Some tips:

  • Large print for the main message. Once that gets the customer’s attention and they switch the focus to the add, additional text can be in smaller type. But even the smallest text should be bigger than the main text of the editorial content on the page. You want your message to be very easy to read. Keep it short, clear, and memorable.
  • Use high contrast. The maximum contrast is black and white. If you’re using colors, keep them as dark — or as light — as possible. A medium red on a medium blue background is extremely difficult to see. Use dark red or dark blue on white, or black on light red or light blue. Here’s an online contrast checker you can use.
  • Use colors that contrast with the rest of the colors on the page. Hypergrid Business is red and black, so blue, green, yellow, purple or orange would pop off the page.
  • Use animation. Hypergrid Business accepts GIF images for ads. You can use animation to show slides with different messages, or to ad a little subtle movement to the ad. One of our advertisers, for example, has a butterfly in the ad with fluttering wings. Animation could also be used to create rippling water, falling leaves, or sparkles. Be careful not to use animation to overload the ad with information or special effects. Keep it simple and subtle.
  • Replace the ad at least once every month. Regular site visitors get used to an ad if they see it all the time, and stop noticing it. Make sure that they don’t miss a new offer or event by changing up the design.
  • Have a repeating element. At least one aspect of your ad should be consistent, whether it’s a color scheme, a message, a font style, or a logo. Each new ad should help build your brand recognition, and a recurring design element can help remind customers of your brand.

 

Testing

Most advertisers just have one ad, and point it to the home page of their website. But this approach doesn’t help them improve the ad over time. Instead, try A/B testing and landing pages.

A/B testing

All this means is that instead of one ad image, you have an A image and a B image that you alternate. Then you look at the clicks and see which image does better with your customers.

At Hypergrid Business, we use Google Doubleclick, which lets you submit as many images as you want, at no additional cost, and it rotates the images randomly, and tracks the clicks on each image. Or, instead of random rotation, you can have Google run the best-performing image more frequently, saving yourself some time.

Here are some ways you can use A/B testing:

  • Try out different colors of the same ad
  • Try out different wording options
  • If you cut prices from $100 to $50, you can compare “50% off” with “$50 off” to see which people like better.
  • If you have a “click here” or similar action button on your ad, you can try different colors or shapes for the button

Once you have multiple ad images, and they’ve been running for at least a month, check the click-through rate. The industry average is about one click per 2,000 impressions, or 0.06% CTR.

We expect our advertisers to do better, however, since they’re not offering generic content, but products and services directly relevant to our readers.

Our ad clickthrough rates start at 0.09 CTR for the lowest-performing ad and go up to 0.78% for the best-performing ad. The average click-through rate on Hypergrid Business is 0.28% CTR, and most ads fall into the 0.2% to 0.6% range.

Landing pages

If you are making a particular offer but send people to your home page and make them hunt around for that offer, you’re going to be losing potential customers.

A better approach is to create a new landing page, specific to just that offer, to make it easier for your customers to buy.

So, for example, if you’re offering a free, pre-built tropical island paradise region for your new hosting customers, create a new page where that build is front and center and as many other options as possible are already filled in.

To learn more about optimizing your landing pages, check out the free Landing Page Conversion Course from Unbounce.