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Banners: design tips, sizes & targeting 

One of the advantages of running a site of this size and traffic levels is that I get to analyze many statistics in relation to advertising. While text link advertising is still one of the best ways to go for search engine ranking purposes, the humble banner still plays a big role in getting your message out there. 

If you're considering using banners and just embarking on the design stage, bear in mind a few simple points, and you'll be well on your way to a successful campaign. 

It's also important to remember that banners now come in a range of sizes, but there are certain standard sizes that most networks and webmasters will only deal with. A listing of those is also available in this article.

Banner design tips:

1. Banner file sizes

You can have the best looking banner in the world, but if it's too "heavy", nobody is going to hang around to watch it load. Try to keep it to around 25kb, but less is better. Ensure that you put a file size cap on your design specs if you are getting someone else to design banners for you. It's been my experience that there are thousands of great graphic designers out there, but few who understand that this aspect of banner development is a critical element.

2. Flash banners

Very pretty indeed - but effective? Probably not - in my experience anyway. I guess it boils down to your target audience. If your target is the "young, hip and happening" sector and you are promoting entertainment related products, then perhaps the complex animations that Flash offers may be useful, but as a general rule, steer clear of Flash generated banner designs. The other reason I suggest avoiding Flash banners is they can be rather kilobyte heavy and some sites aren't able to run them.

3. Call to action

Don't underestimate the power of a "Click now!" statements. Calls to action are a very important psychological tactic in getting people to click on your banners. Terms like "Offer ends soon!", "Hurry!", "Special limited offer!" also work well

4. Keep your banner design simple

You have very little time to convince people to click on your banner, so the more complex it is in terms of text and general design, the less chance of people clicking - make your point, make it quickly.

5. Use animation

Animation in my opinion is an absolute must. Bear in mind that your banner will be competing with other elements on the sites where it is displayed. Also use animation wisely; it should attract attention, not induce epileptic fits ;). Keep it simple.

6. Consider "alert" banner designs

We've all seen them; those banners that look like a standard Windows alert. Do they work? Yes, most definitely. I've seen clickthrough rates of up to 24% on these kinds of banners - and considering the "standard" click rate is around .5 - 1.5% across the board, this is excellent. There is a big *but* with using these kinds of banners -they are only highly effective to a relatively non-savvy audience and should only be used for promoting products that have a very broad appeal. Niche products should be promoted using relevant text or graphics.

Designing banners for ROI

ROI - the all important term when investing in anything promotion related, stands for Return On Investment. Not only might you be forking out on the initial design of your banners, but also for the results of the banner. This becomes critical if you will be paying for clicks or just CPM (cost per thousand) views.

If you will be paying for clicks, as an example, let's say you are selling televisions and using an "alert" banner as mentioned above. The text on your banner might state "Cheap T.V.s - click here!!" The problem is that the term "cheap" is a personal viewpoint, and your prices may not be considered cheap by site visitors. If you are paying X cents per click, then you would be better off with a statement like "Quality T.V.'s from $100!!". That way you can be fairly sure that the people who click on your banner are able to afford at least that amount.

If you will be paying for views, it's very important that not only will your banner be displayed on relevant sites, but that it will be able to stand out on the sites where it is displayed. That being the case, it's important to choose sites that will suit your banners, or design banners to suit the sites it will be displayed on.

New to Pay Per Click advertising? 

Read our free beginners guide to PPC. Includes listings of companies offering free click credits!

Paying for banner design - how much?

How much should you expect to pay for a good banner design? That is a *very* difficult question. Prices can range in the hundreds of dollars if you utilize a well known graphic design house; with no guarantees of success. 

Sometimes it's better using freelancer designers who have experience in this field. I recently paid $10 each for a series of banners and was very happy with the results - they were completed within 24 hours and look as good as any that I've seen. 

A great place to request quotes for banner design is via our projects database,  which is powered by one of the largest freelance collaboration service providers around. You can post your job requirements for free and then experienced graphic designers will bid on your job.

Where to run banner campaigns?

With your banners made up ready to go, you'll need somewhere to display them! You can hunt and peck for sites to run your banners, or try utilizing the power of one of the larger banner network - you'll then gain access to thousands of sites in a single buy. I recommend taking a look at the Valueclick Advertising network and Google Adwords (they also support banner ads)

Standard banner sizes - templates

While you can create a banner in any size you wish; many sites will only display banners of a particular size range. Before you spend money on hiring the services designer; check to ensure what sizes the ad network or sites where you want to display your banner will accept. The following is a list of standard banner sizes, as outlined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. You can click on the links below to see a sample of the size, and you are welcome to download a set of standard banner templates that I've created.

Standard rectangle banners & pop-ups sizes

300 x 250 - Medium Rectangle
250 x 250 - Square Pop-Up
240 x 400 - Vertical Rectangle
336 x 280 - Large Rectangle 
180 x 150 - Rectangle

Standard banner & button sizes

468 x 60 - Full Banner
234 x 60 - Half Banner
88 x 31 - Micro Bar
120 x 90 - Button 1
120 x 60 - Button 2
120 x 240 - Vertical Banner
125 x 125 - Square Button
728 x 90 - Leaderboard

Standard skyscraper sizes 

160 x 600 - Wide Skyscraper
120 x 600 - Skyscraper
300 x 600 - Half Page Ad

Download banner template set

Looking for a good network to promote your banners? Try our banner network recommendations page.

Related learning resources

Search engine optimization tutorials section

General web marketing & promotion articles

Affiliate marketing strategies and tutorials

Ecommerce tutorials and guides

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
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