It’s no secret that some Web ads are a lot more effective than others. In fact, click-through rates — what percentage of the people who see the ad actually click on it — can vary from less than one-tenth of one percent to an astonishing 10 percent or more. Some of this depends on what’s being advertised, of course, but much of it is due to the ad itself.

To make sure that your ads are as effective as possible, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish with the ad?
    Are you looking to establish a brand or to produce qualified leads? If branding is the goal, make sure your logo is prominently featured. If you want to sell, don’t let the logo interfere with your pitch.
  2. How will you measure success for your ad campaign?
    Are you looking for high click-through rates, increased awareness or a specific number of leads generated?
  3. Where are your customers?
    You need to advertise on Web sites that appeal to your target audience and demographic. You must also think about what kinds of ads will appeal to your audience.

Once you know what you want, you need a banner ad that will do the job. That means creative design and good copy, but not necessarily fancy graphics or animation. It also means creating a series of Web advertisements instead of just one. Multiple ads help keep the message fresh and let you track results and emphasize which are the most effective ads.

Many Web surfers complain about animated ads, claiming that they’re distracting or take too long to download. And they may be right. But animated banners do grab the viewer’s attention, and they often garner higher response rates than static ads. Just be sure to keep the file size as small as possible to avoid download delays, and think twice before you use Java, Shockwave or other advanced techniques to power your banners. Your audience may not have the proper hardware or software to take advantage of these enhancements,and they can stall or even crash some users’ browsers.

Other ways to grab viewers’ attention include using bright colors and high contrast images in your banner ads.

Your banner ad copy should be concise and powerful. Try to offer a defined benefit, and feel free to use questions in your copy to get people more involved. Avoid ambiguous messages, though. People don’t click if they don’t know where you’re going to take them. People also like to be led by the hand — adding the words “click here” to your banner ad can boost the response rate.

Once a user clicks on your banner, where will they go?

On the Web, creating an ad isn’t good enough. You also have to create the destination to which the ad leads. Remember, the ad should lead directly to the associated product, service, content or benefit. You can’t just link to your home page and force users to find whatever your ad promised them.