Been offered a great deal on Internet banner advertising? Caveat emptor. Because as far as Internet visitors are concerned, today’s Internet banner ads are hidden in plain sight.
Banner blindness? No, it’s not a disease, and you don’t need to go get your eyes checked! Banner blindness is a relatively new phenomenon, that’s been growing along with the Internet.
First off, Internet banners are the ads you see on popular Web sites, i.e.:
Click on them, and you’re taken directly to a page that pitches the advertiser’s product or service.
Simply put, banner blindness is behavior that Internet users have developed that causes them to ignore these ads on the Web pages they visit, while they seek out the content that they really want.
In short, Web users continue to ignore banners, no matter how hard advertisers try to make them compelling. So why are there still so many banners?
Let’s take the Way Back Machine to the year 1995—the dawn of the age of commercial Web sites. At that time, the Web was brand spanking new, and while it was generally agreed that the Internet was a great breakthrough, businesses struggled to figure out how to make it work for them. They quickly fell back on a trusted advertising model that had served them for years: display advertising.
Almost as soon as the first Web page was created, the banner ad followed. Why? Because it was just like display advertising! Advertisers had been buying space ads in newspapers, magazines and on billboards forever! They knew it. They understood it. And they were comfortable with it. And, banner ads could be bought and sold the same way as traditional advertising, and everyone would be happy!
Except, that is, for one group: Internet users.
It turned out that very few users ever actually clicked on banner ads. And after testing, very few Internet visitors could recall anything about the banner ads on the page. Why? Users were teaching themselves to be “Banner Blind”. They were ignoring all parts of the Web pages they visited that didn’t offer the content that they were expecting to find. As users became more familiar with individual Web sites, they would unconsciously teach themselves to ignore all but the segments of the page that they felt were most relevant.
Users’ minds quickly deemed banners as “irrelevant”. So they went blind to them.
How do we know that “banner blindness” continues to this day? Low click-through rates on banners. In fact, the most optimistic click through rates for banners are 0.5%. Achieve that, and you’re truly exceptional.
I know from a number of Web sites that more common click through rates are 0.001%-0.05%. Think about those numbers. At the high end, that’s half a click for every one thousand people who visit a Web site.
So what does this mean for the home improvement company looking to advertise online? STAY AWAY FROM BANNER ADS! At our company, we won’t buy any type of banner or online display advertising for the dealers we serve that isn’t 100% performance-based. Recall rates are extraordinarily low, and we don’t see a significant brand-building value.
Are there times when you should buy banner ads? Yes. And I’ll cover those opportunities during my next blog post Everyone’s Gone Banner Blind! (Part 2).