What Are Display Ads? The Beginner’s Guide

Posted on October 27, 2023 | Updated on October 27, 2023

Advertising has changed considerably over the years. However, their goals have stayed the same — to capture users’ attention or inspire the viewer to take action. One form of marketing that certainly gathers the attention of users — not always in the best of ways — is display ads.

While the general opinion of display ads might differ, they are a useful tool to marketers when utilized correctly. Here is the beginner’s guide to display ads.

What Is Display Advertising?

Most people have encountered display ads at some point, even if they did not realize it. For example, someone on a website decided not to make a purchase and later saw an ad on a different website for the same product.

This is a type of display advertising called retargeting. Display ads come in many shapes and sizes, but their goal is to inspire user action or gather attention. They are usually in a box or square shape and target a specific audience. They can be in text, video or image form and can sometimes play sound.

Marketers create these ads and then place them on other websites that match the specific needs of a user the advertiser is trying to target. When the ad is clicked, it will take the individual to the marker’s website.

Display ads work on the Pay Per Click model, which means every time someone clicks on the advertisement, the marketer would pay. Unfortunately, this type of advertising has gotten a controversial reputation over the years.

Due to display ads being so easy to create and implement, they were often overused in the past. They were also used in ways that hindered the experience of users. This is one of the main reasons why people install ad blockers.

However, while display ads still don’t have the best reputation, they are a valuable tool in a marketer’s arsenal if used correctly.

The 3 Categories of Display Ads

There are many types of display ads and the one a marketer chooses depends on their desired outcome goal. All kinds of display ads fall into three distinct groups.

  • Image ads: Utilize pictures to get the user to click on the advertisement
  • Text ads: These advertisements use hyperlinks in the text
  • HTML ads: Advertisement the user has to interact with that takes them directly to the page that was advertised

Types of Display Advertising

Most display ads are a combination of those groups. Here are some of the most common types of display advertising:

  • Banner ads: These are one of the most common types of display ads. They consist of an image and the advertisement is not intrusive to the user. Banner ads can also have other multimedia items in them and are one of the best ways to capture the user’s attention.
  • Native ads: A type of advertisement that blends in with the site. In most cases, the user does not know that it is an ad.
  • Interactive ads/Rich media ads: As the name suggests, this is an ad that the user interacts with. They comprise different media elements such as text, images, GIFs, videos and audio. This advertisement is different than the others and can increase the number of leads generated and have a high click-through rate if they are done correctly.
  • Expandable Ads: This type of ad is a type of interactive ad but works a little differently. As soon as the user clicks on it, the ad will expand its size, giving the person a larger view to interact with the advertisement.
  • Interstitial ads: Although this is a common display ad and can have a high conversion rate, many people prefer to avoid them because they are intrusive. This advertisement provides the user with no choice and they have to interact with the ad — even to close it. They are HTML ads and appear when someone opens an app or a web page. If they are done in a way that does not intrude on the user’s experience or annoy them, they are a great way to market something.

Different Targeting in Display Ads

While there are many different types of display ads, there are also different ways to target the user who sees the advertisement. Here are the four main types of targeting in display advertising:

  • Geographic targeting: This is a popular choice for many businesses. This type of targeting only shows the marketer’s advertisement to people in a specific location. An excellent option for organizations that only operate in a specific area.
  • Demographics targetting: This type of targeting shows the advertisement to users based on the different factors the advertiser selected, such as income, gender, parental status and age. This allows the marketer to target a specific demographic he knows his audience has.
  • Retargeting/remarketing: Retargeting is a great way to market to people who have already been on the advertiser’s site but have not made a purchase. This type of targeting can have a high conversion rate and help bring people back to the marketer’s site.
  • Contextual targeting: This type of targeting is different from the others and allows the advertiser to market to people based on specific factors — the theme of the host website, the keywords, the topic of the advertisement, the location and the language. A display ad that follows this type of targeting is more relevant to the user. Essentially this type of ad targets the right user at the right time.

What Are Ad Display Networks?

A display network is a collection of websites that allows the marketer to place ads on different websites. In other words, a website owner grants the marketer permission to advertise on their site for a fee.

These networks provide the marketer with a place to post their ads, allow access to different targeting options and make it easier to run display ads. Many display networks are available, but the most popular are Google Ads and Facebook Audience Network Ads.

Tips on How To Make Display Ads a Success

Display ads allow the marketer to market to a broad audience and increase conversions. However, if these ads are utilized incorrectly, they can disrupt users’ experience and annoy them. Here are a few best practices to follow to make display ads a success.

1. Utilize Compelling Call To Actions

The CTA is one of the most critical parts of a display ad and should inspire the user to take immediate action. They are vital to increasing the overall conversions an ad generates. A strong CTA should stand out and capture the attention of people.

Here are a few things to do to create a strong and compelling CTA:

  1. Make it clear what value the user will get when they click on the ad. For example, ‘Download our free e-book’ or “Order now for 15% off”. It is vital to use persuasive language and make the benefit as clear as possible to the user.
  2. The button should be bold and immediately generate attention.
  3. Try to create the CTA so that the user feels if they don’t take action now, they will miss out.

2. Avoid Intrusive Ads

Try to avoid ads that hinder the experience of website users. Advertisements that randomly pop up that are hard to close can create an adverse reaction in viewers. Instead, design ads that are at the side of web pages and do not interrupt their experience.

3. Utilize Simplistic Designs

Display ads are small, which means space is limited so use it wisely. Don’t create ads that overwhelm visitors when they see them. Instead, follow a simplistic design that only adds the most significant information.

Ensure the ad is easy to read and everything on it is high quality. A display ad with an image that has low resolution will generate poor results.

Getting The Most Out of Display Advertising

Display ads are an excellent way to increase conversions if they are done in a way that does not hinder the experience of users and if it adds value to the visitor. Ensure you get the most out of your display ads by utilizing strong CTAs, designs that easily capture attention and invoke action in users.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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