Winning the Digital Ad Game: 6 Tactics to Boost Your Advertising ROI

Posted by WhatRunsWhere on June 9, 2014
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With the average banner click-through rate (CTR) falling around 0.1%, some people think display advertising has lost its effect.

But look at these stats from the U.K.:

  • Digital adspend grew £435 million in the first half of 2013.
  • Search is the top category, with 59% of the total.
  • Display has 23% of the total, making it the fastest growing category.
  • Banner ads take 44%.

In the U.S., growth is forecasted year over year through 2017, even taking into account the anticipated move from desktop to mobile:


Image Source

Clearly, the digital ad game is still in play.

And yes, banner blindness and low CTR are real problems that marketers must work through with every ad created, but it isn’t necessarily display advertising that’s causing the issue.

This one might sting a little, but the problem is more likely a lack of strategy. (Don’t fret. This article is here to help you out!)

Display advertising is one of the most effective ways to create brand awareness at the front end of your sales funnel. It helps strengthen brand recall and connect your brand to whatever your consumer is searching for.

For example, Intuit’s tax preparing software Turbotax has a number of text ads that come up when searching key terms such as ‘taxes,’ ‘do my own taxes,’ or ‘how to do my taxes.’

Take a look…


These ads are designed to align with the search terms plugged in by the user. The same context can be found with display ads by simply selecting other, more opportune ad placements. (More on that later.)

Display and text adverting is a very powerful way to drive traffic and strengthen your brand. However what works for one brand or industry, doesn’t always work for others.

Just like any other form of marketing, it takes research, data, and testing to figure out how display advertising can help your business.

1. Use More Than Just Google

Using Google’s Ad Network is great, but it’s only one ad network. There are countless ad networks and possible media buys available beyond Google’s reach that can dramatically expand your ad’s reach.

Why cut your audience short?

Some networks can be very helpful when trying to target specific niches. Sites like help advertisers identify what each ad network has to offer.

It’s also important not to ignore the value behind direct media buys.

There are endless amounts of sites whose purpose is to attract their specific niche. Find the sites that attract your target market and see if direct media buying is an option.

To be fair, Google’s ad network certainly is the most popular among advertisers. They currently hold an advertising network market share of over 82%. But even Google advertises on networks other than their own…


2. Learn From Your Competition

One of the biggest advantages that online marketing provides is the ability to focus on your target market and precisely track your leads and conversions.

The tricky part is how to get in front of your audience and keep their attention on your brand. But with digital advertising, you have opportunities that aren’t available elsewhere.

You see, your competition is probably going for the same piece of pie as you—which is a HUGE advantage. Why? Because you can let them do all the dirty work. Did you know that 90% of Fortune 500 companies practice competitive intelligence strategies in their advertising?

Using competitive advertising tools makes it an absolute cinch to track what your competition is up to online. Tools like WhatRunsWhere can show you exactly where your competitor is running their ads and what types of creative and copy they are using.

Here is a sample of where BMW is currently running their ads…


Here are some of their top-performing text and banner ads…

3. Split Test Your Ads

You’ve probably heard this tip many times over and for good reason—it’s a vital tip.

Split testing is all about optimization and finding that special mix that helps your ads reach their maximum potential. Adding and subtracting even the smallest elements of your ad can make a large impact on its success.

With your text ads, try testing different headlines, different calls to action, wording, or use of capitals letters on each word.

With your display ads, test the same elements as mentioned for text ads, as well as a number of different components of the image. Test multiple images that completely vary to build your strategy and pinpoint what works with your audience.

It’s okay to run a lot of variations. Look at all the different banner ads being tested by Weight Watchers for their campaign with Jennifer Hudson…


4. Hypnotic Headlines

Did you know that only 20% of people read the copy below your PPC headline? That’s a lot of pressure being put onto marketers to choose the right headline.

What’s a marketer to do? Learn to write better headlines.

Be sure to use keywords in your headline to directly correlate with your search inquiry.

Try to phrase your keywords with words that will impact the emotions in your ad. For example, instead of saying “Free Credit Score Check,” which is pretty dull, try something intriguing, such as “Man Cheats Credit Score.”




By the way, this headline can be found using WhatRunsWhere’s Top Ads feature, meaning it’s a headline from a top-performing ad.

5. Killer Call to Action

Define what your end goal is and don’t be afraid to tell your users exactly what to do. ‘Buy Now’ is obvious and no longer stands out, so try these instead:

  • Sign up/Register
  • Learn more/Find out more
  • Try it today
  • Download
  • Save on Low Prices/Save Money
  • Browse
  • View it now
  • Get a Quote/See a Demo

The next thing to establish is urgency. Couple what you want them to do with words like “today,” “now,” or “for a limited time” to put emphasis on the action.

Here are some examples from more top-performing text ads…


6. Attention Grabbing Images

Alright, display ads. This one’s for you.

Unfortunately there is no clear-cut way to figure out what images will grab your audience’s attention. As a result, a lot of badly designed banner ads have made it on the Web—contributing to overwhelming banner blindness.

However, there are a few key tips to get you started…

  • Visual Call to Action – 90% of the top performing banner ads, again found using the WRW Top Ads feature, took their call to action and made it appear as if it was a button or an embedded link


  • Keep it Simple – You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Don’t waste them by overdoing your display ads. Be sure your headline, copy and call to action are all clear and easy to read.


  • Amateur Photos— Although it’s tempting and easy to just download a stock image, your ad will better stand out if you use photos that you have illustrated or taken yourself. If you must resort to stock photos, don’t just go for pretty; select something that represents your brand from sites like Photocase.


It’s time to get your ROI where it should be

Display advertising isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is predicted that it will double from $21.8 billion in 2010 to 42.6 billion this year.

Use these six tactics to improve your digital ad game and watch your online ROI finally get to where it should be.

Thoughts? Additions? What’s your favorite way to boost the ROI of your digital ads?

This post originally appeared in The Daily Egg (March 2014).


Topics: Display Ads, Online Marketing, Guest Post, Advertising


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