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Banner ads used to be the cream of the crop if you wanted to make money from your website, whether through affiliate marketing or other avenues. But over the years, they were used and abused. Site owners went overboard and plastered their sites with flashing, annoying banners all over the place, and people started to ignore them. Today, we call this banner blindness.
Contrary to what some may tell you, though, banners can still work well. The key is not overdoing it and making sure they're relevant to your site. Skip annoying flash-type banners, too.
Banners may not get as many clicks as your contextual links, but they're definitely worth using, especially if you stay on top of monitoring their performance and testing different banners. You can see the growing collection of banners we've created for you by logging into your affiliate dashboard and going to Marketing Materials > Banners.
With that out of the way, let's look at some of the more common banner sizes and when you'd want to use them.
* Best displayed on desktop and large tablets
This size is often referred to as a leaderboard. It's normally best used at the very top of the page. A relevant, well-made leaderboard ad can quickly catch visitors' attention since it's immediately visible when landing on the page. But, of course, the further down the page it's placed, the odds of being seen or clicked decreases.
If you know for a fact that a good portion of your visitors use smartphones or older, smaller tablets, then you probably don't want to use this ad size. Instead, opt for one that's better suited for mobile.
*Best displayed on desktop and large tablets
This banner size is often called the medium rectangle. It's normally used within the content of a page, so it's a bit more flexible. It can easily be embedded into the text and will generally perform better if placed above the fold. That is, somewhere toward the top of the page where it's seen before the visitor has to scroll down.
It's also used to break up the text of a page, especially when there's a lot of text.
Because this is one of the best performing ad sizes, you may be tempted to place multiple banners on a page. This is fine if you're careful with them, and again… don't overdo it. Keep in mind the one with the highest placement on the page will probably perform the best.
*Best displayed on mobile devices, including phones
These banners are pretty much considered the leaderboards for mobile. If you know your site gets many visitors using smartphones, this may be the best option to ensure your ads will display correctly for them.
Use these above the fold. If you're placing them down toward the bottom of the page, you might want to test a larger banner to use down there instead. The smaller size of these banners probably won't garner a lot of attention if they're buried at the bottom.
Generally speaking, the higher up on a page your banner is, the more attention it'll get. This is why we recommend using them above the fold. But that isn't always possible. And if you have multiple banners on a page, you probably don't want to stuff them all above the fold.
It isn't enjoyable for visitors and can get in the way of your content. In addition, it comes across as spammy. In fact, Google specifically went after sites with too many ads above the fold back in 2011 with the "Panda" update.
So how do you decide which banner(s) to put at the top of your page?
If you really want to make the most out of the banners you use on your site, you have to monitor and optimize them. One way to do this is by using heatmaps. Heatmaps can show you exactly what your visitors are looking at and what gets their attention. Depending on the one you choose to use, you can see where their cursor goes, what gets clicked and even watch in real-time or a replay of their visit on your site.
Heatmap for WordPress
Heatmap for WordPress provides real-time analytics and heatmap overlays for your site. So not only can you view what your users did and what they clicked on… you can watch them do it in real-time. There's no sampling, and they say their plugin won't add any strain to your site and weigh it down, leading to poor performance.
They have a pretty generous free plan, too. With the free plan, you get data for up to a million page views per month. However, you can only monitor up to five pages on your site. The premium plans start at $100/month and give you conversion tracking, template analysis, and technical support.
Mouseflow is another popular option. They claim to have over 125,000 users, including Microsoft, Costco, NBC, and The Weather Channel.
Along with the normal heatmap and session recordings, Mouseflow can help you track your visitors' journey through your site. For example, you can see where they lose interest. You can also monitor forms on your site… fields that were refilled in, blank submissions, errors, etc. So not only can you tell which banners are getting more clicks, but you can optimize for things like email list opt-ins.
Mouseflow has a free plan, but you can only get up to 100 sessions per month. Their premium plans start at $29/month.
A very popular option is Crazy Egg. They claim that over 300,000 websites use their service.
With their service, you can quickly and easily see the areas on your site that get the most clicks. You can also use the scroll map to see how far down your visitors generally scroll and where they stop. You can even use the recordings feature to watch visitors use your site. Watch where their cursor goes, where they scroll… every action they took you can watch with the recordings.
Crazy Egg is a premium service that starts at $29/month. While there isn't a free plan, they offer a free trial period, so you can give it a spin and see if it's something you want to pay for.
Lucky Orange offers a heatmap service as part of its "complete conversion optimization suite." You can segment the heatmaps by date, location, mobile users, browser used, and more to quickly see how different users interact with your site. You may have one banner that generally gets many clicks, but notice that when visitors are using mobile to access your site, they never click on it.
The complete suite includes the heatmap, recordings, chat, polls, conversion funnels, form analytics, and a dashboard that quickly shows you the data you want to see.
You can segment heatmap data by location, browser, dates, mobile users, and more.
Plans start at $10/month and apparently offer price matching. They say, "We'll beat the price of your current service's comparable plan or give you a free account."
Other heatmap options that you could consider are listed below. However, some of these WordPress plugins haven't been updated in a long time, and we generally don't recommend using plugins that aren't updated as new versions of WordPress are released.
Your main pages aren't the only place where banners can be used. A great way to use banners is to use them on transition pages, thank you pages, etc. It might be a thank you page after they place an order. It might be the thank you or confirmation page after they sign up for your newsletter.
Any place where they've taken the initiative and interacted with your site in some way. This implies that they have trust in you, in your site. And as mentioned in several of our other affiliate guides, trust is the name of the game. If they trust you enough to take these actions on your site, it's the perfect time to recommend something relevant to what they're interested in or what they just bought, especially if there's a discount involved.
Written by Hostwinds Team / June 5, 2021