Banner ads (also called image ads or display ads) are either effective or useless. It depends on how you use them.

  • Effective: Banner ads work better than text ads because they show much more to your audience. Banner ads evoke emotions. People see your logo, a picture, descriptive text, special offers, call-to-action, and more.  Text ads can’t do this. If it’s done well, banner ads have higher CTR and lower CPC than text ads.
  • Useless: If you do this poorly, however, banner ads will be a huge waste of time and money. It takes time to design banner ads; the design has to be done by someone with design skills; you must use A/B testing with the banner ads; you must carefully monitor the Adwords settings. If you don’t do all of this, Google will happily show millions of banner ads and charge you for tens of thousands of useless clicks. Many blog articles complain that banner ads don’t work; that’s because they didn’t know what they were doing.

Banner ads have a logo, product shots, a bit of text with a benefit to your user, and a call-to-action (CTA). Use a clean, professional design. The better the design, the more clicks you will get.

Banner ads are in different sizes: some are horizontal, some are tall, and some are square. Here’s an example of a set of ads. It’s the same concept in eight sizes. BTW, it takes me about an hour to make a set in eight sizes.

  • Use warm, happy colors
  • Show smiling, confident, attractive people
  • Show their face with eye contact
  • Show your organization’s logo
  • Show a benefit to your user

Google is precise about the pixel size, kilobyte size, and file name:

  • If the image size is 250X250 pixels and your ad is 250×251 pixels (one pixel too big), Google will reject the ad.
  • The maximum file size is 150 KB. If greater (even by 1 byte), Google will reject it. Tip: Make the ads in PNG format (for a sharper image) and if the final ad is larger than 150 KB, save it as JPG (and adjust the compression).
  • Use lower case and hyphens for the ad’s file name. For example, “hawaii-01-240×240.png”. If you capitalize or use spaces, Google will reject the ad (for example, “Hawaii 01 240 x 240.png” will be rejected). I use the format theme-number-size.jpg for ad names. This lets you know which ad is which. Do this from the beginning. It’s a lot of work to rename dozens of ads.

Settings for Banner Ads

The banner ads are placed in Display Campaigns. You can change several settings in your Adwords display campaign.

  • Frequency Cap: This sets a cap (a limit) on the number of ads per day to a person. Many companies don’t set this, so you’ll see the same ad over and over. I set this to three ads per day.
  • Junk Sites: You also need to block Google’s ability to show your ads on junk sites. If you don’t set this, Google will show your ad on porn sites, sites for extreme violence, racism, etc. This can hurt your company’s image.
  • Mobile Games and Youtube: Monitor the ad placement to make sure Google isn’t showing your ads on mobile game apps or Youtube. When gamers are playing Frogger, they’re not interested in buying anything. But they click wildly and may click your ad. If your ad appears 400,000 times in one day on game sites, you’ll get many accidental clicks. Google of course is happy with this error; they make money. But you lose money on useless clicks. So block games, apps, and Youtube.
  • Blocked Sites: You can also choose that your ads won’t appear on certain sites. Make a list and you can add that.
  • Selected Sites: You can also choose that your ads WILL appear on certain sites. Make a list and you can add that.
  • Desktop or Mobile: The world has switched to mobile, so you’ll need to make banner ads for mobile. Place these in a campaign for mobile display.

The Most Common Sizes

You don’t have to make all eight sizes. Some sizes are used much more than others. I looked at data from several clients. These campaigns have been running for more than seven years. Three formats get the most impressions: 468×60, 728×90, 300×250.

I strongly that you test for your market. Make one set in all sizes. Run the ads until you get 10,000 impressions for the set. You’ll see which sizes get the most impressions. After that, you can use fewer sizes.

Accepted Banner Ad Sizes

Ads can be max 150 KB in .GIF, .JPG, .JPEG, .PNG. However, Google constantly changes the sizes. Before you start, check with Google for the pixel size, file format, and kilobyte size.

You can also use animated ads. The animation must stop within 30 seconds.

Ads for Desktop Screens (Updated March 2017)

  • 120 x 600 Skyscraper
  • 160 x 600 Wide skyscraper
  • 200 x 200 Small square
  • 240 x 400 Vertical rectangle
  • 250 x 250 Square
  • 250 × 360 Triple widescreen
  • 300 x 1050 Portrait
  • 300 x 250 Inline rectangle
  • 300 x 600 Half-page
  • 336 x 280 Large rectangle
  • 468 x 60 Banner
  • 580 × 400 Netboard
  • 728 x 90 Leaderboard
  • 930 × 180 Top banner
  • 970 x 250 Billboard
  • 970×90 Large leaderboard
  • 980 × 120 Panorama

Ads for Mobile Devices (Updated March 2017)

  • 300 x 50 Mobile banner
  • 320 x 100 Large mobile banner
  • 320 x 50 Mobile leaderboard