4 ways to combat banner blindness

Visual representation of banner blindness

There’s an unspoken rule for surfing the web in this digital world. And it’s that ads will always be a part of content consumption.

Why?

Because without digital ads, our content would not be free. In fact, more than 67% of users prefer to deal with digital ads overpaying to view that same content.

Of course, in the ad tech world, quality still matters. After all, publishers want to increase their ad revenue. At the same time, advertisers want to get their message across to the right audiences. Neither party can accomplish all this if the web pages in question are filled to the brim with ads as too many ads ruin the user experience.

However, this does happen, and it has caused a phenomenon referred to as

Not many users will take the time to look at an ad on a page that’s cluttered with ads. However, nearly 100% of visitors will view an ad if it’s the only ad on the page. Too many ads on a single page are incredibly distracting, especially if there is a mixture of ad formats.

Not to mention, the more ads on a page, the slower that page will load. Slow page load times directly and negatively affect the user experience, especially on mobile devices.

Therefore, the fewer ad units on a page, the more likely the engagement rate will be. (And users will be less likely to use ad blockers).

Banner blindness directly impacts the effectiveness of an ad strategy — and not in a good way.

What is banner blindness?

Banner blindness, also known as ad fatigue, is the phenomenon that causes users to purposely ignore ads on a web page. Some ad tech experts would say that ignoring ads is often done as a psychological reflex. But let’s face it — most users can’t stand ads altogether.

Therefore, they know exactly what they’re doing.

Generally speaking, banner ads are the format that’s most likely to get ignored by users. They are static and not as interactive as video ads or rich-media ads. Hence the term banner blindness. However, it doesn’t only apply to banner ads. Users are also quick to hit the X button on pop-ups and video ads.

These intrusive ad experiences tend to lead users to install adblocking software to prevent ads from playing or popping up in the first place.

What causes it?

The general causes of ad blindness include the following:

  • Ads cluttering the webpage
  • Poor ad placement
  • Ads that are too flashy or distracting
  • Ads that are completely irrelevant
  • Ads with misleading content

More often than not, when users expect there to be ads on a certain website, they make it a habit to just scroll directly to the desired content. Therefore, if you have ads placed at the top of the page, it’s unlikely they’ll be seen by recurring visitors. This is something that renders banner ads especially irrelevant since they’re purposely being scrolled away from, which means users aren’t going to engage with them at all.

How can publishers combat banner blindness?

Banner blindness affects both publishers and advertisers, impacting their bottom line. The worst-case scenario for advertisers is that their brand’s reputation takes a hit due to ads being seen as a distraction or irrelevant to the user in question.

For publishers, the worst-case scenario is a loss of ad revenue and a loss of advertising partners due to a lack of conversions.

Therefore, you could say that publishers have a lot more to lose to banner blindness than advertisers. This means they need to be aware of not only why users are avoiding the ads on their web pages, but also what they can do to combat banner blindness.

Here are a few ways that publishers can avoid ad fatigue to maintain their ad revenue — and even optimize it:

1. Reduce the number of ad units on page

Not many users will take the time to look at an ad on a page that’s cluttered with ads. However, nearly 100% of visitors will view an ad if it’s the only ad on the page. In case the reasoning here isn’t obvious, it’s because too many ads on a single page are incredibly distracting, especially if there is a mixture of ad formats.

Not to mention, the more ads on a page, the slower that page will load. Slow page load times directly and negatively affect the user experience, especially on mobile devices.

Therefore, the fewer ad units found on a page may lead to a higher website engagement rate. Additionally, users might be less likely to install and use adblockers.

2. Audit ad creatives for brand quality and safety

Two words: Quality and relevance.

For starters, you want to ensure that the ads displayed on your web pages are adding to the user experience, not taking away. Therefore, you’ll want to use ads that don’t look like ads so they fit in seamlessly with the web page’s layout. Native ads are known for overcoming banner blindness for this reason.

You can also try out different color schemes, non-traditional ad sizes, and even think about reworking your whole page and ad layout.

Lastly, you need to make sure that the ads you’re serving fit in with your website’s content. Users like to see things that are relevant to their interests or needs, and you need to cater to that by serving ads that align with those interests and needs. This can be accomplished through the use of programmatic deals like programmatic guaranteed deals, preferred deals, and PMP deals. One thing to note is that your inventory is not guaranteed with preferred or PMP deals.

3. Test all ad placements and formats

Unsure where to start when improving your banner ads, or any other ads for that matter? Test out different placements and formats (standard display vs. native vs. video, etc) so you can find what works best for you and your visitors.

You’ll want to run tests with every new ad campaign so you can track and measure your results. This will help you to improve your future ad campaigns and help you to better avoid banner blindness in your visitors.

Online advertising is a primary source of income for many publishers. It’s also a source of revenue for advertisers as it’s meant to increase their ROI with each digital marketing campaign. That’s why it’s important to nip ad fatigue in the bud and continue to find ways to establish a perfect balance between the user and ad experience.

You don’t have to change your whole website. However, you should monitor your bounce rate (if you’re using too many ad units on page) against your revenue generation (if you’re using too few ad units) to find the right mix.

4. Avoid any interruptive advertising experiences

According to Wyzowl’s 2022 State of Video Marketing survey, 87% of marketers agree that video content has helped them increase traffic. While that’s great for marketers, the same doesn’t translate well in digital advertising.

Animated and video ads are considered intrusive and interruptive to the user’s Web experience, as per The Acceptable Ads Standard.

Our own adblock report found that annoying ad experiences were the biggest motivation for Web users to install an adblocker in the first place. To address this, we suggest that you aim to reduce adblocking with the Ad Experience Report. It’s a free report found in Google Search Console and can be used to identify which ad attributes found on your website are either considered annoying or acceptable.

Improving your ad experience may not deter users who are already using an adblocker on your site, but it may help reduce banner blindness for your non-adblocked traffic.

Acceptable Ads

Le’ts say a user decides to keep their adblocker on, even though you’ve implemented the suggestions from your Ad Experience Report. You will need to work around that. While you should always strive to offer a non-intrusive ad experience, adblocked users may not see the ads despite your efforts.

Implementing an adblock recovery solution compliant with Acceptable Ads, like Blockthrough, will mitigate your revenue loss from the get-go. Speak to our team to learn more about how you can recover your adblocked revenue without disrupting your user’s Web experience.

In summary

Banner blindness, also known as ad fatigue, is usually discussed from the advertiser’s perspective. However, it affects publishers as well, especially their bottom line.

Users have become inundated with ads, so they have started to ignore them. For publishers working with advertisers that rely on cost-per-click (CPC) campaigns, this spells trouble. Overwhemingly ad layouts are interruptive to a user’s Web experience, which may lead them to installing an adblocker. Further reducing your ability to monetize your total website audience.

Even so, there are 4 ways that publishers can combat banner blindness.

  1. Reduce the number of ad units on page.
  2. Audit ad creatives for brand quality and safety.
  3. Test all ad placements and formats.
  4. Avoid any interruptive advertising experiences.

Implementing any or all of these 4 methods may help to reduce banner blindness.

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