Follow these guidelines to make your banners as effective and user-friendly as possible.
The Pop-Up Dilemma
If you're going to advertise on a Web site, make sure your banner is placed somewhere on a well-viewed page (preferably the index page or a page that is relevant to the product or service you are promoting) and, most important, that it will not appear as a pop-up! I think pop-up windows are extremely annoying and usually close them right away, and research has shown that pop-up windows have a lower click-through ratio. Several programs (freeware, shareware, and commercial) on the market today actually stop pop-up windows from opening on certain browser types or prompt the user for the option of opening the window. Needless to say, this decreases the exposure rate of your banner.
Get to the Point!
Don't try to trick people into visiting your Web site. Instead, focus on actually making them want to visit your site. Try to see the banner through the eyes of a potential customer: What would you like to see on a small banner that would get your attention and make you actually visit the site?
Keep it simple and get to the point. Remember, people won't wait for 25 frames to show before they get an idea of what you're trying to sell. If you do have to use several frames to get your message across, keep people interested by putting a hint of what is coming next on each "page," or try to change your text into question form to "interact" with the user.
The Fine Print
This seems to be common sense, but I'm still seeing it way too much on the Web today: People use illegible fonts or awkward color combinations for their banners. Perhaps annoying would be a better word. Nothing gets me more annoyed than a flashing red-and-white banner. This is definitely not the way to get someone's attention! Most people will eventually see most of the page they are viewing anyway; instead of scaring them away, make them "stop" at your banner with a simple, clean, and inviting banner that is easy on the eye.
What Do You Have to Offer?
Banners usually are most efficient if you advertise a nice limited-time offer or special on your products or services. In my opinion, banners should not be used to simply promote your company in general. If this is what you want to achieve, consider other media for advertising. Banners just don't do a good job of general promotion; click-through rates for banners that do not have something specific to offer are extremely low.
Don't Waste Your Cash!
Another good reason not to mislead people into clicking banners without knowing where they're going is that every click costs you money! It usually doesn't matter how long people stay on your site; once they've clicked your banner, you are charged by the host site.
A few more words of advice on banners:
Keep the file size of your banners low, or most people won't even see it before closing the page they are looking at.
If you use animation, go for Flash banners. They offer smooth animation and interactivity at small file sizes.
Always link your banners to specific pages on your site, to keep the interest of the user who clicks it. You don't want people having to look for the offer they just saw on your banner once they get to your site. Build some new pages specifically to link the banner to, if necessary.
And, of course, always try to advertise in places that cover your target audience.