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As a consumer, I spend the majority of my time online browsing the web rather than searching for a specific product or service. I’ve got multiple browsers open as I jump from one Google search to the next and down rabbit holes of online shopping and news sites.

If you think about it, this is the usual behavior for most online searchers, and that’s why display advertising is so important. Display ads allow you to put your business in front of consumers where they spend the majority of their time–browsing online.

In this post, we’re covering everything you need to know about display advertising, including:

  • What display advertising is.
  • Types of display ads.
  • Why you need display advertising for your business.
  • What makes an effective display advertising campaign.

What is display advertising?

Display advertising includes visual advertisements usually on the sides or top of your web page that have some type of call to action. Display ads appear on various websites listed on a person’s search engine results page (SERP) but not when someone is actively searching for them.


Here are two examples of display ads on a local news site.

For example, display ads run through Google will appear on websites within the Google Display Network. These can include blogs, YouTube, Gmail, and any website a consumer clicks on from their Google search results. And display ads on other networks allow you to reach consumers on a host of other websites where they’re shopping, reading the news, and more.

Display ads are shown to users based on their previous online behavior or based on their demographic information so you can target the right audience for your business.

Key types of display ads

Display ads encompass a range of different ad types. Here are three of the most common types of display ads you might encounter.

Banner ads

Banner ads are simple, general awareness advertisements that you can implement to expose your brand and familiarize searchers with your business. If you have a specific message you want to send to a targeted audience, a way to drive visitors to your website, or just want to get your name in front of potential customers, utilizing banner ads is the way to go.

This display ad example from LOCALiQ shows how you can use design to capture attention with your display advertising.

Retargeted ads

Have you ever been shopping online and then opened Instagram only to find an ad with all the products you added to your cart moments before? Or seen a banner ad with a pair of shoes you left in your cart? This type of display ad is known as retargeting, and it’s a great way to remind customers about your business (or the products they didn’t purchase!) once they leave your website.

Display ads that are retargeted can take the form of banner ads or even Facebook ads–the retargeting part comes from how you target users with your display ad. Here’s a visualization of how it works:

Retargeting allows you to bring users back to your site who have already visited.


Have you received an ad on your phone from a nearby business when you’re out running errands? This type of display ad is known as geofencing, which allows you to target customers in specific locations on their smartphones through apps.

Geofencing lets you target people who enter a specific area with their smartphones.

3 reasons to run display ads

There are many benefits to running display advertising, but we’ll quickly go over three here.

1. Increase brand awareness

We know that consumers need to see information about a business about 10 times before taking an action to learn more about them. Display advertising gives you a way to get your business name–and branding–in front of them as they’re spending time online.

2. Boost the effectiveness of your other marketing strategies

Display advertising is the perfect complement to any digital marketing strategy because it works in tandem to drive people to become your customer. Take display advertising plus PPC advertising: there’s a 59% lift in conversions when users conduct a search related to a display ad.

This stat shows one major benefit of adding display advertising to your PPC strategy.

And with retargeting, you can use display advertising to get in front of people who have visited your website from any number of marketing sources.

3. Reach consumers across channels

The best marketing strategies reach people no matter where they’re spending time online. Many marketing strategies are focused on one channel–Facebook advertising is on social media, paid search advertising is on search engines, etc. But, display advertising can reach people on their mobile devices, on pretty much any website they’re on, and on social media.

Explore more benefits of display advertising here.

5 elements of a successful display ad

In order to make display advertising a success for your business, there are multiple elements to consider. Here are the most important elements of an effective display advertising campaign.

1. A landing page optimized for conversions

The landing page on your website is a visitor’s first impression of that experience, and it needs to do a couple of things immediately: Provide a visual and informational connection to your display ad so they feel that they’ve landed in a familiar place and give them a reason to stay on your page to have a look around.

display ad landing page examples

An example of a landing page from a display ad.

If the ad promised visitors a free ebook, make it obvious on your landing page how they can get that, while also presenting them with more, related items of interest that will draw them deeper into your site.

2. Targeting that reaches your actual customers

Once you identify your target audience, you can create display ad campaigns that specifically target those people, whether by geography or by online behavior.

You can, for example, choose to have your ads served to people who are local and have shown interest in competing products. Audience targeting is quite flexible and lets you find your most likely buyers and focus on winning their attention and purchases.

3. Banner ads that stand out

Designing banner ads that stand out sounds fairly simple, but it’s actually an area where many businesses miss valuable opportunities.

Start with the most important things, which are the basic elements of your visual branding: Your logo and the fonts and colors you’ve chosen to represent your brand. Staying consistent in using these elements builds public recognition of your brand and what it stands for.

In small spaces like banner ads, clean, uncluttered design is most effective, so think about how you can let your visual branding do most of the “talking,” and use as little text as possible.

display ad design example

Give a short, attention-grabbing explanation of why someone should accept your invitation, and leave it at that.

4. A CTA that urges action

A call to action (CTA, for short) is an absolute must in display advertising because without that nudge to take another step toward conversion, you’re really just showing people a nice picture that they will forget almost instantly. The most effective CTAs work because they don’t simply “call” viewers to action, but actually create an urge to take that action.

Three of the most basic and proven ways to create that urge are to:

  • Show them the benefit of clicking with a simple statement like, “Sign up for a free trial,” or, “Get your free information guide,” or, “Schedule a complimentary consultation.”
  • Use design to point the viewer to the information that will lead them to take action. Use a clear, bold font, minimal text, and colors that highlight the offer while staying in harmony with your visual branding.
  • Make it obvious where you want the viewer to click by making a button and labeling it something like, “Yes, I want a free ebook!” or, “Sign me up!”

display advertising - display ad cta example

An example of a display ad CTA.

5. A good tracking system that shows results

In order to understand the success of your display advertising campaign, you have to know what metrics are most important and how to track them. We’ll dive deeper into this in the next section.

How to measure display advertising success

If you’ve ever looked into tracking the results or metrics from an ad campaign, you may have come away from the experience with an eye twitch and a headache. It’s easy to get in the weeds when it comes to metrics, and that’s partly because of all the jargon.

When it comes to your display advertising campaigns, the basic results you should be keeping track of include:

  • Impressions: How many times your ad appears on a page that is being viewed by a potential customer.
  • Clicks: How many of those views turn into an action such as a click-through to your landing page.

You can also look at metrics like time on site and conversions to see if people are engaging with your landing page content and taking the next step to become your customer.

You can use these metrics to refine and reoptimize your display advertising strategy. For example, if you’re getting a lot of clicks on your display ads but not many conversions, that’s a sign that you should update your landing page. If you’re getting a lot of impressions but not many clicks, that tells you that either your offer isn’t compelling enough or you need to refresh your ad creative so it’s more appealing.

optimize display ad creative based on results

See how your display ads contribute to your overall online presence with our free website grader.

Get started with display advertising

Taking advantage of display advertising for your business is a must when it comes to reaching customers online and growing brand awareness. With the right marketing plan in place, you can use display advertising to boost your business and convert more web browsers into customers.

Want to learn even more about display advertising? Download our guide.

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