Stop! Wait a second. OK. Now continue.

That’s about how much time you have to catch viewers as they browse past your digital banner advertisement on their way to reading the news, looking at fashions, researching ideas for the weekend, or reading a blog about cars.

Banner ads are an essential and early part of a digital marketing campaign in that they build awareness of your brand or your product and service ahead of your harder-hitting direct response, inbound marketing effort. But what good is a banner if it doesn’t capture your viewer’s attention. Yeah, that viewer who’s ever-distracted, multi-tasked and media-bombarded. The good news is, it can be done!

Think of banner ads as the Internet’s version of a roadside billboard or a magazine ad. They’re in front of a large number of clients and consumers every day, but only for a few seconds at a time. The ones that are most effective tend to have a few things in common:

Catchy design: Strong images and effective use of color can help land a look from consumers. But don’t go overboard. Avoid clutter. This isn’t 1997.

Concise text: Say what you need to say but keep the copy short so there’s plenty of white space remaining for your copy and images to stand out.

Strong copy: Use action words to encourage people to move quickly. A good call to action includes urgency, scarcity or opportunity. It can ask a question or tease with a peek into a solution.

Focus on mobile: Consumers increasingly are accessing the internet — and your banner ads — on their phones and tablets. Your ad should be designed to catch them where they are. The ads should be formatted to work on any size screen or device.

Targeting: Unlike a highway billboard magazine ad, TV, radio or other mass media, banner advertising platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Bing give you the ability to choose exactly who sees your message. You can target by demographics (age, gender, income, etc.), geographic (state, city/zip or within one mile of an address), real estate zones (residential, retail, commercial and/or industrial), and using geofencing or geotargeting you can target under the rooftop of certain buildings and reach employees of certain businesses, patients and doctors at hospitals or students at certain schools.

Targeting banner advertising based on search history gives you the ability to reach individuals based on their search history. For long sales cycle services involving education, law, medicine or consulting, search-targeted banner advertising is an extremely effective way to reach prospects who you know are interested in your products or services and are very likely to be interested in what you have to say. If your digital marketing effort includes both banner ads and paid search, make sure to Google Analytics and your Search Terms report to help identify the best keywords to trigger your banner ads to show. The latest and most advanced form of banner advertising utilizes your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. By linking emails on a list (whether you own, rent or buy it) to a banner advertising effort, you can reach specific individuals with banner ads. This is extremely effective when done in advance of an inbound marketing effort, direct response marketing or sales effort. Long story short, targeting is the most effective way to reach the exact individuals likely to be interested in your products or services and with smart targeting, your cost per impression, click, lead and sale can be extremely cost effective.

Call to action: If your goal is direct response rather than building awareness with a branding effort, a good call to action will improve your CTR (click-through rate). Calls to action encourage viewers to do something, such as signing up for a newsletter, downloading a brochure, watching a video, or clicking to try or buy.

As the first company in Connecticut to earn advanced certifications from Google in Banner Advertising and Paid Search, we’ve done a ton of highly effective banner campaigns for our clients and we have lots of data (going back to 2007!) to help you run a successful banner campaign for your company. If you’d like to hear about the latest and greatest banner tactics, or get some ideas about how to use banners to build awareness, website traffic, leads and sales, we’re here for you. Feel free to reach us at (203) 682-4585 or schedule some time for a chat. Don’t miss an update! Sign up for our newsletter and get late-breaking tips, tactics and success stories delivered to your inbox once a month.