Contextual Advertising Best Practices: Banners and Video Ads

Ready to step out of your contextual advertising comfort zone? The world of graphic and video advertising may seem scary at first, but the rewards can be huge.

We’ve spent the last four months busting contextual advertising myths and learning the inner workings of intricate content-matching algorithms (define). Your content campaigns should now be humming along contentedly, churning out converting clicks.

We’re far from finished. Time to step out of your comfort zone and face an uncomfortable truth: advertising can be more than just text. Many more ad media are available to contextual advertisers.

And the list of media types is long. In a nutshell, the ad types include:

  • Static graphic banners
  • Animated banners — GIFs and Flash
  • Video ads

All of these can be placed in various square and horizontal or vertical rectangular sizes that fit neatly into the AdSense units site owners (called “publishers” in Google parlance) add to their Web pages.

We’re going to concentrate on these three ad types for the next few columns. Later, we’ll tackle some of the more esoteric (but powerful) new online media ad types Google has started offering:

  • Google Gadget ads
  • YouTube InVideo ads — text and banner ads that appear embedded within YouTube video

And much later, we’ll dig into the Google advertising capabilities that bridge the dark ages and the 21st century of advertising:

  • Google Audio Ads
  • Google Print Ads
  • Google TV Ads

That stuff is way out of most PPC (define) advertiser’s comfort zone, so we’ll leave it for later.

For now, before we talk about the differences between text and non-text contextual advertising campaigns, let’s examine the similarities.

First, non-text and text campaigns have an identical structure. Campaigns are organized into ad groups. Keyword-targeted ad groups include a list of keywords — but keep in mind that there are important differences between search and content keyword lists. Search keyword lists should describe the product or service being advertised; content keyword lists should describe the sites and site pages where you want your ads to appear.

Instead of listing keywords, placement-targeted ad groups list the URLs of sites, pages, and page sub-sections where your ads should appear.

Both keyword-targeted and placement-targeted ad groups also include at least one non-text image ad. Multiple non-text ads can be included in the same ad group (but for reasons we’ll explain later, it’s not a good idea to mix text and non-text ads in the same ad group — though it’s possible to do so).

By the way, if you’re not yet using AdWords Editor to create and manage your Google AdWords accounts and campaigns, do yourself a big favor: download it now and start using it. It will shave the time you spend managing campaigns by up to 90 percent. It’s especially useful for handling big data types, such as image ads — much faster than through the AdWords Web interface.

Let’s start our discussion of non-text ads by focusing on the ads themselves. Reflect back to my two earlier installments that described best practices for text ads for the content network; the same rules apply to non-text ads.

First, the ad must distract the attention of the site visitor away from the main reason they visited the site: the page content. So the ad needs to be eye-catching enough to stand out from the page. This is a particularly big challenge these days, given the possibility that Web site visitors as a whole may have developed “banner fatigue,” gliding right over graphic ads on their way to their precious content.

That’s the reason you see so many “dancing babies” and “bop the mole” ads — eye-catching (and sometimes bizarre) motion catches the eye.

Once the eye has been caught, the real work begins: getting the click. The non-text ad needs to work hard and fast to convince the potential site visitor that there’s a strong reason to click on the ad.

So the ad needs to telegraph these concepts in rapid succession:

  • “This ad’s for me” — usually via a connection to the site or page’s subject matter
  • There’s a reason for me to look closely at the ad — features and benefits
  • Pre-qualification (optional) — make sure the wrong people aren’t persuaded to click
  • Pre-sale (optional) — describe the action you want them to take on the landing page
  • Call to action — e.g. “Start Saving Now!”

I’ll start next week’s column with examples of these concepts put into practice.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for training classes March 21.

Related reading

Simple Share Buttons