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I'm a doing research on ads (maintained by site admin) like one you can see on the right side of http://smashingmagazine.com/

What are the approaches so that ads can get more clicks?

Note: Target User is a professional job holder in any parts of the world.

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A few things off the top of my head:

  1. Make it look less like an ad: This is because of banner blindness. We've almost become immune to ads in a sense, because we've seen so many of them, our brain automatically scans a page and writes anything that looks like advertisement off as unimportant.

  2. Have a clear message and call to action (CTA): Make sure it's scan-able, and has a clear offer for the visitor. The visitor isn't going to look at your ad for more than a few seconds to determine whether it has them something useful to offer, make sure he or she can make this judgement in this valuable time span.

  3. Use your styleguide: If your ads are from a particular brand or corporation, make sure that it's clear from the word go. Use the right colors, the right fonts, logo's, anything to make sure people will recognize that it's "that one brand they've heard of" for example.

  • A purely personal opinion on option (1): If a site did this -- essentially disguise ads so people click on them without realising they are ads -- then I'd be very unlikely to return to the site. – TripeHound Jan 12 '17 at 13:29
  • @TripeHound Yeah I understand what you're saying. I can see your point, however, I'm not saying "go fool visitors". I'm simply implying that conventional ad designs won't get you anywhere because we have adapted to filtering out ads, so if you can make an ad look less like the conventional ads, you're golden. – MJB Jan 13 '17 at 17:42
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1. A/B test multiple variants of ads

In my opinion, the most valid and effective way to find well performing ads is by conducting A/B tests.

Don't just put 1 ad and hope it will work well. Put several variants of the same ad. Track its click through rate (CTR), put conversion pixel on the target page and track user behavior on it. This is the only valid way I know that will surely show your most converting and money making ads.

2. Test different ad positions and sizes

click through rate for different ad positions Image taken from smartinsights.com

According to my experience right sidebar ads get around 0.1% CTR. So you should expect 1-2 clicks per 1000 impressions. If possible, you could test different ad positions, in order to improve CTR. Here is a great resource of average CTR statistics for different ad sizes, positions, and more.

Banner blindness limits your click through rate (CTR)

If it located on the right sidebar people might not notice your ads because of banner blindness.

heatmap of a website showing less interaction in the right sidebar are or the so called banner blindness Image taken from nngroup.com

Users have already developed a resistance to looking at the right sidebar because web admins are trying to get the attention of the users by showing irrelevant and try hard to get your attention ads. Because of that most of the times these ads are ruining the experience.

3. Put relevant ads only

If you put irrelevant ads your user base probably won't be that interested in them. For example, if you have a weight loss site and display job offerings you will probably have no success. Users in this site are looking to lose weight not find a job. Therefore, put ads relevant to your sites niche.

4. Personalize as much as you can.

If you could get some user context or information try to use it so you can show ads specifically made for this type of user group. For instance, users coming from a particular tech site should see only tech job offerings. Bleier and Eisenbeiss, 2015 found that ad personalization improves CTR. More information on display ad personalization here.

Summary

Finding effective ads is not easy. Try to test as much as you can until you find profitable ones. Discard bad performing advertisements and concentrate on those that give good CTR and conversion rate.

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