In the world of online advertising, pay-per-click is currently king for businesses on a budget. And in the world of PPC advertising, as in many others, Google is currently king. For anyone looking at starting a new campaign with AdSense, there’s a basic choice to make: do you want to run a text ad? Or a banner ad?
Choosing between the two can be trickier than you’d expect. They both have their distinct pros and cons, and picking which you’d like to go with is a major pre-promotion decision. Read along and I’ll give you quick definitions of banner ads and text ads, as well as a head-to-head comparison.
What is a Banner Ad?
We’ll start with familiar turf. Most netizens are more than used to seeing banner ads on just about every non-adblocked page they browse. They’re visual, ubiquitous, and highly customizable depending on both the advertiser and the site that the banner is placed on.
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AdSense banner ads come in a few different standard sizes, ranging from the tried and true, above-the-fold rectangle to the skyscraper, a tall pane that sits off to the side of online content. No matter where they’re placed, banners are at their best when they’re bold and graphically striking.
So, what’s great about banner ads and what do they lack in?
- Banner ads are an amazing way to establish brand identity. Visitors don’t even have to click on one ad to receive information about your company. Producing a visually beautiful ad sends a clear message: yours is a brand that takes pride in what it creates.
- To piggyback on point 1 – a good banner ad helps establish legitimacy. Doing a good job shows that your business has the resources necessary to afford and promote quality work. Of course, this sword cuts both ways. Unleash a shoddy banner and you can kiss that positive PR goodbye.
- It’s possible, not to mention heavily advisable, to tailor banners to the sites they’ll be appearing on. Yes, even for AdSense. Think about what type of sites users will be most likely seeing your ads. Even if you can’t pinpoint a hosting site, you can at least adapt to the aesthetics of a general audience.
- New advertising innovations have been kind to banner ads. Consider that the use of rich media can treble a banner’s engagement rate and that banner can create massive increase in CTR when placed on mobile devices (0.1% on PCs becomes 0.35% on mobile).
- By now we’ve all heard about banner ad click-through rates. Frankly, they stink. At least on average. It’s awfully hard to make 0.1% sound anything but lousy. While it’s completely possible to escape that lowly stratum, it will take some time and money to craft something capable of doing it.
- Banner-blindness is absolutely a thing. Net surfers are getting better and better at glazing over expected banner areas, a driving force behind the growth of video and native advertising.
What is a Text Ad?
Let’s start with what they’re not. First, we’re not talking about “in-text” ads. In-text ads are magnified windows that show up when a viewer hovers over a linked piece of related text and should be avoided like the plague (they’re a hallmark of some particularly annoying malware). We’re also not discussing native advertising, though this often does come in a text form.
Nope, text ads are just, well, text ads. They’re a standard and increasingly popular PPC format with specific sizing and requirements to their layout. On AdSense, a text ad is your company’s name, website, and a couple lines of copy. That’s not an incredibly large amount of space to work with, but an well-made text ad can still earn its keep.
- We’ll lead with the big one: making a text ad is really, really easy. In the amount of time it takes to launch one banner ad, you can probably A/B test ten different text ads. Small companies without easy access to a graphic designer can obviously benefit from this. Keep in mind that tiny changes in a message can have enormous impacts – take ComScore, for example. Small tweaks to content placement wound up boosting their conversions by 63%.
- Common belief is that text ads are cheaper than their more showy cousins. Hopefully, some more quantifiable evidence for this will emerge, but for now, the main information compiler is Google and they don’t really kiss and tell.
- Text ads make the jump from PC to mobile with almost insulting ease. Now, if you can get a banner ad to mobile, do it – CTRs for banners soar in-app, especially if you decide to invest in interstitial (full-screen) ads. That said, text ads are very much fire and forget, and you can be confident that your campaign is hitting multiple platforms without your supervision.
- Text ads are branding black holes. I’ll be the last person to dismiss the potential effect of intelligent copy, but text ads just aren’t conducive to transmitting a company’s personality. Two lines paired with graphics can say a lot, but without those effects? You’re down to saying your message as quick as you can. Many advertisers just stick to putting down some numbers.
- These ads also have an unsettling tendency to blend right into a hosting website. While aesthetic agreement is a good thing for banner ads, it’s not a good one for text. Text isn’t inherently clickable, so this camouflage won’t do wonders for your campaign.
- Appearances count. Everyone and their mother can run text ads, by doing so yourself, you’re not distinguishing yourself from a screen of less-than-respectable businesses. You’ll see few big companies going text-only.
As with many head-to-heads, the choice here is largely determined by circumstance. That said, I do think that banner ads carry the day for most advertisers. The one requirement: you need to have a vision for your banner. Businesses that deal in visually striking products or have a clear path towards creating something naturally eye-catching should find this relatively simple. Other groups will need to innovate and in some cases, turn to text advertising.
Text ads remain an excellent option for companies on a shoestring budget or for those not concerned with the advantages that banners bring. Established brands may not be as concerned with identity creation as others. Additionally, if you’re running a stand-alone promotion, text ads can do a wonderful job of drawing attention to those deals – put your discounts up front and center and see what happens.