Search Ad Blindness Resembles Banner Blindness

Billions of dollars are wasted on ads that consumers never see, according to a joint study from Infolinks and EyeTrackShop. The findings, released Tuesday, analyze pitfalls surrounding ad location, responsiveness and brand recall to provide tips on how marketers can successfully tackle banner blindness that drives down click-through rates and conversions. Although the focus of the study is banner blindness, there are many insights that search marketers can apply from these findings.

"Banner blindness" -- where the ad seems to dissolve into background -- isn't limited to banners on publishers' sites. While the study aims to demonstrate how to improve banner ad blindness, many of the tips from the Infolinks and EyeTrackShop study also relate to search marketing ad blindness.

Results from the banner blindness ad study found that non-traditionally placed ads targeting user intent were noticed more, seen more quickly and engaged consumers longer than standard display ad units. Non-traditionally placed ad units were seen 225% more quickly than standard leaderboard ads at the top of the page.

Sound familiar? Read on. Alternative placements yielded higher results overall, including awareness and engagement. Time spent with these ad units rose by 100% compared with standard display placements. Anyone working with Google or Bing paid-search and product listing ads know the continual changes that the engines make to keep the attention of consumers searching for information.

Some 60% of survey respondents said they didn't find traditional ad units relevant, whereas 75% said ad units targeted to users' real-time intent relevant to the page. Just as many respondents said they found the unconventionally placed ads based on page content less disruptive than the ads they typically encounter.

The average U.S. Internet user sees about 50 ads per day, but the bulk of these are not relevant to their search for content or information. When it comes to banner ads, only 14% of Infolinks survey respondents remembered the company or product in the last ad they viewed online, and only 2.8% considered the ad relevant. Another 22% stated the last ad they saw was so irrelevant that it annoyed them, per the study.

The findings from a variety of consumers detailed at the end of this study suggest using eye-tracking technology to monitor time spent on banner ad or patterns in how someone viewed the page, but for search engine marketers using a little common sense should do the trick. Mix up the message. Make it creative and relevant. Earn the respect of potential and existing customers by being truthful and respectful of their time. Experiment with product listing ads and native advertising.

"Blindfolded man using computer" photo from Shutterstock.
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