A newly released eyetracking study by usability guru Jakob Nielsen shows that online banner blindness is worsening. Nielsen says that banner ads (indicated by green outlines in his heat maps below) didn’t even receive light focus from skimmers, scanners and readers—and neither did non-ad content in the same areas.
Nielsen concludes, much to his own dismay, that the best way to get people to look at your ads is to make them look like actual content—much like advertising in magazines and newspapers masquerades as editorial content (gotta look for that tiny little ‘advertisement’ notice at the top). That doesn’t mean, however, a 300×300 AdSense block as the first thing in your blog’s text will trick people into think that it’s content and clicking on it. That’s just annoying. (via)
Another study that was released recently cautions against making advertisements annoying, obnoxious or offensive. As obvious as this sounds, remember that a lot of companies (*cough* ASK *cough*) need this reminder.
And a vivid reminder it is. In the study, commissioned by Streetblimps and conducted by Opinion Research Corp.,
Nearly nine in 10 Americans said they were less likely to buy products that had annoying or offensive ads. Seven in 10 also said they were more likely to remember the ads.
So yes, Ask’s ads may have had us all talking—but according to this survey, they also would have prevented 90% of American adults from purchasing a product associated with them. Even if you didn’t find the Ask commercials offensive, you have to admit that they’re annoying. And 70% would remember the commercial—and the bad taste it left in their mouths. A novel commercial isn’t enough to succeed. (via)
The bottom line: don’t go for the flashy and annoying ads—make them look like content. For your biggest ad purchases, work with webmasters to integrate your ads into their design—use their site’s colors and fonts, tinker with placement, etc. It just might pay off.