Why Ad Blindness is Your Biggest Enemy

Banner Blindness, or ad blindness, is when readers ignore your banner ads. There are several reasons why this happens, and all of them can be overcome by publishers serious about monetizing their web pages. Here are seven reasons why ad blindness is the biggest enemy to monetizing your website.

  1. Ad placement – If people see ads in the same place on every website they visit, they'll eventually ignore them. Eye tracking studies indicate that people spend most of their time on the left side of a web page, and they tend to notice the big, bold type the most. That's no surprise. What may be surprising, however, is that they tend to overlook banner ads, especially if they find them in the same old usual places. The fix? Use non-standard ad sizes and put them where readers will least expect them, such as in the middle of your content just above subheadings and on the left side of the page where they scan the most.
  2. Not relevant to your content – One way to ensure people never look at banner ads is to make them irrelevant to your content. A banner ad for beauty products on a web page about hot rods and muscle cars is not likely to be seen, and certainly not clicked on. On the other hand, put that ad about beauty products on a web page about the latest fashion trends for women, and it might get noticed. Ads must be relevant to the content on the page.
  3. There are too many of them – Ad clutter, also called banner noise, may do more than make readers turn a blind eye to your banner ads. It may cause readers to leave your website and not come back. Reduce the clutter by removing some of the ads, which will increase the likelihood of those that remain getting clicked on.
  4. They look too much like ads – If a banner ad screams “advertisement,” it most likely will not be clicked on. It will definitely decrease your click-through rate. Readers will look over it, scroll down, or exit the website. Online readers are more interested in the information on the page than on ads that try to take them away from their content reading interests. Instead, use text ads, pay-per-click ads, and sponsored content.
  5. They've installed an ad blocker – Some people so dislike banner ads that they'll go to such great lengths to ignore them as install an ad blocker in their web browser. Some publishers won't allow users to experience their content unless they deactivate the ad blocker. There's no evidence, however, that this reduces ad blindness.
  6. They're reading the content – People ignore your banner ads because they're more interested in your content.  
  7. People don't like them – Online readers simply don't like banner ads. They don't like being sold to, and they don't like being interrupted from reading the content they searched for and visited your website to read. Today's readers simply don't like advertising.


What Should Publishers Do About Ad Blindness?

Ad blindness is very real, and what it means to you in practical terms is lost revenue. If readers aren't looking at banner ads, worse yet, if they aren't clicking on banner ads, advertisers will stop buying them. That means less revenue in your pocket from the eye balls you have worked so hard to attract.
Even if advertisers do purchase your banner ads, because they may do so for the branding effect more so than for click-through results, ad blindness puts downward pressure on banner ad prices. That reduces publisher potential revenue.
Neither of these realities means that publishers can do nothing about ad blindness. On the contrary, you are running a publishing business. You must think like a business professional, which means you should come up with ways to monetize your web property and keep driving traffic to your content. But how?
I suggest these five monetization strategies for publishers who want to earn top dollar from the content they publish, no matter what niche audience you target.

  1. Affiliate marketing – Find products that fit in well with your niche content and become an affiliate for those products. This works best if you limit yourself to two or three of the best high-value products in your niche. Be sure to choose affiliate programs that pay affiliates well for their promotional efforts. However, spend most of your time producing great content for your audience and no more than 15% of your time promoting products.
  2. Text ads – Believe it or not, text ads are much more lucrative than banner ads. I recommend signing up for Google AdSense and learning how to place your pay-per-click text ads for the best monetization results.
  3. Sell information products – Readers are on your website because they like your content. If it meets their informational needs, find out what else they want and create premium content like e-books and special reports that you can sell to your audience. High-value information products will sell themselves if you put in the time and energy to create products that your audience is hungry for. These could include e-books, webinars, e-courses, and more.
  4. Offer sponsored content pieces – Advertisers just want to get in front of their audience. That's why they buy banner ads. Instead of selling them ads that are just going to be ignored, offer to sell them sponsored content pieces. These are similar to advertorials except that they look like regular content pieces. A solid sponsored content article will offer the reader a benefit just like your normal content, but it will be sponsored by a company that wants to be recognized for its thought leadership.
  5. Experiment With Paid Content Offerings – Make your free content so good that readers would be willing to pay for it, then offer them high-value content on a paid basis. There are several options you can explore regarding paid content. You can offer articles a la carte where readers pay for each article they read, a time pass to give readers the full benefit of your paid content for a limited time, or a paid subscription option. Paid content can include a newsletter, website content behind a paywall, a video series, a long email content series, or anything that you think your audience will pay for. One way forward with paid content is to survey your audience before you make any offerings to uncover their preferences.

Another point worth considering is how you deal with ad blockers. Gruner + Jahr reduced ad blocker usage by 45% just by giving readers a choice in how to experience content. Giving readers a choice empowers them, earns their loyalty, and increases your earnings as you deliver high-quality paid content in the manner your readers prefer.