A Basic Layout
The art of positioning adverts on your web page is based around the usual design concepts of space, color and the direction that the eyes follow when reading. This last point is vital: adverts on websites that are written in left-to-right languages will follow the above pattern. If the website is written in a right-to-left language then the above illustration (which shows the optimum placement for adverts, with the darker color being better) would be reversed.
What the illustration shows us is that the area directly below the navigation bar, but to the top left of the primary content is the hotspot, the position where most people will respond to the presence of adverts. Below the page footer, meanwhile, and to the upper and lower right corners of the website, are the spaces that you should avoid if you want an advert to perform well.
There is, however, one other type of advert that you might find on a web page. (We won’t cover pop-ups and pop-unders here since they’re really dark arts that annoy the visitors of your web page. They should be avoided if you’re hoping to have a high number of returning readers.)
As you can see above, the main portion of the website is given a brand new background in the shape of an advert for the X-Men Destiny video game. As well as appearing as a banner on this page, it also extends throughout the website, appearing as a background on every page. This has proven to be a successful advert positioning tactic for many websites.
Blending Advert Text
As illustrated above, adverts positioned below the main content of your page are quite successful. Here is an example of an advertising block being added alongside a list of “related articles.” The links have been colored to match those of the links in the main text section above it, and this is done to blend them into the site. By doing this, the designer hopes to prevent the presence of the adverts from being too jarring.
Would these advertising links benefit from being given the same text styling as the “related articles” section? It’s an interesting question…
Adverts in the Right-Hand Column
Here we see an example of the right-hand side placement of advertisements.
The large gap of white space below them betrays the fact that these are the last items of consequence in the lower-right corner of the web page, and as such are not likely to perform well at all.
Whether you employ affiliate adverts or have an ongoing relationship with an advertiser who pays a monthly fee, you need to identify the optimum position for the best results. An advert might be very well designed, but this doesn’t guarantee that your readers will click on the links.
Adverts Within the Content
This example features an advertisement (provided by Google) appearing in between two segments of the primary text. As you may know, the use of Google Ads is to display relevant, contextual adverts on your website that your readers will be interested in. The screen capture above shows the positioning of an ad in a way we don’t often see on standard web pages.
Instead, this is a tactic regularly used on discussion forums, where adverts are placed between groups of posts. Using this method, the ads can then be seen as the reader scrolls down the page. They are, of course, styled to appear as part of the forum.
Another method of integrating adverts within the text content of your website is to utilize a contextual keyword ad program which selects keywords and finds suitable adverts to link to them within the body of the article. This works to varying degrees, depending on the type of website.
The Banner Ad
Positioning above the navigation bar as seen here is a good way of prominently displaying the ad (for the Google Chrome browser) when someone first arrives on a web page. This type of advert is also known as a "banner ad" due to the wide dimensions.
This particular example from the skysports.com website (owned by News Corporation) works well because the white background of the advert sits in contrast to the blue/red background of the rest of the page, which represents the satellite channel’s branding.
Clear, strong design and sensible use of color and animation are just as important to online adverts as they are to offline ads. The example above wouldn’t look as prominent if the background color was the same as the panel below the advert.
Google Shows the Way
Google.com is, of course, one of the world’s most successful businesses. This has been achieved by developing the world’s most popular search engine and then offering advertisers the chance to target people looking for related products via the Google AdWords program.
Above you can see a Google search engine results page that demonstrates the strength of positioning adverts to the right of the main page content. We can be pretty certain that this particular tactic works – if the world’s biggest online advertiser is using it, then everybody else should follow suit!
Note also how the use of contextual ads offers a group of appropriate alternatives to the actual search engine results.
What Constitutes Too Much Advertising?
Does this page have too many adverts?
There is a fair argument against throwing so many adverts into such a small space, particularly when they don’t appear to be contextual. You might well wonder what the Glee advert at the top of the page (the one above the navigation) and the gambling ad on the right hand side of the search engine tool could possibly have to do with buying a used car.
These can probably be identified as paid adverts as opposed to contextual adverts from Google.
On the right of the search results, however, the advert is more interesting. Positioning a long, narrow ad alongside some search results is a good tactic, incidentally, as it gives the reader multiple opportunities to view the item. In this case the advert is based on a previous search that I had performed for a desktop cradle for my Windows Phone. Reminding readers about items that they have previously researched is an increasingly popular method for online advertisers.
Can I Use the Footer?
The footer of a website is not the place to be positioning adverts. Most people rarely visit this part of the page, preferring to hit the next page link or back button when they reach the end of the text.
As we’ve seen already, positioning web page adverts depends on finding the most prominent position for the ad, and the footer of a website is most certainly not suitable! The illustration in the first slide had this area highlighted as a “white” area, along with the top and bottom right corners of the content – it’s an area that we need to avoid.
Why else would the above web page example feature only credits and copyright notices?
Adverts Above the Footer
Don’t think that the footer is completely out-of-bounds, however. More and more websites use this area to provide an extra layer of navigation, and by cleverly placing the content above the footer you can capitalize. If you have sufficient content of interest leading up to this position, then an advert placed in a manner similar to the one above can reap dividends.
Do take care to avoid over-egging the pudding with adverts, however. As you can see in the example from the UK Digital Spy website, the ad above the footer is rather close to another ad on the right. There are times when the use of advertising on a website can look untidy, and this is certainly such an example.
- Author's own experience.
- Image credit: Web page ad placement, http://www.aperfectmix.com/free_web_design/seo.html
- Website images captured by author from: