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How to improve the effectiveness of online advertising

Sometimes there is just too much to consider when putting together an advertising campaign – that’s why there are agencies. But if you stick to the basics you can make your own job easier as well as improving the effectiveness of your online advertising.

Think about the following and consider if your existing campaigns match these four needs:


People, even specifiers, choose on feelings, not always on logic. That emotion might be a safe choice, a known product or a reassuring testimonial, or on the other hand a desire for excitement, a new product or a new way of doing things.

Successful advertisements will use messages that trigger an emotional response and emotions are triggered by clear benefits of the message, i.e. people are not really interested in the features of your product; they are only really concerned with the benefits those features will bring. So focus on your audience’s desires and the solutions.


Where your adverts appear is essential to their effectiveness. You need to know your target audience and should know where they are most likely to visit when online.

To be most effective, your adverts should only appear on websites that are relevant to and popular with your audience. Web users are getting very good at ignoring advertisements and adverts placed subtly on pages will almost certainly be ignored.

On the other hand everyone hates pop-up ads. If people don’t already have pop-up ads blocked then they have learned to close the pop-up window without reading it.

Online ads work best when they appear in the right context, which is in the right place in front of the right people and ideally at the right time.


Consider how effective each type of ad format might be. Banner ads – boxes that appear, usually prominently, on a page – used to be the most popular, but this has waned as their novelty has worn off and users increasingly simply ignore them.

Pop-up ads are associated with dodgy offers that are inappropriate to our industry. Adverts that appear between a link and the target page still generate an audience if the target page is really wanted, but users are increasingly intolerant of them. They are also comparatively pricey.

If you do opt for a banner ad you should be aware that most users will look at a photograph before they look at a headline. Apparently vertical pictures are more attractive than horizontal ones and the ad layout should be such that the reading progression leads the user to the response device, usually a hyperlink.

But for this to work you must have the right images. Stock photography will rarely do; if the user cannot tell what your business is from the image then you are using the wrong image.

Finally on photographs: always add a caption. Photographs without captions are often just wallpaper. Good photographs with captions mean that the caption is read even if the ad copy isn’t.


Online advertisements must always be interactive, otherwise there is little point in bothering. To gain a response adverts need to be concise and attractive, but to get your message across you will need to persuade viewers to go to the next step.

Usually this will be a page within your website that will be dedicated to the message in your ads. This landing page is the perfect place for explanation and justification if needed.

And remember: you need not direct visitors just to your own site; you might prefer to take them to your Twitter page to have them follow you, or your Facebook page or YouTube site.

Rick Osman works for Highwire Design, an agency that specialises in web-based solutions for the construction industry – see – as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about more about construction marketing and relevant events at

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