5 Essential Elements for Web Banners That Convert to Sales

Does your web banner have what it takes to convert from clicks to sales?

Banners and promotional graphics are as ubiquitous on the web as celebrity gossip and playful pet photos (or disgruntled pet photos — take your pick). But how do you know if a web banner will do its job to bring visitors to your site and get them to purchase?

Here are five essential elements for web banners that will produce sales and clicks for your website.


1 – Targeted placement

If you’re selling office equipment and you place your banner on a stay-at-home mom blog, chances are it isn’t going to see much action, let alone conversions, even if it has perfect elements and form.

Know who’s into you (and who’s not), and let that drive where you spend your banner advertising dollars on the web.

Seth Godin has some great advice about identifying your prime audience and creating products that they care about.


2 – Lead with an attention-grabbing headline

This can be the incentive to the customer (see Element 3 below) or any thought-provoking question or statement. Appeal to a specific need with a sense of urgency.


  • Get the latest version of _____ (for software or app download)
  • No time to file your taxes? (for tax preparation services)
  • Do you know where batteries go when they die? (for landfill alternative recycling)

The possibilities are endless, and it may take some experimentation to craft wording that will gain the broadest appeal. But couple a winning headline with a strong photo or illustration and you’ve got the potential for some serious second looks.


3 – Provide an offer or incentive

I cannot stress this one enough.

Give your audience a REASON to engage with your page or site. Put an incentive directly in front of them: something that they can gain, something they can get excited about immediately and connect to emotionally. The emotion is what allows them to relate on a personal level and brings with it the drive to go deeper — to dive headfirst into your brand, product or service. (Read more on marketing emotion and excitement in Tips for Marketing That Sparks an Electric Reaction.)

The incentive or offer is often referred to as the value proposition. It can be part of the headline or, depending on space, be shown elsewhere in the banner. Essentially, it is the benefit that the customer can expect to receive. You’re highlighting what they will get from interacting with you, your site, your products, etc.

Options here are endless and can range from a special sale or discount to free trials and downloads.

No room in your budget for discounts or freebies?

Offer a free consultation instead, or consider creating a video or digital document that you can offer for free. You can also post information on your site or blog related to your particular products or field of specialty and use the banner as leverage to draw your audience’s attention to it. Any of these approaches will be valuable to a potential customer or client.


4 – Have a clear call to action

You’ve already given the audience a reason to click through — now you just need to prompt them to act. The call to action is the invitation. It’s creates the urgency, the drive for them to take the next step.

Choosing a strong action-oriented verb will help cinch the deal and ensure an instant response. I personally love combining an imperative verb with the word “now”, although you can use any word combination that relates to your specific offer or content. Above all else, keep the call to action short — just a few words at most.

Following is a list of several strong calls to action to consider for your web banner:

  • Buy Now
  • Shop Now
  • Learn More
  • Get Yours Now (or “Get Your Free ___”)
  • Sign Up / Sign Up Now
  • Get Started
  • Start Now
  • Join Now

Critical to the success of the call to action (CTA) is making it a strong element that stands out from other parts of the banner. There are many ways to go about this, but one of the most effective is to present the CTA as a button. This transforms that portion of the banner from a flat plane into being perceived as an actionable area that is clickable or tappable. (The user consciously or unconsciously will go, “Oooooo…what’s that?” and hover over the button at the logical next step.)


Notice the difference between the CTA formats in the two banners below. The button format on the right is much more prominent and stands out compared to the text-only format on the left, which easily gets lost among the other elements.



You can also make the CTA button more noticeable by highlighting it with a contrasting color, one that stands out from the background or other elements of the banner.

There are many schools of thought on colors for best user engagement and getting a particular audience to click through at a high rate. Personal experience has taught me that it’s not the colors of the button and background themselves that matter, but how the two colors interplay.

One easy way to achieve strong contrast is to choose a complementary color (=one that is opposite on the color wheel). This gives you freedom to work with the background and other banner elements in whatever way is needed and simply use their complement when it comes time to set the button color.

You can see in these examples that CTA button color can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of the banner:



5 – Use legible text

Although this may seem like a basic point to make, if those who see your banner can’t read what it says, then they’re less likely to engage with it — and they almost certainly will not click through to visit your landing page or site.

Make sure that all text and characters are of sufficient size to be clear and legible. This is especially important for calls to action and any related offer codes or coupon codes for incentives that you’re providing. I’ve seen banners on so many occasions that were catchy or had a nice look but whose CTA or offer code only showed as a miniscule, pixelated jumble. These did not entice me to click. Instead, they inadvertently lead my attention elsewhere because I didn’t have all of the information at hand that I needed for engaging.

While there is no hard and fast rule, it’s safe to say the smaller the text, the more basic the font you should use (for example, no scripts or italics at small sizes). When in doubt, err on the side of bigger and bolder text using a sans serif font for clarity.

The smaller the text, the more basic the font you should use.

The same tactics apply to your logo, if it is part of the web banner (and for branding purposes it should be in the majority of cases). Be sure that the logo is sized such that your business/company name can be read and the eye can perceive general impressions of graphic elements, even if not every detail.


What are some of your favorite web banners?

We want to know which banners you love, and why! Tell us who catches your attention most often with their online advertising.




Rob is Co-Owner of Cortica Creative Design and writes about graphic design for marketing and advertising. He loves fonts and typography, Bauhaus, Mirò, Max Beckmann, wine, anything with chocolate, and dabbling in various aspects of linguistics. Follow him on Twitter at @RobTDuvall or connect on

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