How many ads are too many ads on a web page?

Maybe you can help resolve a conflict at our operation. Some folks want more ads on every page on the web saying it looks exciting; others believe fewer ads would be cleaner and more effective. How many ads should we put our web pages?

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It's not just how many ads you have on a page that matters. A number of factors, including what sizes you use, the design of the ads and whether you rotate them or not also count.

There isn't a "right" answer here. Unfortunately, it depends on your goals, your content, your site design, the style of your publication and a host of other factors. Here are some guidelines that might help:

In general, the fewer ads you put on a page, the more attention they will get. Less really is more when it comes to the web. A cluttered page with lots of ads really reduces substantially the click-through rate for your advertisers. A lot of ads might be appropriate, however, if you are going for a look of cheap and busy and loud, like a deep discount niche site. 

The larger the ads you use, the more attention they will get. So we're not big fans of ads smaller than a standard cube (300x250) and we like larger formats better. You just can't say anything that would motivate a user to click on an ad with very small ads. Remember you need some kind of image and/or strong headline and/or call to action to get user's attention.

We've found that if you rotate ads (using several different ads in a campaign) and they change throughout your site (so they aren't always in the same place), that also brings more attention to the ads. Design also matters. Newspapers do not invest enough attention in designing good web display ads. Most of them are just logos or headlines. That's not good enough. Once seen, it's design and content that then draws click throughs. Does your ad have a call to action? Why would anyone click on it? Just running a company name or logo as a web ad, which is still common, is not really advertising at all.

We generally limit ads individual pages to between one and five. If you get more than that, you really diminish the impact any one ad can have. How many ads work on a page depends on the ad sizes and structure of the page, too.

We also encourage our clients to offer multiple and contrasting sizes. You don't want to go crazy and offer dozens of sizes, but a consistent list of 3-8 sizes would cover all the needs of your advertisers for most newspaper sites.

Bill Ostendorf is president and founder of Creative Circle Media Solutions. He has led the redesign of more than 200 media websites, as well has hundreds of print publications. He is a frequent lecturer on a wide range of media topics. Creative Circle also supplies custom CMS and revenue software platforms to newspapers and designed and built snpa.org. To contact Bill, you can email him or call (401) 455-1555. www.creativecirclemedia.com

advertising, design

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