What does Banner Blindness mean?
If visitors to an Internet page on this website do not perceive advertising banners or banner-like advertising formats, one speaks of Banner Blindness or Ad Blindness. Analyses of Google’s Display Benchmark Tools showed that only one or two users of 1,000-page visitors click on a displayed advertising banner.
The term Banner Blindness refers to Jan Panero Benway and David M. Lane of Rice University in Houston. In 1998, the two researchers conducted usability tests of websites. They asked test persons to look for certain information on a website specially prepared for the study. In order to obtain the information they were looking for, the subjects had the option of clicking on an internal link in the text of the website or on a banner containing a link. For the study, the banners displayed to the test participants were offered in different designs. Some of the forms of appearance were chosen specifically in accordance with common advertising banners, while other display options differed significantly from the widespread standard.
The result of the investigation was the same for all tested banner designs. The majority of the test subjects ignored the banners regardless of their graphical presentation. The study participants preferred the text links built into the continuous text in order to obtain the desired information. In their experiments, Benway and Lane also investigated how the placement of a banner on a website affects the way it is perceived by users. They were able to show that banners positioned at the top of a web page (above the fold) are more often ignored by viewers than banners placed further down.
How is banner blindness created?
Not perceiving online advertising through banner blindness can happen unconsciously or through deliberate ignoring on the part of the user. Site visitors no longer perceive the ads because they are so used to them that banners no longer attract their attention. Through their surfing experience, Internet users have learned which elements and areas of a website often contain advertisements. In their perception, they sort out these elements because they do not serve the actual purpose of their Internet use. This selection usually takes place unconsciously on the basis of the learned patterns. Internet users who do not pursue a specific goal but, for example, surf the Internet to pass the time, tend to click on online ads and are less subject to banner blindness. A further reason for the unconscious oversight of banners is the increasing sensory overload with which some Internet sites confront their visitors.
One form of deliberately ignoring advertisements is the use of ad blockers. These browser extensions suppress the insertion of advertisements on the software side. The user only sees the content components of a called website without the advertising actually placed on the page.
Challenges for online marketing
In online marketing, creative approaches are in demand that counteract the decreasing click-through rates in display advertising caused by banner blindness. One strategy against banner blindness is native advertising. The advertising content is packed into the overall context of a website or application in such a way that it does not look like advertising. At first, site visitors should not even recognize that this is marketing. In Native Advertising, advertising messages are therefore primarily presented in the same format as the content of the page, i.e. the marketing information is published as video, blog entry, editorial contribution or podcast and increasingly distributed via social media channels with the help of influencers.
Already during the design of a website, the clever selection of advertising areas can counteract banner blindness. In heat maps and Gaze plots, eye-tracking studies provide information on which page areas users hardly pay any attention to from the outset and which positions they increasingly perceive.
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