What is Banner Blindness?

by Sean Work

Last updated on November 24th, 2017

A term used in online advertising to describe the ineffectiveness of banner advertisements due to their oversaturation and lack of intent-based messaging.

Some say the term “banner blindness” is outdated. As if there was a point in internet history when banner advertisements started to disappear.

Yeah, right..

If anything, banner ads and online advertisements are more prevalent than ever. We have more internet users than ever, and more forms of online advertising than ever.

How many of you have skipped a YouTube video ad?

How many of you use ad blocking software?

How many of you have clicked “X” on one of Neil Patel’s pop-ups? (heheh… sorry Neil)

We not only ignore conventional banner ads, we do everything we can to get all forms of advertising out of our way.

So, uh, advertisers…do you see a problem here?

I think most of us can agree it has to do with the issue of intent.

The average internet user is online to do something specific. Most of them are on a hunt. They don’t need distractions. Think of it this way: ads are like jungle foliage that internet users must hack away to find that hidden temple that houses the answer they’re looking for.

Do you want to spend money on foliage that’s going to get chopped up and discarded in the gutter of the information superhighway?

Yeah, I’m trying to use as many outdated internet terms as possible today. Still haven’t found a good spot for “surfing the web.” 🙂

Banner blindness applies to your website CTAs as well

Banner blindness doesn’t only apply to advertisers. It applies to anyone operating a website.

On the one hand, it’s a good rule of thumb to make your website calls-to-action big and prominent. There’s usually a greater chance that they’ll be noticed and acted upon. But on the other hand, when certain website elements come off as too promotional, like this one:

…then they may also suffer from banner blindness.

What do you do?

Well for starters: test. And that really means start hypothesizing first. Ask yourself, “what’s going to make someone WANT to take action on this element?” Structure your hypotheses and corresponding A/B tests around that line of thinking.

While we’re on the topic, I suggest taking a peek at our A/B Test Planning Guide to help you structure your tests properly.

Google is penalizing pop-ups on mobile

Perhaps you have read all 2,240,000 articles on how to improve your pop-up conversion rates.

improve popup conversions

And now you’re getting some seriously sick conversion rates. Yippie!

Sorry, I’m going to have to rain on your parade.

Google is going to penalize your site for doing all that hard work.


The most obvious solution is to segment your pop-ups by device. You may want to try only serving pop-ups to desktop visitors and try another form of converting magic on mobile users.

Most pop-up plugins and services allow you to employ this type of segmenting. Just dig around in the settings. If they don’t, then I highly recommend you switch providers.

Publishers: Watch those ad networks! They’re killing your UX

The brute force way to make money as a publisher is to jam pack every webpage of your site with as many ads as possible.

Cover so much of your real estate with ads, you’ll make money just off inadvertent clicks alone.

Well, maybe…

Yep. This is the philosophy that most news websites use. And for some, it works. The only issue is the visitors of these type of sites usually experience horrible browser performance issues. All that JavaScript running on your webpage is slowing down their computers, sometimes crashing them. Many times, I’ve had to simply restart my phone because of some stupid popup ad that crashed my mobile browser.

If you’re running a news site or an ad-driven website, you might want to think about your customers, meaning your readers. Perhaps it would be in your best interest to give them a pleasurable reading experience, so they keep coming back. Don’t make them hate your site.

Only deal with ad networks that don’t cause performance issues, and also consider getting your readers to join your subscription list. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re jam-packing your site with ads, you’re effectively competing against your own ability to collect subscriber sign-ups. Think about it.

Some ideas on how to spend your advertising dollars wisely

1. Ad networks are easy, but have you thought about specific website placements?

Sometimes it’s worth making direct deals with individual niche websites for ad placement. For one, you get to negotiate, and two, you can convey your intent more effectively. It’s the anti-shotgun blast approach.

2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) for desktop search only

This is a very specific form of PPC advertising. In this case, you’re only running ads on search engine search results pages (they’re not being displayed on partner websites), and you’re only serving them to desktop users. Here, you’re isolating a very particular audience that’s doing a search from a desktop computer. Generally, your ROI is much higher because you can match the intent of the search with a perfectly formatted advertisement. And you can granularly create one ad tailored to each searched keyword. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

3. Instagram and similar services

If you think about user behavior on Instagram, the whole “search intent” thing kind of gets thrown out the window.

People who use Instagram usually just sit there sifting through their feed looking at photos. This presents a very interesting opportunity for online advertisers. Finally, the browsing user has put their machete down, and is kicking back enjoying a nice spot of jungle tea while scrolling through their Instagram feed.

How can you take advantage of this moment?

For starters, you can target based on user interest and the type of accounts they follow. With that knowledge, you can throw in an irresistible offer, clever video or gorgeous photo to either create engagement, get a message across, or get them to take action. You have them right where you want them, so don’t blow it!

Alright, web surfers…

Ha! I got to use the term after all :). Do any of you have a better jungle clearing gif image I can use? If so, post a link the comment below.

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Sean Work

Between rocket science and space shuttle design at Boeing and NASA to building the Kissmetrics blog to 1 million monthly readers, I’ve also helped dozens of online businesses with PPC, SEO, and Conversion Rate Optimization. If you have any questions about generating success online, write me a question now at writesean.com.


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  1. Richard Bayston says:
    November 14, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Sean, how’s this? giphy.com/gifs/machete-UhIrTuix4oQlW

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