What is Banner Blindness and How Can Publishers Reduce it?

Updated on: January 9, 2024
Every publisher has to deal with banner blindness (or ad blindness). It can decrease CTR, eCPM, and ultimately end up hurting the ad revenue. So, let's see how you can reduce it.

Did you know the first online ad by AT&T in 1994 had a click-through-rate of 44%? It’s no surprise that the ad procured so much traction (and clicks) as there wasn’t much to do on the novel Internet during those days. In fact, no one was running ads on the website in the first place.

But with the evolution of online advertising, web users have endless things to do on the Internet and relatively a broad range of online ads to look at. The web is full of videos, images, in-text links, and many more types of ads; accompanied by a heap of other elements on the web pages.

When so many things get in the way of users while surfing the web, it is quite obvious to take no notice of ads. According to a survey, nearly 55% of advertisers said that they have wasted thousands of dollars on ads that weren’t even seen by the users.

It is said that banner ads across all ad formats and placements have an average CTR of 0.05%. There could be several reasons behind low CTRs. But one of the main reasons is believed to be Banner Blindness OR Ad blindness.

Banner Blindness is not a new term in the industry. It has been here since 1998 and publishers including The New York Times and Bloomberg have faced banner blindness at a point of time. So, you’re not alone dealing with the situation and the questions why ads are ineffective and what can publishers do to increase the ad effectiveness prompt often.

For this reason, we have written this detailed article to address all the questions related to the banner or ad blindness. But before getting to the solutions, let’s have a quick look at what is banner blindness and the reasons behind it.

What is Ad Blindness or Banner Blindness?

Ad blindness, also known as banner blindness or banner noise is a phenomenon that makes a visitor ignore the ads on the webpage consciously or unconsciously. In general, banner ads are more likely to get ignored by the users as they are static and less interactive than rich-media and video ads.

To understand banner blindness, Nielsen Norman Group, a UI/UX consulting firm, researched a page that had some text, images, and two ads. While the organic content and images captured the maximum users’ attention, the ads placed at the top banner and right rail received the least attention.

Users attention on a webpage

Image Source: NNGroup

If an ad placed at the top could get ignored by the reader, then today’s ads can appear anywhere within a webpage, and hence, they can get ignored by the users due to several reasons. 

What are the Reasons behind Banner Blindness?

Here are some of the reasons why publishers face the banner blindness problem. 

  • Cluttered ads on the webpages
  • Inapt ad placements
  • Flashy ads
  • Irrelevant ads on the webpage
  • Misleading ads’ content.

How to Reduce Banner Blindness?

Cluttered Ads on the Webpages.

Ads and ads everywhere! Here’s the fact – only 76% of visitors actually look at an ad if a website has a bunch of cluttered ads on the page. But almost 100% of visitors look at an ad if the page has only one ad on it. Here’s an example of a webpage with cluttered ads:


As soon as we opened the article’s link, there were two display ads and one video ad. And by the time, we reached the content, there were more than 4 ads in the browser’s viewport.

“Publishers keep adding more and more ads, because yield is becoming so low, and ads aren’t in view long enough to really drive results, leading to incredibly cluttered Web pages.”

– Troy Young, President, Say Media (Src

In the mid of 90s when online advertising started, there were a handful of display ad formats and sizes. Today, ad formats placements aren’t just limited to display ads or text ads. Publishers have numerous choices in ad sizes such as 728×90, 320×50, and so on. Additionally, they have different types of ad formats e.g. in-text link ads, sponsored content ads, and more. 

“In a fully mediated world, consumers have many more choices competing for their attention”


So what can you do? Display the right number of ads.

Online advertising is complex and brimming with various myths. One of the myths is that the more ads publishers have on a page, the more visibility score and revenue they get. The fact is that the lesser ad clutter is, the higher is the ad engagement rate.

Clean Ads Impact on Ad Blindness

Image Credit: Business Insider

Moreover, a clean layout and the right number of ads enhance the site’s perception and ad’s perception as well.

Clean Ads Impact on Users

Besides, with the growing popularity of Ad refresh technologies, you don’t have to add inventories on the pages to increase the number of ad impressions. Instead, you can just implement the refreshing technique on the existing ad slots and get the additional ad impressions. Hence, more revenue.

However, ad refresh hasn’t been preferred by many advertisers as publishers often implement it in the wrong way and violate Google’s policies. Need to know how to refresh ads without violating the rules? Have a look at this article to understand how we do it differently.

Inapt Ad Placements.

Inappropriate ad placements generally command fewer ad dollars for publishers and advertisers. Usually, a majority of visitors scroll a webpage from top left to bottom right.

Reading gravity on a website 

Image Source: Betterposters

If the ad gets placed in the outermost part of the webpage, it is apparent that the ad might not gain the visibility as you wanted.

What can you do?

Analyze the placement of your ads and how your website visitors are interacting with them. This can be easily done by using heatmaps. Not only does a heatmap help in identifying the low-engagement spots, but it also tells about the parts of your website where users are most focused on. 

Furthermore, you can also try these data-driven approaches given in this article to identify the best ad placements on your website. The next step is to take the following actions:

1. Using the right ad placements.

The effectiveness of ads varies with ad placement. The key to reducing banner or ad blindness is to check the right ad placement on your web pages. Ensure that the small ad units aren’t getting separated from the rest of the content.

CNET, one of the news publishers, created a special ad unit known as poster units in the middle of the news pages. So, if you have enough resources, you can create custom ad units that get the best visibility on your websites. 

If you cannot afford right now, then you can experiment with the standard ad placements that perform better than other ad placements. For instance, the viewability of a leaderboard ad (i.e. 728×90) increases to 60% when the ad is placed above-the-fold.

Ad viewability of 728x90 ad size

Image Source: Thinkwithgoogle

But that doesn’t mean that ATF (above-the-fold) ads will always get higher viewability than BTF (below-the-fold).

viewability of ATF and BTF position

So, use the right ad placements with the right ad sizes according to your website layout. But make sure that actual content doesn’t get buried below the ads. Besides, you can run sticky ads at the bottom of the viewport of the web browser.

2. Trying different ad sizes and formats.

IAB-specified standard ad sizes and formats can help in reducing the ad blindness. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment with other ad formats. One such example is the native ad format.

According to eMarketer, US advertisers will spend ~ 64.8% of total display advertising on native ads. Native ads that look like organic content of the website helps to reduce banner blindness to a great extent.

Native Ad Spending

For the same reason, The NYTimes created a new native ad format Flex Frame ad that adjusts their look and feels according to the screen type and page’s layout. NYTimes isn’t alone doing native advertising. There are many as it is easy to serve native ads by Google Ad Manager. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started with it. 

And we aren’t suggesting that everybody should create a new ad unit. But you can use find ad placements that are getting ignored by users more often and display native ad creatives.

Intrusive Flashy Ads

Here’s the harsh truth – users hate the flashy and bright ads and hit the X button on the ad without even thinking for a second. Yes, flash ads were used in the early days of the web.

But animated banner ads or GIFs still exist and a publisher (especially those who are working with ad networks) may bring banner ads that keep flashing all the time. Such ads are considered intrusive and encourage users to move away from the screen. Here’s an example of such ads:

Flashy Animated Ads

What can you do? Understand the psychology of colors.

Color can affect the mood of a visitor whether he/she knows it or not. In addition, different colors create different types of reactions to individuals. Hence, it is important to understand the psychological effects of the color palette on your website visitors.

So, rather than displaying ad creatives with bright colors, use decent colors that do match with your brand’s color palette and do not make the visitors ignore the ads on their devices. Also, make sure that the ads have a clear CTA. An example of a clean ad on VICE:

an ad on vice.com

Irrelevant Ads on the Webpage.

The power of relevance exists everywhere – be it your website’s content or ad’s content. There have been several vendors (e.g. GumGum) that did research on contextual relevance and the results discovered were all the same i.e.

“The visibility and CTR are directly proportional to the contextual relevance of the content of the ad and web page’s content.”

It’s human nature. When you as a user see a product next to similar content, you find it less annoying. Besides, contextual doesn’t always imply displaying ads based on the keywords. One shouldn’t display an ad on a page that doesn’t match with the intention of the page’s content.

What can you do? Give consumers the ads they want.

Giving the right message and content at the right time is a necessity. Over the decade, online advertising as well as consumers have become sophisticated. Now the consumers are less patient than ever. So, if you don’t give them what they want right now, they aren’t going to look. And by giving means giving the right ad content at the right time. 

“Consumers expect brands to make every interaction memorable. This puts brands of all sizes under pressure to deliver more authentic, personalized content to more channels, faster than ever.”

– Loni Stark, Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing, Adobe.

Even if you have relevant content on the website but the ad’s content is out of blue, they are either going to add an ad blocker extension to their browser or stop coming to your website.

“The level of engagement people have with ads depends on how relevant it is and how creative the work is.”

– Michael Zimbalist, Executive Director, Online Publishers Association (Src)

Misleading Ad Content

You might have seen ads with “Download here” or “Click here”. Such ads that try to lure users into purchasing or downloading something contribute hugely to banner blindness. So, if you are also having such ads on your website, it’s time to check the authenticity of the ads.

For example, let’s take a look at this ad:

Misleading ads

Since the ad says that the consumer will get 30% off on the gold products, the landing page should give the same message. But when we clicked on the ad, it redirected to the Google Maps page and from there. And when we checked the stores, none of them was offering the discount as given in the ad.

So, a visitor might have seen the ad for the first time and clicked on it. But if he/she sees the same ad again in the next session, it is obvious that the ad will be ignored. Here’s what Google explains misleading ads:

“Ad reads “Buy tablets from $40,” but upon clicking on the ad, the user finds no tablets available for purchase at $40.”

What can you do? Don’t give false promises to the users. Since the ad creatives are provided by your advertisers, all you can do is to ask the advertiser not to share creatives that are misleading or redirect the users to wrong landing pages.

Such false practices not only lead to ad blindness but also can get you penalized by Google Ad Manager for violating the terms and conditions. So, make sure that the creatives aren’t getting you in trouble and affecting the ad revenue. Here’s a guide to help you check ad creatives and know if any of them are not following the guidelines.

Now that we have covered almost every possible reason behind ad blindness (banner blindness), it’s time to begin with the solutions that will certainly help you. 

What’s Next?

Online advertising is a primary source of revenue for the majority of publishers and a large portion of digital advertising is display advertising. The key to reducing banner or ad blindness is to establish a perfect balance between user experience and ad experience. You don’t have to make huge changes to the website. But the minor changes one by one can help you get rid of banner blindness. Have any other queries related to it? Let us know in the comments below.

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