First of all, from my experiences, banners work great in almost every vertical, but they work particularly well in dating campaigns. Dating traffic is especially keen on visualization. People don’t go to dating sites to read articles or to shop for electronics. They are there because they are bored, and these sites provide an extremely low investment way for them to waste their time. They can sit in their boxers, hop on, and send 10 messages in 10 minutes.
Let me explain this state of being: the users are completely non-committal, and self-will and purpose go out the window. They are not on there to accomplish anything in particular. They didn’t get on with the mission of sending 10 messages a day. They got on that day and happen to send 10 messages because they felt like it at the moment; because they were bored and they saw 10 boys or girls who were cute. In this state, they are very easily distracted. It’s almost as if they purposefully contracted the shiny object syndrome, and are now asking you to: “Please distract me!”
Remember how people say human beings think about sex every 6 seconds? Well, on dating sites, it’s going on just about every second. That’s why with an effective banner that hooks the user the right way, you will see click-through rates that are much higher than on traditional social media sites. Before a user will ever click on your ad, guess what, they have to look at it. How do you get them to do that? There are three things that control this: positioning, differentiation, and size.
Positioning refers to where the ad is. If the ad space is below the fold on most people’s screens, I will never purchase that space unless I know below the fold is where most of the user activities occur. Fully understand the real estate that you are purchasing and use it to your advantage. For example, if your ad always appears by a user’s message compose page, try pointing an arrow at the “To” line and say “Why message her when I’m online now? Click me to say hi.”
Differentiation refers to the ad’s ability to standout in the context of the page. A sure way to get someone to see your ad is to be annoying as possible with flashing animations and blinding colors, but not only will it likely be against the policy of the site, it will also likely annoy the user into not clicking. The ad should give the user a positive feeling. There’s not much to the last point, but the simple fact is that the bigger the ad is, the better the performance.
So now you’ve gotten a glance from your target user, congrats, you’ve earned a split-second attention-span equivalent to that of a 6 year old. To attract their attention for a second longer, your banner needs to have a visual focal point. I’m sure there are some genius marketers out there that have figured out some very specific types of images that work well for certain types of traffic, but the tried and true way of getting high CTR’s on dating ads is to sell sex and fantasy, because that’s what coincides with the instant gratification mindset of the users on the site, both male and female.
Let’s not beat around the bush: for men, breasts and butts work. Get the most revealing images while still adhering to your traffic source’s guidelines. For females, it’s a little trickier. Muscles definitely do well, but key to their hearts is selling them a fantasy. Whether it’s a firefighter fantasy, a doctor fantasy, or a wealthy man fantasy, there has to be some unique hook that gets their mental juices flowing. But the most important rule of thumb to my suggestions above is this: the images must be believable. Amateur images have again and again outperformed professional images. The reason is the viewer can more easily believe and imagine the pictured person being real. They actually think they will meet this person if they click. The more real you can make this person seem the better. It could be saying where they’re from, showing their online status, showing when they last logged in, or displaying how many messages they’ve received in the last 24 hours.
Along the same lines, keep your banner real by keeping it SIMPLE. I cannot stress that enough. The vast majority of banners out there are too crowded. Designers often have trouble leaving space. They think they must use the space given and when possible make the canvas fancier. There are banners with elaborate borders, too many colors, and too many places the viewer is supposed to look when they should only look twice: the image and then a short copy. There shouldn’t be much else distracting them. The more elaborate your banner the more the user is aware that it’s a banner. They don’t care about the design; they really just care about the image. And lastly, never underestimate the power of white space, particularly in a crowded site.
For your copy, again keep it simple. You shouldn’t be writing a paragraph outlining the features of the site you’re promoting. The users have such a short attention span that you’re lucky if you can push one thought through their head. Write a captivating headline that focuses on ONE, not two, unique proposition. What is the one thing that you want to get across with your add? If you have a photo of a firefighter, you better be promising them something congruent with that. Speak directly to your audience as if you are the ad and you are sitting right in front of them. Engage them. End it with a call to action.
I hope that gives you a clearer approach to banner ads for your dating campaigns. Get out there, make a bunch of ads, and start testing. There’s no better teacher than seeing thousands of failed ads through your own test over time.