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Ad blindness

© November 2005 Anthony Lawrence

Ad blindness is the result of our ability to ignore the predictable. I don't "see" the ads in Gmail because they are always the same color and always in the same place.

How much you are affected by ad blindness in your own advertising efforts may be partially affected by your visitors habits: do your visitors typically read multiple pages per visits, or are you like me, where Google and other search engines drive thousands of people to individual pages.

If the latter, you need be less concerned about all your pages carrying the same style ads and more concerned that you don't look like everyone else. In that latter case, you might have better results from choosing an ad layout or position that is less usual seen: your visitor's blindness comes from the rest of the Internet, not from your other pages.

However, it's probably best to do different layouts on different pages, or use ad code that can vary ads randomly. I do this heavily at Aplawrence.com; if you spend a minute or two there leafing through various articles you'll see a wide assortment of ad types and positions. I do this with a CGI script that varies the ads using some fairly complex rules that are partially designed to insure readable pages (for example, never running skyscraper ads on index pages) but mainly have the purpose of bringing variety to the display.

Another thing to consider is your general site design. Most blog sites today are depressingly familiar, probably because so many bloggers use the same Content Manager Systems. This one's color scheme may be different that that one's but otherwise everything is in the same exact place, and that strongly contributes to ad blindness. I write my own content management code and if you look at any of my sites (including this one), you'll see that the design is very different from the "typical". That's very deliberate and has little to do with any design goals on my part but everything to do with preventing ad blindness and making me stand out. Also, if you do get a visual memory of an article on my site, you aren't as likely to confuse it with somewhere else because the design is so different, so that can help with loyalty and return visits.

Ad blindness is not totally avoidable. Some people even adjust their browsers to block banner ads, so they'll never even see your ads at all. But for the rest, mixing in variety can make a big difference.

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Thu Sep 15 19:09:57 2011: 9847   anonymous


I found a great solution. I guess another company really spent a lot of time and money trying to fix this problem. Its a WordPRess plugin called WP Slide2See. What they do is hide the ad till a reader clicks on links. It then slides the ads out. Its an interesting concept. Check out their video on their site. It explains how it works. I just started using it. Its really cool how it works.
heres the link (link)

Tue Sep 20 12:20:55 2011: 9866   TonyLawrence


I'll disagree a bit. If everyone did that, it would make me loathe to click on ANY link I see.

Tue Sep 20 13:47:52 2011: 9867   BigDumbDinosaur


What they do is hide the ad till a reader clicks on links. It then slides the ads out.

Great way to drive away viewers of your site. If I clicked on a link to something on your site that might be interesting and an ad popped out, that would be the last time I'd visit your site. This advertising mania has gotten way out of hand and I wouldn't buy the product or service from anyone who advertised that way, not matter how badly I needed whatever it was that was being sold.


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