Display advertising is a great tool that helps digital marketers build brand awareness, attract audiences and entice action. But these common mistakes could be ruining your potential for higher conversions and ROI.

Display advertising, also referred to as banner advertising, is one of many channels for digital marketers to get their message out. These ads appear in designated areas of a website or social media platform, which means they are highly targeted and, as a result, more effective.   

Display ads are a good choice for digital marketers because they rely on (creative) imagery. While text-based paid ads are valuable, display ads are made to stand out and capture your audience’s attention. And most of the time, images will do this better and faster than words. 

Facebook posts with images get over 3 times more engagement than those without, and content with relevant imagery gets 94% more views than content without. As if it wasn’t already obvious, image-based advertising is something you need in your marketing toolkit. 

But as you develop a display ad campaign, be mindful of these 4 common mistakes. 

4 Display Advertising Mistakes

#1: Using the same ads over and over

People have decreasingly short attention spans. And with advertising, you’re trying to stand out from not only your competition but also all of the other distractions consumers have to deal with.

That’s why it’s important to provide new information and interesting, creative angles. If you just set and forget one group of ads, your campaign will fall flat over time.

#2: Tracking the wrong metrics

You know you need to switch up ad creative and messaging to maintain your audience’s attention and optimize your campaigns. But how do you figure out what works and what doesn’t?

By tracking performance metrics. 

But be careful with the metrics you’re looking at. Some of them can be misleading. 

For example, click-through rates (CTRs) today are really low, so if you’re only looking at this number to gauge the performance of your ads, you’re going to think most of your campaigns have failed. And remember, not all clicks are equal. What really matters is if people are converting – if they are actually taking action, not just clicking the ad. 

Before you start tracking ROI, make sure you define what “R” (or return) actually means for your campaigns based on your goals and objectives. 

You may be more focused on lead generation and getting a certain number of conversions. While this is easier to quantify, you don’t account for the people who saw your display ad and, instead of clicking, googled your website later and converted there. 

Other times your goal might be brand awareness, which is a little more difficult to track. But impressions and reach are good numbers to start with.   

Establish KPIs, define them based on the goal of your campaign, and then optimize your ads based on these performance parameters.  

#3: Not A/B testing 

In addition to tracking the right KPIs over the life of a campaign, you can also optimize ads based on A/B, or split, testing. 

By testing specific variables in your display ads, you can really home in on what works and what doesn’t for your particular audience. Compare a single variant between otherwise identical ad sets. You don’t want to compare more than one variable; otherwise, you won’t be able to pinpoint why one ad performed better than the other. As the test goes on, you start to get a better picture of what actually works, informing your future ad direction.  

A couple variables you can try testing (and what you should be trying to figure out):

  • Imagery: What kind of creative makes your audience engage?
  • Audience: Which groups of people are more likely to respond?
  • Placement: Which platforms are most effective for your ads?

#4: Creating generic ads 

Testing, optimizing and rotating ads are important. But there’s one core component that must exist for these other points to work: personalized imagery.

If your creative is too generic, over-used by competition or completely irrelevant to your content, audience and brand—like it so often is with traditional stock photography—then you’re going to fall short in your display ad campaigns no matter how much you try to optimize.

To stand out from the crowd and capture your audience’s attention, the imagery must resonate. Select images that are contextually relevant (remember, content with relevant images get 94% more views!). 

The best (and fastest) way to do this is by searching by location. Localized, personalized imagery drives 20% better engagement. This is because, if you do it this way, you’re more likely to find images that are authentic and immediately relevant to your content, audience and brand. 


Looks are everything in display ads. The biggest mistake you can make in display advertising is failing to appeal to your audience. This means you need to pay special attention to the imagery you’re using. By consciously avoiding the above mistakes, you’ll create stronger ads and set your brand apart. 

Imagery is central to your display advertising success. Check out our free social images and see if anything catches your eye. It’ll probably catch your audience’s eye, too. 

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