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Are banner ads effective? [Dear Ginny WTH?]

dear ginny series

Dear Ginny,

After months of paying for banner ads on and seeing no return, I am at a loss as to what to do. The folks at say that we’re not getting clicks because we’ve got the wrong banner ads. Our banner ads promote our web site and our listings. What’s “wrong” with that? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to advertise? Should we be doing banner ads and if so, what should we be advertising?

Inspired by Trish Muench, BrianDavid Realtors, Northern New Jersey

Dear Trish,

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I love this question, because I had a client who was making big purchases on multiple online real estate sites with little return and couldn’t figure out why. It was immediately obvious to me. They were advertising listings on a listing site similar to what you’ve described. If you are going to spend money on banner advertising, which can be an effective marketing vehicle as part of a 360-degree strategy, you need to analyze and then target the site audience and understand why they are there in the first place. And you need to clearly understand what you want as a desired outcome.

Let’s set the scenario: I’m a or visitor. Why am I on either of those sites? To view listings. Why did I go specifically to one of those sites? Because I perceived the site to have a full compendium of listings. Ok, so I’m browsing the site for listings and I see your banner ad. It says, come to my site to see all the listings. Duh! I’m already on a site that has all the listings. What could you possibly have that I don’t see right now? Well, the answer might be plenty, but that’s not what is being displayed on the banner ad.

If you are advertising on a listing site you need to provide that visitor with a darn good reason to leave the site they are on to come to your site. What is that? Maybe it’s deeper content in a specific geographic area. Maybe you offer free moving supplies to sellers, or in depth market reports. My client had environmental data reports on every house in the United States. Might that be a reason to draw visitors away from one site to another? You get the idea? You need to lure the traffic from the preferred site they are on, to yours with a carrot. It can’t just be about listings.

With that said, what is your desired outcome? You want a different sort of banner depending on whether your goal is branding, building Web traffic or generating leads. With branding ads, you won’t expect as many clicks because you are simply attempting to position yourself in that market as the area expert professional through impressions. Web clicks and lead generation take a different approach.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead take a deeper look at what you want as a result and strategically design your banner around that goal. And don’t forget to test messages constantly for effectiveness against your desired result.

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Who wants free marketing advice? Write Dear Ginny WTH with one of your marketing or other questions. I know you have questions and you know I have all the answers. Now write why don’t you?

Ginny is a 360 degree marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in real estate-related fields. She’s held senior level marketing positions at Alain Pinel Realtors and Prudential California, Nevada and Texas Realty. She left the corporate world in 2007 to start her own marketing communications company, Cain Communications. She markets to segments that matter using media that matters. Follow her on Twitter @ginnycain.



  1. Lani Rosales

    May 6, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Ginny, some banner ads on are also hideous, so I hope they’ll take your advice and look at all angles, including graphic design- it might be worth spending a little extra for a professional polish and a unique message. Your advice (as always) is spot on!

  2. Fred Romano

    May 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I get called from about 2 times a month trying to sell me on those banner ads! They say I need to use the “foreclosure” ads because they will generate the most traffic to my site, but the problem is I don’t get involved with foreclosures! UGGG – can’t win.

  3. Colin Egbert

    May 6, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I think the ads on are pretty effective because they are making a pretty nice profit off of advertising and they have a large amount of residual customers

  4. Missy Caulk

    May 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Banner ad’s are not effective in my opinion. At least they have not been for me.

    I agree when a consumer is on a big vendor site looking at a listing, they need a HUGE REASON to leave and go to your banner ad.

    I just don’t get ROI on them.

  5. Doug Francis

    May 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm makes an excellent pitch that they are the #1 site for traffic… and I almost bought the zip-code package too. It was so tempting but a little voice in my head told me to wait and do a little research.

    Look at what you have spent, look at the results, and don’t be afraid to make a decision to allocate your money toward the valuable database you already have in your client base. I bet those relationships will produce a far better ROI with a simple, low key strategy like Facebook.

  6. Mark Eckenrode

    May 7, 2009 at 10:11 am

    great advice, ginny. it’s important to get a full grasp on where the ad will be shown, who will be seeing it, under what context they’re seeing it, and why should they make with the clicky … only then can you start creating a good ad.

  7. Doug Buenz

    July 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    After countless calls from, I finally bought a banner add with the purpose of driving traffic to my web site. The banner add was well done, and focused on LOCAL in-depth content such as neighborhood descriptions, etc.

    Well, it did drive traffic to my web site. Exactly one visit. And that was me making sure the link worked. Otherwise nothing. nada. zilch. nyet. It has been 2 months now.

    If banner ads worked, it would be difficult or impossible to purchase one because the agents would never give them up. Is it possible that a visitor might click on it or contact you and buy a house? Absolutely. It is also possible that Julia Roberts would call me to meet for coffee. Yes. Both are theoretically possible. And just as unlikely in my humble opinion.

    Let other agents spend their money on banner ads, and instead keep your money and call 20 people you know and see if they or someone they knows would like to buy a house. I’m willing to bet your return would be far better. And Julia if you are out there, Tues and Thurs mornings work best for me!

  8. Derek Taylor

    February 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I had a foreclosure banner ad for over a year and did get 31 leads from it. What I have discovered is that you need at least 50 leads to get one closing. I have not closed any of those leads as of yet. I do have one still active. I really don’t think that I got a good ROI from it.

  9. Gordon Corsie

    December 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Good article.
    I guess the bottom line is that if one banner worked, or one concept alone worked completely, the way we are being led to believe by or other vendors, then we would see one agent or one company who had cornered that market, and dominate eachj locality. I have not see that yet. Each new vendor seems to come up with what looks like a ‘holy grail’ of internet marketing and exposure, perhaps a more complete and holistic approach to marketing (a little bit of everything) still seems to work the best.

  10. Jana Candanedo

    August 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I went to a seminar where all the stuff was being sold, and I was suckered into buying a banner and a zip code (buyers assist) One is $159/month and the other was $76/month. I am a new realtor (1 yr) and I am just SICK about it. I don't have the money to just waste, and I thought if I could just get one deal it would pay for itself, but I have done nothing but waste my money. I have called and tried to cancel it but they said it can't be cancelled. I am going to contact the attourney general in my state as well as the better business bureau. There has to be a way that if someone promises something and it doesn't deliver you can cancel the service. I was hoping to find some success stories that people have been able to cancel the service, but I don't see any. I still have 6 months of this and I just can't afford it.

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