The beginner’s guide to analysing and optimising display advertising
7 min read

The beginner’s guide to analysing and optimising display advertising

Analysing and optimising display advertising is a key strategy for digital marketers.

Today, marketers are able to measure and use data to enhance the performance of a display campaign like never before. But how?

Learn what you need to know to successfully analyse and optimise your display campaigns, as we answer the following questions:

  • Why optimise display advertising before publishing?
  • How do you measure display advertising?
  • What is a good CTR?
  • What is the best practice of optimising live published ads?
  • How do you A/B test display campaigns?
  • Why do you need to analyse display advertising transparently?

Why optimise display advertising before publishing?

Reason 1: Avoid being rejected by ad networks

Ad networks have strict requirements that display ads must follow. Expect a banner set to be rejected if an HTML5 animation exceeds 15 seconds, or an ad file size exceeds set limits. Therefore, it is critical that all the ads you upload adhere to the requirements of the ad networks you intend to use and avoid unnecessary repetitive design tasks.

Reason 2: Increase the speed and efficiency of your ads

Another thing to note is that an ad that is too “heavy” does not perform. Text, images, or code that causes an ad to contain more than 150 kilobytes damages the browsing experience of consumers.

Moreover, the IAB emphasizes that all display ads must load fast, and contain non-disruptive content. Basically, the smaller the file size of your ad, the better!

Reason 3: Target viewers with refined creative

Use data and previous campaign performance to make your creative decisions. Take the time to create hypotheses for the creative choices you make in your display ads.

Always use this best practice. Yet, sometimes this is not enough to predict how your ad will perform. Try to use your own data and research to learn what works specifically for a campaign or a certain audience.

Reason 4: Save time and save budget

By avoiding issues with ad networks, adopting the IAB’s LEAN ad guidelines, and designing your ads with hypotheses you ultimately save on production time and budget.

Optimising production processes and removing repetitive tasks is the first step towards improved ad performance and a better ROI.

How do you measure display advertising?

Once you have pre-optimised and published your display campaign, it is crucial that you measure its performance while it is live.

Display advertising metrics measure how often your ad is seen, how effective is it at catching the eye, and whether your ad brings in revenue for your business.

Remember! Measuring the performance of your display advertising depends on the types of campaigns you are running and your chosen KPIs. Always use the metrics most suitable for your campaign. For example, click-through rate is associated with lead generation and impressions and reach are good for measuring awareness.

Key display advertising metrics

Here is a quick summary of the various display campaign metrics you can use:


Impressions are a measure of the number of times an ad appears on a site. It is simply a record of the number of views an ad receives.


This is a similar metric to impressions, yet it represents the number of people who see your ad, not just the number of views.


Typically measured as a percentage, this demonstrates how many people have decided to interact with your ad. This could include actions such as clicking, liking, or more complex actions such as filling in a form in a banner.


The number of people who click on your ad after seeing it.

Cost-per-click (CPC):

The total spent on a campaign divided by the number of clicks on those ads.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA):

The total spend divided by your total number of conversions.

Return on investment (ROI):

The total revenue from your campaigns minus the total cost of running that ad in order to calculate the net profit.

Post view conversion:

This records when a user views an ad but converts on the site at a later date.

Post click conversion:

When someone clicks your ad and then proceeds to convert on your website

Note: Some metrics are more reliable and useful than others for different types of campaign. Before you begin a campaign, research the best metrics to use and stick to them. Plus, make sure you have access to reliable and transparent data for your ad analytics.

What is a good click-through rate (CTR)?

This is a common question that many digital marketers ask themselves, and it is one that can vary a

Why is CTR such an important metric?

In its simplest form, click-through rate measures how often people who view an ad end up clicking on it.

It is a useful metric for display advertising as it is a clear indicator of engagement with a potential consumer. What’s more, the quality of the imagery, ad positioning, copy, and many other elements that impact CTR can be controlled and altered by the advertiser.

CTR can vary a lot between display advertisers

Indeed, looking at data from the Google Display Network, the average CTR can vary widely, with the benchmark across all ad formats and placements for a display ad CTR around 0.05%.

Furthermore, the CTR for different industries and organisations can vary because audiences for different campaigns consume display advertising in different ways.

For example, a static brand awareness campaign for a brand advertising the latest update to a piece of office software will have a lower CTR compared to a dynamic travel ad featuring in-banner video and real-time product offers.

What is the average CTR for Creative Management Platform (CMP) users?

The best way to achieve a good CTR in display advertising (alongside a good ROI) is to use a creative management platform (CMP).

The fact is, being able to produce display advertising with impact is a crucial way of achieving a good CTR. However, the key to impact is being both data-driven and creative; a strategy a CMP assists with greatly.

For example, Bannerflow CMP data (across all industries and brands) suggests the following CTR averages for banners built and controlled using a creative management platform:

Notes: Different formats of display ad have different CTRs too. For example, large sizes, such as the leaderboard (728×90) will achieve a better CTR because of their prominent positions and size on a webpage.


What is the best practice for optimising live published ads?

Once you have published a display campaign, work does not end there. Indeed, for many marketers this only the beginning of a display strategy.

For example, it’s important to analyse the effectiveness of your campaigns. Measure campaign costs, conversion rates and continually A/B test to determine what imagery and messaging is working for your brand.

Tip: Measure conversion rates

It goes without saying but both during, and at the end of your campaign, measure the conversion rate of your campaign.

Remember, a conversion is not necessarily a consumer transaction and can mean whatever you have set for your display campaign. For example, it may be a charity seeking sign-ups from volunteers for life-saving courses.

Tip: Speed and moment marketing boosts performance

The world never stops turning and the day your campaign launches could be very different to the one you planned weeks ago. Therefore, being able to react and edit published ads in real-time, across the web, is now a necessity.

Use a CMP to control your display ads and you can update entire campaigns in an instant. Whether counteracting a competitors offer, or exploiting a unique opportunity, or simply removing a copy error – it’s a strategy that saves you time and money.

Tip: Build a post-click landing page

Remember! Do not forget to build a post-click landing page to link to. Studies have shown that creating a visual link between ads and landing pages creates a sense of continuity and improves results.

Tip: Test your ad creative

Testing variations of ad creative is the ultimate best practice. And if marketers use a CMP, have access to live ad analytics, and update ads in real-time, it’s easy to do.

Previously, advanced display ad testing and live optimisation were either too slow or too expensive to work effectively. However, in-house marketing teams using the right ad tech can now perform what was once a complex process with ease.

How do you A/B test display campaigns?

A/B testing is the most common form of testing different variations of ad creative. It is proven to boost performance and is a display campaign optimisation strategy practised by many high-performing brands.

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is simple. You test two variants of the same display ad, with slightly different creative. For example: CTA, image, or variation of copy. You then measure which ad achieves better performance. You then begin again with another element.

The basic process of A/B testing

Ján Juriček, a display advertising expert at Bannerflow describes the basic process of A/B testing in six steps:

  1. Create the A version of your display ad, in all the sizes required for your campaign.
  2. Duplicate the A version to create a B variant of the set.
  3. Change the copy, image, CTA colour, etc, to create a design variation for your B ads. But remember to test only one element!
  4. Next, publish both versions simultaneously and set the display frequency to 50/50.
  5. Use your analytics tool to compare and measure the performance of the two versions. However, only do this after you have enough impressions to notice performance trends.
  6. Finally, adjust the display frequency accordingly. For example, if the B version performing better then set its frequency to 60-70%.

Note: When A/B testing, it is best practice to keep audiences separate. Plus, any results you use should always be based on post-view conversions. This way your results are transparent and correct.

Why do you need to analyse display advertising transparently?

A key to successfully measuring performance is to use transparent and reliable data. Without accurate performance data, it is impossible for marketers to measure and analyse the success of a display ad.

What is transparency in display advertising?

Transparency is knowing your display ad performance is correct. It is trusting your data provider, or agency, or in-house team to only use data that is real and not flawed.

This should be easy but that isn’t always the case. Indeed, according to a recent survey of European marketers, 87% were concerned with the transparency level of media agencies!

For digital marketers that want efficiency, agility and a better ROI – none of this is possible without live transparent data (and a platform to use it).

How can you achieve transparency?

Having total control over your digital advertising processes is step one of gaining transparency over your display advertising.

Step 1: Take your marketing in-house

In a recent report on the state of in-house marketing, we learnt that many marketers in Europe reported moving some – if not all – of their marketing in-house in an effort to increase transparency.

By having full ownership over your production and analytics, you can see there and then how your ads are performing, and how to make adjustments.

However, If you’re not ready to move your display advertising in-house there are simple adjustments you make to your brand-agency relationship.

For example, encourage openness and real-time oversight on how your ads are performing and make sure they keep the time it takes to amend an ad down to a minimum.

Step 2: Work with a creative management platform (CMP)

To get the most out of your data – a creative management platform such as Bannerflow provides you with transparency over both your creative production and ad analytics.

Since the production/editing time is reduced to a minimum, there’s virtually nothing stopping you from making real-time updates of your creatives based on their performance.


The ability to analyse and optimise display advertising is an essential skill for in-house marketers. What’s more, if you measure performance, analyse data, and optimise you will achieve a better ROI.

It is a strategy that with the right tools is easy to do too. Through using ad tech such as a creative management platform, or CMP, even the smallest in-house team can produce advanced display advertising that performs.

If you would like to find out more about how your marketing team can benefit from the unique features of a CMP, then get in touch, or apply for a demo.

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