How To Get The Most Out Of Your SaaS Display Ads

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January 23, 2024

How To Get The Most Out Of Your SaaS Display Ads

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You’ve likely come across (and perhaps been annoyed by) display ads while browsing the web or scrolling through social media. 

Display ads are, after all, a disruptive form of advertising that clutter webpages and feeds. 

You might wonder if this type of advertising is relevant in 2024 — especially for SaaS with long sales cycles and the need for B2B targeting. 

👉 While used commonly in the eCommerce industry, SaaS companies can (and do) also use display ads with success.

I’ll explain the ins and outs of SaaS display ads so that you can make an informed choice when you’re mulling over paid advertising options.

Should you decide display ads are right for your SaaS marketing goals, you’ll find the key steps and strategies you must know in order to reap their full benefits. 

What Are SaaS Display Ads? 

Display advertising is a form of online advertising across websites, social media, and apps. 

These digital ads appear in different formats like banners, popups, or sidebars. 

By showcasing the features and benefits of a product, SaaS companies can attract potential users through display ads  — like in this example, where Monday uses a banner ad to promote the AI feature of their Sales CRM

Monday SaaS Display Ad
Monday uses display ads to showcase a unique feature of their product.

But, let’s face it — most users aren’t happy to see display ads, so in order to have any impact at all, they absolutely must be well-crafted. 

For this reason, display ads tend to be rich in visuals with concise text and a call-to-action that encourages viewers to learn more, sign up, or engage with the offering.

Take this example from NICE, another SaaS specializing in CRM software. Their banner ad with its strong visuals and concise copy is a great example of compelling display ad design.

Nice SaaS Display Ad
CRM software company NICE takes advantage of display ad visuals.

So now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff. 

Should SaaS Companies Use Display Ads? 

There are so many options to consider when it comes to marketing your SaaS: paid search, organic search, social media, email marketing — it can really make your head spin. 

Display ads are simply one of many options, and I don’t think anyone would argue that display ads are the top choice for SaaS companies. 

However, it’s always a good idea to diversify your marketing channels.

✅ So, it’s worth considering display ads as a piece of your overall marketing pie, especially if you’re looking to reach customers as quickly as possible — as a startup, for example. 

Speaking of, we have a whole article about the importance of SEO for SaaS startups since organic search is one of the most effective ways to gain brand awareness. 

However, SEO efforts are part of a long term strategy, as it can take a while to gain traction from organic search. 

So while you wait for the fruits of your SEO labor, paid advertising can help you gather leads in the meantime. 

Commonly, SaaS companies turn to paid search (SEM) which is a way of reaching users searching for specific keywords or phrases related to your product. 

But that’s the thing — your potential customers have to be searching for your type of product, or at least a solution to the problem your product solves, in order for you to reach them. 

Display ads offer a different approach. 

💡 Display ads have a wide reach, and their biggest superpower is allowing you to connect with niche audiences.

If you know your potential users well enough, you’ll be able to advertise on websites where you know your target audience hangs out. 

Display ads can be a great way to show your product to people simply browsing, allowing you to get an immediate jump on increasing brand awareness and attract leads through email sign-ups or free trial offers, for example.

Benefits of Display Ads or SaaS
Here are the main benefits of using display ads as a SaaS company.

To sum up, it’s hard to answer yes or no on whether display ads are an effective choice for your SaaS. It will depend on your specific circumstances and goals. 

I can tell you this much for certain: if you choose to use display ads, it’s crucial to implement the right strategies to reap their full benefits and maximize the return on your advertising investment. 

Display Ads vs Social Media Ads: Key Differences 

Maybe you’re already set on doing paid advertising, but should you choose social media ads or display ads? 

Both display ads and social media ads aim to increase brand visibility, drive traffic, and generate leads for SaaS companies. 

Since they serve a similar purpose, it’s important to weigh the key differences. I’ll outline them below. 

Reach

When comparing the reach of display ads versus social media ads, it’s clear that display ads have the leg up. 

👉 Display advertising gives access to anyone using the web, and therefore can allow you to reach just about any type of audience you could hope for. 

Social media ads, on the other hand, are limited to reaching those with an account on a given platform. Some social media platforms, however, do have a mind-boggling user base at this point. 

You can read my article on Facebook Ads for SaaS for more on this topic. 

Advertising Data

In terms of advertising data, you can’t get more thorough than social media, as platforms provide data on anyone who interacts with an ad. 

This makes tracking easy and targeting and retargeting a breeze. 

On the other hand, display ads require users to accept cookies or take specific actions, such as signing up for a newsletter, to gather valuable data. 

Conversion Rate

When you’re thinking about advertising channels, conversion rates are probably top of mind. 

According to Business DIT, display ads typically have a meager average conversion rate of 0.55%. On the other hand, social media ads have a slightly higher average conversion rate of 0.71%, making them more favorable in terms of turning interactions into desired actions.

Targeting Ability

Targeting works differentially for display ads vs. social media ads. Display ads rely on contextual targeting, strategically placing ads in the context of specific websites. 

In contrast, social media ads offer a more sophisticated approach by providing detailed targeting options based on demographics, interests, behaviors, or the creation of lookalike audiences.

How To Create Display Ads For SaaS

There are a few key factors to consider when setting up display ads. 

Here, I’ll outline the major steps and how to best approach them from a SaaS perspective.

1. Choose The Right Traffic Source

The first step in setting up display ads is to choose your traffic source or the network that is going to display your ads. 

This step is important for a SaaS business as you want high-quality traffic consisting of business decision-makers. 

Major Ad Networks

The biggest network is the Google Display Network, Google AdSense. It’s an obvious choice for SaaS companies as it has a lot going for it in terms of traffic and scalability. 

The Google Display Network is also a great choice for SaaS because it has a strong reputation and publishes on high-quality websites. 

The downside is that this network has strict requirements when it comes to advertising, so you’ll want to read up on the terms before designing your ad. 

Some other popular Ad Networks to look into include: 

  • BingAds
  • Apple Advertising
  • Yahoo! Network
  • Adsterra

Native Ad Networks

Have you ever noticed sponsored content while scrolling through social media or “recommended” sponsored articles on big websites like Forbes?

These are examples of Native Advertising. The goal is for an advertisement to blend in seamlessly with the content of a website — so much so that users barely even notice it's an ad. 

💡Native Ads often result in higher click-through rates and conversions, since the content blends in seamlessly with its environment and is typically highly relevant to users. 

Some popular Native Ad Networks include: 

  • Outbrain
  • Taboola
  • Content.ad

Direct Buys

When choosing your traffic source, another option is to skip ad networks completely and go directly to the publishers themselves. This means you would contact specific websites and inquire about their display advertising. 

For this option, you’ll have to be confident in your choice of publisher. The plus side is that you can often get good deals this way, as it is possible to negotiate the pricing. 

2. Identify The Best Publisher For Your Product

After you’ve selected your ad network, the next step is to pick out your publisher, or where your advertisements will be displayed. 

This step is obviously crucial as you need to get the right eyes on your advertisement. There are two main approaches you can take to make sure your ads get onto the right websites for your target audience.

First, you can opt to choose websites related to your product or industry. For example, a SaaS specializing in Cloud Services will want to target IT decision-makers or CTOs. In this case, it makes sense to choose technology information or technology news websites as the publisher. 

If you’ve fleshed out a thorough buyer persona, another approach is to target a specific demographic. You can consider aspects of your target audience like political affiliation, age, and general interests. This allows you to pinpoint specific websites (unrelated to your industry) that align with the interests of potential users. 

3. Set The Goal Of Your Display Ad

SaaS products tend to have long buyers’ cycles and pricey subscriptions, so it’s unreasonable to expect to make sales directly from display ads. You’ll need to decide early on what action you want customers to take based on your ad. 

Low-friction conversions tend to be effective for display ads. Consider asking user to:  

  • Sign up for a free trial or demo
  • Download a lead magnet (white papers, E-books, case study) 
  • Sign up for a newsletter.

You’ll want to craft your ad copy and call to action in a way that motivates users to take the desired action. 

Intercom is an example of a SaaS that uses display ads to encourage users to sign up for a free demo of their product. 

Simple visuals and compelling copy incite users to sign up for Intercom's demo.

Display Ad Pricing: How Does It Work?

Display ads tend to be cost-efficient, which can be a big benefit for companies wanting to save on advertising. 

The exact pricing of display ads is going to vary greatly depending on which network you select. 

But even within the same network, costs are going to vary depending on your industry, market trends, and budget. 

Let’s look at the Google Ads Network as an example. Display ad cost can be calculated in two different ways: 

  • Cost per Click (CPC): advertisers pay only when users click on ads
  • Cost per Mille (CPC): advertisers pay a fixed rate for every thousand of impressions 

WebFX compiled survey results from 350 different marketers. 

They found that the average cost per 1000 impressions on the Google Display Network is between $0.11 and $0.50

The average cost per click is between $0.11 and $0.51

When examining prices by industry, they found that the technology sector has an average CPC of $0.51. In comparison, the average CPC for the Google Search Network in the same industry is $3.80. 

Top Strategies For Optimizing SaaS Display Ads

Even though the cost of display ads is relatively low compared with other forms of paid advertising, you obviously still want to get the most return on your investment as possible. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best strategies for optimizing display ad conversion.

Top strategies for optimizing display ads for saas
Use these strategies to get the most out of your display ads.

1. Hone Your Landing Page

Display ads are just the first step through the door. Next, you have to make sure you're ready to receive your potential customers.

In other words, your landing page must be well-optimized to motivate them to complete the desired action. 

This means the landing page must be consistent with your display ad. For example, if users click to download a free trial, the landing page must show how to complete this step. 

2. Take Advantage Of Retargeting 

The conversion rate for display ads is relatively low, but retargeting is one way to help you get your rates up. 

💡 Retargeting is especially critical for SaaS, where buyer cycles can be long. Potential users need to be constantly reminded of your product and get familiar with your brand before making a purchase, or even just before leaving their email address.

For customers who have previously visited your website but have not yet taken any action, display ads allow you to retarget and reach them with an even more enticing offer.

How does is this possible, you ask? 

Well, this method relies on cookies. Basically, a user visits your webpage and gets tagged with a cookie. Later, you can show them your ads on other websites they visit. 

Since you know that the user has at least some interest in what you have to offer, retargeting display ads tend to be highly effective! 

3. Create appealing visuals 

With your audience scrolling through their website and getting inundated by different content, your goal is to create high-quality ad creatives that stop them in their tracks. 

Everything matters — from how you speak to your recipients to the pictures and videos you use. 

But the visuals are no-doubt the most important aspect of display ads. 

When designing your display ad, here are a few practices to keep in mind: 

  • Use bold and contrasting colors to grab your audience’s attention
  • Keep your ads consistent with brand logo and colors
  • Use clean, high-quality images, relevant to the product you sell
  • Keep your file size small in order to ensure quick load times. 
Slack uses consistent branding in their display ads.

4. Use multiple formats

In designing your display ads, you want to combine different ad formats, as your ads will show up on different screen sizes. Designing for multiple sizes and format will give you more opportunities for impressions. 

While it can be tiring to create ads in multiple formats, we advise that you stick to the standards and most-effective banner sizes, such as:

  • 250 x 250 (square)
  • 200 x 200 (small square)
  • 300 x 250 (medium rectangle)
  • 336 x 280 (large rectangle)
  • 728 x 90 (leaderboard banner)
  • 320 x 100 (large mobile banner)
  • 468 x 60 (banner)
  • 300 x 600 (large skyscraper)
  • Etc.

5. Test, measure, and analyze

Test, and then test again! You need to keep testing, measuring, and analyzing till you find what works. 

With key metrics such as impressions, reach, click-through rate, and conversion rates, you can analyze data from your campaign and discover ways to improve. 

For instance, an increase in only impressions is an indication that your ads are reaching a wide audience but getting no conversions. This means you need to improve your targeting, offers, or landing page. 

Wrapping up on SaaS Display Ads

Using display ads for your SaaS business is ultimately up to your discretion. 

The choice depends largely on your goals and target audience.

But if you do choose to go with display ads, make sure you do things right! The right strategies will help you:

  • Generate brand awareness
  • Increase website traffic
  • Boost conversion rates. 

By focusing on the tips and strategies mentioned in this article, you have the necessary tools and knowledge to help you set up display ads that produce maximum returns for your SaaS business.

Alexis Herrington

I’m the new SEO hire at ScaleCrush! A former teacher, I love transforming complex topics into easy-to-understand content. I’m always busy learning all about marketing and love sharing my thoughts along the way.

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