What is Banner Blindness? (How to Beat it with SEO)

What exactly is banner blindness?

Banner blindness (also known as ad blindness) is the deliberate or unintentional avoidance of commercial information.

Marketers, ironically, are mostly to blame for the situation. As people began to ignore advertisements, marketers purchased more of them. As interaction declined, advertising became bright, sticky, and downright obtrusive. Consumers, however, learnt to tune them out as well.

Users eventually become so adept at ignoring banners that the practise became instinctive, and it has even permeated search results.

Key Points

  • Banner blindness affects more than just paid advertisements; it also affects SERPs.
  • People are often unwilling to click on anything that resembles an advertisement.
  • As a result, organic listings receive 20X the number of clicks as paid ads.
  • If you solely use PPC advertising in the SERPs, you'll miss out on a lot of traffic.
  • Investing in SEO transforms your website into a long-term asset that generates visitors and sales for years to come.

For years, banner blindness has been a prominent digital marketing topic. Indeed, it has an impact on all facets of digital advertising, including display ads and social media. But did you know that ad blindness has an effect on Google's SERP?

We examined user behaviour data as well as banner blindness statistics to determine how consumers engage with banner ads and search results. The findings were more concerning than we had anticipated.

Ad aversion in SERPs is revealed by a banner blindness study.

Banner blindness study was undertaken by the Nielsen Norman Group to track eye movements. They discovered that web visitors ignored ads at the top of search engine results pages (SERP). Given how close they are to organic listings, this is surprising. Look at this:

Furthermore, Google advertising are visually distinct from standard banner adverts in editorial material with rich media. So, why did people just scroll past them?

Answer: It's a learned behaviour.

The eye tracking study demonstrated that searchers were not seeking for visual signals to locate advertisements. Instead, internet users discovered that advertisements appear at the top of the page. Then they just utilised selective attention to pass over the portion that they thought was most likely to contain advertisements.

The important phrase in the preceding sentence is "most likely." This is why:

The eye tracking study discovered that searchers not only deliberately avoided ads, but they also "poisoned" neighbouring information. In other words, consumers avoided not only paid advertisements, but also any place that their mental model linked with ad space.

Conclusion? Banner ad blindness is really effective. The majority of searches do not want to interact with anything that resembles an advertisement.

Yikes! There must be a better method to interact with and engage an audience. And, thankfully, there is...

Organic clicks rule the SERPs.

Want to catch internet shoppers' attention in the face of advertising blindness? The key is search engine optimization (SEO).

Every day, potential customers conduct billions of searches (40,000+ every second!). If you can solve their difficulties, you will gain lifelong consumers. (Another 120,000 searches were made while you were reading this.)

Organic listings in the SERPs get 20X more clicks than sponsored advertisements.

According to a 2014 Advanced Web Ranking research, organic search results on Google's first page received 71% of clicks. In the same year, Conductor found that organic listings accounted for 64% of all SERP clicks. In instance, the same Conductor study discovered that paid advertising accounted for only 6% of clicks.

That was back in 2014! However, in order to combat banner blindness, Google paid ads have undergone substantial changes since that time:

  • Google deleted text advertisements off the right rail.
  • More advertisements appear above the organic results.
  • Extensions and other features increase ad real estate
  • Ads now seem quite similar to organic listings.

Google advertising, for example, used to have a different coloured background. Today, though, they have no background colour at all. Google inserted a conspicuous yellow "Ad" label once the colourful backgrounds were removed. That was clearly too obvious, so it subsequently changed the colour to green, matching the colour of the link next to it. Again, it was too obvious, so Google removed the green fill from the label and replaced it with a thin green edge.

You'd assume that those modifications would have reduced banner blindness...


Paid advertisements simply do not feel the love. Although organic click-through rates have marginally decreased, according to a Jumpshot and Moz study, those listings still create 20X more clicks than online advertising. (It's also worth noting that paid ad CTR has been flat since 2015.)

The basic line is that organic listings just deliver more clicks and visitors. Period.

If you rely just on PPC to generate traffic, you're missing out on a massive amount of potential traffic. That is not to imply that PPC is unimportant. However, the marketing ROI for organic traffic is significantly larger than that of bought traffic.

Do you need further proof?

Using SEO to Overcome Banner Blindness

Stridec, as an SEO business, is a firm believer in the potential of organic search to overcome banner blindness.

For example, within the first seven months of our collaboration, we established an SEO strategy for an ecommerce website that increased a new brand's organic search traffic from zero to more than 530,000+ monthly organic website visitors. You can only image how much it would have cost to buy that traffic through sponsored search with a click through rate of 6%.

Throughout the years, we've assisted several companies in achieving remarkable organic development. Companies who invest in enterprise SEO will be positioned to succeed as ad blindness continues to plague the SERPs.

Building a long-term asset

Aside from the issue of ad blindness, PPC does not offer long-term value to a web page. In other words, after your campaign expires, the traffic stops.

An investment in SEO, on the other hand, can convert your website into a traffic flywheel that delivers higher ecommerce revenue for years (when done right).

Consider it similar to the difference between renting and buying a home. You pay rent every month and all you get in exchange is the right to live in the house. When you buy, you develop equity, improve the value of the home, and have the option to sell for a profit later on.

SEO transforms your website into a valuable asset that grows in value over time. You gain natural links and mentions, which increase your visibility and bring more website traffic and brand equity.

This is not to imply that PPC does not have a place in marketing. Advertisements can be a terrific short-term solution if you need a rapid spike of visitors or if you're running a time-sensitive deal.

When comparing SEO to PPC, the ROI on SEO is substantially higher.

PPC is similar to lighter fluid. As long as you keep pumping expensive fuel on it, it can provide a surge of traffic. SEO is akin to tossing logs on a fire. The more effort you put into it, the "hotter" your website will become and the longer the results will last.


It makes no difference how high your conversion rates are if you're not obtaining traffic.

Did you know that the first banner ad in 1994 had a click through rate of 44 percent? Unfortunately, those days are long gone, and it is now just scraping by at 0.1 percent since your clients have become numb to banner ads and CTAs.

But that isn't the only problem. Ad blocking technology is becoming more popular on mobile devices, and Google is putting pressure on native advertising and aggressive pop-up text ads to enhance user experience. That means there will be fewer opportunities to earn traffic from paid ad units such as display ads, video commercials, and a plethora of others.

Worse, ad blindness is now affecting sponsored search as well.

Organic listings, on the other hand, bring 20X more traffic. Furthermore, SEO enhances your brand over time and enables you to accomplish compounded traffic growth without increasing your spending exponentially.

Expect more individuals to become hyper-aware of the advertising at the top of Google SERPs, which will increase banner blindness. Capture as much organic real estate as you can, and you might find yourself 20X happier.