Well done! Your homepage is loaded with interesting and useful information, and it’s easy to navigate. Now take it to the next level by asking your display banner to work harder and drive readers to the pages you want them to see most. Display banners sometimes fall into the bad habit of looking pretty but not accomplishing much, and they should instead be considered as a major opportunity to drive sales.

Putting exciting offers and announcements front-and-centre can be the difference between visitors considering your site as purely an informational resource (e.g., a place where they can see listings of new books, backlist, authors, and events) and their viewing it as an go-to destination for finding and buying books. A great banner serves as a key focus point the visitor wants to click on and can result in increased sales and customer loyalty.

Direct traffic to the pages you most want visitors to see

If we look outside the industry for a moment, there’s an interesting case study based on a Dutch company called Bakker that is relevant for any company with an interest in making sales off their website. Bakker specializes in mail-order garden products. The company website was attracting visitors, but those visitors weren’t buying anything. Bakker’s online manager Ben Vooren explained,

“While we were hoping that the visitors would engage with the website and buy from us, they generally left after consuming the relevant information.”

So Vooren ran an A/B test to see what would happen if he added a bargain as well as a subscriber opt-in callout to the Bakker homepage display banner. The result? The new design (with the targeted banner) yielded a 104.99% increase in visits to the “top deals page,” which is exactly where Vooren wanted to direct traffic.


On the left, Bakker’s original homepage. On the right, the new page with the targeted banner.

Reward visitors for their interest and time

In a publishing context, the display banner should serve the publisher’s main current goal, e.g., driving sales, boosting event attendance, encouraging pre-orders, or broadcasting great reviews. Whatever goal it is, it is often best pursued by offering a reward to the visitor who clicks on the banner link. Clicking through might provide the visitor with a free excerpt, a discount, or free shipping.

Key to the reward concept? Include a buy link right beside that reward when the reader clicks through from the banner.

Here are a few screenshots of banner from the homepages of three great American indie presses.

COFFEE HOUSE PRESS

Three books, free shipping, and $10? Yes please. (Coffee House Press is based in Minneapolis, MN, and the screen shot shows their HP carousel display.)

THE FEMINIST PRESS

Here, the reader sees a compelling blurb and is presented with the option of pre-ordering. (Feminist Press is a non-profit organization based in New York, NY.)

TWO DOLLAR RADIO

How can you not click through on a Rolling Stone review layered on an author photo like this? Such great design. Two Dollar Radio is a family run indie press and film production studio based in Columbus, Ohio.

The whole Two Dollar Radio site is a joy, and the writing is fantastic. Consider their description of what they do:

Our books and films aren’t for everyone. The last thing the world needs is an indie press releasing books that could just as easily carry a corporate colophon. Our work is for the disillusioned and disaffected, the adventurous and independent spirits who thirst for more, who push boundaries and like to witness others test their limits. We know we’re not alone. Let’s make some noise.

Now that’s nice.

Another thing the last two screen shots highlight is the power of the blurb and/or the review. Trusted recommendations continue to be a key driver of book purchases, and so it makes sense to call these out loudly and proudly, as these presses do.

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“One thing that has remained consistent over the past decade and will remain so in the future is the importance of the publisher’s website. In fact, the website could very well be one of the most important channels allowing a publisher to be competitive, even – and especially – as everything that surrounds it changes at an ever increasing rate.”

—Murray Izenwasser, writing for Digital Book World