Let’s Start this morning with a Bomb!
A while ago, I was chatting with Teacher Man, from My University Money and he was asking me questions about my business model. Beware bloggers, there is a serious player coming into the picture with PF bloggers who make money. And I’m doing everything I can to help him out, hahaha! One of his questions was regarding how to optimize Adsense.
I’m well aware that this won’t be the first Adsense optimization article you will have read in your life. However, this is probably the first one that is being written by a PF blogger for PF bloggers. Is the personal finance niche that different from other niches? Maybe, maybe not. But there is one thing I know for sure: I generate over $100/day with it and have tried several methods to get here 😉. I’ve separated the article in 3 parts: The Obvious, The Not So Obvious and the Smart Moves to try. Enjoy!
Who See Ads Plugin
One of the very first things to do if you have a blog is to add the “Who See Ads plugin”. This plugin allow you to manage your Adsense code in a professional way. Imagine if you want to sell your blog one day (and it happens frequently these days!) but you have entered your Adsense code manually? OMG! The buyer won’t be happy… or you will have to spend hours to change the Adsense code across all your articles.
Who See Ads enable the blogger to include “in-content” Adsense blocks which is definitely among the most profitable ad spots on your pages. Most visitors will focus on your content and ignore your side bars. This is why adding ads within your content is a great way to make a few bucks out of your articles.
But there is more to this plugin. It also allows you to display different ad sizes depending on the “age” of your article. You can choose to not display Adsense code for the first 3 days after you publish your post. Therefore, your loyal and regular visitors are not bugged by your ads (they don’t click much on ads anyways!). I use this plugin with 2 different settings:
#1 a 480×60 block right away (to not bug too of many my regular readers) and a 336×280 ad 2 weeks later (for those who come from search engines).
#2 no ads for a week and a 336×280 after a week.
Both strategies have the same goals: keep my loyal readers on board by showing them as little advertising as possible and get new visitors coming from search engines to generate money. These visitors usually come to your blog to search specific information. There is nothing best than contextual advertising for them. Adsense does a good job at this.
Focus on Search Engine Visitors. Have you ever wondered who clicks on your ads? It’s a pretty good question, huh? The exact answer is impossible to find. Are they men or women? Young visitors or older? Loyal readers or first time visitors? It’s very hard to narrow them down to the portrait of the “perfect clicker”. But after 5 years in the business (wow… 5 years!) I can say that I’ve found a trend. Search engine visitors are more likely to click on your ads than others. Why? I can’t really tell. My guess is that they come on your site because they already clicked on your link from Google and they are searching for specific information. If they see an ad that is related to what they are looking for (this is the main purpose of Adsense), they are more likely to click on it and go to that other site. I’ve done several analyses on my sites and I noticed that the pages for which I rank well are also my best Adsense income earning pages.
The not so obvious part of Adsense comes from trial and error. I’ve tried several things so far with my sites and here are the conclusions:
Text-only sometimes work better. According to Google, text & image blocks are the ones that perform best. I constantly receive notes to that effect as I don’t always use images in my ad spots. I’ve noticed that more “serious” or “focus” sites perform better with text only spots. I guess these visitors are more interested in clicking on a link than on an image. As a matter of fact, I simply ignore all images published on any site I visit as my brain knows it is probably an ad! The only way to know if your site is part of this category is to try it. I can tell you that it had a huge impact on some of my site (like a 34% increase in income!).
Blend Advertisement. What is more ugly than purple on green? This is why you need to blend your color to the maximum. I usually try to take the same title color or link color of my page to design my ad blocks. I also use a pale color (light gray) for description and url. Therefore, title gets the most attention. On some sites, I’ve used a black color for the description part and that also works well. Here again, trial and error!
Bigger blocks do perform well. Unfortunately, huge blog such as 336×280 are among the most productive income ads. They are huge but they offer a great opportunity to show a good description of the site they are advertising. I notice that each time I use this big block, I get more clicks! I prefer the 250×250 in terms of design but it doesn’t pay as well! So if you have to plug an ad block somewhere, use the big ones! Small ads are completely useless most of the time so use them if an additional “ad” fits better than nothing in your design.
How to Focus on Search Engine Visitors. In the first section of this post, I wrote that you need to focus on Search Engine visitors to increase your Adsense revenue. Back in October 2011, I took off most AdsenseblocksfromTFB (you can read why I did this in that post). I mentioned that I was sacrificing $4,200 in annual income to improve my readers’ experience on my blog. 6 months later, I can say that my 20 Adsense blocks placed in specific posts are earning almost the same revenue:
Jan 2011 – Oct 2011
Nov 2011 – Apr 2012
Average per month
As you can see, I am more losing $1,200 to improve my blog rather than $4,200. This also showed me that search engines are a big part of Adsense income! I basically used my Google Analytics and saw my top 20 pages viewed for the past 12 months (those who still get traffic after being published) and I added my Adsense code on these articles.
There is something I haven’t done yet but will do this month (and should have done YEARS AGO!) is to create channels for EACH Adsense block. Fortunately, I was smart enough to create an Ad channel for each blog so I can track which blog is better for click through rate (CTR) or $ per mile impression (previously the eCPM, now called the RPM). So, month after month I can track which sites perform well and can figure out why. BUT I’m leaving a lot of info on the table by now narrowing my channels.
I usually use 2 to 3 spots (3 being the maximum Adsense allows you to publish on a page). Therefore, I have no clue if one of my blocks is generating 80% of my revenue on this blog! If it’s the case, I would probably be able to switch the low performing ads to another type of ad network (an affiliate link for example!). Or I could simply remove this ad placement and change it for another spot on the page (when you don’t make money, there is no use publishing annoying ads, right?). The only thing I need to do is to go back into my Adsense account, create new channels and see it run. It’s not that hard, but it’s boring ;-). You have to look at your data a month after and see what worked well and what doesn’t. The month after, you have to work on modifications and track your new results. I will use a 1 month trial period for each modification in order to have sufficient data on each site. After all, you can get a $12 click that will change your data completely over 3-4 days. However, if you take the data over 30 days, the one shot click won’t weigh too much.
I’ve asked a few other bloggers to provide their tips too! Here’s what they have to say:
“you shouldn’t underestimate how well ad blocks positioned to capture exit clicks can be. At the bottom of the post and lower down on the page near the navigation (lower right sidebar on my site) can do well.
But adsense income is mostly about keywords in my experience. Certain topics just convert and others just don’t. The best tip is to just test, test, test. The best practices just might not work as well on your site for whatever reason.”
“A recent tip I was reminded of is to ensure your most effective ad (the one that gets the most clicks) is also the “first” adsense ad. Meaning, it’s where the highest bidding ads would go on the page. http://joelcomm.com/are-your-ads-in-order.html”
“Take adsense “tips” with a grain of salt. They tell you to opt-in for text and image ads as well as tell you that you have more room on the site for ads.
Do what works for you and test.
Related, their heat map shows up top before your content as a great spot BUT the other folks at Google want you to put your reader first. Don’t hog up the ‘above-the-fold’ space with ads.
In other words, many people see this heat map
but really they should be following this:
“My advice is that after the basic ad positioning/blending stuff – don’t bother with optimization until you have enough traffic/income to make small incremental improvements worth the effort.
Unless you have a sizeable income, there are too many other things which have higher ROI.”
1. It’s not uncommon to see folks place a large adsense unit at the start of a post. I took mine out some time ago because I didn’t like hitting my readers with a big ad right from the start. But my revenue didn’t go down. My clicks did. But I found that clicks form that ad unit didn’t pay nearly as well as clicks from ads in sidebars or at the end of the post. Google has gotten much better at evaluating the value of a click. My theory is that a lot of those clicks from the ad at the start of the post were low value clicks.
2. I recently changed my site from 3 columns to 2. That meant losing the ad unit in my left sidebar. I was sure my adsense revenue would go down significantly. It didn’t. Again, clicks went down, but revenue per click went up. I think the takeaway here is to test everything; don’t assume.
3. I recently added an ad unit at the end of my posts. Based on tests I’d run several years ago, I didn’t have much confidence that it would do well. I was dead wrong. Adsense revenue up about 40%.
4. Finally, I’ve always found it important to evaluate adsense revenue in the context of total revenue to your site. You can do things that may increase adsense revenue but lower overall revenue. In contrast, there have been times when I’ve made changes that lowered adsense revenue, but increased overall revenue to the site.
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