AdSense Optimisation for Beginners

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One of the questions I get asked the most is how to get the most from AdSense. So may be people sign up and put the ad code on their site, but only ever make a few cents.

In this post, I want to give a few basic tips that will start to pull in more money for you as well as some links to further reading that should really help release the potential of your site.

1. Traffic

The very first thing you need to know about AdSense is that the best way to make real money out of it is to get more traffic to your site. If you only have 7 visitors a week, you’re simply not going to make thousands of dollars. If that sounds like you, you should concentrate on building your readership – and traffic – first. There are many ways to do that, all of which are beyond the scope of this article, so take a look at my archives for more ideas on that.

2. Ad Placement

Deciding where to put ads on the page is one of the most important choices you’ll have to make. Here’s a few quick tips to get you started:

  • In general, the higher up on the page an ad is placed, the better it will perform.
  • Leaderboard ads right at the top of the page often perform very well, but push your content further down the page, potentially making it less readable.
  • Placing ads in the middle of your content can also perform very well, but can potentially annoy and confuse your readers.
  • Making use of “heat map” generators like Crazy Egg will help you see where on the page your readers are actually clicking.

The important thing to remember is that there’s no simple answer to where you should put your ads. How well they perform will depend on a wide variety of factors and will be unique for your site. They key is to experiment, but make use of AdSense’s channels features to keep track of how well a particular ad position is performing.

3. Ad Unit Size

The size of ad you use is, of course, directly related to ad position, but there’s a few extra things to keep in mind which relate to the actual size of ad units you choose:

  • Mixing and matching different sized units on a page often performs better than having several blocks all the same. It would be quite legitimate to place 3 leaderboard sized ads right at the top of your page, and you might get quite a few clicks, but nobody is going to want to scroll down through a page of ads to get to the content.
  • It’s worth considering that larger ad units often contain more individual ads than smaller ones, and that directly affects your earnings. Showing more ads, means ads with lower click values often appear on your page. It might seem counter-intuitive, but showing more ads can actually reduce your earnings.
  • Always make sure that whatever sized ad units you choose actually fit into the layout of your site. It might sound obvious, but I’ve lot count of the number of times I’ve seen poorly chosen ad sizes that end up pushing the actual content off the edge of the screen.
  • Ad size and position directly affect the overall design of your site, so don’t just try to squeeze ads into a layout that hasn’t been designed for them. Either find a professional designer to help you, or try physically drawing your site – either in Photoshop or on paper – and get a feel for how different layouts will look.

4. Ad colors

The colours you choose directly affect the clickability of your ads, but the ones you choose largely depend on the colours of your site.

  • More often than not, using the same background, link and text colours that you do on the actual page is a good place to start. This will make your ads blend into the content more.
  • Generally speaking, ads without borders perform better than ads with borders. To ‘disable’ borders on your ad units, simply make the border colour the same colour as the background.
  • Experiment and rotate colours. Sometimes using colours that complement (rather than blend into) your existing design can work very well, and have the advantage of being less confusing to readers. Experiment with different colours, but be aware that the very act of changing the colours can influence the number of clicks you get, simply because readers will notice something different.

5. Testing

Proper, scientific testing of how well different colour/size/positions perform can make a huge difference, but to cover the subject in-depth is beyond the scope of this article. As a basic rule of thumb, when tweaking ad layouts, make one change at a time, write down what you changed and when, then leave it long enough (preferably a week) to see the effects. Then compare CPM, CTR and earnings over the previous layout and use that to decide if it’s worth keeping those changes.

If you have access to ad rotation software, you can also try using two or more different ads in 50/50 rotation in the same place. Compare their performance over time, then remove the worst performing and replace it with something else.

6. More Information

If you’re looking for more advice, help and support on AdSense optimisation, here’s a few useful links for you:

If you’ve got any tips or useful links of your own, feel free to share them in the comments!

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