Online Marketing Lesson 43: Google AdSense Optimization

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As we explained in the previous lesson, if you want to make good money with Google AdSense, you need first to ensure that your website is receiving enough traffic, and that part of that traffic is coming from search engines. Even if you meet these requirements, however, you’ll still need to optimize your AdSense units if you want to maximize your earnings, and in this lesson we explain how to do it.

Choosing the Right Units

The first step is to choose the right AdSense units. Google itself confirms that the top performing units are the 336×280 large rectangle, the 300×250 medium rectangle and the 160×600 wide skyscraper. Here is how they look:

M5L43_GoogleAdsense-1

If you want to maximize your earnings you’ll need to use one or more of these units, as they will have the highest possible CTR (click-through rate). It might be necessary to tweak or change your design to integrate these units, but the results should be worth the effort.

Blending the Units

The second step is to make sure that your units will blend with your design. In other words, your ads need to look like a normal part of your website. The objective of this strategy is not to deceive your visitors, but rather to make sure that they will not ignore the ads on purpose. Once they see the ads they can then decide for themselves if the products and services advertised are relevant to them or not.

Practically speaking you can make your AdSense units with the same colors of your website (i.e., same background, hyperlink and text colors). Google also allows the customization of the font, font size and borders now, so you can tweak these elements to make the AdSense unit look even more similar to the rest of your content.

Making the Units Contrast

An alternative strategy is to make your AdSense units contrast with your design. You shouldn’t use this strategy permanently, because it might lead to ad blindness (i.e., your visitors will start ignoring the ads because they’ll be able to spot them easily), but you can apply it for a limited time frame to create a spike in your CTR and increase your earnings.

If your website uses a white background with green hyperlinks, for example, you could create AdSense units with a light-yellow background and blue hyperlinks. You can also use a larger font in the ads to make the text ads call more attention.

M5L43_GoogleAdsense-2

And here is a little known trick: you may actually choose up to four different color palettes when creating your AdSense units, and Google will rotate them automatically for you. This will probably increase your CTR because a visitor loading two or more pages on your site will have a higher chance of paying attention to the ads as they change color. You simply need to select the last option in the “Palettes” box to use this feature.

Positioning the Units Effectively

Apart from tweaking the visual aspect of your units, you’ll also need to make sure that they are positioned effectively. The rule of thumb here is that you need to place the units above the fold. The only exception to this rule are units placed right below your main content (e.g., blog posts), because they tend to get a high CTR despite being below the fold.

Google has a heatmap you can use to understand what sections tend to get the higher CTR on the average website.

M5L43_GoogleAdsense-3

As you can see, the central spot above the fold is the best one, followed by the left sidebar above the fold and the spot below the site navigation.

The Champion Combo

The “Champion Combo” is our nickname for a combination of unit size and placement that tends to generate the highest possible CTR on any website. The combination is the 336×280 large rectangle placed right below the title of the articles or blog posts. Here is how it looks like:

M5L43_GoogleAdsense-4

We highly recommend that you try using it, as it can produce significant earnings even on websites with low to medium traffic levels.

You Don’t Need to Annoy Your Readers

Some people are reluctant to use the “Champion Combo” strategy because displaying such a large AdSense unit right below the article title can be quite intrusive for the visitors.

One trick you can use to mitigate this problem is to display the “Champion Combo” only on articles older than seven days. This means that your loyal visitors will not even see the ads, because they will browse your most recent articles only, while visitors coming from search engines to older articles will. Organic traffic is the one that clicks on ads anyway, so with this strategy will increase your earnings without comprising the user experience of your loyal users.

WordPress users can install a plugin called Why Do Work to control where the AdSense units should appear.

Test, Track and Adapt

This last point is probably the most important one. If you want to maximize your AdSense earnings you’ll need to constantly test with new units and placements, track the results, and then adapt your strategy accordingly.

One simple method you can use for this is the A/B split test. Let’s say that you are using the “Champion Combo” aligned to left, with the same colors of your website. You could leave that unit up for two weeks and track the CTR and the earnings that it would generate.

After that you could change the alignment of the unit to the center, and track the CTR and earnings that it would generate for another two weeks. At this point you would compare the numbers, and stick with the alignment performing better.

After that you would change the color of the background and the links, and once again track the results for two weeks. The idea is to always be testing, tracking the results and trying to beat the top performing combination.

Action Points

  1. Make sure to choose the top performing AdSense units, and try both to blend them with your design and to make them contrast with it.
  2. Remember that placing the units above the fold is necessary if you want to have a high CTR.
  3. Experiment with the “Champion Combo”, as it will probably increase your overall earnings significantly.
  4. Always be testing, tracking the numbers and adapting your AdSense strategy along the way, as this is the only way to maximize earnings.

Navigation Links

Previous Lesson: Introduction to Google AdSense

Next Lesson: Direct Advertising and Sponsorship