Google AdSense experiences »
FERDY CHRISTANT - AUG 21, 2006 (08:35:29 PM)
It has been 3 weeks now since I enabled ads on my site. During this time I played a bit with the options, as suggested by readers and the Google Adsense help center. Below are some considerations, tips and experiences that may be useful if you're thinking about putting ads on your blog:
- Styling. A common tip is to blend the ad colours with your site design. I did this from the start. Only by reasoning can I prove that this matters. Users are developing a subconscious ad blindness nowadays. Blending the ad style with your own style makes it harder for users to identify them as ads. You can explain this as fooling the user, or as lowering the barrier for them to click the ads, I guess that's worth a discussion.
- Placement and format. Adsense allows you to choose from a wide variety of ad formats, horizontal, vertical, different sizes, etc. In my limited experience, this choice has the most influence on your revenue. For example, I have a vertical ad section in the sidebar. Hardly anyone clicks it, because people know the right side bar often contains ads. Plus, vertical ads take up a lot of screen space, especially considering users read from top to bottom. However, when I added a horizontal ad section at the bottom of my articles, my revenue more than doubled. It makes sense. When users are done reading an article, they often want to follow-up on it. The ads at the bottom of the article show them related (sponsored) links at the time that they need it most. A simple example of how the placement and format of your ads is crucial. This help topic explains it a lot better than I can.
- Technical optimization. Adsense will take your blog input to generate related ad links. If you don't specifically tag your relevant content, Adsense will use all of it, including irrelevant parts such as your menu mapping. Marking relevant content using special Google tags is called section targetting, you can read about it here. I have this enabled on this blog, and it has slightly increased the relevance of the ads, although that may be subjective. Other technical optimizations are of course in attracting visitors to your site, but that's a whole different topic.
- Referrals. Next to the regular text-based ads, Adsense allows you to promote a Google product, or a product from one of their partners. I have this enabled for Firefox. So far it has generated zero revenue. I think there are two reasons for it. First, the chain of user actions is too large. Users have to click the link, download a file, install Firefox and the Google toolbar, and then start it. Only then will I get paid. Second, if a user even knows what Firefox is, and my readers definitely do, they will go to the Firefox download site directly and sure as hell not install it from my blog. I'll still leave it on the blog though, because I want to make a statement that I fully support Firefox.
- Content is king. In my world, honesty last the longest. Your site should be all about the content. If the content is good, visitors will come. Intrusive ads and search engine optimization scams will get you nowhere in the long term. I know that my traffic comes from people ending up at my articles when they Google and from a small base of loyal regular readers. Those are the kind of visitors I write content for. I want to make a few bucks to compensate my hobby time and expenses but not at the cost of ruinig the user experience.
- Write about fluffy bunnies. One of my co-workers says that girls click on bunny ads a lot.
So, can I quit the day job? Not yet . I'm doing better than expected though. My initial thought was that any buck I make would be welcome, because once enabled, Adsense costs no extra effort. I now have raised my target. My goal is to let the ads compensate for the costs of my online presence, that is my domains and hosting costs. I'm nowhere near that, but I like a challenge. Considering only 1 in 400-600 page views results in an ad click, imagine the traffic I need!
Wrapping this up, I think I succeeded in integrating Adsense in a useful, non-intrusive way that benefits both me and you. Feedback is welcome.