Thursday, 18 October 2012

Make AdSense Work for You — Tips for Small-scale Bloggers

There are lots of sites out there aimed at large-scale blogs and sites that will teach you how to make $10 000 or more every month from Google's advertising platform, AdSense. For this you need either a couple of large authority sites or a network of blogs or small niche sites, each with lots of content. You can achieve this, but you will need to buy content. That is beyond the scope of this article. Here I will focus on helping small-scale bloggers to make their first check from AdSense. 

The information given here has been taken directly from Google's website (text and video tutorials) and from my own learnings over the years (I have over ten years' experience with AdSense now). I've also used this Blog as my test-bed to make certain that what I say is still current.

1. Where to Place your Ads

Lost of research has been done on how people look at web pages and where their eyes linger. These regions are called 'hotspots'. There is also the experience of what happens when a person first comes to your website.

The truth is that ads perform better if they're the first thing that an user sees on a web page. The best place to put ads, in terms of getting clicks, is if they're the first thing that you site visitor sees — that means 'above the fold', before they are forced down to read the main content of your site.

However, having a page with nothing but ads on it will put lots of people off and they may well leave your site. Admittedly, I have put an ad at the top of this page, as an illustration of several points I am going to make. But it's only a single ad. Typically I will put an ad in the header and an ad on the left hand side, but other ads will be embedded in the text.

This means there is real text for people to read and to draw them into the article. But sometimes I will put the first ad lower down and use a picture where the rectangular ad is on this page. Though an ad on the top left of the page works very well as it's the first place a human eye goes to glean information. This is the way we read human faces and we transfer that method of scanning to everything we do.

Place your Ads in your Text

Placing your ads within your text makes it far more likely that a site visitor will take note of your ads (by contrast, if you place ads on the right-hand sidebar they will typically be ignored). Now, most Blogger templates won't directly allow you to do this. But, you can add code and HTML in your Blogger article (just hit the HTML button to turn on code editing).

If you embed your ad in a floating 'div' you can then make your text flow around your ad even in Blogger:

If you embed your ad in a floating 'div' you can then make your text flow around your ad even in Blogger:

<div style="background: #fff; float: left; margin: 0; padding: 0; width: 340px;">

Just put the AdSense code between the two lines of code above (where the XXXXXes are) then paste into the HTML of your blog where you want the ad to go. This version of the code aligns to the left and allows the text to flow around it. Change the 'left' to 'right' if you want the ad on the right hand side of your page. Also change the 340px to be the width of your ad with a little margin. For example, if you ad is 160 pixels wide, then set: width: 165px.

Place an Ad at the Bottom of Your Content

The best performing ads are typically at the top and in the middle of your content, but it's always good to put an ad unit at the bottom as this catches those readers who make it all the way through your article.

Place a links ad by your site's links. This is one that I particularly like. As well as the large display ads Google also has 'link ads'. These are small ads that are just a series of links. They are either vertical or horizontal. The vertical ones work well in the section that you use for your site's links. The horizontal ones work well in the header or footer.

2. Make your AdSense Ad Units Perform Better

In general, the bigger ad units tend to work better. I use 336x280 large rectangles, 160x600 vertical banner and 728x90 horizontal banners in the main. Basically you want your ads to look prominent, but you do not want to swamp your content with ads. It's a bit of a balancing act and only trying different sizes and formats within your blog will let you get ads that you are happy with.

Don't over-filter our AdSense ads. Google allows you to exclude (block) certain content or certain providers when you set-up your AdSense account. This allows you to exclude some of the more family unfriendly ads (like gambling). But the more you filter, the fewer ads your site will get and the worse the ads will pay. Typically I use filtering to exclude ads from advertisers that pay peanuts for advertising space.

Describe and Promote your Site. In your AdSense account, Google allows you to describe your site (or sites). You can also create channels, or groups of ads for specific topics or pages. I use these for my Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas content on my main website. Then I say that the pages that these ads are on will be about this holiday content. This gives me better and more focussed ads for those pages.

The more information you can give an advertiser about yourself and your site's content the more likely they are to pick your site to show their ads on.

Enable Text, Image and Video Ads. It is often tempting to just use text-based ads on your site, as there are more ads. But image and video ads may actually make you more money. They are dynamic and stand out, and the advertiser pays more for these ads, so you will earn more per click. In addition, the more the ads change the less likely your site visitors are to ignore the ads because they have become over-familiar with them.

3. Find out which Ads Work Best for Your Site

Test, Test and Test Again. Because you can give even individual ads their own channels in AdSense you can see a report for how each and every ad performs on your site. This means that you can easily test ad formats and ad placement.

Each and every site is different and what works for my content will not work for yours. The only way you can find out what types of ad perform best for you is to test, test, test. Look at the stats the AdSense system provides. Find out which pages and which ads are performing best then adjust your ads and ad placement based on your content.

I have a friend running a second-hand camera blog where the really tiny ads work best (though this is a rare occurrence).

Conclusion — To Recap

Here is a checklist for you when placing Ads on your site

Are your AdSense units up and running?
Have you placed the ads on your site's hotspots?
Have you enabled tracking and analysis so you can do everything to optimize your ads?
Have you set up channels for your individual ads and pages?
Have you described your site and channels fully?

For extra income, have you enabled AdSense for Search on your site? (The next article will cover this in detail).

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