If you’ve run a content website, there’s a good chance you’ve used AdSense. Google created the AdSense network as an extension of their popular AdWords advertising platform, enabling them to sell ad units on websites all over the Internet, not just their own search property. Getting started and generating revenue with AdSense is relatively easy, but there are a few subtleties that exist and can impact how much you earn with AdSense, that might not be obvious to the casual user, or to someone who isn’t familiar with how the AdWords product works. In a recent post I already discussed the fundamentals of AdSense optimization, so in this post I’m going to explore a few of the finer points worth considering:
1. Placement Reports – In AdWords, if an advertiser has opted into the Display Network, they will have access to a Placement Report, which tells them the websites their ads appears on, and how they performed. With Conversion Tracking enabled, an advertiser can determine Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) quite specifically, for each site and can remove sites that are not performing. Conversely, they can also choose to sponsor and target a site directly, if they find it is doing well. They would do so by setting a cost per click higher than any other competing ads to essential get a “road block” setup and dominate the ad units of your site section or page. Think about the implications of this for a moment if you own a publishing website.
While the majority of small spenders will never even look at this report, many of the top spending brands will, and they could very well sponsor your site. If they do this, your get a significantly higher eCPM than you would without it. So it is worth considering how to brand and effectively position your site to be appealing as a sponsored site. Think in terms of appealing to their target demographic and beginning to align your content better with what would appeal to them. Also, sculpt your content message in this direction.
2. Targetable Channels – Did you know you can show up in a directory that AdWords advertisers can browse while looking for sites to target? When you create a new channels in AdSense thematically, you can begin to see which themes are generating the most revenue for you. But you can also opt in for these channels to appear in the AdWords Placement Tool. Below you can see the dialog box that appears when I setup a new channel. Be sure to check the box at the bottom to enable targeting. Now, when an AdWords advertiser begins looking for sites to target, your channels will appear here for them to select from. Because targeting requires higher CPC bids, receiving these channel selections effectively means recruiting higher paying advertisers.
2. Device Targeting – By default an AdWords advertisement will not be limited by device, though it is possible to limit these based upon effectiveness or compatibility. Now think about how this might effect you as a publisher, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly version of your site? If you don’t have a mobile-friendly version of the site, you could be un-targeted for certain content, and if a big enough portion of your viewers are mobile, this could really hurt your eCPMs! Every vertical is different but if you’re in an entertainment vertical for example, mobile would be a pretty big deal for you. Anyway, the point here is to consider what could harm you and account for it. Device targeting is an obvious vulnerability for many website owners.
3. Rich Media Targeting – AdWords allows advertisers to upload videos, Flash and other types of rich media. This is separate from the traditional text only or text / images ad types. Many older sites will be set to only allow text or images, but not rich media. Consider that rich media will have higher placement cost than test or images in many cases and so you should seek to provide this option when you can. You can also stand out from the crown in the Placement tool by allowing Rich Media, for those who are seeking to buy media for a Rich Media campaign.
4. Ad Unit Positioning – I’ve already discussed this in-depth on another blog post, but the position of your ad units on the page can have a substantial impact on your eCPMs. Place any ad “below the fold” will have a negative impact, as will placing an ad in that fits nicely into your sidebar, in a place that is obscured by other features or sidebar info. It is better to place image banners in the top and left of the site, and ideally below your navigation bar. Text ads are ideally embedded inline with your content, with similar coloring so that it is not ignored by the reading/scanning eye.
5. Smart Pricing – And finally, have you heard of Smart Pricing? Its probably something most AdSense users are aware of but it is a significant factor on the AdWords side of the market place. Basically, SmartPricing watches out for the performance of an AdWord ad on the Display Network. It tracks the click from an ad on your site is determined to be less likely to convert into an actionable event (conversion) then AdWords will lower the prevailing CTR cost for that ad unit on your site. This can have implications in how you design your site. There are many Made For AdSense (MFA) sites out there that are essentially just junk content surrounded AdSense ads. Because there is no value in the content, users are more likely to click to leave and thus higher CTRs. But that doesn’t mean these are prospects who are about to take action toward a goal, they just want to leave. So, think about what you can do to better prepare a reader to purchase or take action if they click on your ad. Don’t think in terms of simply getting them to click. Otherwise, in the long term, you’ll just damage your eCPMs and won’t be making much money anyway.