Adsense: The Art of Blending And The Outstanding

This is a guest post by Shivanand Sharma. He is a full time blogger and a renowned Web Developer. Check out his web technology blog for more of his excellent tips.

Google

AdSense is the choice of many when it comes to monetisation. It’s used by starters and pros alike. While there’s a lot written about it on the net and offline, I’m here today to share a few of my tried and tested tips and help you make the most of your ad space. Since this information comes right off my several years of experience as a professional blogger and web-developer, it would be fair to say that these are the lesser known tips of the trade.

First a little background. Many of us would already be familiar with the Adsense heatmap. It is basically a schematic of the regions of a web page most likely to receive visitor clicks. Essentially, these are the regions which are better suited for placing the ads on a site. So take a good look at the figure and keep it handy for the rest of this article.

The Tools

AdSense Heatmap

AdSense heatmap has been created after studying several thousands of web-pages on the net. Thus it is a generalized diagram relevant to the common generic layout. It does not take into account the site layout, theme, or design, the type of audience or the age and popularity of a particular website. So we would first need the tools to create and understand the heatmap of your individual site.

Those who have purchased web hosting can grab this gem called clickheat from labsmedia. Follow their directions to install it on your server. Those on a free hosting or not having access to the server can make use of CrazyEgg which is a paid service and a more polished version of a similar technique. If I were you, I’d choose to pay for the hosting rather than CrazyEgg (for obvious reasons). Both these tools let you generate the heatmap of your site on a periodic basis like daily, monthly or custom defined.

Second tool (as you might have guessed by now) is Google Analytics. While Google Analytics serves a lot of purposes, we have two main intents for its use here. It will help us understand our visitors better. And hidden deep within the various views is the site overlay view under click patterns to help you see the clicks as GA sees it. This does not show the clicks over regions where Adsense is installed. But it is perfectly usable and will work in tandem with the above mentioned tools to point out the anomalies if any.

Questions you need to ask yourself

Now that you have a heatmap of the site, its will guide you in finding the locations which are best suited for ad placement. It is now time to focus on the other aspects of revenue generation. Before you begin, there are several questions you need to answer:

  • How old is your site or blog?

If you have a new site that means you may be having less visitors and will also be trying to build a rapport.

  • What kind of audience does your site cater to? The average or the ones following your niche?

If you cater to a generic audience, there are higher chances of visitors interacting (read clicking) ads. Visitors following a niche could be too smart to interact with ads against their choice.

  • What’s the design or theme and the layout of your site? Is it a dull generic theme or a more polished and professional theme?

If you have a generic theme or less styled HTML, blending the ads is easier and they could very well be taken for content by the casual reader. A professional theme’s elegance will make the ads stand out more (as compared to the unstyled content).

  • What would be high on your priority? User-experience or revenue?

This could be a tough one especially if you are starting out. Its an art to make user-experience and revenue go hand in hand.

When to Blend

Most of the publishers who do well with AdSense are those with a generic unpolished theme on their site with ads blended and obfuscated in the content. You may notice that these publishers form a considerable majority of those featured on the “Inside Adsense” blog in the success stories. This is one reason why blended ads work so very well with the unsuspecting visitor and another reason for the high popularity of the large rectangle format – it just looks so much like the actual content. Link ads could go into the site navigation and referrals in the left sidebar top section.
On the flip side, this strategy will certainly cost you the visitors and subscribers while setting an example of bad user experience. So my two cents, balance it out. Leave a generous margin around your ads if you are blending. As you continue to make revenue and draw more visitors on your site, you will transition into the next level (that everyone aspires to).

When to make the ads stand out

Generally speaking, if your site has been around for a while, it must be getting visitors (depending on how much time you spend sharing your passion with them). The majority of the visitors would be the ones following your site on a regular basis. Getting these visitors to interact with blended ads usually doesn’t work since they are familiar with the site and can differentiate between the ads and the content. These visitors are the loyal ones, are the biggest asset of your site and have to be cared for. Its time to evolve your strategy and take a wise decision.

An easier thing would be to just keep changing layouts every once in a while. But a wise decision would be to take your user-experience and monetisation strategy to the next level. Time to give your site a much deserved redesign. Design your site for the smart visitors and target premium advertisers. And while you are doing so, make the ads noticeable (and standout as ads instead of content). This translates into higher user experience and more subscribers while being more appealing to the first-time visitors. Visitors will have a choice to interact with the ads since they recognize them and do so by choice. And this will in-turn mean higher conversion rate for the advertisers. Theme your text ads to compliment the theme. Its a win-win situation for everyone. The big difference now is that you are ready to pitch to advertisers directly.

Mistakes

Both the above strategies worked for me but your mileage may vary. So post regularly and keep your site updated. As a bonus I’d share with you a few mistakes I made to learn things the hard way to help you make a better decision.

I started my site with a polished and elegant theme. Visitors were few and they could make out the ads. Thus there was no revenue at all. I continued to create good content and revenue increased marginally. I then changed over to a minimalist theme with a raw, newspaper like look and feel. It worked like a charm.

Almost six months down the line while the visitors were glued to the content, I redesigned the site and now I have a more professional look to the site. The number of visitors and subscribers has increased substantially and I’m ready to pitch to advertisers directly.

Conclusion

There though are a few things that can’t be left unsaid before we conclude. The only thing that will continue to invite visitors and advertisers is the content and its inflow. Good content once in a blue-moon is not enough and so is average content at regular intervals. In order to make money you need to set out to make meaningas Guy Kawasaki pitches for in The Art Of The Start.

Image Courtesy (Creative Commons) : Akira Ohgaki

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