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How to Test and Optimize Google Adsense on Niche Websites

How to Test and Optimize Google Adsense on Niche Websites

Today, I am going to focus specifically on how to optimize and test your Google Adsense ads on your websites; however, these general principles could be applied to any other type of advertising.  Monetizing your site with Google Adsense can definitely lead to some great earnings; however, the earnings can be ever greater if you test and optimize the ads, placement, sizes, and more.

The general idea behind testing should be obvious.  Rather than relying on what YOU think is the best Google Adsense placement or colors, testing allows you to let the data tell you what is giving you the best click through rates and earnings.  After some testing, you might be surprised at what ads earn you the most!

I’ll be the first to admit that I should do more testing than I do.  It can be time consuming and not very exciting.  However, when I do test my ads properly I ALWAYS find out something new.

Where to Start?

Initially when getting started, you need to decide what size to make your ads, what colors to use, and where to place your ad units on your sites.  All of these factors can drastically effect your click through rate and earnings.  So, with so many decisions to make right out of the gate, where do you start?  Well, here are just a couple of guidelines that can help you get the initial version of your site up and running with Google Adsense.

Ad Sizes:

Google Adsense has shared publicly that their best performing Adsense Units are the following:

  • 336 x 280 Large Rectangle
  • 300 x 350 Medium Rectangle
  • 160 x 600 Wide Skyscraper

The 728 x 90 is also one of the best performing ad units.

Ad Colors:

In general, ads that have blue titles and white backgrounds tend to get noticed.  Blue has always been the universal link color for websites, so people immediately realize when they see a blue underlined word, that they can click on it.

A white background is good if the background of your site is also white.  However, if your background is a different color, its a good idea to match the ad background to it.

Ad Placements:

I have talked about several different theme layouts and ad placements options here in the past. However, to get started, in general ads just below the title (either right or left justified) will typically be your best performing ad unit.

Here are some other examples of ad placements given by Google right here, and here.

Testing Your Ad Variations and Placements

The guidelines above are simply meant to give you a starting point.  But now that you have ads up, you need to start testing them.  The best way to do this is using Custom Channels in Google Adsense. By using custom channels for each of your various Adsense Units you will be able to see which units perform the best compared to other options.  Justin and Joe over at AdsenseFlippers.com have a great post on Adsense Account Organization and using custom channels.

In the past, you had to create “URL Channels” to track which sites were earning money.  Now, you don’t have to do anything and Google automatically tracks how much each site is earning individually.  You can view this under “Performance Reports” and then “Sites” (on the sidebar).

But if you use “Custom Channels” you can track exactly what ads are making the real money.  Here is what I recommend to test properly:

  • Create a custom channel for each ad unit you create.
  • Be as specific as possible when naming the ad unit so you know where it is and what’s different about it.  For example you might create a channel called: “336×280 Top Post right Green title black text”.
  • Let the ads run long enough to get plenty of data – like 1000 impressions for example (more would be much better).
  • Once you’ve collected the data – now create new ad units with different colors or sizes to replace your existing unit.
  • Lets these new ads run and collect data.
  • Compare the data from the old and new ads by looking at a “Custom Channels” report in Google Adsense.
  • Pick your winning ad based on Page RPM (earnings and CTR could be deceiving).
  • Then create new ads to run against your winners.

Then of course you can do even more testing based on ad locations, sizes, colors, and other variables.  However, as long as you are using custom channels you will be able to compare.

Now, this obviously is a bit more work, but you can increase your earnings by doing this type of testing.  I personally don’t do all this testing on all of my 200+ sites.  I am only using custom channels on my top earning sites that are worth spending the extra time on.  So, I recommend doing something similar if you have lots of niche sites.  Take your biggest earning or highest traffic sites and start split testing using custom channels on Google Adsense.

My New Theme Project Includes Ad Testing

Now, I did happen to mention a little while ago that one of the projects that I am working on is a WordPress theme for niche websites.  One of the features of this theme is that it will help test out your ads automatically!  So, instead of manually swapping out ad variations every week or 2 on your sites, it can be done much easier.

With the new theme I’m working on, you will be able to paste in 3 different ad variations at once, and the theme will automatically show a different ad for each new pageview that your site receives!  So, if you have set up your custom channels in Google, all you will have to do is log in and see what ad is the top performer.

The theme has been in private beta testing for the past few weeks and will likely be released next week.  If you are at all interested in hearing about when the theme is released, I will be sending out an email.  If you are not already on my email list, be sure to get on the list using the form below.

Let Me Hear It

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, or questions that you have in regards to ad testing.  Do you have any pointers that you feel like I missed?  Feel free to jump in and share a comment or two.

 

57 Comments for this Post

  1. Niche Websites Hub | Niche Pursuits

    Niche Websites Hub | Niche Pursuits

    […] How to Test and Optimize Google Adsense on Niche Websites (Posted February 23, 2012) […]

  2. Thomas @ Buy BMR Posts

    Thomas @ Buy BMR Posts

    Great post, Spencer! The one thing you have to keep in mind though for split testing is to only test one factor at a time, whether it is color, placement, etc. While it’s definitely tempting to test out multiple factors at once because it’s quicker, in order to get the most accurate results you have to focus on one thing at a time.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Thomas – You are right! For getting the best results – you should only test one factor at a time…this way you really know the factor that made the difference.

  3. Justin

    Justin

    Great post, Spencer, and thanks for the mention!

    We use a naming convention for our custom channels and split them up by month. That way we can see how each ad is performing for that month’s sites. It would be BETTER if we had it specific to EVERY site, but we have way too many sites to do that effectively.

    When you split up your custom channels for your top earners do you make it site specific or across the board? For example do you name it something like 300 x 250 top left nichesiteexample1?

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Hey Justin – Happy to link to a great article!
      When I name my custom channels, I actually do make them site specific. So it will have the site name as part of the custom channel name as your example shows.

      This helps me test sites individually. Although I can also see a lot of value in what you are doing by testing across the board as it can help you gather more data more quickly.

      • Justin

        Justin

        Awesome.

        Yeah, we did the same with the two authority sites we were testing, so that we could look at each ad and how it was performing, site-specific.

        Sucks we’re both working on themes right now, lol! No worries…I’m sure I’ll still end up buying yours, checking it out, and letting others know about it.

        Loving LTP, btw….just did some training with our Intern on it after he first was using the Google Keyword Tool and looking them up manually! He was quite impressed, hehe.

        • Spencer

          Spencer

          Hey Justin:
          Im sure your theme will turn out great as well and I look forward to checking it out.

          Glad you are still enjoying Long Tail Pro. That’s awesome that you have an intern helping you guys out. I’d be interested in hearing how that goes…

  4. Austin Furey

    Austin Furey

    Really looking forward to seeing your new theme Spencer.
    Is it possible to get on the Beta testing list for future products from you?

    Thanks,
    -Austin

  5. Vijay @ 20 Adsense Optimization Tips

    Vijay @ 20 Adsense Optimization Tips

    Hi Spencer,
    These are awesome tips for adsense optimization. I’ve also tested so many different ad units on my authority sites and found that the ad unit just below the post title left or right justified works best for any site.

    Also this should be the 300×250 size ad unit to get maximum benefit. I also observed that this ad unit gets highest eCPM compared to any of the other ad unit on sites.

    Thanks,
    Vijay

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Thanks for sharing Vijay!

  6. Aleshia

    Aleshia

    Thanks for this important information. I have been clueless about the details involved with adsense and using it properly. This information makes for a good start. I am thankful you took the time to lay it out for us newbies.

  7. Kevin

    Kevin

    Looking forward to checking out your theme Spencer!

  8. James

    James

    I am really excited to see your new WordPress theme that will have ad testing in it. I agree we can’t test all sites and we should start with the best format we know works best on all our niche sites and then optimize the highest earning sites. That seems like great solid advise that I follow as well. Thanks for pointing out the great post on AdsenseFlipper as well. Will have to check that out shortly too.

  9. Chris Guthrie

    Chris Guthrie

    Spencer,

    On step four from above (the fourth arrow), you say to create a new ad unit for your next round of testing… If you were going to use the same dimensions for the ad unit, could you just alter the unit and apply a new custom channel?

    This would achieve the same result, correct?

  10. Andre Garde

    Andre Garde

    Well I finally have several sites in the top spots and in my testing so far I have noticed that the 728×15 link unit is the best performer for me, followed by the 336×280 block. I’ve had abysmal results with the 160×600 skyscraper in the sidebar so far, but I’m going to wait a month before I make changes.

    Sometimes it’s a pain to move ads around because I have images inline with the text, and I have to keep flip them to the other side of the page for example so that they don’t conflict with AdSense ToS. It’d be amazing if your theme was somehow able to detect how close images are and warn you, or even do the left-center-right alignment for you. Somehow I doubt that this is even possible but it would be awesome if it were. :)

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Interesting that the 728×15 link unit is performing best for you! That’s what’s great about testing though…your findings are not always what would be expected.

      • Andre Garde

        Andre Garde

        Yeah I’m not sure what it is. I was thinking that maybe the fonts of the ads in the 336×280 and 160×600 are sometimes bigger than the text on my page, that people disregard it as an ad. So I suppose that I could either change the font size of my text, reduce the font size of the ads, or reduce the size of the adblocks themselves.

        Too many things to test!

    • Kent @ Niche Site Tips

      Kent @ Niche Site Tips

      Andre, I was wondering where you position your 728×15 link unit? Is it at the top or bottom on your content?

  11. Ralph | Social Media Explained

    Ralph | Social Media Explained

    Thanks Spencer for the reply on my email.

    Looking forward to see that Theme :)

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      No problem Ralph! Thanks!

  12. Dror

    Dror

    Great post Spencer and it just gave me the kick I needed to start testing this stuff on some of my top sites :)

    As I was reading I started to think about a way to automate the ad rotations only to find out that you are already on top of that. Looking forward to check out your theme.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Thanks Dror – you can certainly input some PHP code on your own sites, but its gets a bit involved…

  13. Mike From Maine

    Mike From Maine

    I’ll be sure to pick up that theme if it works as described. It would also be cool having a theme that randomly changed each time you set it up so that each niche site would be different.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Mike – One of the main features will indeed be customizing the look and layout of the theme itself very easily. It won’t be “automatic” but you literally will be able to have a totally different looking theme each time you set up a site – with a just a few clicks (no coding needed).

  14. Twicat.com

    Twicat.com

    Would be nice to see new theme with more flexibility

  15. Abdul Cholik

    Abdul Cholik

    Basically I have followed your tips above but my earning is not much enough because of lack of the traffic. Hope you also give us tips how to increase the traffic of blog next time.

    Thank you

  16. minka kelly

    minka kelly

    Thank for your information. I enjoyed reading your test to optimize adsense. It was very interesting, and maybe I and other readers can try your testing. Thank you.

  17. brian

    brian

    Also interested in theme. Saw ctrtheme was for sale on flippa….interesting to see his monthly revenue from it…..

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      I hadn’t see that on Flippa…THANKS for sharing!

  18. Ryan

    Ryan

    Great post. Learned a few things for sure. This is something I have been wondering about. If I went to match my ad colors to the theme of my website won’t I potentially end up with 100s of ads listed under my adsense ads? If so is there any downside to this? I worry that if I had like 500 different ads listed in google adsense that google might look more closely at what I’m doing. I guess the other option is to make all my websites have the same color theme. How do you approach this?

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      I don’t think Google adsense would look closer at what you are doing with 500 different ads. I really don’t think they are concerned with that – besides that’s probably still considered a small account to them considering the many large sites that they support which are surely testing many many ad variations…at least I would hope they are.

  19. Amir Najmi

    Amir Najmi

    From my experience, changing the ad layouts and colors never made a big difference. I usually stick with one general layout that works well for my sites.

    One thing I haven’t gotten around to test is changing the font family of the ads as well as the size. I can see that increasing CTR especially because most online users are used to seeing the standard size and font for adsense ads that they’ve become blind to it.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Great point about changing text fonts – another factor to test which I have to admit I have not played around with much.

      • Amir Najmi

        Amir Najmi

        Yeah I haven’t either but I think it should make a good effect. I saw an adsense ad on a website where it was Arial font and smaller than the default settings and I didn’t even realize it was an ad…and I’m surrounded by adsense everyday :D. I think it should increase CTR. Something I want to try out…

  20. Muzi Mohale

    Muzi Mohale

    in my experience, I’ve found link unit below menu bar to generate most clicks…followed by a 336×280 banner immediately below the title post. i’ve tried wrapping content with this banner and clicks dropped, however when centre aligned it generates most clicks, with content below it.

  21. Slava

    Slava

    Again – you seem to be reading you readers minds Spencer. I was just going to ask you to write in more detail about ads placement and testing and there you have it!

    Can’t wait to see the theme. Looks like it’ll have the two most important things for me – built-in ads placement testing and the ability to easily change the look of each new website. Awesome!

    Out of 7 websites I’ve created and backlinked after coming across your method 3 are now in the top 10 (first clicks are coming in!), two are on their way there but the other two are still nowhere to be found in google… Backlinking and competition landscape is about the same for all of them, so I’m wondering why this might be happening?

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Slava, glad you enjoyed the post! Glad that you are having success with several of your sites! Not sure why you aren’t ranking for 100% of your sites – although that should never be expected. I never rank for every keyword I try for.

  22. Jessica

    Jessica

    Thanks for this post, Spencer. It motivated me to set up testing for a low-performing, high potential site of mine. So far, the results are the exact opposite of what I expected!

  23. Matt

    Matt

    Can’t wait to see that new theme! I’m sure it’s going to kick ass!

  24. Mohit

    Mohit

    Currently I’m testing if having only one or two Ads earn more per click than having three Ads. I might be wrong, but my hunch is proving to be true. What do others have to say about it?

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      I think that’s very possible depending on placement, etc.

  25. Federico

    Federico

    Hello Spencer, how are you???

    I’m just waiting for your theme, that’s a great idea, something simple to manage..

    Regards,

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Doing good…thanks Federico!

  26. Sunil l Internet Marketing

    Sunil l Internet Marketing

    nice post Spencer.

    testing can certainly be time consuming, and in my experience when placements, styles and designs are first changed, there is definitely an improvement in the CTR as well as earnings. however, what many do not realize is that testing is an ongoing process.

    why? because the increase seen in results typically regresses back to “normalized” levels within a couple months at most, thus requiring another round of “testing”, may it be simply reverting back to the old look and feel.

    my theory (i have no definite answer) is ad blindness. as visitors/readers see the same ad placements, look and feel, they become blind to ads. therefore a change helps but after some time readers become blind to the the new layout as well. at least this is what i have found in my experiments.

    another thing to note is that ensure only one particular component of an ad is changed to truly understand what variation performs better. i have been guilty of making “mass” changes and later not being able to back track into the specific enabler of the increased positive performance.

    looking forward to the new theme, it will certainly help out those of us who are passionate about niche site creation.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      I agree Sunil, I think alot it does have to do with ad blindness. Thanks for the great comment!

  27. David Carscadden

    David Carscadden

    Spenser:

    Yes, please let me know when your new theme for Niche sites is available.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  28. Kent @ Niche Site Tips

    Kent @ Niche Site Tips

    CTR Theme has been my favorite and I use the Custom Channel ID to track and compare the layout performance.

    Roadblock was my favorite, but can’t have it anymore – too agressive after recent Google Above Fold Ads update.

    In general, I get about 3% CTR and love to optimize more with various Ads Layout and Font / Color Set.

    I am in love with your upcoming Theme and have been using/testing it for a few weeks. I will expand and use it on most of my new Adsense niche site Case Study.

    I agree, it’s all about testing, tweaking, and trying out. Just that sometimes I hesitant for changes and only time could tell. I just don’t have patience to test out new ones for another month.

    The Ad Testing in the new theme comes very handy, just I don’t have much data yet.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Thanks Kent!

  29. Jenni

    Jenni

    Great post as usual Spencer. One thing I would add is to pay attention to time/day as well as number of impressions. I tend to get lots more clicks on a Sunday and far fewer on a Saturday, so if I did tests for different lengths of time my results would be skewed massively.

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      Jenni – great point! I think time of day or week can definitely play a part.

  30. My New WordPress Theme Release | Niche Pursuits

    My New WordPress Theme Release | Niche Pursuits

    […] have mentioned this new theme a couple of times here and here, but I wanted to give a few more details on how the theme can help making niche websites easier.  […]

  31. Stan

    Stan

    Hi Spencer,

    Your site is awesome.. I visit your site often and each time come away with something new and very helpful for sites.

    I had been active a number of years ago with adsense and made some money with it. As my other grew, I spent less and less time on my sites and eventually shut them down not due to lack of interest but time.

    I have gotten back into the market with niche blog sites that have my interests but was shocked to find that Google said that my account does not exist with the login as it is associated with an unapproved application. It states I need to check the email, which I never seen.

    I have put in a request for Google Adsense to review or at least let me know why it is unapproved but over 6 months has gone by with no communications from them.

    Should I use another email address and apply for a new AdSense account? I understand that this could backfire if they find out who I am and link the new email back to the one that was not approved. Should I have my wife apply for an AdSense account under her name?

    I personally enjoy doing quality blogs about the niche and not worrying about individual affiliate marketing. I would rather use AdSense to monetize site.

    Again thank you for the great site and all the pertinent information about Internet Marketing. So far your site is the only one, I found so far, that provides good quality content to its readers without the Hard Sell. Bravo!

  32. Bryant

    Bryant

    Spencer I have a question hopefully will make sense. If I have a 50 page website, do I need to create a single adsense ad for each keyword focused page? Or do you choose the best paying ad for the over all theme?

    Thanks

    Bryant

    • Spencer

      Spencer

      No. In fact, a person can only have one google adsense account. You don’t have to worry about the ads targeting your keywords. You don’t even tell Google adsense what keywords you are targeting; they recognize the content of each page and will serve up relevant ads. You could have 100’s of websites using the same adsense account, all on different topics, and every page of every site would serve up appropriate ads.

  33. Another Niche Site, Another $500 a Month? | Niche Pursuits

    Another Niche Site, Another $500 a Month? | Niche Pursuits

    […] over $18 yesterday from this one site and only expect that to grow.  In fact, I know I could optimize my ad placement to increase the click through rate even more to increase my earnings.  With current traffic […]

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