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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2017 Update: I now use a free ad tester called Ezoic which makes testing different Adsense placements very simple. Click here to try it out.
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.