Content-funded websites like online newspapers rely on strong traffic profile and effective AdSense campaigns that generate a lot of clicks. Although there is no shortage of focus on content and on-site SEO, there is rarely a solid A/B testing and optimization of how ad displaying affects CTR.
Content-heavy websites spend big bucks on creating good looking blog posts, with engaging graphics and smartly written text in order to attract visitors. This is great. More text, more chances of people getting on the website through Search or social media sharing. Good images play well in Landing Page Optimization, in order to capture the attention of visitors and drive it deeper in the content, so that people stay longer on the site, and hopefully engage with more than one page. The more pageviews, the greater the chance of someone clicking an AdSense link and generate income for the website. Ultimately, text, graphics, social media activity, high rankings for target keywords… they all aim at improving the website profitability, and this is easily evaluated: How much money did you earn from your site this month?
But the question How to make more money with AdSense does go several steps further than just amassing traffic. The real question is what visitors do on your site, and how they perceive ads.
Banner ads vs Text Ads: Test, Don’t Assume.
As we’re daily bombarded with ads, people become ad-blind more and more. So, instead of just piling up content on your website and slap flashy banner ads, you may want to do a split test of text ads vs banner ads, and see which one performs better with your reader base.
Depending on your target audience, banners may work great. This is usually true for graphics-heavy like gaming websites. With all the visual noise on such graphics heavy websites, placing a text ad may be just as good as not placing any ads at all. But in reality, you never know unless you test.
Text Ads: Standard or Custom Design?
Another thing you can do is to do a split test of text ads with different formatting. A recent test report at Which Test Won, there was a report of the Telegraph’s AdSense Layout Test, and the test result was interesting: out of 46 variations where title size, color, text font and link color were tested, the highest performing ad formatting was the one that did differ from their standard font usage on pages, but was still not overly obtrusive so it’s easily recognized as “just another ad block”.
The standard vs custom ad design is a question you need to ask if you’re funding your website with AdSense. You can click the images above to get a better view of how a standard ad looks like, and how the customized design can be made to match the look and feel of your website. I’ve mimicked the winning Telegraph design here, with colors of the Title and Link to match the clickable text lines on the Telegraph website.
While Which Test Won didn’t report how much more clicks the customzied ad generated in comparison to the generic design, the point that Telegraph invested in a split test of 46 different ad designs speaks volumes. The winning ad must be producing enough CTR to make such a text worth wile from a ROI perspective.
The verdict: Don’t assume. Test everything. Get your website optimized with all the on-site SEO bells and whistles, but when it comes to the profit-making elements on your site, don’t settle for best practices and generic design. Go the extra mile and make sure you help your visitors to bring you Adwords money.