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AdSense – Fewer Ads, More Money?

Interesting post over at Inside AdSense (the official Adsense blog from Google) that explains what has been going on with them having less ads per ad unit than previously. They explain the move as follows:

‘”When we have a set of highly relevant and useful ads, we give them more of a presence in the ad unit by eliminating other ads. In some cases, if we determine a particular ad performs extremely well on a page, we’ll remove all other ads from the unit and show just this single ad….”

“When we tested this feature, we saw that the increased user attention to these relevant ads resulted in a higher CTR. This means more revenue for publishers.”

They then show one of these ads in action (below).

Whilst I don’t want to disagree with Adsense on this one I’ve been considering a post on it all day with a slightly less positive spin. Here are a few thoughts that have been growing in my mind as I’ve noticed more and more of these ads this week:

1. I’ve had a significant decrease in CTR since the announcement of these changes – While I know there are many factors at play that could explain it, I’ve not made any changes this week to my ads but CTR is noticeably lower. Perhaps its something else but it’s a strange coincidence. I should say that I could be in the minority with this – I’ve seen a couple of discussion forum threads today full of people bragging about CTR increases – maybe it’s just me.

2. These Ads impact the Balance of Sites - I’ve posted on this before but some of the ads I’ve seen are quite large and really dominate the pages that they appear on. The example below isn’t too much bigger (font size wise) than the ads otherwise shown on an ad in it’s old format – but some of the other formats – especially rectangle ad blocks – have some quite large ads showing on them. Whilst this might well increase the chances of readers seeing the ads and clicking through it might also increase the chances of readers getting annoyed by the ads and leaving the site – never to return. I have designed my blogs to be balanced and reasonably clean – the ads I’ve always had on them have as a result been quite blended and subtle – I just worry that these ads are more blatant and less subtle.

I don’t want to argue against the ads – I’m sure they’ve done significant testing before going live with this – but I am interested in others experience and hope that the Adsense team are considering the full impact of such an advertising strategy. What do you think?

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About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. As usual I agree with you on this, some of these ads on the boxes are way to big. I have been on some blogs to read and the first thing that caught my eye was the ad. I guess its good for google, but is it really good for our particular blogs?

    Google is still great though isn’t it.

  2. Darren Rowse says:

    no arguments here – still trying to work out if I can squeeze Adsense or Addy or something into the name of my first child….

  3. IO ERROR says:

    How about a middle name of Goooooogle. :)

    Right after the change, my CTR and earnings were down, but they have picked back up, presumably after Google tweaked their ad serving algorithm. Now I’m making more than I was previously.

    What’s more important, I think, is that Google rolled out their Adwords minimum bid system the other day, and since that change, I can definitely see a rise in my earnings.

  4. It’s too early for me to see an effect on my site’s CTR, but I have noticed the changed on my adsense links. Google’s reasoning makes sense in a way, but then again, the more ads out there, the more likely the chance someone will see something they like and click.

  5. Tim Flight says:

    My guess is that the change will bring a slightly higher eCPM for publishers (what they were trying to do) but lower CTR for publishers who blend their ads in with content well. This also makes it more difficult for publishers who use the “images above ads” or “images beside ads” tip. It might have been part of Google’s plan to deter people from using those techniques since a row of four images above one or three ads looks totally out of balance.

  6. I would like to know how people test their ads and do research without breaking the TOS for AdSense. There have been keyword lists with average PPC and maximum PPC. How do they research all of this?

  7. Cary says:

    I’m worried about this too, because my CTR has gone down also, and I’ve spent a lot of time getting my ads to look…well…decent. Seems like this is something they should give us an option on.

    Dustin, I wanted to answer your question, but I’m not sure I understand it. Do you mean ads that appear on our sites? These can be tested just by using the reports that Google gives you access to on your Google AdSense page.

    Hope that helps : )

  8. These days I have to force myself even to acknowledge AdSense ads. I can click through a post without seeing even ads right in the middle of it. Google’s psychologists are well aware of that, I’m sure, so are bringing in Phase 2 of the scheme. Builders always say that Phase 2 of any building project always brings in a mass of protests. The same here, I suppose.

  9. Cary,

    What I was referencing is how they research keywords and the value of specific keywords, etc. How can they actually tell what a certain keyword is worth, if they are not clicking on their own ads? Sure, they can setup channels, but how do they know about each topic? Sometimes I get ads for completely different subjects within each ad unit.

  10. D. Campbell says:

    I’ve noticed a drop in my ad performance as well and so far, it’s not making a turnaround. I think that for sites with content matter that attract the less profitable adwords, this move is a bad thing. I’ll let you know if and when a turnaround happens. :(

  11. Dave says:

    I think I’m the same as John, and have a high level of ad blindness, this seems to be regardless of colour and placement, so maybe google shaking things up a little will help.

    I also agree with Darren, and commented about the fact that changing the way ads appear is detreimental to the overall appearance of some pages a few days ago.

    Its going to be difficult for webmasters who like to blend their ads into the site design to be able to do this easily if the format (and font size) of the ads keeps increasing and decreasing.

    Mind you, the switch between the number of ads is keeping the ‘place a picture above the ad to attract attention’ brigade on their toes.so it can;t be all bad….

  12. duncan says:

    Generally speaking Im up on most sites, but I’m down on one particular site because I’m getting the same 1 ad displayed over and over again and its not providing a variety to readers, and they aren’t clicking on it. As a consequence I’ve actually started to reduce Adsense inventory on that site to try to compensate for the lost income. You win some ,you lose some I guess.

  13. At least they should give us a way to opt it out if we prefer consistent style over money.

  14. Adam says:

    In response to the way it throws your pages out of balance, I’ve seen a few people put in 3 ad units on one page, but make sure that each unit is the size that only displays 1 ad anyway. Google then can’t remove ads as each unit only shows 1 ad maximum. That way the webmaster feels they have a little more control over how the page looks, though what it does for CTR or revenues I have no idea.