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Adsense Optimization Case Study – BuzzMachine

Jeff-JarvisYesterday I mentioned that Jeff Jarvis has made the decision to add Ads to his Blog (BuzzMachine). After posting this I emailed Jeff to let him know that I’d be happy to give a few free tips on how to get the most out of his Adsense ads. I’m yet to hear back from him (I know he’s a busy guy – so I’m not offended) but as I thought about what I’d suggest to him I thought it might make an interesting case study post here at ProBlogger as part of the 31 Days Project.

So consider this an open letter of advice for Jeff – but also for the many other bloggers who have similar blogs. Jeff uses a fairly standard WordPress template so what I share here might be useful for others too. Feel free to add your suggestions and tips to the comments section below.

The first thing I would recommend that Jeff does is go and have a look at the advice the Adsense team give publishers at their optimization page. Of particular usefulness is the heat map that they give that shows hot zones for the best positioning of ads (see diagram below).

Adsense-Placement-2

Possible Problems/Issues

If you compare this heat map (above) and Jeff’s page (left) you’ll notice immediately a couple of things.

1. Jeff’s BlogAds position is in a completely cold zone. White patches on the heat map are dead/cold patches. I was actually going to buy an ad space from his blog ads but when i saw the position I decided against it.

2. Jeff’s Adsense ads are in a pretty cool zone also (right hand sidebar). This is the position of them on every page in the blog. probably the only worse place for them would be below his footer and on the same sidebar but below the fold.

Buzzmachine-1

Another issue that I’d suggest Jeff take a look at is the visual barrier that he’s created by putting the ads column on a different color background to the rest of the blog. There is a line between his site proper and the ad section. While this might help to identify what is an ad and what isn’t an ad – it is a pretty basic no no if you want to get good results form your ads.

Not only is there a line between his content and ads, there is also a menu column on his main page which further separates his readers main attention and the ads.

Another observation that i make is that when you look at the source code on Jeff’s site – the Adsense code is the very very last piece of code that you see on the page. This means that the adsense code and the content (which adsense looks at when determining which ads to place on the site) are not in proximity to one another. This is one problem that many bloggers have and it can be one of the reasons that many bloggers get quite irrelevant advertisements served.

Suggested Solutions

I would highly recommend that Jeff do one or all of the following things:

Move his ad column to the left hand side of the blog – This is probably the simplest tweak he could make. It would solve a couple of the problems mentioned above including putting the ads into hot zones and putting the Adsense code higher in the source code (and hopefully increasing ad relevancy).

New Positions – While just moving the ad to the left of screen would definitely help click through rates I’d suggest that other positions are worth experimenting with ads also. For starters could try the positioning on his son’s blog (see below) – a small banner at the top of content. This is a good position for a front page. These ads would do well if they were blended in (ie black text and blue title/links) in a similar way to how they are at Jake’s Blog (note – Jake is not only Jeff’s son but he’s Jeff’s blog designer – and does pretty nice work I have to say).

Jakes-Blog

Another useful position on a front page is to position a rectangle ad two or three posts down the page (say between post 2 and 3) – as I do on my main page.

On individual pages I’d recommend jeff consider either placing an ad inside content like I do on many of my blogs (example). This is the hottest zone on the above heat map. In addition to this another option is to add a second ad at the bottom of his posts but before comments. Jeff gets a lot of comments on his blogs and as a result readers often get to the bottom of his posts and will see these ads (illustrated below). As with my other suggestions I’d encourage a blended ad approach here – black text, blue titles/links.

New-Ad

Add more ad units – at present Jeff has only one ad unit – I’d recommend that if income generation were a high priority that he consider adding at least one more unit, if not two. Of course he probably doesn’t want to dominate his page with ads (I’ve no problem with this) but I suspect adding a second unit on individual pages above the comments section would not clutter the page with ads too much.

LinkunitsAdd Link Units - the beauty of Adsense’s link units is that they are small and pretty adaptable. Again Jeff’s son Jake has these on his blog – in one format that might work (at the top of a sidebar). Another option would be to place them along the top of Jeff’s blog or underneath his header (as I do here at Problogger at present). Adlinks work very well on some blogs and not on others – but it’s worth a try as they are pretty small and unobtrusive ads.

I’ll leave it at that for the moment – there is a lot more that can be said but these are the basics that I’d recommend to someone wanting my opinion.

I should say that I’ve written these tips not knowing what Jeff’s overall blog goals are. I suspect that while he’s interested in advertising revenue that it’s not the main motivation for his blog and that he will not want ads to dominate his pages. This is great and fits his blog well – however I believe that he could make a few of these tweaks, still keep a clean and classy design for his blog and not interrupt the flow while still earning a few dollars on the side.

As I’ve written above – I’d love to hear what suggestions you’d make to Jeff in comments below.

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. Red says:

    I hope Jeff appreciates this because I’d have paid good money for tips like this when i first started with Adsense. Seriously this and your last case study of the guy who quit blogging are two of the most valuable and practical posts I’ve seen on blogging in the past 6 months. Please do more of these and if you ever offer this as a service let me know because I’ll pay you to do this on my blogs.

  2. nickel says:

    I’ve actually found that the right sidebar (at the top) is the best spot on my site, followed by left sidebar. The ad units that are placed inside the content (center column) don’t perform very well on the front page (placed b/t the first and second entries) but this same sort of central position does a bit better on single post pages (where it follows short entries, or is embedded within longer entries). I also have mixed opinions on blending. I’ve recently changed to a bright blue for the links in the ad units (previously it matched the site links exactly) and it seems that I’m now getting a few more clicks.

  3. Pat says:

    Another thing about the buzzmachine website — I have my display set to 800 X 600 because I have a hard time seeing a smaller resolution. I am sure many people do this.

    On the 800 X 600 resolution, I can’t see the ads at all! All I see is a small sliver of the grey bar where the ads are. I would have to scroll to the right to see them.

  4. Darren Rowse says:

    Thanks for your kind words Red.

    Nickel – your comment illustrates just how each blog/site has its own little quirks and trends. thanks for those thoughts.

    Pat – good point. I’d not considered that. Another reason to put those ads inside the content or on the left.

  5. IO ERROR says:

    Actually I have an optimization comment that might be useful for ProBlogger and anyone else running AdSense. I too experimented with 300×250 and 336×280 ad unit between my blog entry and comments. The CTR and EPC were atrociously low compared to the rest of my ad positions. So I changed it to a 468×60 ad unit, and both CTR and EPC went way up for that position, and nearly on par with the rest of my ad positions. Interestingly, my overall CTR is way up as well after making this change. It’s a completely non-obvious thing to do, but it worked! I also seem to be getting more CPM ads in that space now, as well.

  6. Another thing to remember is to always experiment. You’ll never know what works best on you site until you try different ad positions, formats and colors.

  7. Stuart says:

    My partner and I have been looking at ad placement lately and we’ve seen some interesting things.

    Last year a report was published on the Net about some research that was done into just where a person who is scanning a web page actually looks. In part what that research found was/is confirmed by the Google heat map but they don’t agree entirely.

    Both Google and the research suggest that the right hand side of the page is not a good place when it comes to advertising and the research showed that it was probably even worse than Google suggests.

    BUT – go have a look at Jason Calacanis’ auto blog and look what he has on the right hand side of the page. People pay him $495 a month to advertise there – in a very small spot. Do you think they are going to pay that if they are not getting value for money?

    Maybe when it comes to advertising Seth Godin was right when he suggested last week that what the consumer is really say is “Show me what I want or I’m out of here.”

  8. markus says:

    sometimes optimization will create negative results. therefore be sure to have a backup of the changed files. Otherwise you have to optmize again to get the old results…

    just my 2 cents (which I sometimes lost after optimization)

  9. BlueBucs says:

    We have tried several locations and the right side bar seems to work the best for us as a well.

  10. Rick Abbott says:

    Wow, awesome post. Thanks so much, Darren.

  11. Wow. I really need to look at this site more. One problem I have is that I have multiple blogs acting as one (because I use blogger). Need to do a lot of work.

    If only Darren would do a case study on my (crappy) little site!
    Molly
    PS. Any hints for podcasters?

  12. I used to have my ads on the right-side column. In late May or early June, I decided to try the Google heat map and put my Google ads in articles in the hottest spot. I also modified the look of the ads to blend in. My revenues finally started taking off.

    I also moved my Amazon ads to the left-side column, Google’s second-best placement. I get a little more click-through and marginally better sales but not much.

    My next move is to experiement with making slight changes in the Google ads and experimenting with something to replace the Amazon ads (and move them down farther since they’re negligle anyway). I’m thinking of using Google Ad links at the top of the left column.

  13. John Hewitt says:

    One of the problems with optimizing is that Google rules make it difficult to discuss your results so that you can figure out if your conversion rate is above or below average. So, without discussing my specific results, my question to an optimizer is what can be considered a good conversion ratio? If your site were averaging around 5%, would you feel good about that or see a lot of room for improvement?

  14. Darren Rowse says:

    John – the problem is that on some sites I’d say 5% would be excellent – but on other types of pages it would be very very poor.

    there are just so many factors to take into account including the size of the page (ie if its a long page with lots of outbound links on it it would be lower whilst a short page with little content and no outbound links except the ads then you’d expect higher than 5%). It’s also about the type of site you have and how ad savy your readers are and even how many ads are available (and therefore how relevant they are)….

    so its not only difficult because of Google limiting what we can say – but because its just difficult….

  15. John Hewitt says:

    Thanks for the note. The only info I’ve been able to find on conversion at all is a claim that 1.5% is industry standard. I have no idea what they are basing that on though. Whever I’ve seen clams that people can triple your revenue, they generally start with 1.5 as a baseline, but I have no idea how much BS that figure is. I understand about variables. No two sites are the same. For my part, I have done most of the things that google and others suggest, and it did raise my conversion ratio considerably, though sadly the pay-per-click has dropped at the same time, leaving me pretty much revenue neutral.

  16. Mahesh Bhat says:

    I’ve personally tested Google Ad units. Although it looks like part of the navigation my CTR was too low… so I’m back to regular ads…

    Not sure why it happens

    Thanks
    Mahesh

  17. Chuck says:

    I’d have to agree with some of the above comments….

    Test, test, test…!!

    The bottom line is that, while there are all sorts of indications about blending and position that are indicated by studies, not all of those results work universally.

    For me, most of the rules (blending, the big block ads, etc) work great!

    But one of my development partners has heard found that different ad formats work differently depending on page structure…and even the content of the page. In many cases, even the “should never be used” 468×60 format outperforms all the others.

  18. Wayne says:

    I agree with this post. I would definitely get the ads only on the hot zones. The right side-bar didn’t work for me.

  19. Ella says:

    Don’t forget that it’s important to appeal to visitors, or you’ll lose them and thus the money. Still, visitors are more important, right? The two go hand in hand, anyway.

  20. Skirt says:

    Another thing to remember is to always experiment. You’ll never know what works best on you site until you try different ad positions, formats and colors.

  21. hanli says:

    Dear Sir,
    Your article is useful and very attractive once for me.
    I have suggestion, how if you do study case each month 1 or 2 times.
    For enthusiastic of blog property of him to get suggestion of you in order to become better can rise to special e-mail address which You provide.
    But me realize of course you very busy now.
    This is merely a just suggestion.

    best regard,
    hanli

  22. These are very helpful Adsense tips. I have also discussed Adsense optimization tips and I made a link to this page as additional great resource at http://www.freetipsandwits.com/moneymakingblog/2007/03/google-adsense-optimization-tips.html. Hope you don’t mind, Darren. Thanks.

  23. Pachecus says:

    here is the official adsense page to optimize adsense on a blog

    https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=43869

  24. Hi.

    Why bother on someone who does not appreciate it…i would love if you do mine instead.

    could you please advice me on how to optimize mine… thank you so much in advance.

  25. i would appreciate it if you give the advice. i already heeded those google advices but i feel that it is not helping any since i still get a few cents of earnings, to think that i have a fairly decent traffic of 150k to 200k page views a month.

  26. TopOnlineJob says:

    Very useful informations.
    I think the best method for adsense optimization is experiments using adsense channels. Every site or blog has different performance even they have same type of layouts.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Well, Darren Rowse doesn’t offer this to anyone, that is—only to Jeff Jarvis. I however feel that it’s a great, great post he makes here, since a lot of us bloggers who’re trying their hand at AdSense (or plan to) probably fall in this category of “not placing our ads efficiently enough”. [...]

  2. [...] Darren Rowse usually charges for this but he gave me — and thus, thee — advice on Google ad optimization. Thanks, Darren. (Link fixed now.) [...]

  3. Avoid The Cool Zones

    Darren Rowse offers what seems to be some pretty sharp advice about how to place Ads on a website. I’m not going to follow them (yet) but I certainly learned something in reading the article….

  4. [...] might even be worth picking another blogger to do a case study on. For example back in 2005 I did a case study on how prominent blogger Jeff Jarvis could optimize his AdSense ads better. I did this because Jeff had started using AdSense and had written about it publicly. I [...]