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Introduction to Advertising Optimization – Ad Position

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes that I see bloggers making with the positioning of advertising is with regards to position. In fact this is not a unique thing for blogs or even just online advertising as effective advertising relies upon positioning in all of it’s forms. This is why ads at Prime Time on TV, in the front pages of magazines and on the big billboards at busy intersections are in high demand (and are at a premium price).

The theory is pretty simple (and logical) really – if you increase the number of people who see an ad you increase it’s chances of converting (note that position isn’t the only factor, as we’ll explore later).

A good question to ask yourself as you consider ad placement on your blog is ‘where are people looking?’ Some of the factors to keep in mind when answering this question include:

Above The ‘fold’

When you look at the front page of ProBlogger you will notice that only part of the page is showing. This is because I have more content than can fit on the screen (unless you have a massive screen of course). The only way you can see everything on the page is to scroll down.

If you were to draw an imaginary line across Problogger’s front page at the point where you had to start scrolling this line is known in web circles as ‘the fold’.

Research shows us that elements of a website below the fold are seen by significantly less readers than elements above the fold. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in general (and there are some exceptions which I’ll outline below) this will mean a lower conversion for your ads.

Content

The content of your blog is hopefully the place where most of your readers are drawn to (if it’s not you might have a problem). This is the case whether your content is text, video or image and as a result one of the best converting positions on a blog in terms of advertising is within or close to content.

Different bloggers have different opinions on both on firstly whether ads should be put near content (that’s a debate for another post) as well as what is the best method to do so – but in general there are a number of fairly common ways that it is done. Let me outline a few:

  • Between Posts – perhaps one of the most common ad placements running on commercial blogs at present is to place a rectangle or small banner ad between posts when running ads on the front page and/or category pages.

    One example of a blog using this strategy is megablog – Engadget which places a rectangle AdSense unit between the second and third posts on it’s front page (see screen cap below).

    Picture 2-3

    In fact Engadget use this strategy between many of their posts on their front page (and category pages), using a mixture of AdSense ads and other ads (probably sponsorship deals). (Note: Engadget runs more than the normally allowable number of AdSense units per page. AdSense reportedly has deals with some larger publishers that allows this).

    I currently use this strategy here at ProBlogger also on my front pages – inserting ads between my second and third posts.

    AdSense themselves have recommended this position in a diagram that they produced to show which positions work best (below):

    Blogtimize-775540-1

  • Before Content – Placing an ad unit slightly above a post can be an effective placement, especially if using an ad with a smaller height. 468 x 60 pixel ads are one such ad, as are the horizontal ad link units from Adsense which often are placed across the top of a blog just above a post’s title. My own experience is that ads above content are not quite as effective as ads IN content (see below) – but they are generally less intrusive than IN content ads.

    One warning however with these ads – if you use an ad that is too large you can actually push your content too far down the page and actually end up with a page that has little content above the fold (something that is likely to frustrate your readers).

  • In Content - There is some debate around this method of ad placement but in my experience it is by far the most effective in terms of Click Through Rate.

    While readers do scan content – their eyes are generally in it’s vicinity and to have ads in this position means they naturally see it and if the ads are relevant to the content itself they are much more likely to click.

    Ad sizes in this position vary in terms of conversion from blog to blog but some bloggers use a rectangular ad block aligned to the right or left

    For example – The Movie Blog uses a rectangle ad directly under it’s titles and aligned left on individual pages (see screen cap of this page below).

    Picture 3-7

    Another example is here at ProBlogger where I insert a smaller ad (aligned right) into my individual pages.

    Picture 6-1

Comments

Another hotspot on many blogs is in the vicinity of the comments section. There are a number of reasons for this position converting well. For starters, comments are at the end of a post and at a point where a certain percentage of your readers are looking for something else to do. They’ve consumed your content and will either be looking for more of the same or wanting to take some action as a result of what they’ve read. As a result – an ad that is contextually relevant is sometimes quite clickable. The other reason ads near comments do well is because they are a place that draws the eye of your reader. The discussion that happens on a post can be just as valuable to readers as the post itself and so they become hotspots.

Here at ProBlogger I place a rectangle ad at the end of my posts and a bit above comments. I find that these ads can some days get a higher CTR than any other ad on the blog.

Picture 8

Images

A strategy that some bloggers use is to draw the eye of their readers towards their ads by using images or other visual aids. While there are many poor examples out there of people doing this (many of which break the Terms of Service of programs like AdSense in my opinion) I’ve previously drawn readers attention to more subtle and stylish ways of doing this (like Karen Cheng’s approach).

Adsense-2-1-1

Left Hand Side

When I first started experimenting with ads the advice I was given was that ads on the right hand side of a page did best because people looked over there to use the scroll bar. In more recent times the research and expert opinion on the matter is that the left hand side is best. Perhaps this is because those of us from countries which read from left to right are wired to look left when viewing a page – or perhaps there is some other reason – but from my own experience in tracking ads – it does seem to be true.

AdSense published the following ‘heat map’ to illustrate where they found ‘hot spots’ to be on web pages. As you’ll see – ads positioned to the left tend to do better than those on the right.

Placement

Of course there are many other things to consider when working on the placement of ads – two that I’ve written about previously include Aesthetics and Financial Considerations (this is a post well worth reading if you’re using AdSense – it outlines how it’s possible to have less ads and be more profitable).

Next in this series we’ll examine the topic of Ad Design

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. Todd Brill says:

    Great article, Darren! I’ve been using some of the heat map stuff on my site and experimenting with placement and ad type with adsense. I partner and I have recently started a series of financial sites using Movable Type as a back end and PHPAdsNew to rotate AdSense into the hot spots so we can track the best formats for each hot spot as well. I definately recommend it. Inline ads do result in higher CTR overall, but well positioned link units are fantastic too.
    For an example of this, check out http://www.myfuturesinfo.com/

  2. Shaun Carter says:

    Great post on ad positioning Darren! I’m going to be fine tuning some of the placements on my websites and this will come in handy.

  3. Jason says:

    This guy actually removed the Google Adwords on his website despite making $138 a month with a below-the-fold Adsense banner:

    http://www.nevblog.com/2006/03/google-ads-gone.html

    -J

  4. Rich Owings says:

    Darren,

    When you discuss “In Content” ads, you show a left aligned AdSense ad within a post. Can this be done without CSS changes? I can get Amazon ads to do this using align=”left”, but not AdSense. The Amazon ads are iframes, whereas I think the AdSense ads are javascript. Maybe this has something to do with it. My content just gets bumped down below when I try this.

    From a non-techie…please help!

  5. Alan Pritt says:

    Rich,

    I don’t have a blog, so I’m not sure quite how it works with blogs, but on my site I just put the ad into a table. That allows the text to wrap around it.

    Alan

  6. Tom says:

    Darren

    What is the plug in that you use to put the ads between the 2nd and 3rd post, or do you do so manually?

    Outstanding post as usual.

    Tom

  7. Rich Owings says:

    Thanks Alan. When I go home from the day job today, I’ll look up tables, something I haven’t messed with before. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go pro, but I sure am learning a lot by blogging!

  8. Darren,

    Here’s an absolutely AWESOME article on eyetracking, where people look when they’re reading an online site:
    http://www.poynterextra.org/eyetrack2004/advertising.htm

    It says basically the same thing, but goes into more detail as well as providing statistics of their test subjects eye movement.

    One thing, however, maybe you want to make a note of since the majority of bloggers use it. With BlogSpot, I have not found a way to include Ads within the main body of the post (ie directly within the content). I can only seem to include it at the end. Ce’est la vie, another shortcoming of a free blogger service.

    Asian Playboy

  9. Darren Rowse says:

    Rich – this is the code I use with my ads to align them right in my posts:

    <div style=”float:right;margin-top:0px;margin-left:3px;”>
    <script type=”text/javascript”><!–
    google_ad_client = “pub-9434882901267107″;
    google_alternate_color = “FFFFFF”;
    google_ad_width = 125;
    google_ad_height = 125;
    google_ad_format = “125x125_as”;
    google_ad_channel =”5813530234″;
    google_ad_type = “text_image”;
    google_color_border = “FFFFFF”;
    google_color_bg = “FFFFFF”;
    google_color_link = “000000″;
    google_color_url = “999999″;
    google_color_text = “878773″;
    google_ad_type = “text_image”;
    //–></script>
    <script type=”text/javascript”
    src=”http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js”>
    </script>
    </div>

    There are plugins around for wordpress to do this too (don’t forget to use your own channel and publisher codes :-) )

    Tom – I don’t use a plugin to insert the ad between 2nd and 3rd posts. My blog designer set me up with this code:

    <?php comments_template(); ?>
    </div>
    <?php if ($i == 2){ ?>
    <div align=”center” style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>
    <script type=”text/javascript”><!–
    google_ad_client = “pub-9434882901267107″;
    google_alternate_color = “FFFFFF”;
    google_ad_width = 300;
    google_ad_height = 250;
    google_ad_format = “300x250_as”;
    google_ad_channel =”5454501603″;
    google_color_border = “FFFFFF”;
    google_color_bg = “FFFFFF”;
    google_color_link = “000000″;
    google_color_url = “999999″;
    google_color_text = “878773″;
    google_ad_type = “text_image”;
    //–></script>
    <script type=”text/javascript”
    src=”http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js”>
    </script>
    </div>

    not sure if those codes will work on other’s blogs but hopefully they give some hints as to how you can do it.

  10. Rich Owings says:

    Thanks Darren. I’ll give it a shot. I’m in TypePad BTW. If it’s not dependent on CSS, it should would work. HTML was easy to learn, but CSS is another story entirely!

  11. Glen Johnson says:

    Great tips as usual thanks

  12. Aaron says:

    Tom,

    In WordPress you can do something like this in “The Loop”:

    if (have_posts()) :
      $i=1;
       while (have_posts()) :
          the_post();
          the_content();
          if(2 == $i)
            {
            // do adsense stuff
            }
          $i++;
       endwhile;
    endif;
  13. Rich Owings says:

    Darren,

    I tried, but without success, most likely due to my lack of understanding of CSS. Alan, I tried your method at http://gpstracklog.typepad.com/gps_tracklog/2006/01/magellan_explor.html
    with a little more luck, but I’m just getting blank space instead of an ad served. Any thoughts on why?

  14. Alan Pritt says:

    Rich, apart from the tag, the code looks exactly like mine. Is the ad served if you take it out of the table and just put it with the text? Also, if you just type some text before the adsense code, does that text appear in the table?

  15. Alan Pritt says:

    hmm, in my post above it should read tbody tag, not just tag.

  16. Dave says:

    Very interesting post, some very good points that I will be taking into account myself.

    Found a new blog to check regurlarly!

  17. Rich Owings says:

    Thanks Alan. TypePad forced the tag change; I assume its OK. I’ll check the ad and table code further tonight. I’m beginning to think this has to do with my TypePad level. You aren’t suppposed to have full control over HTML unless you have TypePad Pro. I’m at the mid-level now. I’ve messed with other HTML changes, and this is the first time I’ve ran into a problem. May be time to upgrade. My next blog will definitely be on a different platform.

  18. keitai says:

    Hi Darren,

    Should have guess you already did it. What? well I was searching for information about a single post adsense placement and thought it would be covered here. But then I notice your adsense placement on the right (does this work for you?).

    I have found the solution how to put adsense on each single post (not on the home ofcourse) So now putting a little adsense on each single post.

  19. ohhh, look at me! I made $100,000 by being a marketing devil!

    You my friend are a waste of human life. Marketing serves NO useful purpose in human existance other than to turn people into mindless consumers and conformists which will distract them from making any progress on this planet becuase they are too concerned about saving that extra $ or getting the next gen Ipod.

    Please cease and desist with your marketing selfishness and do something which is of benefit to the world

    I thanks you

  20. Aaron says:

    lol… nice. Darren, you just found yourself a hater. :p

  21. Darren Rowse says:

    ‘thought police’ – thanks for stopping by and expressing your opinion. All I’d ask in future is that you consider not leaving the same comment on multiple posts. While you might feel your comment is relevant on them all my comment spam detector does not and you’ll get yourself banned automatically by doing it.

    I’m not sure how to respond to you allegations of me being a ‘waste of human life’ as I have no idea who you are or how you’ve come to that conclusion. I tend to take criticism pretty well from people who try to get to know me and who stand behind their criticisms in person so I guess I’ll just let your comment sit there unanswered.

    Feel free to email me any time with your concerns – more than open to dialogue – but if you’re after a flaming comment brawl then you’re in the wrong place.

  22. Rich Owings says:

    Alan,

    I don’t know if you’re still following this thread, but it worked! I was able to put the AdSense ad inside a table and get it to wrap. Not sure what I did before, but it worked like a charm this time. Thank you so much!

  23. Mitchell says:

    I thought this article was great. Without your guidance Darren, I probably wouldn’t have started my first blog for profit. I remember one of the first articles I read on this site regarding why you started this site (i.e. to help others), and it’s stuck pretty well in my mind. In fact, it’s the reason why I started my second site and series of blogs – to actually help others with good information (my first site is a bunch of commercial blogs about various sports).

    Wait – I’m completely off-topic now.

    I simply wanted to say your information is really good, and with your help, I’m a 3 digit blogger (in 2 months)!

  24. Bob says:

    I have had a significant increase in my click through percentage on with Google Adsense after I changed my position of the ads and also the size of the ads. Thanks for all the great tips.

  25. mark says:

    If you TURN off WYSIWYG editor in admin on wordpress under USERS TAB.. close to bottom.. uncheck box..

    YOu can then just insert adsense directly into your posts

    BUT and here is the HUGE BUT..

    they show up in firefox FINE!!

    but in Internet explorer they dont..

    SO How the heck darren do you get your ads in your posts to display good in all browsers???

  26. teeyai555 says:

    Hi Darren, I get your good tips. I will try to use in blogspot but i don’t know it’s ok or not. Thanks.

  27. LCarter says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for all your great information on this site! I put this page on a link from my website cause I used it as a referance.

    Thanks again!

  28. moserw says:

    Great post once again. I am reading through the entire AdSense optimization series on your blog. Never knew you could do so much in terms of ad placement optimization. Thanks a lot and much appreciated for sharing. Keep up the great sharing.

  29. Mohsin says:

    These are really nice tips, i`ve been trying to optimize my blog-site adsense tips and it really does helps a lot.

  30. Here’s an interesting real world example (albeit not a blog). I increased my advertising revenue by 2.5 by redoing my page layout from http://www.vocabulary.co.il/index_old.php to http://www.vocabulary.co.il/. I fattened the skyscraper from 120 to 150, removed some non-producing little ads, and most importantly, added the google adlinks.

    I believe that I can probably improve another 50-100% by refining vendors and working the left column more effectively. Suggestions welcome.

  31. klugsang says:

    thank you for good tips for adsense i think i try to do it.And ican earn money very easy.

  32. I’ve been using some of the heat map stuff on my site and experimenting with placement and ad type with adsense. I definitely recommend it.

  33. FatCow says:

    Great post on ad positioning Darren! I’m going to be fine tuning some of the placements on my websites and this will come in handy.

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