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Where’s the Content? – Positioning Ads on Your Blog

Here’s a quick tip on ad placement that I’d like to pass onto bloggers – particularly those experimenting with AdSense.

Ensure that your content can be seen above the fold.

That is – ensure it’s above the fold if you want readers to keep coming back to your blog.

One of the important choices that faces many bloggers is how to place Ads aggressively enough to get click-throughs but subtly enough that the rest of the page doesn’t suffer as a result.

One of the trends that I’ve seen increasingly on blogs is to place large AdSense ads in the center of pages right above content.

In doing so they content it self is quite often pushed down so far the page that scrolling needs to happen in order to read it.

I totally understand why bloggers do this – in fact it probably comes from the advice of AdSense themselves in two ways.

The advice from AdSense:

Ad Heat Map1. Ad Placement – AdSense have produced a ‘heat map’ which shows where they have found that ads perform best (see left).

The more orange that a spot on the page gets the more attention it will get from readers.

Obviously the best place for an ad on this heat map is right above content – dead centre on the page.

2. Rectangle Ads – The other advice that AdSense gives repeatedly is that rectangle ads (either 300×250 or 336×280) tend to perform best. They do well because of their size but also because they come in text, image and video ads.

ProBlogger Advice:

AdSense is completely right with both of the above piece of advice. Ads close to content work great and rectangle ads do perform really well in comparison to some other ad units.

However – take these two pieces of advice together and put them into place on many blog designs and you set your readers up for a problem.

The result is that quite a few bloggers end up with pages that look a little like the image to the right:

Ad Positioning

I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content. Depending upon the size of the screen that your readers are viewing your site on there might be a little content viewable – but the majority of it is generally below the fold.

While this does give you a decent chance at a good CTR it also gives you a decent chance of having a visitor to your site head straight for the back button on their browser and never return.

While I’ve talked numerous times about how placing ads prominently on your blog increases the chances of someone responding to those ads – the same principle applies to content. Hide it away at the bottom of a page and people are unlikely to respond to it which will lead to:

  • few loyal/repeat readers
  • few incoming links from other bloggers who like your content
  • few people bookmarking your site on social bookmarking sites
  • low comment numbers

So what’s a blogger to do?

In the end bloggers need to make a choice. Which is more important to you – high CTR from readers who never come back or high reader satisfaction?

Which comes first and to what extent?

I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

Some Alternatives to consider might include:

  • Smaller Ad Units – prominently place but smaller units might allow more room for content
  • Single or No Sidebar – having just one sidebar, or even going without one altogether allows you to have a wider content area and still have a prominent and large ad unit
  • Wrapping Content around Ads – one of the good way to get both ads and content prominent is to inset ads into the content and allow the content to wrap around it

How prominent are your ads? How prominent is your content? Which takes the prime position and how did you make the decision? I’d love to hear how you place your ads.

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. I only put adsense ad block above the fold for article that have been in the archive for a few weeks.. and even then, I only do it for content that perform really well search engine-wise..

    the results.. no ads for the regular readers, ads for search engine people (the only people that really matter in this case) and a very good ctr.

  2. CompuWorld says:

    It all depends on the future plans of the blogger. If the blogger is targeting long term profits than he should bring content on the top and that will bring readers (your content needs to be good too :) ) But if the blogger is eying some quick bucks than ofcourse he will place ads on the top.

    I have seen many sides where after heading 2 square ad units are placed. I used to have 1 large square ad unit below heading which I recently removed. Now I am planning to change to a rectangular ad unit just below the heading. Although I was satisfied with last size of ad but still my target here is to keep on checking the ad units and see which performs the best. As at the end of the day readers and more readers matter for me.

    Sidebar ads seem to be useless for me. Many websites do implement those but I do not think it generates lots of clicks. Having clean sidebars gives the blog a much better look. Sidebars should be used for 125×125 image ads. That is a much better option.

    I totally disagree with you Darren on the last point. Wrapping content around ads is like breaking the reading speed. I have seen few blogs do that and that interrupts reading badly. Ads should be above, below or in the sides of the content. No was right in between the content.

    My ultimate target is to generate lots of readers and RSS subscribers (lost them when I shifted to wordpress) and money is no way the criteria for me. I suggest fellow bloggers to think in the same manner.

    Generating better name for your blog will later on bring in lots of income sources from your blog like 125×125 ad spots and job board (like in this website) plus many hidden sources too ;)

    And IF you are in that much need of money than why not do some freelance work for other blogs and earn some quick bucks. I do that whenever I need money.

  3. Probably the best point you got there is this:

    I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

    There are times where whatever you do, the visitor doesn’t come back. That’s why you saw those sites with 2 or even 3 blocks on top of their content because they’re trying to make the most out of every visitor.

    Great post. And oh, typo on the last part “Wrapping Content around Ads”

    Good luck

  4. Skellie says:

    Another possible pitfall is that not having your content/headline visible above the fold will really cripple your chances with social media — Digg users will be very suspicious of you and, as for StumbleUpon… well, let’s just say that it’s quicker to hit the ‘Stumble’ button again than scroll down to your content.

    Just another point to think about on top of the worthy ones Darren has already mentioned.

  5. Hi, I tend to place Ads below the title of the post. So they read the title first, read the ads second and the content third. Allways one block of ads so that in modern day computer screens people can still see the content.

  6. Matej says:

    I saw that many popular blogs add Adsense rectangle ads or some others bellow the post and above comments.

    Anyone have experience how they perform?

  7. hmm adsense – there are so many controversies with adsense that I tend to try to ignore adsense all at once and focus on other monetizing strategies

    also, your right there are users out there that take advantage of their readers and try to trick their users from the content and have them click on something – example the great blog cashquests.com has turned into an adsense landing page – with multiple ads at the top side bars more on the side bars maybe more in teh content – it was just too much that I dont even read cahsquest anymore

  8. Elliott says:

    Great advice Darren, and skellie. Skellie pointed that out to me about a site I have, and I agree completely. I was experimenting with the ad placement, and I think that if I was to visit a site with ads above the fold like that, I would probably also just click on through or go back.

    I guess you have to weigh the ads versus traffic.

  9. Have you noticed the increase in blogs with massive AdSense blocks just after the post title? What a massive slap in the face for a potentially loyal reader – the message is “your click is more important than the content that follows”.

    It’s such an annoying trend that I will leave the site immediately, and if I discovered it through social media, I’ll give it a thumbs down immediately.

    It all boils down to desperate greed vs usability and respect for your visitors.

  10. Ken Y-N says:

    What I do is for people visiting from a search engine I sick a big rectangle ad at the top of my article, but for all other visitors I just have a small banner.

  11. Hyder says:

    I’ve used a plugin that places an Adsense block on the second post of the home page. I also have one Adsense block at the bottom of my sidebar. So they’re out of the way.

    On single post pages though, where a lot of traffic from search engines and RSS readers takes place, I have an Adsense block to the right of the post.

  12. This post and comments by others are very helpful to me as my blog is relatively new and I haven’t placed any ads on it yet. But I am certainly thinking as to how should I proceed with ad placement to keep visitors happy and make some money as well.

  13. Wow, sounds like great advice. I am pretty new to blogging, about a month or so, my readership is still pretty low. So until my readership improves I am going to hold off on imbending advertisements. At what readership level should I include Ads? Is there an average readership/ROI?

  14. Genesis says:

    I personally find that websites which place Adsense above the fold, especially above the content, tend to look like they care far more about earning money than about their visitors. Major turn-off for me.

    Another alternative might be to go with a narrower headers, since many websites seem to have very tall headers that take up quite a bit of space as well, leaving only room for the headline of their content.

  15. Ian McKenzie says:

    I discovered that the bulk of my AdSense clicks came on older pages. I run a script on my site that keeps ads from showing, on the post itself, for the first seven days. Regular readers and subscribers don’t have to read “through” ads, and those coming later via search are more likely to click. So far, my earning continue to grow.

  16. Vicky says:

    I personally don’t like them and like them even less when I have to scroll threw them to read a good article.

  17. Arham says:

    @Darren
    Nice tips Darren… so I’ll be going to try it..
    http://road-entrepreneur.com have one sidebar and I placed on that, till now my earning still have a good grow.

    beside of , I had twice banned by adsense it cause I’m wrapped
    content with adsense, and my friend said “that cause your have not enough content” is that true?

    oh ya,If U have a Time Darren, could I know your opinion about my blog..?
    surely I going to frustrated cause I got poor comment/article, Could U give me an advices..for your advices pls type on about page… Thanks a lot.. :-)

  18. I put my first ad two paragraphs down unless the first paragraph is unusually long; in that case I’ll put it right under that. Placement is all script driven so I can change the positioning, ad content, size etc. instantly at any time.

    For index pages, I put in ads randomly every 25 articles listed, and with the first ad appearing (randomly again) after 7 to 10 listings.

    On my left column, I start ads fairly quickly after some navigation links, but do intersperse them with other site links (related content etc.). Again all script driven so I can adjust this site wide instantly.

  19. George Burke says:

    Recently, I was lucky enough to get a great keyword that has brought a lot of traffic to my new site. The problem I have is that my ads are in the proper positions. I think, but none of them are stimulating.

  20. Glen says:

    I have placed my Adsense block at the bottom of my content since day one. It has worked very well for me.

  21. As long as you don’t go overborrd with a stupid 500px navigational header then there should be plenty of room above the fold for a 1-200px advert and the start of your content.

  22. It may seem strange but one of my best performing ad units is a 330 *300 at the bottom of the page above comments. – agree with Glen.

  23. I just started monetizing my site and so far only had ads at the bottom of the page. I don’t like when people have adsense or something similar in their content because i think it cheapens it a little bit.

    Also this post seems to break the feed just before “I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content.” the 2nd picture makes it in but everythings blank afterwards

  24. James B. says:

    Don’t use ads so i don’t know.

  25. Diana13 says:

    I’ve chosed to place a 200×200 rectangle in my sidebar. It’s in the first visible screen so readers will see it with the right eye’s corner and it’s not annoying for my readers. I wanted to place 468×60 ads in the posts either, but some PPP programs don’t allow that.

  26. I was against the idea of different placement for different ages of posts in the past, but I’ve definetly started changing my mind there. I think presnting the content “first run” nearly ad-free and then making “re-readers” and search engne traffic see the ads is the better way to go.

    Some of the biggest blogs today (even PB to some extent” aren’t suffering from ad blindness, they’re suffering from content blindness.

    People have to see the content prominetly _before_ they will be there to read/click the ads.

  27. 45n5 says:

    I’m much less likely to link to a blog with only ads above the fold. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  28. Mike Goad says:

    If I have to page down to see the content, I’m not staying on that page unless the content is something I really, really want or need. I base my ad positioning on how I react to ad appearance on other sites. Right now, I’m experimenting with 1 relatively small ad that the content wraps around. Can’t say that I’ve had much success, but I’ve only recently started trying to make money on the blogs.

  29. It’s a fine balance between hacking off your readers and realizing that the site needs to be paid for by something. I say this as somebody who just, in the last year, got his website to start paying for itself.

    That’s why there’s certain things that I just won’t do: like pop-ups, or pop-unders or the extremely annoying mouse-over bits (as opposed to the just mildly annoying Amazon ones I use now). Or…what do you call those really godawful things where you try to go to a page and it sends you to an ad page first and you have to wait or skip to the actual content? Man, I HATE that.

    So I agree with 45n5–if you hate it on other people’s site, you shouldn’t do it on your own. That’s a great Golden Rule to have in place.

  30. On the image about ad placement the bottom of page near comments was on the placement areas. I thought this would be the best place to put ads without cheapening the content, but then it occured to me that it might deter people from commenting. What are your thoughts?

  31. On the image about ad placement the bottom of page near comments was one the placement areas. I thought this would be the best place to put ads without cheapening the content, but then it occured to me that it might deter people from commenting. I am going to buy my own domain soon and we trying to plan out how I would do the ads. What are your thoughts?

  32. Opps didn’t mean to hit send and posted twice. Could you please delete the comment at 1:19 and this one when you get a chance. I appreciate it, because I don’t want to take up your your space.

  33. I have been reading your blog for a few months now and I am pretty certain that it has kept me from making the mistake of placing ads to prominently on top of my content. In actuality, there is really no point in my blog without the content so it has to be the focus of the blog. With that said, I think if your focus is on a certain product or product reviews people may be more likely to tolerate prominently placed ads. On personal sites though I think it hurts a lot of the readership. I try to mix as much in there as I can as long as the content is still the main focus. Interesting topic.

  34. Mike Smith says:

    I try to keep 1 ad above the fold (generally, blended into the header like on the site my name is linking to), but on some of my other sites I have 2-3 above the fold. 1 in the header, and 1-2 on sidebars.

    The content is always above the fold. With the redesign of my blog, it’s now even more true. Content is king I guess :)

  35. Sandra says:

    Any time that I see a site that is just chock full of ads without immediately-apparent, useful content, I click off immediately and search to find something more effective. I don’t trust sites that make ads more important than their voice. It’s hard to believe that sacrificing content for advertising would be in any way profitable.

  36. Mark says:

    I am just starting a blog and have decided to use advertisements. However, I feel that “content is king” and I want to make sure my readers get to the content 1st. Any ads can follow the initial content.

    Right now I have one small Adsense 1/2 banner that appears below the most recent post. I expect to increase the amount of ads once the traffic to the blog grows but right now my challenge is to write solid content that will keep people coming back.

  37. I have had excellent results with using the large Adsense square (250×250) just below my posts.

    I use a smaller banner above the content (Adsense half banner) and the square out performs it.

    My average post is below 500 words, so I think most readers make it to the bottom and it gives them a logical place to break off and click.

    I also use a large 250×250 square in my right sidebar just below the fold, and it does well too.

    By far, my best methods of generating income are my affiliate ads from Linkshare. I am focusing my time trying to optimize them, and anything I get from Adsense is a bonus.

    I tried ads within my content at one point and hated it….didn’t get as many clicks either. I think it is far more important to build credibility over a long period than to get all those clicks short term.

  38. As I just started my blog, I’m still toying with the positioning of ads. I don’t have a lot of ads on my site yet. I agree with Mike Smith above. Content is King! And that’s what I’m focusing on first.

  39. Though I don’t use ads on my site, aside from some amazon links, I find a proliferation of ads on a blog both ugly, distracting, and a nuisance. However, since they help pay the bills, I understand why bloggers use them. Therefore, if they can be done in a tasteful yet effective way, they can be endured.

    Bloggers, don’t let your ads keep readers from returning.

  40. Sallie Mae says:

    On most blogs, I put the 728×15 AdSense link unit format across the top of my page below the header image. I figure it’s prominent but not overpowering because it’s skinny. Does anyone know if bloggers are getting good CTR with this format?

  41. Roman says:

    Oh man, I never thought that placing adsense ads could be such an exact science!
    If I had known about it before I would have probably thought twice before starting my own blog that talks about how to generate money through adsense from the perspective of somebody who has absolutely no prior knowledge of the stuff.
    Anyway a really good post for somebody just getting into online advertising. Signed up for your RSS feed :)

  42. m says:

    I’m still experimenting with ad placement so I’ve come here for advice. I’m not totally happy with my current layout and plan to change as soon as I can.

  43. Ruchir says:

    In my opinion, the advice the guys at adsense give for ad placement should only apply to normal websites, and not blogs. If you apply it to a blog, I’m 100000% sure that you’ll never make it big. For me, my readership is of paramount important, especially since my blog is pretty new (about 2 months old) so I really would never make ads more prominent that content.

    Readers come to see ads, not content. Also you’ll never be successful with social media if you position too many ads above the fold.

    I’ve only two ads above the fold, but my theme is made in such a way that the content doesn’t get pushed down at all (the ads are in the header)…

  44. Nava says:

    Thank you so much for this piece of advice. I was just working on the placement of my ad’s today and that was about the same place that I had decided to put them but I wasn’t sure if they were going to be in the way. It just seems to be the first place that you can see them. If you want to move past them you can and if you want to click on them you can. It is a great spot and I will use this for future reference.

  45. coolthought says:

    After reading your post, I have a good idea where to put the ads for a start. There will be a balance of contents and ads location. Content will still take the centre stage. Afterall this is what the reader come to your blog for. Then I will give the next most hottest location for a couple of the ads. Next will subscription and navigation. Then it will again a couple more ads and one right between the contents and comments. Finally, polls and any other things.

  46. “If you apply it to a blog, I’m 100000% sure that you’ll never make it big.”

    That’s not true.. I know a few blogs, including mine, that are doing pretty well.. and we have some adsense units on our blog.

  47. Thanks a lot for all the good advice here in the site!

    My expierience with ads:

    1st. All depends from the interest of the visitor.
    Does he like the content? If he’s coming by search machine, often he will look for the keywords he’d been looking for – despite the ads here or there.
    If he is not convinced of the content, a good bye through an content sensitive ad is possible – but he has to find this doorway. So – if he is bored after the first view – the upper ad position is quite good. If he had an overview by scrolling to the bottom and will leave now – put the ad there as an opportunity for both – as income for you and for him as a chance to follow the context ad. If he likes your content, he will link to a following page – until he will leave – and then: the same as above.

    Conclusion – give him the ads above and at the bottom. But let him see the title of the page on the first view to check the landing place at once.

    2nd. Content wrapped ads work not so good in my site. The usual visitor wants to leave after seconds (the upper ad!) or after scrolling (the bottom ad). The wrapped ads in the middle have medium price (I suppose), disturb the reading and the quick overwiew and will lower the income of the more often clicked bottom ads.

    3rd. Small ads like leaderboard work well enough. I combine them with hand made eyecatchers, rigorously distinguishing from forbidden ads pics (“misleading images”).

    Pardon me for my school english, I hope you’ll understand what I mean ;-)

    Konrad Fischer
    Hochstadt/Main
    Germany

  48. Buxr Widget says:

    I read somewhere that there is a WP plugin that disables ads for return visitors. Can’t recall the name but this couldbe the solution to keep your old timers happy

  49. Heelcandy says:

    300×250 Ad banner directly above the fold will do the best (approx 1.5x better than 160×600 sidebar), however if you have good content and loyal readers I wouldn’t recommend this strategy at all.

  50. 66tx says:

    Great post. And oh, typo on the last part “Wrapping Content around Ads”