Over the last week I’ve been covering a few tactics that can lead to a significant overnight increase in your earnings with AdSense (and other ad networks). So far we’ve looked at AdSense Ad Positioning and the number of AdSense ads on your page.
Today I want to talk about AdSense Ad Design – another key factor in the performance of AdSense ads.
In my previous posts I’ve talked about how changing the positioning and numbers of ads has seen significant changes in my own AdSense earnings at different times – ad design can have a similar impact.
AdSense give quite a bit of control over how text ads can display on your site. You can change the color of a number of elements in ad units by changing the ‘color palettes’ that you choose.
As you can see above in the ‘default’ color palette there is the option to change the color of ad borders, the title, background, text and URL. There are rumors floating around at the moment that we might have more control over the font of ads too in the future (I’ve been seeing a variety of fonts in my own ads lately which is a signal that Google is experimenting).
Unfortunately there’s not a single color palette that works best on every blog. As with everything – testing different color schemes is the only way to work out what works best for you.
There are a number of different AdSense ad design strategies that bloggers have used over the years. Lets look at three of them:
1. Contrasting AdSense Ads
When I first started experimenting with AdSense the trend among publishers was to do everything possible to make the ads be seen. The theory is that if people see the ads they’ll be more likely to click them.
The result was some of the most horrendous color combinations that you’ll ever see put together in an AdSense unit.
Warning – what you see below might induce headaches….
I’m not sure why anyone would select this kind of combination but it was commonplace a few years ago. I saw a number of publishers back in that day saying that a Red/Yellow combination worked best.
The Pros of this design where that they were eye catching – the Cons were that they didn’t do a lot for creating a great first impression of your site.
2. Blended AdSense Ads
As a result the trend moved from ‘clashing’ ads to what was known as a ‘blended’ approach.
The keys to this approach were to set the background and borders of ad units to match the background of the site that they were going. In doing so you removed any border/boundary between the ad an your content.
The Title was then made to be the same color as links on the site. Text was made to match the color of text on the site and the URL field either was made to match the title OR to be as light a color as possible (a light grey) so as to blend into the background as much as possible.
The attempt was to make the ads blend into the site as much as possible and look like an integrated part into the site. So ads here at ProBlogger with a blended design might look like this:
The pros of this approach was that ads didn’t clash with the site and as a result didn’t scream ‘CHEAP AND NASTY MONEY GRABBING WEBSITE’. The ads also performed better in most cases than a ‘clashing’ ad. The Cons were that sometimes the ads could blend too much into the site, particularly those sites which had a loyal readership which became blind to the ads.
3. Complementary AdSense Ads
Over the last couple of years another term has crept into AdSense publisher circles to describe ads – ads that ‘complement’ a site.
These ads are similar to blended ads but they don’t completely blend in. They complement the colors of the site but aim to also stand out a little by adding a different background and border color. The color you use might be unique to the ads but still ‘match’ the overall colors on the site.
This type of ad is what Google recommend if you’re putting an ad in your sidebar or some slightly out of the way part of your blog as it draws the eye to it. However if you’re putting an ad in or close to content they suggest a blended ad.
4. Designer AdSense Ads
Most publishers still use a blended or complementary approach (I do) but over the last few years a number of AdSense publishers have played with incorporating different design elements around their ads to integrate them even more fully into the site.
There was a period where publishers got away with aligning images directly beside, above or below ads – AdSense cracked down on this and now don’t allow it at all – however there are ways to incorporate the ads into the design of your site.
You can see the ads themselves are placed inside frames that integrate the ads into the design of the site.
Interestingly Karen no longer uses these ads on her blog. I’ve seen a number of publishers attempt to do this with mixed success. It’s something to experiment with.
So Which AdSense Ad Design is Best?
The choice of which AdSense ad design to choose for your blog is a decision that you need to weigh up on a number of fronts including:
- Performance – test different designs to see which converts best in terms of click through rate
- Aesthetics – each of us have a different preference on what does and doesn’t look good and on how willing we are to allow ads that ‘stick out’ a little.
- Other Competing Design Elements – if your blog’s design is ‘busy’ and has a lot of competing points of visual interest for readers you might need to increase the ‘loudness’ of the ads in order to compete.
When it comes down to purely financial considerations – the fact is that sometimes blending works best and on other occasions it can be better to go with a more contrasting approach.
Check out the official advice from AdSense:
“The color strategy you should use on your site varies depending on the ad placement and the color of the background where the ads are placed. Review the table below for a quick reference about which strategies we suggest will work well on your site.”
You can see the overall design of your site comes into question quite a bit in the eyes of AdSense.
Other Design Choices
There are a few other choices that publishers have when it comes to the way that their ads look.
One somewhat recent chose that AdSense have given us is the ability to round the corners of our ads. As publishers we now have the ability to have three formats – Square ads, Slightly Rounded ads and Very Rounded ads:
Your choice with the corners of your ads only comes into play if you go for a complementary or contrasting approach (ie blended ads effectively don’t have borders that can be seen). The choice will will depend upon the design of your blog. If you have curves on other design elements this will help to integrate the ads better.
If your blog has a lot of repeat readers who come back day after day you will want to consider changing the design of your ads from time to time so as to overcome ad blindness.
You can manually do this on a regular basis or use the built in mechanism that AdSense offers for you to choose up to 4 different color palettes for your ads to automatically rotate through.
Test Test Test
The key to finding the right AdSense Ad Design for your blog is to test different options and see what works best for you.
One way to do this is to try Split Testing (sometimes called A/B testing). I’ll write up how to do this tomorrow – stay tuned!