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Improving Your Ad Clickthrough Rate: the Definitive Guide

This guest post is by John Burnside of Money in 15 Minutes.

Those people who have been using the Internet as a business platform since it began will have noticed that there has been a significant drop in clickthrough rate of ads over the years. During the birth of this massive revolution people were curious and willing to click on anything that promised them fame and fortune or any of the other things that internet marketers advertise.

Nowadays, however, we have developed a generation of Internet-competent people who have seen thousands of ads thrown at them from all directions. This creates a problem for blog owners who would like their readers to click on their ads so that they can have a bit of pocket money for all their efforts.

Understanding ad blindness

This problem, which is sometimes called “banner blindness,” can be tackled to a certain extent by looking at the way users actually view and use your website.

For example, the Clicktale analytical software allows you to see how your visitors are moving their cursors around on your site. This will give you an idea of the areas where your visitors are interacting with your site, but what we really want to know is where your visitors are looking.

There has been some research about the study of how people look at websites and most have concluded that people browse websites in an F-shaped pattern, meaning that they will read the title and then move their eyes down the left-hand side of the page, occasionally flicking their eyes into the content if something catches their attention.

As you probably do yourself, internet users skim-read content to save time and to see if the information is something they are really interested in before they commit to reading it word-for-word. Full images and writeup of the study that produced these data can be found here.

Matching ad style to your content

The next thing that you must do is to match the style of your ads to the content. Because of banner blindness, people will purposefully avoid looking at ads if they can help it and if you make it extra-obvious that your ads
are ads, then most people won’t even consider looking at them: you’ll have lost the chance to attract a click.

All you visitors are interested in when they come to your site is the content. You have to make them interested in your ads. By matching them to your content you are suggesting that the ads are just as important as the content. If these ads are placed in the correct places as well, then they are likely to be seen, and hopefully perceived as a
useful part of your site.

There are a few other ways to blend your ads to your site. The one that I have found through my own research to have the greatest click through rate is the AdSense link unit 15×468. When placed near the top of your site, this link unit can appear like a menu which can create interest and if the adverts are relevant to the content, they can create excellent click through rates.

Now to talk a bit about banner and picture adverts. There is some argument about whether or not banner adverts are a good way of getting people to click through to your site. The obvious advantages are that you have a larger area to work with on the site, and these ads entail a visual aspect which can encourage people to see them. This doesn’t necessarily encourage them to click, though.

Some research suggests that banner advertising is much more useful in creating brand recognition than at actually directly selling products, and I for one would have to agree. If you have banner ads on several websites then even after seeing them only one or two times, the visitor is going to get comfortable with that brand—meaning that if they do click through to the site, they will already have a small element of trust in the brand.

The final point I’ll note is about which types of banners to use. Some bloggers can become enraged if there are what they perceive to be too many banners on a site, and will instantly leave your site with the content unread—that’s the last thing you want!

The words of wisdom here have to be: don’t drown your site in banners. This has to be left up to your own discretion but as a general rule of thumb I would suggest you use no more than about six to eight picture ads on any one page. Also, moving adverts can be great, and will attract readers’ attention, but if you use too many, you’ll risk making your website look like it’s all moving, which can be very disconcerting. My recommendation is to have no more than two moving advertisements in view at any time.

In summary, for maximum, CTR you want:

  1. ads along the top of the page
  2. ads in the top, left-hand corner of your content
  3. banner adverts sold to private sources who want brand recognition or for your
    own products
  4. picture ads in low-eye-traffic areas with moving elements to capture
    readers’ attention (but not too many moving ads).

What steps have you taken to improve your ad clickthrough rates? What advice can you add from your experiences?

This post was written by John Burnside, an expert in the making money and Internet marketing niche. To read more of his content or find out about ways to make money online then please subscribe to his feed at Money in 15 Minutes.

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Comments

  1. Interesting post, I’ve started to go all out on adverts, affiliate deals and soon a product launch. It’s the safest way to earn revenue…

    :]

    • dotCOMreport says:

      Unfortunately, there is no ‘safe’ way to earn revenue offline or online. But affiliate marketing and a product launch should help boost revenue.

      • Kamal Hasa says:

        True. Anyways I always try to experiment different ad blocks until the ctr and revenue seems to be good.

        This is same with all of my blogs and it helps me understand the audience better as well..

  2. The ways to higher CTRs are with testing. There really is no magic formula and people will browse each site different based on areas of content and navigation. So what you really ought to do is A/B test, take the better one and then do it all over again until you have tweaked enough to your satisfaction.

    People would be amazed how moving over an ad from right to left or black to green etc etc changes the CTR of a particular ad.

    Also if you are using Adsense don’t forget to not put the maximum number of ads on a page. Put the most important near the top so you get top dollar. Also use the competitive ad filter to get rid of junk or rival ads. You can even opt out of some categories that may be paying lower.

    Coming back full circle I guess it really depends on what the advertising on your site is for. Are you selling direct or are you trying to make money via CPC. Those are 2 totally different animals.

    • I completely agree with the idea of testing.

      I have placed adsense in different places on my site for the last six months and I have found that the best placement has actually been at the end of a blog posting. The reader appears to arrive at the end of the article and then wonders what to do next. Sometimes they click on an ad.

      My goal is to offer ads as an option to my readers if I don’t have what they want.

      If you want to see how the ads are placed please visit my site and click on a posting and scroll down.

      Best of Success to everyone,
      David

  3. In my experience, clickthrough rates have been higher with AdSense when the ads have been close – I mean really close – to the main content on the page. It doesn’t seem to matter so much if it’s above, alongside or inside – different things work for different people, but definitely if the visitor has to move their mouse too far from the content to click an ad then generally they won’t do it as much. Also, change settings from the default Google colors so they match your site. Text almost always works better than image ads, and it does usually give higher earnings due to a higher volume of advertisers who use this method.

  4. All-Noise says:

    Ive found that adding non-intrusive ad links at the top of my content has helped CTR a lot. I also used to have a banner in the header, but found visitors were used to that and would therefore not even bother looking above the content – I therefore repositioned the banner to the sidebar, which has again helped to increase CTR.

    I think the main thing is to keep making these subtle changes, as your readership become aware of where the ads are quite quickly and then just totally block them out.

  5. Andy Merrett says:

    This is probably another reason why affiliate programs are, in the long run, much more profitable. You skilfully and honestly include details of products in the content, rather than relying on users clicking on third-party ads.

    • Traveler says:

      The other reason affiliate ads are much better is mobile. Neither banners nor Adsense ads work very well on a tiny iPhone screen. But affiliate ads for something reviewed in a post will work—plus they stay intact when you use a plug-in to make your blog mobile-friendly. The other ads in your template disappear.

    • Gregory says:

      Agreed, especially pertaining to the section in this article about the ads like “look like” menu links.

      I think long term your readers are going to appreciate being shown sites that you affiliate with that offer things they are interested in rather than tricking people into clicking your Adsense ads because they look like part of your menu…

  6. I have a simple question for those who have blogger blogs like me.

    Do ads convert better if you put the sidebar on the left side of the page, or the right?

    Does anyone know?

    • According to my experience (2 years) the ads on the right sidebar convert really well.

      Jane.

      • Lyndsy Simon says:

        My experience is much less, but I’ve run split testing over a couple of thousand visitors and found the same thing. For content pages, users seem to expect the sidebar to be on the right, with the navigation and search options (as applicable) to be at top.

        I’ve also found that text ads do better than image ads in that location, but haven’t done any statistical testing to back up that anecdotal observation.

  7. When I have a run of nonperforming ads, I have found that simply changing the color of those same ads can draw attention back to them and resume the clicking of those ads.

  8. Constantine says:

    What has worked for my site is having adsense ads just below the title of the posts. It may make the site look ugly but it works. Only one reader has ever sent me a message complaining about them, but after I politely told him they are necessary to keep me in business, he was fine with them.

  9. Quite nice tips, but i think that extreme use of these technics ruin your site, they think the ad is content, they click it and boom they are away.

    You can earn some bucks but you lose visitors.

    cheers!

  10. I don’t really agree with some of the author’s points. In my experience, Link Units are a terrible waste of space and earn little.

    Let me put it this way, I’ve been using adsense for quite some time and am earning serious money. Serious enough that Adsense sends me emails telling me how I can improve my ads. Every tip they’ve sent me has worked.

    The best one is to select both banners and text ads as an option and Adsense will decide which one will earn you more.

    Also, my biggest tip is to place a huge square adblock in the middle of your content. It may annoy regular readers but this is by far the highest earning slot for me – earning 80% of adsense revenue. Think about it – it’s in an unavoidable place – so you avoid the ad blindness you speak of.

  11. Juan Felix says:

    Hi John. Great advice about ClickTale Software. I did not know it and now am test driving it on my blog. – Juan.

  12. Wasim Ismail says:

    It is where you position the adds that increase click rate, and also trying various add sizes. Testing is important.
    I have ad sense on my home page under by First post, and it works well.

  13. Dave says:

    Adlinks work great, but payout seems lower. But the click-through rate is through the roof. One at the top with text wrap.

    We also use a leaderboard in the header that does pretty well.

  14. Ali says:

    Color matching is something should be considered. Contras color look not nice and annoying. Maybe we think to attract people but some of them don’t like it, even not return to our site.

  15. Nicole says:

    What a helpful post. I just recently added my first ad on my site, so I still have a lot of learning to do.

  16. Rohit@ SG says:

    I feel that the top link unit works wonders. But at the same time, you need to take care that you don’t mix them with site menu which can blacklist your adsense account.

    I also agree with the moving element banner idea. You need to take care that your site doesn’t become heavy with ads that it loads too slowly. This can work against your goals. So, just keep it simple and keep experimenting.

  17. I would suggest tests of running both text link ad and display ads in various positions. Text ads often work well when placed underneath the page content. Also, keep in mind that while ads in the content well will get by far the highest click thru rates, you risk alienating viewers if an ad in the content well isn’t directly relevant to the information surrounding it. Also, above the fold ads almost always get the highest click thru rates.

  18. Tim L. says:

    Constantine—most people who are annoyed with your layout won’t write an e-mail. They’ll just leave and never come back. I do it on a daily basis, especially when anything pops up in front of me that blocks the content I’m trying to read. Game over.

    It’s always a big trade-off that you have to keep experimenting with and testing. Sure, putting ads right in the middle of your content is going to result in a higher click-through rate, but do that too much and both your readers and the stickiness of your site will decrease. For content sites and blogs, less is more in many cases, especially if you’re trying to build a long-term following instead of making an extra 25 cents a day here and there.

  19. You said the visitors see blog in F format, Usually when I visit others blog for first time if the content is good I see about page and archives,otherwise I close the tab . This is my experience.

    Good ideas where to include ads in the blog.

  20. mark says:

    I guess the point here then, is that readers get used to the things that everyone does and many start ignoring them. I know that I don’t like being constantly asked to buy things.

    The people who make the most impact/money/whatever seem to be those who do something new. Whether that is a new product, or a new way to sell a product, it does seem to be helpful to create new ways of doing things.

    Perhaps today I will find one.

  21. Right words for the right time. The best way for me is to display relevant ads that matches what your readers wants

  22. Andrea W. says:

    I keep reading that having ads on the left side of the article, or even just below the title of the posts it’s quite a good strategy to have a good ad clickthrough rate.
    But doesn’t this kind of artifice fools the reader to focus on something else? I have the feeling that instead of giving them good content we’d rather trick them to leave our page through ads. Is this ethical?

  23. Erin says:

    I wouldn’t have guessed that ads in the top-left of content would work. I’ll have to test that out.

    I have found some success with adsense ads on the right side of the page, but I’m definitely willing to consider other alternatives. I like the idea of private source ads as well. Interesting post, thank you for sharing.

  24. Stuart says:

    Hm, a lotta lotta wisdom in this post here. I hadn’t thought about clickthroughs in this way before.

    Thanks for your insights John! :-)

  25. My site received most click with side bar place in site.

  26. Sean says:

    Thanks John!

    One question, in your opinion when is the best time to monetize a blog?

    Thanks again :)

    • Constantine says:

      Traffic = Revenue
      It will be difficult to make money without sufficient traffic, so work on your traffic first. From my experience(I have built three sites), a site will start converting well when you start getting 300 – 500 page views a day.

      Let your traffic level be your guide.

    • Hi Sean

      You can add advertisements at any time because people are generally not to bothered about advertising on the sites they visit but I’d have to agree with Constantine that you won’t see any really impressive results until you start getting a decent level of traffic and I think hes got it right with the 300-500 pageviews mark.

  27. The CTR also increases if you distribute the ads throughout the content
    as opposed to having ads lumped together. Depending on the content
    in the page, distribution causes different pertinent ads to appear near
    that content – even link ads do well in terms of both CTR and cost per click
    earned!

  28. Leon says:

    Thank you for a great Blog and some superb posts. As a new Blogger, I know that I have a lot to learn, and who better to learn than from someone like yourself who has achieved so much? Your Blog is a true inspiration, and I have subscribed to your RSS in order to continue the learning from someone as passionate about Blogging as yourself. My wish for 2011 is to have a mentor of your caliber to guide me to achieve my dreams of being a better Affiliate Marketer. Have a great day.

  29. Manjusha says:

    The best performing ad unit on my site is the adsense large rectangle placed above the fold and below the article. Link units also attract decent click through. They also consume very little space. I haven’t been very good at selling affiliate products.

  30. Santosh says:

    I think having more ad units on your site is the most effective way of monetizing it. That said, it is essential to strike a balance. Your ads shall not drown the content.

  31. junaid says:

    Man i have a good click through rate (7-10%), i think i need to work on improving my eCPM, anyways good enlightening post though :)

  32. Eleazar says:

    In my experience, placing Adsense link ads (200×90) at the left side of the post before the first paragraph and placing 250×250 square ads in the middle of the post are also effective.

  33. Javin Paul says:

    Great information guys thanks for this post. by the way out of curiosity what is common CTR ?

    Thanks
    Javin Paul
    FIX Protocol tutorial

  34. The one part that the author missed is adsense units wrapped inside the text. They are one of the most paying ads for most of our websites.

    Regards,
    Mac,
    Free Calls Hub

  35. Betty says:

    This is good information. I have read that the position of the ads are very important too.

  36. Betty says:

    I have read that the position of the ads are very important too.

  37. Harrold says:

    On my sites the 335×280 (or so) large rectangle in the content isn’t performing as well as it used to. Two years ago I got a CTR of about 6-7%, now it’s only 3-4%.

    I guess more people know it’s an ad nowadays.

  38. thanks. for guidance we are beginner level. and love to follow you

  39. voip 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.

  40. This is a great post, I agree that having to many adds or placing adds inside the post seems to take away from the site. At the Mountain Weekly News http://mtnweekly.com I have tried to only put a few adds in the sidebar and header. I would ideally like to have zero adds on the homepage but have everything else show up on the following pages. I think it looks tacky with to many adds. And I even had a customer mention they just saw adds and links at our site..

    I think a header adsence add may be next.