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New Interactive AdSense Unit with Pictures Spotted

There’s been lots of testing of new ad formats going on at AdSense recently – but this one is really interesting – it’s a much more interactive looking AdSense unit that looks and functions a lot like Chitika’s eMiniMalls and WidgetBucks units.

It seems to be called the ‘Google Checkout Gadget’.

Google-Ad
The ad was seen on a UK Tech site – Technical Itch by Dean.

Another New AdSense Unit Spotted

Mani from Daily SEO Blog just shot me a screen cap of an unusual AdSense ad unit that he saw:

Google-Ad-Big

It’s a 336×280 pixel ad unit. Looks like AdSense are in a bit of a testing frenzy at the moment with new ad formats being reported every few days by readers of ProBlogger.

What do you think of this one?

AdSense Launch Ad Review Center – Review Ads Targeted at Your Blog

AdSense has just announced a fairly significant new feature that will help publishers to monitor what ads are being targeted on their blogs to see if they are relevant and appropriate for that site.

I complained in a number of recent posts that I didn’t really have any idea what ads were appearing on my blogs in other parts of the world – so you can imagine that I’m pretty happy with this development.

It’s called the Ad Review Center and AdSense say that it will roll out to publishers ‘over the next few months’ (they are rolling it out with publishers slowly over time). It will be something that you need to check regularly as you will have 24 hours to review ads before they are automatically allowed to run on the site.

There are two options with reviewing ads – ‘auto allow’ which lets all ads run as soon as they are set up by an advertiser and ‘manual review’ which means ads don’t appear on your site until either you approve them or until the 24 hour waiting period is over.

It only allows you to see what ads are being specifically targeted to your blog (ie not normal contextual ads) but this is important as advertisers are increasingly using the targeting feature and at times what they’ve done with the ads have been inappropriate to the sites that they’re advertising on.

The new feature allows you to view the ads and block those that are inappropriate. You’re asked to share a reason why you’ve blocked it (this is shared with advertisers).

Inappropriate ads might include:

  • competitors ads
  • ads from companies that you don’t want to be associated with
  • ads that are visually inappropriate
  • ads that attack you as a publisher in some way (I’ve seen more and more of these lately)

I’m not yet activated for this new feature – but from what it sounds like – it’s a good move from AdSense.

Full details at Inside AdSense: Introducing the Ad Review Center

AdSense Testing New ‘Slider’ Ads

I’ve just had emails from a number of readers who are reporting seeing a new type of AdSense ad appearing on their blogs – ads with little arrow buttons on them which rotate ads.

Here’s how they look (buttons circled):

Adsense-Slider-Ads

When you click the button the ad ‘slides’ up and down. I’ve also seen some where the ads slide sideways back and forwards.

Thanks to Alex and Collin who were the first to alert me.

Update – see them in action with the following video screen cast of the ads:

Lastly – they seem to be split testing on some blogs between this type of slider ad and a ‘show more’ link at the bottom of ad units. Both effectively do the same thing – ie show your readers more ads.

Why AdSense Might NOT be Best for Your Blog

AdsenseYesterday I published a list of reasons why AdSense is an advertising network worth considering if you want to make money blogging.

Today, in the interest of balance and fairness, I wanted to share the flipside and point out a few reasons why AdSense might not be best for your blog.

Hopefully somewhere between these two posts will be enough information for a blogger to make an informed decision. My personal opinion is that AdSense can be a great income stream for bloggers – but not on every blog. As always – it’s about testing different income streams on different blogs and going with works best.

Here’s some reasons why AdSense might not be the best money maker for your blog:

1. Sharing Revenue

Lets start with the bleeding obvious, AdSense takes a cut of any revenue that Advertisers pay to have their ad appear on your blog. There have been lots of educated (and not so educated) guesses at what percentage of ad revenue that AdSense keeps for themselves – but whatever it is you are not getting everything. Of course this isn’t unique to AdSense (almost all ad networks take a cut) but compared to selling advertising directly to advertisers yourself you’re losing money (of course for what they bring you this might be worthwhile).

2. Lack of Control Over Ads Appearing

One of the problems that using AdSense can bring with it is that you lose some control over what appears on your blog. Because AdSense draws ads from many thousands of advertisers and because these ads are targeted to readers of your blog differently in different parts of the world you can be largely unaware of what ads are appearing on your blog at any given time. Ads could be appearing on your blog for anyone from your competitors, to ads for dubious products or services or even for products and services that are quite the opposite of what you would recommend on your blog. While AdSense allows you to ‘filter’ advertisers by adding certain URLs that you want blacklisted – this is only ever going to help you blacklist advertisers that you can see in your part of the world.

3. Underselling to Advertisers

I was chatting to one advertiser recently who told me that he was able to run ads using AdSense on a particular site for 20% of the CPM cost than they were willing to sell ads for if he went directly to the advertiser. AdSense do their best to maximize the amount that you earn per click – but there is no way for you to have any input as to what your ads might be worth. As a result AdSense might sell your ads at a CPM of a dollar or two – but you might be able to sell the same ad unit for significantly more if you went directly to advertisers (this will vary from topic to topic).

4. Cheapen Your Site

I’ve chatted to some mid to upper level advertisers who have refused to advertise on a blog that has AdSense ads on it. The reason that they gave was that it cheapened the look of the site and they didn’t want to be associated with it. I don’t know how widespread this is – but it’s an argument that I’ve heard numerous times.

5. Not good for Political, Religious sites

AdSense is fairly good at working out what topic you are writing about and then serving up relevant ads to it (thus increasing your CTR). However some topics are more difficult to serve relevant ads for than others – particularly topics where there might be two opposing views. For example you might have a political blog and argue strongly for one political view point but use a few keywords in your post that trigger an ad for a completely opposing point of view. The same is true for other topics – like religion.

6. Distractions from Clicks on other Objectives

While AdSense can definitely be the primary way of monetizing a blog – it can also be a distraction from other income streams. The more options that you give a reader to click something on your blog the less they will click on any one thing. For example this can be a problem for blogger’s whose primary objective is to make money from affiliate programs – adding AdSense can distract readers from your affiliate links and decrease the chance of them converting. Similarly if you’re wanting to sell yourself as a consultant – when you add AdSense as a way of supplementing your income you could be sending traffic to other sites – some of which may be your competitors. It should be said that this isn’t just a problem with AdSense – any ad network added to a site can act as a distraction and send people away from your primary objectives.

7. Minimum Payout a Problem for Small Bloggers

As some pointed out in yesterdays post on why AdSense is good – a problem that some small bloggers face is that the minimum amount that you have to earn before being paid ($100 USD) is a big ask when you’re just starting out. Many small bloggers who earn just a few cents a day can take years to hit this mark. While it’s nice that AdSense accepts these publishers with little traffic (some ad networks don’t) the reality is that some bloggers give up before hitting this mark. I wonder how much money AdSense makes out of this.

Let me emphasize again – this is not a definitive list or one that should persuade a new blogger one way or the other on whether they should use AdSense. My personal opinion is that it’s worth testing numerous money making options for blogs to see what works best – including AdSense.

What would you add to today or yesterday’s list of reasons to use and not use AdSense on blogs?

Why You SHOULD use AdSense on Your Blog

AdsenseIn this post I’ll explore some of the reasons why bloggers should consider using AdSense as a way to make money from blogging.

I recently released a video post which explained some of my reasoning for stopping to use AdSense as a means to make money from ProBlogger. The post got a lot of attention – however some readers thought that it meant I was giving up on AdSense altogether on all of my blogs. A couple even called me ‘Anti-AdSense’.

This is not the case – while I don’t use AdSense any more on ProBlogger – I do use it on some of my other blogs and it continues to one of my biggest income earners.

In fact since I started to use AdSense it’s earned me just under $400,000 USD.

That’s not bad considering that I’ve been using it for 4 years and it started out earning me just a dollar or two a day.

With earnings like that I’d be a little silly to be Anti-AdSense.

Like every method of making money for blogs – AdSense isn’t always the best choice – however there are plenty of good reasons to test it out. In the remainder of this post I’m going to explore when it IS a good option. Later in the week I’ll share the other side of the coin – when it ISN’T a good option.

Hopefully between the two posts we’ll have a good balanced look at AdSense:

10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using AdSense on your Blog

1. International Traffic – if your blog has a considerable amount of traffic that comes from outside of North America it can be difficult to find an advertising network that will allow you to participate (particularly if your traffic is from some parts of Asia). Some ad networks will simply not accept you as a publisher, others will not serve their ads to non US traffic and others will serve other less relevant and lower paying ads to this traffic. AdSense does none of this. The beauty of AdSense is that they have such a large supply of advertisers using them that there is almost always some advertiser who wants traffic from your your reader’s part of the world. Of course there is more competition for some traffic than others (which drives up prices) but I know as someone who has a large Australian readership of some of my blogs that it is one of the best ways that I’ve found to make money from that traffic.

2. Easy Implementation – when I first started experimenting with making money from blogging just over 4 years ago I experimented with a number of options. The reason that I stuck with AdSense was that even as a complete technical idiot I could get an AdSense ad unit up and running on my blogs within minutes. Of course since that time AdSense have made implementing ad units on blogs even easier (particularly in the last couple of weeks with server side ad management). While other ad networks have followed in the footsteps of AdSense in how they let publishers design and add ad units to blogs – I still find AdSense one of the easiest to use. This makes it ideal for the beginner wanting to experiment for the first time with an advertising network.

3. Massive Advertiser Base – AdSense has had years to establish itself in both it’s back end but also it’s presence in the Advertising community. The result is that they’ve managed to build up a very large base of advertising clients. This increases the chances of them being able to serve relevant ads to your blog (see my next point). There’s no way that an individual blogger would be able to have access to such a wide array of potential advertisers.

4. Obscure Topics – one of the issues that some publishers face when starting a blog on a tightly targeted niche is that it can be difficult to find ways to make money from it either through finding a sponsor for the blog, finding an ad network that is relevant to the topic or by finding an affiliate program that relates. While AdSense is better for some topics than others (read on for more on this) I’m constantly amazed by just how targeted ads can be on even obscure topics. The myriad of advertisers using this system are competing by bidding on millions of keywords on virtually every topic that you can think of.

5. Make it Easy For Advertisers to Target Your Blog – AdSense servers ads from advertisers to your blog in a couple of ways. Firstly there’s one that is completely contextual – they look at your content and then serve ads from their system that they think will relate to that content and have a good chance of earning you (and them) money. The second method is where advertisers specifically target your blog to have their ad appear on. This all happens without you really having to do anything – but it’s good because it is often used by advertisers to test your blog – which can lead to other things. Every few weeks I get an email from a potential advertiser who had been testing ads on my photography blog via AdSense and then wanted to further the relationship (whether by going with private ad deals, sponsorships, affiliate programs etc).

6. Set it and Forget it – many bloggers just want to write content. They don’t have the time or expertise to approach, pitch, negotiate with and then collect money from advertisers. AdSense takes a lot of this work away from you and many bloggers simply add the code to their blogs and then forget it. Of course for best results you should pay it a bit more attention than that and experiment with different design and positioning of ads – but it does take a lot of the work out of things.

7. No Minimum Traffic Levels – if you are just starting out and don’t have much traffic yet it can be difficult to find advertisers or an ad network to take you on board. Some networks have minimum traffic levels before they’ll accept you into their program – but not with AdSense. While your blog may not earn you much – even with small amounts of traffic you can begin to make a few dollars over time.

8. Able to be Used with Other Ad Types – when I first started experimenting with AdSense there were fairly strict rules in place as to what other types of advertising you were allowed to have on a page that had an AdSense unit on it. However in more recent times it has become a little more relaxed and you can run many different types of ads on the same site and page as AdSense.

9. Multiple Ad Formats – one good feature of AdSense is that you’re not just restricted to one type of ad with them. Not only do you have many ad unit sizes to choose from – but you have the ability to serve Text Ads, Image Ads, Video Ads, Adlink units, referral ads (CPA) and use their ‘search’ tool which also is monetized. Many other ad networks just major in one or two of these different formats – in a sense AdSense is something of a one stop shop.

10. Reliable Payment - one of the questions that I’m regularly asked about new ad networks coming onto the market to compete with AdSense is ‘how do we know if they’ll pay up?’ The reality is that most ad networks do pay up – but you do occasionally hear stories of publishers who are not satisfied with this aspect of some ad networks. AdSense has had a few problems over the years with individual publishers – but considering the vast numbers of publishers that they must have – they’ve done pretty well. My payments come in like clockwork and the one time that I did have a check go missing it was promptly replaced.


Of course this post has only argued one side of things (and I’m sure others will give more reasons why they love and use AdSense). So to give a well balanced view on whether to use AdSense on your blog – later in the week I’ll take a look at the flipside and explore some reasons why AdSense might not be the best option for making money from your blog.

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.

AdSense Remove ‘Advertise on this Site’ links from Ad Units

AdSense have just announced in emails to publishers that they have pulled the plug on the ‘Onsite Advertiser Sign-Up’ feature that used to appear on some ad units (links that used to read ‘Advertise on this site’.

The removal of this feature is a result of it’s poor performance and will soon be completely phased out.

I think it’s a good move – one less link on the ad units for people to click instead of an ad. Hopefully most advertisers are savvy enough to know how to target sites using AdWords.

Sounds like the team at AdSense are doing an overhaul of the system at the moment with changes to their reports hinted at (and announced), moves from site targeting to placement targeting and the changes to clickable zones in ad units all in the last 2-3 weeks.

Analysis of AdSense Earnings – Post Click Zone Changes

Amit has posted some analysis of his AdSense earnings since the changes that AdSense made two weeks ago to the clickable zones on their ad units.

Amit says that his CTR has dipped slightly and his eCPM has remained fairly steady.

I thought I’d take a look at the same figures of my own AdSense earnings (I run AdSense on a couple of my other blogs but not ProBlogger).

Here’s how my own stats look (I’ve stripped them of actual figures as it’d break AdSense TOS to share them).

I’ve gone back two weeks before the changes were officially announced by AdSense (on the 15th November) so that you can see the trend before the changes were made.

Here’s how it looks:

Adsense-Changes

It’s an interesting graph on a few levels.

I should say that the interpretation of the figures are made more difficult because we’re just entered the ‘Silly Season’ where advertisers begin to spend more on advertising in the lead up to the Holidays – this traditionally pushes eCPM up a little.

Having said that – the raw figures show that CTR (click through rate) has definitely been lower (in fact some of those days are my lowest CTR for a long time) but the eCPM (the earnings per 1000 impressions) have remained steady – and in fact have had some very good days (or at worst, considering the ‘silly season’ seem to have remained steady).

It is too early to tell (we need another couple of months data after Christmas to see the real impact) but at least on my figures the expected hit in earnings hasn’t been too bad. My own actual earnings are steady (if not slightly up).

However I can’t help but wonder what earnings would be like if CTR were higher with the increased eCPM that I’m seeing.

How do these figures fit with your own?