Ad Optimization

Keyword Optimization

Ooooh. Talk about your controversial topics! Optimizing Google AdSense ads is one of those "he said, she said" sort of issues!

First, let me point out that there are many strategies for doing this. The strategy you use all depends on your purpose and intent in site building. I have some DEFINITE opinions on what my purpose is, and why I do things the way I do! I have reasons why I do it like I do. So as you read these options, consider YOUR purposes, and choose the strategies that fit with those.

Don't just do what someone says just because they say it works! Learn WHY certain things work, and know for yourself why you are choosing what you do!

You may choose to do more than one of these, or to focus on one more than any others.

The Theories:

1. Make it Blend. Some people swear that their ads perform better if they blend with the page. I don't doubt that this is true, but it has a caution!

When people really enjoy your site, they'll respond to links that blend with the site. BUT, they also won't know the difference sometimes between ad content, and YOUR presentations. So if you are concerned about people getting accurate information, this strategy might sometimes harm your credibility.

If your site has a specific theme, then ads that blend also will tend to do better, because they coordinate with the site. People who respond to themed designs don't like things that interrupt it - it appears obnoxious.

2. Make it Contrast. Other people will swear that contrasting ads do best! And this is very probably true, because certain types of sites rely on attention getters, and variety.

If your site uses a lot of animated graphics, bright colors, or other elements, then contrasting ads really AREN'T contrasting ads! They are merely an extension of your strategy. When you rely on distractions to attract, you must then rely on distractions to attract to the ad.

The other time when contrast works well is when you have a poor quality site (and many of the people who say that they work best are marketing poor quality sites) - A contrasting Ad them represents an alternative to bad content, rather than a continuation of your site.

I use contrasting ads for another purpose: When I have a site with a sensitive theme, I use ads that are easily identifiable as Ads. In other words, I make them contrasting on purpose, so that it is more clear that they are NOT part of my site. This allows people who don't like what I have to say, to find alternatives quickly, but also sends a subtle message to those who DO like what I say, that those ads are NOT ME.

3. Make the Links Blue. This strategy is based on the internet standard of hyperlinks defaulting to blue. Over half the sites out there do use some shade or other of blue for their links. So when you choose ads with blue links, the message is instantly "Blue means click this!".

Now, this may work BETTER, or WORSE, on a site that uses other colors for the site links. This goes back to the "blend or contrast" options, and your link color should follow whichever rule you choose to use.

4. Make the outline invisible. The epitome of blending - Set the border and background colors to the same color as your page background. This means that the links will appear to be part of your site, without a border.

Good if you want the ads to appear as part of your content, not so good if you want to separate your content from the ads.

Whether or not you want to try this depends largely on what your purpose is in your pages. If you subscribe to the "blending" theory, then this is the ultimate way to do that.

5. Put Images Above the Ads. Now this one is sort of dumb. Not for the reasons you think either!

The strategy is that you put an image above each ad in a horizontal ad display, and that it will increase your clickthrough rate. People who do this make the background and border invisible. They will put 2-4 generic images above the ads, in the positions they think the ads will show up in, and they choose to ONLY show text ads.

The problem is twofold:

First, because the ads and the images have NOTHING to do with one another, it makes you appear deceptive. The ads are blended into your pages, remember, making them look like YOU put them there. So when you get a picture of a water tower and an ad for infant vitamins, it makes you look either stupid, or dishonest. Ok, so that was an extreme example, but even if you target the ads to your site content, you cannot be sure they will match because you do not control the content of the ads.

Second, Google does not always show the same number of ads! The long horizontal ad box sometimes shows 4 ads, and sometimes it shows 3 ads. Again, it makes you look sort of stupid to have images that don't match! There is no way you can predict this, because it is Google's choice, not yours.

I think that this strategy is really just a waste of time, and that Google would consider it to be on the edge of violating their terms of use since you are not supposed to outright encourage people to click through any deceptive means. This is deceptive in spirit if not in words.

6. Stick the Ads in the Way. Now, some people feel that you have to put the ads where people cannot avoid them. This VERY much depends on your target audience. Some visitors will be put off by this, feeling that you are being obnoxious. Others will accept it as the price for free stuff, shrug, and go around it.

Ad placement is very much something you have to test and see what works best with YOUR visitors. The thing is though, if you are placing ads where they are obvious, you are bringing people in to your site just to ask them to leave. If the ads are more noticeable than the content, they won't bookmark or come back. You have to keep getting new visitors.

I'd suggest that you test placements, and pay attention to small details, like whether you place them on the left, or on the right, top of the content, middle, or bottom, etc.

7. Make the Ads Optional. Some people prefer the "Oh, and by the way, if you did not find what you wanted here, or want more info on related topics, you might try these" approach. In other words, ads are in predictable places where they may be either looked at, or ignored, depending on the mindset of the individual. Common placements are at the bottom of the page, and in the left or right sidebar. Sometimes they may also be at the top of the page, above the content.

I, personally, subscribe to this method with many of my sites. And it works for my audience. Because some people are naturally prone to looking at ads, and some are naturally prone to ignoring them. The difference really is that if the ads are obnoxious, then it will tick off the people who do not like them, and it will make them go away and not come back. So I present them as a secondary alterative. It works for my site viewers.

8. Make the Ads the Focus of the Page. Ok, I am not talking about obvious placement here, I am talking about people who build a site just for ads, and put in only enough content to justify the existence of the page (200 to 400 words), and then they do all they can to make the ADS the content. They weave the ads into the content in a way that makes them look like an integral part of what they are offering. They will place a Links box below their site links or instead of their site links. They'll put a links bar with 3 or 4 links, and then a 3 or 4 celled table below that with descriptive text in each box, so it appears that you click the links to get the information listed in the table. They'll put a horizontal links bar across the top of their page where most people put static site information links.

  • Their whole purpose is NOT to give people useful information, but to build a site that persuades people to click a link. This kind of site is, in my opinion, over the line as far as clean ethics and honesty are considered. This is not a strategy I'd recommend to anyone, because of these reasons:    
  • It gives someone else the power to control your reputation. Your reputation becomes an extension of the ads placed on your site.    
  • It offers very little of value to justify its existence. It is not likely to rank well with search engines since it is weak on content.    
  • It runs the risk of being banned by AdSense, because of a lack of content, and because they forbid you to build a site just for the purpose of using AdSense (this does not mean you cannot build a quality site for the purpose of earning with AdSense while providing good information, just that you cannot build a site JUST for AdSense and no other real purpose).    
  • At best, it would be a "flash in the pan" site, because without quality, it is difficult to sustain income.    

Do it right instead, and use option 9. It will get you further.

9. Focus on Quality Content, and Make the Ads an Afterthought. This is my philosophy about AdSense. Everything comes secondary to quality content - AdSense, SEO, Bells and whistles on a website, etc. High quality, honest, and useful content is first. Get that, and you'll not only get good clicks from people who want to be there, but they'll bookmark your site and come back, even if they do click out.

This strategy has nothing to do with whether you choose to blend your ads or contrast them, or what color links you choose, or even whether you place your ads in obvious places or in predictable places. It has to do with whether or not you are giving your visitors a reason besides Ads to come into your site, and with whether you respect the intelligence of your site visitors to know what they want, and their freedom to them choose what they want for themselves. Respect for your site visitors is apparent in subtle messages, and whether a person can define it or not, they KNOW when they feel good on a site, and when they feel belittled.

Respect is the defining factor with many advertising and income generation strategies. If you respect your visitors and don't try to trick them, they can feel that. If you desire to impart knowledge, as well as to earn, they will know that too. If you care about the wellbeing of others, and refuse to put your own wellbeing above theirs, it is obvious in how you do business. And it IS possible - not only possible, but powerful! - to set a high standard and to earn very well while doing so.

Choose your philosophy first - how you intend to use ads on your site, and what your goals and purpose are with the site. Then sift through the other options and choose the ones that you are most comfortable with. Use those in your site template, and when you go back through to customize each page for the first time.

Once you have done that, then TEST the ads! Because you cannot know for sure until you do! Maybe blue links WILL do better for you, even if you have purple links on your site. Maybe purple links will do better. Test to find out.

Sometimes adding one more ad box to your site can increase your income. Sometimes it will decrease it. It depends on the responses of YOUR site visitors. So test it and see.

Sometimes moving an ad box, or changing the color will improve things. Sometimes it won't.

Sometimes changing keywords in your site will help, sometimes it won't.

The important thing is, that at first you make educated guesses, and then you start testing and tweaking. Go with what works. Do more of what works, less of what does not.

Optimizing your ads is purely a matter of knowing the mindset of your visitors, and then testing and refining. No matter what anyone else says about what works for them (including myself!), it only means something if it works for YOUR site. Choose with confidence, test and improve, and do what works for you.

 

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