Ad Formats: “Dress” your ads for success!
How would you like your ads served? Banners? Skyscrapers? Rectangles? Squares? What about borders and background colors? The choices can be overwhelming. Many people let Google decide for them- preferring to stick with the default settings. Big mistake! From my own experience I can tell you that it’s like swapping a hundred-dollar bill for a ten-dollar one. For almost one year I settled for just a tenth of what I could have been making — just because I didn’t bother to control the looks and placement of my AdSense ads. The various ad formats, colors and their placement on the web page can be done in thousands of combinations. You can literally spend hours every day experimenting with every possible combination. But you don’t want to, do you? Let me give you a few ‘ground rules’ that have sky-rocketed the CTRs on my top-grossing pages:
Don’t “Look” Like An Ad
People don’t visit your website for ads. They want good content. If you make the ads stick out with eye-popping colors, images or borders, that makes them easy to recognize as ads — and people work extra hard to avoid them.
The same goes for ads that are tucked away in the top, bottom or some other far corner of the page. So easy to ignore!
If you want people to click, make the ads look like an integral part of your content. Today’s visitors are blind to banners, mad at pop-ups, weary of ads and skeptical of contests and giveaways. So how do you win their confidence? Simple. Don’t make your ads look like ads! Let’s begin by reviewing each of the different types of ad available from AdSense and explaining their uses… then I’ll introduce you to a few simple choices that zoomed my CTRs to incredible heights.
Meet the AdSense Family
Google serves its ads in several flavors, with each of those flavors coming in a range of different shapes and sizes. It is very important to understand the differences between each of these ads. Some are ideal for particular locations. Some should never be used in certain locations. And some should be used very rarely—if at all.
The sample page at www.google.com/adsense/adformats lets you see all of the different kinds of ads at once. It even has links to sample placements that demonstrate how the ads can be used. For the most part, I’d recommend that you ignore those sample placements. I’ll talk about location in more detail later in the book, but for now just bear in mind that many of the ads in the samples are just too out of the way to be noticed. You can use them as a starting point if you want but you’ll save yourself a lot of time — and money — by taking advantage of the experience of myself and others, and following the recommendations here.
Text Ads — Google’s Finest
Text ads are probably the types of ad that you’re most familiar with. You get a box containing one or a number of ads with a linked headline, a brief
description and a URL. You also get the “Ads by Google” notice that appears on all AdSense ads. (Google changed this notice recently and it now blends in much better than it used to.) There are eight different types of text ad. The most popular is probably the leaderboard. At 728 x 90, it stretches pretty much across the screen and while it can be placed anywhere, it’s mostly used at the top of the page, above the main text.
That’s a great location. It’s the first thing the reader sees and it offers a good selection of ads to choose from. When you’re just starting out and still experimenting with the types of ads that work best with your users, it’s a pretty good default to begin with. Of course, you can put it in other places too. Putting a leaderboard ad between forum entries for example can be a pretty good strategy sometimes and definitely worth trying. On the whole though, I think you’ll probably find that one of the smaller ads, such as a banner or half-banner might blend in more there and bring better results. And I think you can often forget about putting a leaderboard at the bottom of the page, despite what Google’s samples show you. It would certainly fit there but you have to be certain that people are going to reach the bottom of the page, especially a long page. You might find that only a small minority of readers would get that far, so you’re already reducing the percentage of readers who would click through. Overall, I’d say that leaderboards are most effective blended into the top of the page beneath the navigation bar and sometimes placed between forum entries.
A nicely optimized half banner on this Squidoo page.
Banners (468 x 60) and half-banners (234 x 60) are much more flexible. Like leaderboards you can certainly put these sorts of ads at the top of the page, and lots of sites do it. Again, that’s something worth trying. You can put up a leaderboard for a week or so, swap it for a banner for another week or so, and compare the results.