Few months back I received an email from the Google Adsense team indicating that they would be visiting my city along with a few others. I am not sure whether all Adsense publishers are extended an invite by default, but I was extended an invitation to attend a presentation at a nearby hotel.
(Click to enlarge image)
These are some free goodies Google handed out, include a water proof Google bag, color coded cool name tag bands and a Google branded ball pen. Not pictured here are: Google Adsense in Your City notepad and the numerous delicacies I indulged in.
I know at least 2 other Adsense publishers in my city who did not receive the email, which makes me want to believe that only selected Adsense publishers were targeted based on their Adsense earnings.
The presentation concluded with a one on one session with a member of the Adsense team. The one on one session was an evaluation of any one of my websites for 5 to 10 minutes. In this post I want to share with you the key takeaways and lessons learned from my meeting.
I signed up for the mid morning session at a nearby classy hotel property. I checked in and picked up my goodies (see above) and started networking with others who attended. I also spoke with several of the Adsense team members since I had gotten there early. I also had a chance to visit the food and refreshment table which was quite generous, including some very delicious heart attacking pastries, courtesy of the hotel.
I have always been fascinated by Google as an organization. In fact as a practicing CPA I had applied to work for Google a couple years ago and was offered a job in their Mergers & Acquisitions group based out of their Headquarters in Mountain View, California. One of the team members at the event had several friends in the accounting and finance department, so it was also good to do some name dropping and realize that we knew some of the people in common from my campus tour and interview process.
When the session started, it was broken up in several segments, which I will also break out in my notes below for ease of follow. We had some questions and answers after presentations, after which we all had our one on one sessions. I took advantage of the Q&A session by getting an answer to a very important question that you will read more about below.
Overall, the check in process was smooth, the freebies given were really cool especially if you are a Google Groupie, and the hotel facility they picked was top notch. The food was also fantastic.
Let’s now get into the presentation notes…
We don’t need anyone to tell us that ad revenue is a function of ad impressions. The more ads shown, the more potential clicks and the higher the potential revenue. However, we do need Google to tell us how to increase ad impressions that could lead to more ad revenue.
There are three basic methods of increasing ad impressions:
I have written a lot about increasing traffic to your website on this blog and won’t get into it in this post. You can go through my archives for that. This is a good starting point.
That said, I will discuss Ad placement (includes position, color themes, ad unit types, etc) as well as the Google Custom Search function below in detail.
There are 4 main ad units that usually work the best in terms of CTR and revenues. These are the following:
The main reason these units are the most effective is because most ads created by companies fit one of these sizes. The more ads there are, the more ad inventory there is and there more vendors are bidding to show for those ads. This translates into higher CPM (money earned) and CPC (money earned per click) for those ads.
Tip: If you have an ad unit that is not one of the four above appearing first on a certain page, try disabling that ad so that one of the four units above becomes the first ad served on that page. Notice how your Adsense earnings sky rocket.
According to Google, enabling both text and image ads gives you the highest earning potential. Some vendors only do text, while others do images, and some do both. Selecting both ensures that you always have ads serving on your webpages.
As far as placement, the Google Adsense Heatmap (click the link then scroll below) is a popular tool to gauge where the human eyes naturally flow to on a computer screen. In addition to that, several bounce rate reduction tips were given. For example, to minimize bounce rates, they recommended adding ads to the beginning and end of a webpage.
Why? When people are looking to leave your site, either when they don’t like what they see at the beginning or after they finish reading a page, it gives them something to click on such as your ad. If you really want to maximize the effectiveness of this strategy, try removing all the navigation links on the footer – but this has user experience implications. Tread carefully
Here is something that we all likely know already. They suggested that we take out the borders on the ads and make our ads blend into the content of our site, which means selecting color themes that are consistent with the website. But what’s interesting is that some bloggers have gotten into trouble doing this such as Pat from Smart Passive Income.
Basically, you are allowed up to three ad units per page as well as 3 link units. To maximize your revenue, Google recommends the following as the most ideal locations on your website:
Three really cool tips to share here:
Tip: Adsense automatically serves the highest paying ad where you have your first ad unit set to show. Visit your analytics and see which ad unit has the highest CTR. Take that unit and move it to slot #1 and watch your earnings grow.
Tip: They did not go into the details but they said that there is a way you can ad div tags to your ad to dictate their placement on the code. This tells the webpage which ad unit to load first. Basically this is a way to make your best performing ad unit to the top of your HTML code while the ad unit physically shows where you want it to on the page itself. This should get you more clicks on your highest paying ad unit. There are plenty instructions on this online if you just Google the topic.
Tip: Finally, check your robots.txt file to make sure you are not blocking the Google crawler. This info is also available all over the internet if you just search for it.
CPM refers to how much you get paid and CTR refers to how many people click through to your ads. The best way to boost CPM is by using the popular ad formats (above) and opting for both text and image ads for the reasons mentioned above.
To increase CTR, blend your ads in with the content (careful not to blatantly deceive readers), wrap your text around large ad blocks, break up large sections of the site using ad blocks, place ads near navigation menus, put large ads above the fold and follow along the rest of this post, especially the suggestions on using Google custom search and filtering guidelines.
When you notice some stagnation, it is not a bad idea to make changes to the ad blocks itself such as adding a border (though not recommended) and changing color schemes slightly to revive the ads. Lots of times readers develop ad blindness. This is one way to bring out the ads back to life.
Revisit again after a few months and make other changes. It’s ok to keep recycling the same changes over and over again. The key is to monitor results after each change. Stick with an ad variation until the CTR drops. When it does, you know it’s time to make another change
If you build a website or blog today using WordPress, most themes come with a default search bar, which while works fine, doesn’t really optimize your Google Adsense earning potential.
Google also has a custom search engine (CSE) feature that you can use to embed into your site instead of a standard feature. Why?
With Google Custom Search, you can embed a similar search functionality to your site but the results page include Google Adsense ads on them which look like this:
Notice the Adsense ads on the right? Many times these ads also appear on the top of the search results, resulting in more clicks. You can earn revenue from these ads as well. Since searches are targeted, chances are these ads are also very relevant, leading to more clicks and revenues for you.
Google CSE is very flexible. You can enable users to be served results from the world wide web or your own website’s content, or both (I like to keep things in house). You can also enhance ad targeting by refining the CSE attributes such as adding synonyms for more targeted search results and customizing the look and feel of the search box as well as the results page so that it stays consistent with your website for a smooth user experience.
Google doesn’t allow us to disclose specifics such as our CTR, but I can tell you that mine have increased significantly since implementing the CSE. This of course has led to higher revenues. You can access the Google CSE here.
If you are an Adsense publisher you may recall receiving an email sometime in early to mid 2012 about the DoubleClick for Publisher (DFP) program. There was also a video that was embedded in the email.
If it didn’t make sense back then, consider this. DFP is basically an ad serving program sponsored by Google. If you have more than one ad network that you are displaying CPM or CPC ads with such as I do, or if you serve private ads directly by accepting vendor offers, you can set up a single HTML code and manage your ad server with the numerous ads while not having to make changes to the ad HTML code.
Why would you want to do this? Why not? Let’s have a look…
The DFP was probably the most jaw dropping part of the presentation for me. It’s not going to be applicable to the majority, but for those that can find use of it, it’s great. You can schedule ad placement automatically and before hand.
Here is an example that was provided. Imagine it’s Halloween time and you have a Halloween site. Imagine someone in Hershey’s marketing department contacting you and wanting an ad run for October. So you go in and schedule the Hershey’s chocolate campaign to run from October 1-31st.
Once you do that, that ad replaces of all other ads during that time period and you don’t have to mess with the HTML ad code. Most publishers manually have to add the private ad campaign and then later remove it once Halloween is over. Imagine doing this for multiple private vendor ads through the year for multiple websites?
And as if this is not wow enough, check this out. DFP has in it a “Dynamic Allocation” feature, which basically means that you can add ads from all your ad networks to ad spaces on your site. Guess what happens when you do that? The ad with the highest paying bidder shows first. Wow. Talk about maximizing revenue for every single impression on your site! And yes, DFP allows split testing of ads to tell you which are most effective.
I have a few sites that attract a heavy amount of private vendor ads. In addition I use both Google Adsense and Chitika ads on them. DFP has definitely helped me out with these. But is DFP right for you? Answering 2 simple questions will get you the answer:
If you are not getting private ad offers yet, these are very lucrative. Read how you can get more private ad offers here.
DFP is a no brainer for a small business. You can check it out here.
No, DFP has no impact on your ad loading speed or your website load speed.
This part of the presentation was really eye opening. It is no surprise that mobile internet usage is taking over the world, or so it seems at least. It’s interesting because I was in India, and then Hong Kong and China recently. Even the maids who work full time cleaning homes at a mere $100 per month were equipped with the best hand held gadgets and were on the internet frequently.
Mobile sales have surpassed computer sales. In fact there are more mobile devices sold than there are people in the world, giving us an average of several mobile hand held devices per global capita. Go figure. That said, those who have not incorporated mobile in their overall business plan are lagging behind.
I personally believe that there are some activities that lend themselves to mobile internet usage, but there are other activities that are better executed while at rest on a personal computer. You just have to determine where you business falls in this spectrum. One way to do that is by examining your existing statistics.
If you have an Analytics program or software installed, you can gauge what percentage of your users are accessing your site from a mobile device. This will tell you whether you need to focus more on mobile user experience. A few things to keep in mind when optimizing your site for mobile use:
Since mobile internet users are the majority users of internet, advertisers are seeing this trend and are adapting to it by shifting advertising dollars to mobile ads. Many businesses are responding accordingly by optimizing their sites for mobile. Personally, maybe three of my online businesses are fit for this optimization and I am taking action. I am sitting on the rest of them for now however.
Google is definitely ahead of the curve on this one. The following are Google’s Mobile offerings:
Google recommended one particular service that they work closely with if you are interested in optimizing your site for mobile usage. You can test out your site and get immediate recommendations for building a mobile version using HowToGoMo.
If your website or blog is already compatible for mobile, check this quick tip out to maximize your Adsense from Mobile earnings. You can find the archived newsletter on the Google Adsense website.
Google Adsense has a neat filter function in it so you can block ads from selected categories and companies – for example your competitors who are trying to steal away traffic. That said, the more you filter, the less the number of advertisers who bid for ad space on your site and the less the revenue you generate.
Think about it. When you block ads and certain companies from advertising on your site, you are reducing the competition for ad space on your site. Because Google Ads are auction based, the remaining vendors competing push the CPM lower for you. This is why it is very important to be careful when deciding which ads and advertisers to block.
It’s a delicate balance. On one hand, you want to block out irrelevant sites and competitors, but also want to maximize revenue. This is where testing becomes critical. Make slight tweaks and test over time and re tweak accordingly. Also revisit the filter section every once in a while and modify for changes in your business and competitive landscape.
I have always had filtering enabled. In fact after the meeting this made me do some more filtering. I can’t say that I have noticed a significant enough change though.
I am most guilty of this. Although I love toying around with analytics, I don’t do if as often as I should. When I do, I am not very focused. There are so many cool features and I find myself playing in Disney World hours into it with very little take away (I am working on this).
Anyway, Google says, and I agree, and you likely already know to use Channels to track and monitor ad performance as well as any changes you make. Without tracking, you are walking or running in the dark. You don’t know what is working and what isn’t.
If you are an Adsense user, login to your account and search for Channels. Click on it and read everything you can about it and then implement it! Dave Taylor has an excellent article on using Google Custom Channels. You can read it here.
Some time back I wrote about one of my strategies to maximize my earnings from Google Adsense. This strategy involved using an email auto responder program to point my subscribers to an “Adsense heavy” page that existed outside of my website.
Basically, imagine one webpage that is not physically linked to your website, but exists in the cyberspace on your host. This webpage has a URL like any other webpage of your website. What I’ve done to this webpage is taken all the links and navigation options out. I have embedded a couple videos on the page, and large ad unit blocks right next to the videos.
When readers are done viewing the video, they can either click the infamous X on the top right and shut down the page or click on an ad that is quite apparent and starring right at them. As you can imagine, my clickthrough rates on these pages is sky high. You can read about my strategy in detail here.
Although I had some inclination that it was completely fine to do this, I confirmed my understanding by asking a Google Adsense rep directly. I was told this strategy is fine and doesn’t break any of Google’s rules. I was ecstatic to know this and since then have created several other similar pages for several of my websites, resulting in higher Adsense earnings. You can see how I do this step by step here.
I was most looking forward to my 1 on 1 at the end of the session. Google asked for some preliminary info before the event so I assumed they must have done some home work prior to this session. Unfortunately, most of what was discussed was stuff I already knew. No homework was done (I was foolish to expect this).
Though disappointed because of my own high expectations (the advice seemed very generic and not personalized), this session reinforced something very important – Google Adsense and Google Search clearly have disconnects! You will read why below…
My Rep kept pushing the need to go mobile. They emphasized using the larger ad units throughout the site, and adding more ad units where possible. I was also told to include the largest and highest converting rectangular ad unit on the top of the site, moving another ad I had there slight lower.
That’s about the jist of my 1 on 1.
There was one thing that was definitely reinforced in this meeting – the Google Adsense and Google Search teams DO NOT communicate – at least it feels that way. If there was any little doubt left behind in my mind, this meeting definitely cleared it.
It is perplexing, and amusing at the same time, to observe how contradictory the advice is coming from each department of the gigantic Google organization. As much as I am fascinated about the Google organization that I once considered working for, and as much as I like the company (I am an investor as well), and as many of their products that I use, the organization, like any large and complex conglomerate, has its challenges.
What’s even more interesting is that subsequent to the event, I made some changes to some of my sites, one of which was adding the largest rectangular ad block above the fold on my site’s header according to the suggestions. While CTR and Ad revenue did increase, the Google search team shortly announced the upcoming “too many ads above the fold” algorithm change.
This is what happened to my website on which I had implemented the change after the algo change went into effect:
Now here is the amusing, or not so amusing part of it all. Subsequent to the traffic drop, I have received several emails from the Adsense team telling me that I am missing out on CTR and ad revenue opportunities because X amount of my webpages are missing the large ad above the fold. I have also received emails telling me I can further optimize my revenues by adding more ad units to several webpages.
There are several other disconnects here which I won’t get into and bore you with. But I am not sure what I really should be doing. Should I laugh or should I cry? Should I believe or ignore? Buy or no buy? Or should I just eat chilled grapes? Or perhaps should I redirect all Google emails to go to my spam box? Many of us are left perplexed just like this.
Here is a high level summary of the key takeaways from the meeting:
Overall the Google Adsense in Your City is a well planned and put together event. It is clear that Google is committed to the Adsense program and its publishers – or maybe the Adwords spenders They are certainly spending a good amount of money on these initiatives which they really don’t need to do. I just wished there was more internal communication within Google that results in more accurate and meaningful information for Adsense publishers to truly help us in our businesses.
I recommend attending such events whenever you are extended an invitation. These meetings are a good learning and networking opportunity. You never know who you are going to meet. For me, I had a chance to meet and network with other successful Adsense publishers, as well as talk to the Adsense team not only about Adsense, but about Google as an organization and learn more about their operations.
Talking to employees is always interesting because of the inside perspective you get. We all know a lot about Google, including the wonderful paradise it is to work in, but hearing the perspective of those who are in that paradise day in and day out is quite interesting, enlightening and eye opening.
I also picked up some cool tidbits. While a lot of what was discussed was stuff I already knew, but there was a lot of new beneficial information as well that I picked up. For example, I didn’t know that you could ad some div tag code to your webpages so that although your ad units appear “high up” on a webpage, they are actually lower or on the bottom part of the code.
This is important because site crawlers and robots identify the ad code as being “below the fold.” This didn’t appear to help me with the too many ads above the fold algo update though lol.
Here is another cool factoid I picked up. Did you know Google employees are allowed to have their own websites with Adsense on them? They have to disclose their earnings as long as they are earning over a certain threshold. If I remember correctly this is $25 a month. If you are a Google employee reading this, please correct my understanding in the comments section below.
And Oh – One more thing…
This initiative is ongoing, at least from what the Google employees told me. So look for the next time Google Adsense is in your city and make sure to attend.
At the end of the presentation, the Google Adsense in Your City team will provide you with a *secret* website, where you get to send them an email and tell them if you made any changes to your site based on your 1 on 1 session. In exchange, they will send you a cool comfy Google Adsense T shirt along with your choice of either three Google branded golf balls or a USB port.
(Click to enlarge image: Goodies include comfy Google Adsense T shirt and a choice of either three golf balls branded with Google’s logo or a 4 port USB extension)
I had no idea I had this much to share. We are nearing 5,000 words in this post and that concludes my summary of notes from my Google Adsense in Your City meeting. I hope you found them useful.
There are some very cool Adsense optimization tips here. They are certainly practical enough so that you can take action and implement them immediately. If you do I’d love to hear about your experience so please share them in the comments below.
If you are not already generating money through the Adsense program, it is one of the most turn key methods to start monetizing your website or blog, especially if you are relatively new to the internet marketing space. I have several articles on Google Adsense in the archives of this blog that may help get you started.
Have you heard of these meetings? Have you been to one? If you have, what else did you learn that is not already covered in this post? What did you find most interesting/uninteresting? Did you like it? Why? Please share your experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear more about your experiences.
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