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.
If you are curious how much money I make from Google Adsense, you can see some examples here, including my three top Adsense revenue producing websites here.
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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Wow I had no idea Google had meetups like this! Awesome tips for sure.
I’ve got a niche website in the dating niche and instead of going for one main “vanity” keyword, I’ve been focusing on posts targeting long tail keywords.
So far my traffic is getting around 80+ hits per day and is steadily climbing the rankings for certain keyword phrases.
I wonder if I did that robot.txt trick you mentioned if my rankings would climb?
And I’ve been reading all about the above the fold concept to maximize your adsense CTR’s and overall earnings. I’ve also been reading on how Google Search is penalizing websites with “too many ads” above the fold.
I’ve been wondering why Google tells you to place more ads and then penalizes you for doing so. Knowing that these two departments of Google (Google Adsense vs Google Search)are separate and work on their own terms makes a lot of sense now. So thanks again for answering that question.
Looking forward to reading more of your content on the blog yo.
welcome Chris – would be happy to answer any questions. the robots.txt has noticeably helped some of my sites. I also assume by hits you mean unique visitors -a more relevant metric
Hmm, Yawn… Makes me want to keep getting rid of google ads.. and focus on my own products! 🙂
do you have any currently or is it all service/web development? agreed that nothing beats one’s own quality product
Great tips here Sunil! Is always nice to have a 1-on-1 with mighty Google but I understand where frustration can arise from them not answering properly and direct to our questions.
Anyways thanks for sharing and I will keep an eye on Google Adsense in Your City.
it’s interesting to observe the teams tango diplomatically to say the least
This is a nice post full of useful information. I found it since Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income tweeted about it. So thanks, Pat, for tweeting about it and thanks to the author for this thoroughly informative post! 🙂
I’ll be sure to use at least some of this advice at my own blog – and I’ll tweet the post as well.
welcome to the blog Jeremy. glad you found it useful. if you’re interested in niche sites/adsense, check out my interview with Pat on his podcast.
Very detailed notes, Sunil – if I ever decide to actually start making money from my blog (what a concept!), I know where to come for advice.
Thanks for letting me know about the post!
you are funny!
I made some changes to my adsense after seeing this yesterday as far as size/type/personalization and I am already seeing a difference in earnings. I don’t know if the placement is quite right, but I think so. In any case, thanks for relaying the tips!
that was quick Daisy. I am glad it worked for you. I’d be interested in whether the results hold or fall back to the levels you were at. please keep us posted.
May I simply say what a comfort to discover somebody that genuinely knows what they’re talking about online. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people really need to check this out and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you are not more popular because you surely possess the gift.
appreciate that Ramesh. hopefully with time and the help of folks like you we will be able to share and spread the message better
You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest sites online. I am going to highly recommend this site!
I am all ears/eyes
Thanks for this post!
I also got an invitation to one of these events when they came to Dallas, but I set aside the mailer I received and forgot all about it and let the whole thing pass.
Did you get the chance to meet any other people who were doing well with Adsense and learn anything from them? I would think there would be SERIOUS value in that.
I was contacted once by Google about one of my sites with an offer to have someone at Google “optimize” one of my main money making Adsense sites. (I have two “big” sites, and then a bunch of small ones that only generate low amounts of traffic and income. Almost all built years and years ago, before Adsense, without revenue in mind. Which is why the CPC is incredibly low on some of them.)
Anyway, the advice they gave me (via email) was also incredibly generic and disappointing. I’ve literally had better results randomly making my own changes and quickly undid their recommendations when they didn’t increase revenue at all.
YOUR advice, on the other hand, just taught me something new! I quickly created a Google custom search engine for my top 8 sites that get the most traffic and turned on Adsense there and can’t wait to see what happens. Even if it doesn’t generate revenue, it’s better than the built in WordPress site search for sure, so it’s good for visitors.
Right now I am using 300×250 box and 336×280 large box. I was using the skyscraper in my sidebar, but Google basically didn’t have enough decent inventory to fill all those ads, and was running junk. By changing to text only, and those two boxes, after paragraph 3 and at the bottom of the post, my revenue went up as the ads became more relevant.
I personally think that they want you to turn on text and graphics because they want to expand their reach for graphic ads, and not because they benefit the site owner with more revenue. That’s my best guess anyway, because display ads don’t make more money for me.
I have not tried any link units before, because I haven’t been able to easily figure out how to get them into my Thesis theme (which I use in varying designs for most of my sites).
Thanks again for a great post. You made me some real money with your great post on Kindle books, and I expect that I will see a real increase of $100 or more per month with these tips here.
Your blog provides serious value!
Lars – it’s these kinds of comments that super charge me and keep me going. I did meet some successful folks, and one particular who was doing about 5k in Adsense publisher as a single operator. her success was longevity and loads of content on her niche indie music site. please continue to update me on your success/results you are seeing.
this is a great post Sunil,
I too was invited for this meetup in Mumbai but unfortunately I couldn’t attend it sue to family problem.
Overall seems great experience and I won’t miss any future meetups.
didn’t know they were visiting publishers in Mumbai as well. how neat. heading to Mumbai this fall myself
It’s been long i visited your blog due to some personal issues, but i just checked my email and discovered this post.
I must confess that this is the most interesting post I’ve read this week. Well detailed and informational.
I want to know, is there any plugin you normally use to place your ads? And i really want to know more about the robot.txt stuff.
Thanks for sharing yet and amazing post.
welcome back Theodore. I don’t use ad plugins though have seen several out there. if you find one you feel works well I’d def like to know. yes, definitely read up on the robots file on Google’s site
I look forward to the time my adsense revenue can hit numbers like yours so I can network at an event such as this!
did you get an invitation Jim? how much is your Adsense revenue now if you don’t mind disclosing?
Great article, Sunil, I also didn’t know for these kind of meetings. Well honestly I don’t use adsense anymore 🙂
thanks for sharing
how are you mainly monetizing these days? why did you give up Adsense? also curious – which is working out better?
Hi Sunil, I gave up on adsense because they payed me a peanuts for a blog with over 2000 UV a day. Right now I’m using infolinks and I’m happy, other methods of monetization are:
banner ad sales and different social media networks that pay you for tweet, post, review etc..
also affiliate marketing plays a big role in all this 🙂
interesting to note that James. I am glad you tested and are utilizing profitable platforms.
Incredibly useful and valuable post here Sunil. Thank you for taking the time to report on your visit with Google. It took me a couple of days to finish reading this entire post!
Partly because of this, I am re-inspired to take action to boost my Adsense earnings.
glad you found it useful Matt. congratulations on a net 200+ month recently
Ridiculously great and comprehensive article on stuff I knew very little about. Thanks for you insights and tips.
welcome to the blog Steven
Wow this was extremely helpful. Some of the adsense info I already knew and applied but some I had no clue. For ex the div tag was a cool tidbit. Also, filtering the ads can be hurtful. What makes it interesting is some of the ads are so garbage that you are forced to block them. Thanks for the good read.
anytime Jai – any particular strategy that is working well for you?
its very help full to me and i also follow this site regular .and every one knows its is very use full to all of as what u want to search in this site to give u r correct ans