As you know from our previous article on optimizing banners on mobile devices we are very active on testing different advertisements and running only the most performant ads. One of these aspects is to show only banners that fit into your layout. This can be a tough task especially if your theme is not responsive and adapting to the visitors browser size. But even with a responsive theme the choice of optimizations are not getting less. In this article I am going to show you 4 ad optimizations we did in the past. Let this be some inspiration for your own ad optimization.
Think out of the box
If you think about the typical display ad sizes and positions you might imagine the Wide Skyscraper on the left or right side of the content, the Leaderboard in the header of the page and some smaller sizes like the Medium Rectangle within the content and / or the sidebar. This might be great for starters that should much more concentrate on building their content and getting their reader’s trust, but as soon as you reach a noticable increase in traffic and income, you should start to play with more advanced ad positioning.
You will probably first start to search for it with a search engine and find a lot of experiences from other publishers on how to place which banner sizes to earn the most. This reading is good, but you should not just copy anything you read. Every website is different due to an uncounable number of influences. Instead, use the experience and ideas from others to get inspired to try out something new. In the following, I gathered 4 examples of how we optimized our ad income just by playing with banner sizes and placements. Be inspired!
Test comes first
I am probably saying this in every article, but it is not getting less true. If you really want to benefit from optimizations you need to make sure your better result did not happen accidentally. Before switching to another banner size make sure to test the old and the new banner under the same circumstances, like with a page view based split test.
1. Banners, where they make sense (to you)
Before I describe this one you need to remember, that there are mainly two kinds of payments for banners. For so called CPM-campaigns you get paid by ad impressions. If you are not bound by a contract to include the ad on a specific position, you will get paid whether the banner is at the top or bottom, left or right of your site. The other method is payment by interaction. This can be as simple as a user’s click on the banner, or a lead or even a sale.
Let them be clicked
Positioning an ad banner on your site heavily depends on for what you get paid. If you get paid by ad impressions you should make sure, your banner is displayed as much as possible. If you get paid by click, make sure people don’t only notice the banner, but also find it on a position where they are looking for something to click. For blogs, one of the best positions is not the header or sidebar, but the space directly after the articles ends, because here, people have a small break and are thinking about what to do next. On one of our blogs we have single articles that convert up to 10% of theirs readers into “clickers”. Even though, there are many basic rules you might follow on positioning for the best conversion rate, you still might have to experiment with it for your own projekt (see number 4 below).
Our experiments have shown, that the same position doesn’t make sense on every page. On word-grabber.com we dismissed the Leaderboard banner in the header from the home page and pages with search results, because the click through rate is slow and we choose a different position for the ad in the content.
Let them be viewed
For CPM-campaigns, ads should be only recognisable, but don’t need to be clicked. This is a great possibility for blank spots like above the content or in sidebars that are not as long as the main content. Even though this sounds like a lot of potential income, be aware, that your visitos might not like your billboard-site with too many ads. Every ad also makes your site slower and takes space that might be filled with useful content. Programs like Google AdSense also have a policy of only 3 banners on each page.
In the screenshot above you see an ad in the sidebar. This banner is CPM-paid and not from Google AdSense. This way we can monetize this relatively ineffective position and still use a third AdSense ad below the search results.
2. Use all the available space
I am not going to cover the basics of responsive layouts here. If your website is not responsive you should read our article on monetizing your mobile website to get some motivation to change your websites theme to a responsive theme right now. This opens a lot of possibilities not only considering advertisements.
There are two ways of developing a responsive design. The first is to create CSS exceptions, called media queries (ask your web layouter about it). More advanced web developers do it the other way around and develop the mobile website first and include exceptions for bigger devices. Both approaches are ok, but the last can be more fruitful, if you think ahead standard website width.
Our layouter and I developed the new responsive layout for our word generator when we both hadn’t heard about “mobile first”. So we started to fix the standard width to about 1024 px and than developed the responsive theme down to 320px.
In the first months of ad optimization with the new website we placed a Full Banner between search form and search results below. The size of the main content was about 700px and the ad was 468 pixels wide. There was even some unused space left between the Full Banner.
It was actually a notice from Google AdSense that we could earn even more by replacing the 468 pixel Full Banner with a 728 pixels wide Leaderboard, that made me think. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space. We couldn’t crop the sidebar, because there was a Medium Rectangle exactly fitting in and than we also needed some white space between the elements.
It took me a while to realize something that was very obvious there the whole time. I am personally working on a screen with 1980 pixel with, so our layout was anyway very small compared to the available space. I had a look into the analytics data and noticed a lot of other users with screens up to over 2000 pixel width.
After a while and some ad optimization I had the idea of simply widening the layout. I calculated a total width of 1280 pixels to match a 728 pixels wide Leaderboard into the main content without sacrificing the Medium Rectangle in the sidebar and the Wide Skyscraper on the left side of the content. This took me maybe 2 hours of work and now the Leaderboards perfectly fits into the layout as if it was made for it. You can see the differences on the screenshots.
From the financial potential the plan did work out. The income from the Leaderboard more than doubled compared to the Full Banner.
And finally, on screens smaller than 480 pixels there is a sticky Mobile Banner.
3. Disable banners that don’t fit the screen
The third method is a slight alternation from the second one. We noticed that not every banner position does suit every screen, even if you choose a banner size that fits into the screen. Sometimes it is necessary to just disable an ad or replace two or more ads with just one. In our case we weren’t able to find a working alternative for the banner in the sidebar for slim screens like tablets. So we simply disabled them along with the Skyscraper left to the main content. Of course, this might lead to more possibilities to place ads directly in the content.
For our mobile version we even removed up to 3 banners we kept in the content and added a sticky mobile banner with a fixed position in the browser that makes it always visible. Would you believe that while clicks increased, accidental clicks even decreased?
Update: I wrote an add-on for the Advanced Ads plugin to let you control for which browser width each banner should be displayed. Checkout the Responsive Ads.
Finally, I can only repeat what I already mentioned in the introduction. We gained our experients and knowledge of better ad placements by experimenting. This is fun for us and might be for you as well, if it literally pays off. Our two most recent articles on sticky mobile banners and Google DFP vs. AdSense are a great example on how to start a test and what you should consider.
These are our basic secrets on how we optimize our ad income by experimenting with ad sizes and positions. I would be glad to read and discuss your own experiences in the comments.