Are Responsive Adsense Ads Worth Using?

Responsive Adsense Ads Review

About 4 weeks ago I was looking through Analytics for one of my bigger niche sites.  I was astonished to see that 35% of my traffic was mobile traffic.

I was surprised by this because my paid traffic campaigns focus on desktop traffic.  The reason I focused on desktop traffic was display ads generated a much higher RPM.

But that stands to reason… I did not have responsive Adsense ads on my site.  Therefore it should have been no surprise that ad revenue would be so bad on mobile devices.  With non-responsive ads on my site, the ads on mobile devices looked terrible.

Anyway I decided to give responsive Adsense ads a try.

Why was I reluctant to switch to Adsense responsive ads?

My thinking was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  The fact is I was doing really well with non-responsive ads.  I was worried that responsive ads would not do well on my site.  It was an unfounded, untested and overall a stupid conclusion on my part.

Short Answer:  Yes, Responsive Adsense Ads are Definitely Worth Using!

Due to Adsense TOS, I’m unable to share detailed stats.  Nevertheless, the RPM from mobile traffic increased significantly without impacting revenue from desktop traffic when I switched to responsive Adsense ads.

It’s a win/win.

How do you create Responsive Adsense Ads?

My Highest Earning Ad Network

It’s easy.  When creating an Adsense ad in your Adsense account, choose the “Responsive” ad option.  From there it’s the same as creating traditional ads.

But it gets better.

Now that my my site earns decently with mobile traffic (and looks a lot better because the ads actually look good), I’m able to run paid mobile campaigns.

And guess what?

Mobile traffic is inexpensive.  I pay a fraction per click for mobile traffic compared to desktop traffic.

Why is it cheaper?  My Facebook ad rep tells me that the lion’s share of Facebook users are on mobile devices.  This means there’s a larger audience which drives the cost of traffic down.

I think there’s another reason mobile traffic is cheaper and that is mobile traffic is not as lucrative for e-commerce.  I suspect people don’t buy as readily on mobile devices as they do on desktops.  I know I don’t.  This is especially the case for e-commerce websites that aren’t mobile responsive.

While mobile revenue is not as high as desktop traffic, the lower cost traffic more than makes up for it.

Here’s a screenshot of just a few mobile Facebook adsets I have running:

Facebook mobile ad traffic April 2015

The above FB adsets are targeted USA traffic.

Moreover, I’ve launched some native advertising mobile campaigns and they’re doing well – costing less per click than desktop traffic.

Tip:  I create separate Facebook adsets for mobile and desktop ads.  This way I can see exactly what I’m paying per click for each type of ad.  This is important when RPM or revenue per visitor varies across devices.

Be careful though…

If you monetize in-whole or in-part with display ads, be very mindful of your traffic sources.  There are many low-quality traffic sources that you want to avoid.  The reason for this is you can have your ad networks closed on you. This includes Media.net.  If the cost seems too good to be true, it probably is.

My main traffic sources are organic search, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook ads, Bing Ads and Outbrain.

Additional Reasons for Switching to Responsive Adsense Ads:

1.  Mobile traffic will continue growing in relation to desktop traffic.  If you use Adsense, you’ll miss out on revenue by not using responsive ads.

2.  You can focus on driving more mobile traffic:  I ignored mobile traffic for a long time… and despite this, a large percentage of my traffic was mobile.  Now that I’m actually focusing on mobile traffic, it accounts for more than 50% of my traffic, yet doesn’t cost much more.

3.  This is a speculative reason, but I’ll list it anyway.  My hypothesis (untested) is that Google’s mobile algorithm update may take into account whether your site has responsive Adsense ads.  In other words, and I merely speculate here, it may well be that Google’s search engine may deem your site not as mobile as it should be if you have non-responsive Adsense ads on it.  Again, this is mere speculation on my part… but why take the chance?

4.  Important Reason:  Adsense responsive ads work very, very well.  After I implemented responsive Adsense ads, I extensively tested my site looking for any ad display mistakes on all devices.  On only one occasion did the wrong size ad appear… and that’s after hundreds of tests.  For me that was good enough.

More importantly: overall revenue increased with the same traffic level… and that’s the bottom line.

Do yourself a favor…

I find it’s a very good practice to look and navigate your websites on all types of devices.  I check my site on my tablet, smart phone and of course desktop.  Doing this will help you make smart decisions.

For example, when viewed on a smart phone, my website had poor navigation options.  In fact, it was very difficult to find my site’s categories. The reason for this was because I put all navigation in the sidebar.

I realized I needed to change this to improve user experience on smart phones. A simple solution was to create a new page on which I listed all site categories with links to the category archive pages.  I then placed a link in the top menu visible at the top of the screen on all devices.  This way visitors can easily and quickly access all parts of my site.

Why don’t I put all navigation in the top menu?

There are 2 reasons for this.  First, I have 15 categories, which would require drop-down menus.  However, drop-down menus can be against Adsense TOS if they overlap ads (which they did in my case).

Second, when I placed too many categories in the top menu, too much of the screen is taken up with the top menu on smart phones.

Therefore, the navigation solution I came up with works very, very well.  In fact, that new categories page gets a lot of traffic, which means people find it useful.  It also helps me increase page views and reduce bounce rate.

Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman
My Highest Earning Ad Network

What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Steve says:

    I actually switched to responsive ads on my websites and experienced a drop in RPM of around 50%. My old layout was using the Large rectangle ads, and the responsive design killed my RPM for a week so I switched it back. It must dependent on the niche as to what blogs work well.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Steve,

      I’ve read similar experiences that you’ve had. One thing to look at is the RPM improvement, if any, from mobile device traffic. That may have improved.

      If you don’t get much mobile traffic, then stick with what works.

  • Anne says:

    I switched to responsive design and responsive ad units in April and the results have been disastrous. My Adsense earnings have decreased significantly every month and now I’m down to what I was making 3 years ago. 🙁 I’ve tried every change that is recommended on countless blogs but NOTHING is working. It is very frustrating.

    • Jon says:

      Hi Anne,
      That’s very odd. I think initially when Adsense rolled out responsive ads, there were some bugs, mainly ads not fitting spots well on desktop, but that was quite some time ago. As far as I can tell now, Responsive ad units by Adsense adjust to the device and space very, very well. In fact, before switching to responsive ads, my mobile revenue was terrible because the ads were too big.

      I can say that mobile device revenue is much less than desktop ad revenue. I think this is pretty common for most publishers. Could it be you’re getting a higher percentage of mobile visitors? If so, that would result in a lower RPM. At the end of the day, more and more people surf online on mobile devices. I know outside of work, I don’t really use a desktop anymore.

    • Diane says:

      I’m down to what I was in about 2006-7… This is *really* not cool (not FatStacks fault, Google’s) and it most definitely will not sustain my websites. 🙁

  • Diane says:

    When I tried the AdSense ads my earnings tanked by about 80%. I switched back for a while then decided to try it again. My earnings have once again tanked. I don’t get it. Why are there articles saying it works when there are SO MANY MORE comments online about it tanking their earnings? And Google won’t even acknowledge it. Next article, before stating unequivocally that it works, maybe think about running a poll amongst your readers to find out how well it actually does (or in this case does not) work. You have a couple comments and every comment is about it tanking their earnings. There’s something to be said there… JMTC (I’m just so **extremely** frustrated with Google AdSense right now). Have a good day!

    • Jon says:

      Hi Diane,

      Sorry to hear about your loss of revenue. I’m not sure what to say. This post simply sets out what’s worked for my sites and Adsense. Is your website mobile responsive? It’s hard to diagnose the issue, if any.

  • Lori says:

    A new website design, now mobile responsive, my pay got cut in half. Then I buy Advanced Ads Plugin to place my responsive ads properly and my pay goes down even more… to the point I am thinking about going and getting another job! This is crazy 🙁

    • Jon says:

      Hey Lori,

      I’ve read accounts of that happening. My mobile revenue is much lower than desktop as well. I think it’s safe to say most websites earn less on mobile.

      Why not return to what you had when revenue was highest? The only caveat there is if you didn’t have a mobile responsive site, that could be impacted by Google’s mobile responsive search algo.

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