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14 Ways to Increase Ad Revenue on Mobile Devices

Mobile phone with ads

“Hey Jon, my mobile ad RPM is terrible.  What am I doing wrong?”

I get this question all the time.

I used to ask myself the same question.

My response: Stick a 300×600 ad unit at the top of your site.  I’M KIDDING!!  Please don’t do this.

My REAL response: “You’re probably not doing anything wrong.  That’s normal. Mobile ad RPM is almost always lower than desktop.”

The fact is mobile ad revenue is less than desktop AND tablet ad revenue.  It’s less than one-half for me.

Before I delve into some suggestions for increase ad RPM, I think it’s worth considering just how awesome mobile devices are for website publishers.

What’s so great about mobile devices if ad RPM is so low?

I think website publishers who bemoan mobile ad revenue are looking at it all wrong.

I view mobile ad revenue as mostly gravy money.  Yup, seriously, it’s gravy.  It’s a bonus.  I’ll tell you why.

Mobile phones have increased website traffic tremendously.  Mobile phones provide internet access to hundreds of millions of people 24/7.  When desktop computers were the only internet access, people couldn’t surf the web and visit my sites while standing in a bank line or waiting at a bus stop or filling a seat in a college class.

But don’t people use desktop computers less?

I’m sure aggregate desktop pageviews is down, but I’m pretty certain it’s not down enough that results in less revenue than mobile offers.

And then there are tablets.

While tablet visits to my sites are the fewer than mobile and desktop, tablet RPM rocks.  It’s nearly that of desktop.

So, throw in rise in tablet use and I think as website publishers we’re better off today than when desktop was the only game in town.

NEVERTHELESS, just because mobile traffic is in many ways gravy traffic and results in more page views than we’d get 6 or 7 years ago, that does NOT mean we should not try to increase mobile RPM.

The fact is it’s not easy monetizing with ads on mobile.  There’s less surface area for ads, there are more ad display rules (specifically AdSense) and generally people don’t buy as readily on mobile as they do on tablets and desktops (resulting in advertisers bidding less for mobile ads).

14 Things to Try to Increase Mobile Ad Revenue (RPM)

Sadly, there is no universal solution or one-size-fits-all.  It’s trial and error.  What works for me may not work for you.  I’ve done a lot of mobile ad testing.  The following are merely suggestions.

1. Use  a Mobile Menu

What on earth does a mobile menu have to do with ad revenue?

Plenty.

Mobile menus help minimize how much screen space your header bar and navigation take above-the-fold.  Mobile screens are small. You need to clear as much real estate as you can for making money money and displaying content.

Fortunately more and more WordPress themes have mobile menus built in to them, but not all.  Sadly, Eleven40 by Genesis doesn’t.  Ironically, I don’t have a mobile menu for this website, but then I don’t monetize with ads (much).

Here’s a screenshot of the mobile menu on one of my B2C sites:

Mobile Responsive Website with Mobile Menu

2. Smaller logo and header area

This is an extension to the mobile menu tip.  Again, this helps clear out more space for ads and content.

3. Use mobile anchor ads

Most ad networks offer what are called anchor ads.  Usually they display in the mobile footer.  They’re sticky, which means they stick to the bottom of the screen while a visitor scrolls down a web page.

Yes, AdSense offers anchors to.

TIP:  If you use multiple ad networks on your site, ensure only one displays an anchor or it could get ugly looking.

If you use Ezoic for your ads as I do, they provide an anchor (just don’t forget to turn it on).

4. Visit your site on mobile devices

I overlooked this until about 9 months ago.  Talk about stupid.  I spent hours analyzing my site on desktop but ignored mobile and tablet.

If you don’t have a mobile phone and/or tablet, use a mobile/tablet emulator.  However, I still think it’s best to carefully analyze your websites on a mobile device and tablet.  You get the same experience visitors get.  It makes a difference.

Alternatively, in Chrome you can press F12 on your keyboard which will offer viewing your site on different size devices.  It’s pretty cool.

5. Test different ads above the fold

Just like desktop, the space above-the-fold is the most valuable ad-revenue-wise on mobile.  It warrants extensive testing.  This is very, very important.

For me, to date, the best performing ad above the fold on mobile are mobile AdSense units directly below my post titles.  I’ve tested above and below titles.  Below works best.  No, don’t put an ad above and below a title.

Sadly, AdSense does not permit 300×250 units above the fold on mobile devices (as far as I know).  I’m sure that would be best, but it’s not permitted.

BUT, don’t rule out other networks who may be more lenient with larger ads above the fold.

For example, generally I place a Media.net 300×250 unit just below the fold on mobile and it earns an amazing RPM.  It earns more than the AdSense leaderboard.

However, today I decided to try something I’ve never done.  I’m placing a Media.net unit below the title and putting the first AdSense ad below the fold.  This may help or hurt revenue – I’ll never know unless I test it.  I have a hunch overall mobile revenue will increase because the Media.net unit does so well just below the fold, it may be incredible above the fold.

The plus side for moving the first AdSense unit below the fold is I can then put a 300×250 there instead of the shorter mobile leaderboard I usually have above-the-fold.

Other Ads to Test Above-the-Fold:

a) RevContent:

I tested RevContent ads and while they didn’t work great for me, I know for some niches they earn piles of revenue.  My niche simply isn’t a good fit, but for other niches they are terrific.  You’ll never know if it’s lucrative unless you try it.

Moreover, in my view, RevContent is one of the most progressive native ad networks out there.  They ad variety they offer, especially for mobile is awesome.  Get an account and check out their offerings.  While Media.net is my golden #2 ad network, RevContent could be your golden #2 (and maybe even #1).

b) TheBloggerNetwork.com (TBN) Ads:

The Blogger Network ads are a recent addition to my sites and this network delivers.  In fact, they earn more on an RPM basis than Google ads on one of my sites.  I’m not kidding.  I’m as surprised as anyone.  Their ads include Ad Exchange ads, but they have other advertisers bidding as well.  One big reason TBN ads do well is their 300×250 units often display video ads, which pay out really high.

TBN customer support is fantastic and they’re very flexible with ad placement and number of units on a page.  I strongly recommend you give them a shot.  Start slow.  I started with putting their units pretty far down on my pages.  The RPM was impressive and so now they take some top spots on one site of mine out-earning Google ads.

c) Other Ad Networks

I tend to list ad networks I’ve used.  There are so many out there I can’t keep track.  I could give you a list of all of them, but that’s not helpful because you can do a Google search as well as I can.

Instead, I think it’s more helpful if I set out what I use.  I’ve tested many, not all, but many ad networks.  Here they are in a nutshell:

Ezoic: Ad Exchange and AdSense ads.

Media.net: Amazing results.  Everyone should at least test this network; however, it’s hit and miss depending on the niche.

The Blogger Network:  Impressive ad network that pays on a CPM basis.

RevContent: Not a good fit for me, but I’ve talked with some publishers who earn a lot with RevContent – especially health-related niches.

GumGum Image ads:  I use these on and off.  They generate decent revenue on mobile as well.

That’s it for now.

6.  Make sure your ads fit on mobile

I almost didn’t include this in the list because I figure this is a given, but I still visit sites where only half the ad shows up meaning the unit is a 468 px or 728 px wide ad.  Cut off ads perform terribly.  I know from experience when for a long time only 15 short months ago I ignored mobile and had ill-fitting ads on my sites.  It’s an amateur move that can cost you.

7. Paginate

It’s undeniable that paginating content increases revenue.

I don’t do much pagination because I think it hurts user experience, but I’m making this decision knowing full well I’m leaving money on the table.

Forcing people to visit more pages to consume all the content works.  If you want to max out mobile RPM, paginate.  I don’t advocate extreme pagination such as a “Next page” button after every image.  That’s supremely annoying.  However, paginating after a reasonable number of images/amount of text, is fine and it’s great for your bottom line.

8. Go Native

Native ad units really stand out on mobile. Moreover because there are usually less clear navigation options on mobile devices, when visitors come to native ads, which are usually enticing, they’ll click more readily than on desktop.

The downside of course is the CPC revenue is less on mobile (generally).  That’s the case with mobile ads generally because traffic is less valuable on mobile.

9. Increase page views per visitor

This is tough to do on mobile.  People don’t browse and navigate sites on mobile as much as on desktop or tablet.

For example on one site, my average page views per visitor is 1.32 while on desktop it’s 1.47 (and 1.48 on tablet).

More page views equals more revenue.

How can you get more page views on mobile?  It’s hard, but here a few simple things you can try:

  • Use a mobile menu helps that floats down the page so that navigation options are always present.
  • Offer a related posts widget in content and below content helps.
  • Use an exit intent related posts grid.
  • Use related posts fly-ins.  Customize it to offer some of your most popular content that will get clicked more often.
  • Offer really enticing content titles and links. For example, I have a “Most Popular” link in my navigation.  This gets clicked a lot because people want to see what’s most popular.
  • If you have a broad site topically, customize your related posts offerings by category.
  • Offer infinite loading or scrolling so that people scroll and scroll and scroll until they find something they want.  This is particularly good for category pages.  You can use infinite scroll or “load more” buttons.  One decent plugin for this is Content Views or get a theme that offers this (it’s becoming a popular feature in newer themes).

Read my full post on increasing page views per visitor.

10. Pepper ads throughout your content

One cool thing about ads on mobile is they’re easier to read and they stick out.  They get attention because when you come to a 300×250 in content, they’re impossible to miss.

ALERT: Do not place AdSense ads so close so that 2 units show up on the screen at once (or even parts of 2 ads showing up on the screen at once).

Space them out, but pepper them throughout your content.

For example, I use Ezoic (read Ezoic review) for my Google ads, so I can have 5 units plus I use 3 Media.net (read Media.net review) units plus a few TBN units.  Please note my content is really long so it’s not just a row of ads.   The point is I have ad units peppered throughout my content.

11.  BAM! In Your Face Ads

Show me the money!  If that’s your motto, test some interstitial ads on mobile.  I don’t use interstitials so I can’t make a recommendation based on experience.  I’m considering trying a Media.net interstitial on mobile… but merely considering at this point.

Interstitial ads I’m told earn well.  That’s music to my ears, but I actually do care about website user experience and don’t want to annoy visitors too much with ads.  Therefore, to date I’ve not used them, but I don’t rule it out either.

12. Promote/advertise app downloads

The one thing that you can effectively promote on mobile devices that you can’t really promote on desktop are app downloads.

There are app promotion ad networks.  Kixer.com is one of them.  There are others.  I’m not terribly familiar with them because my audience doesn’t download apps (I tried Kixer.com).

Some app promotion will pay per download while others pay per click and some pay per view.  As usual, there’s a mix.

My motto is test everything.  You never know.  You could well be serving an app downloading audience in which case it could be a good revenue stream.

13.  Promote your website’s app

I’m just getting going with app versions of my sites.  It’s certainly not a raging success yet.  I think apps for info-based sites aren’t nearly as effective as games and software.  However, I think it’s worth having an app version of your site because with apps you can push notifications to people who have downloaded the app.  This could result in more traffic and more revenue.

14. Actually have a mobile responsive website

This is pretty obvious, but these days it’s imperative to have a mobile responsive site.  Nobody is clicking teeny weeny ads on a non-responsive website on mobile devices.

I put this last because it’s a pretty lame tip since it’s so obvious, but I’d be remiss not to include because I can’t assume everyone appreciates the importance of ensuring your site is mobile responsive.

Mobile ad revenue will improve

Ad networks probably spend a lot of time kicking around ideas to improve ad revenue on mobile devices.  It’s a problem (but at the same time mobile does mean more aggregate annual page views so in many ways it’s a good problem).

One issue is that people don’t spend as much money on mobile as on desktop.  I know I seldom buy anything on my phone but buy stuff on tablets and desktop all the time.  I’m not alone.

So, until ecommerce (top of the food chain) improves on mobile, ad revenue will be lower because of less competition for ad space.  This in conjunction with less screen space is a seemingly insurmountable problem.

However, the future of more page views per person per year on the internet is mobile and so I’m optimistic better solutions will come arise.

Don’t curse mobile; consider it gravy

Sure, my mobile RPM is less than one-half of my desktop and table traffic.  I could resent it OR I can consider it bonus revenue because mobile phones means more people spend more time on the internet meaning I have more traffic because of mobile devices.  When you look at mobile this way, you’ll appreciate your mobile RPM, even if it’s not all that great.

Do you have any suggestions?  If so, please mention it in the comments.  Everyone needs all the help we can get.

 

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