19 Things to Know Before Installing AdSense on Your Websites

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Today is Cyber Monday and many, many online merchants and affiliates are feeling flush right now.

In 4 days, untold billions in retail revenue was booked online and in the stores.

Heck, even display ad revenue jumped significantly over the last 4 days.

The entire online food chain raked it in and it’s not over.  We’re sliding into the Christmas season.

AdSense monetization is at the bottom of the monetization food chain, but that’s not a bad thing.  I know it’s at the bottom with respect to the buying funnel.  Let’s take the example of a pair of sneakers.

Profit for an AdSense ad click:  $.30 (thereabouts – could be higher or could be lower.  The point is it’s not a ton of money).

Profit for an affiliate who generates a sale:  $5 to $10 depending on the commission percentage and price of shoes (or total revenue in the cart – maybe the referral bought 10 pairs of shoes).

Profit for the shoe retailer:  $60+, again depending on the price of the shoe etc.

The point is AdSense is at the bottom of the online revenue food chain (like plankton), but I’m very happy to use it.  It has so many benefits and it can add up to significant revenue.

I earn a living from AdSense.  Here’s my list of 19 things to know before you install AdSense.

1. Revenue per 1,000 page views (RPM) varies wildly by niche

The AdSense RPM across my niche sites varies widely.  It’s insanely high on a law niche site (to be expected) and super low on a tech site.  The others fall somewhere in between.

I’ve spoken to many publishers about RPM and that confirms the range is huge.  Some people I know have high RPMs and other people low RPMs and most somewhere in between.

The thing is if you go into a low RPM niche, it must have huge traffic potential or it’s likely not worth it.  I find many low RPM niches do have high traffic potential.

I’ve also found via Facebook ads that some demographics results in higher RPMs than other demographics.  This was a particularly interesting discovery.  I didn’t test every demographic so I can’t put together a chart, but it was something I noticed in one niche of mine.

The point is if you read about someone who earns $25 RPM (fairly high), don’t expect that your site will earn the same amount.

While I love AdSense as a monetization option, you have to be realistic, which leads me to the next point.

2. You usually need a lot of traffic to make good money

Even high RPM niches need a lot of traffic to make good money.  1,000 visitors per day, which may seem like a lot, really isn’t.

I don’t intend to turn you off AdSense.  Instead, I want to help you have realistic expectations.

3. There are 8 types of AdSense ad units

I have used and tested every type of AdSense ad unit available.  Some work better in some niches and others better in other niches.  It is imperative you test all of them because you never know.

Here are the 8 types of AdSense ads.

a. Text ad

This ad is all text with a title, URL and either an arrow or an open button or neither (just text).  These have overall been very good units for me.

b. Banner ad

AdSense banner or rich media ads are image/graphic ads.  These typically garner lower click-through rate but pay more per click.

c. Link ad

Link ads are a series of buttons that look like mini-menus.  I love these and they work well for me in some niches.  These are different than other AdSense ads in that visitors must click the ad and then the ad on the next landing page in order for you to earn revenue.  In other words, you don’t earn revenue when they click the button.  They must then click the ad on the page they’re taken too.

d. In-article

These are one AdSense’s newer native ad styles.  They usually have an image and some text with a button that has some text.  I like how these look in the middle of articles and at the bottom of articles.  They can be good earning ads below the fold.

AdSense recommends you not place these before the second paragraph.  I’m not sure if that’s a requirement or optional.  I err on the side of caution and take it as a requirement so I ensure these units are placed below the fold below the second paragraph at a minimum.

e. Matched Content

Matched Content units are a “related posts” grid of 8 options.  3 of them are ads and the other 5 are links to other pages on your site.  I like that they serve as a related posts option with the potential to earn revenue.  I’m actually surprised how well these units earn given only 3 of the 8 links are ads.

I typically places these below articles where “related posts” are usually located.

FYI, a site needs a certain threshold of traffic to qualify for Matched Content ads.  A couple of my smaller sites are not approved.  I don’t know how much traffic is needed, but as you grow traffic, one day you’ll notice in your AdSense account that Matched Units are available.

f. In-Feed

AdSense’s In-Feed ads are ads for category pages to be placed in the list of post excerpts.

g. Anchor ads

Anchor ads are small ads that stick to the bottom of mobile devices.  For me, these are one of the higher-earning mobile ad units.

h. Vignette ads

These ads display when a mobile visitor clicks to visit another page on your site.  When they do so, a full-screen-sized ads pop up.  I’m actually surprised how little these earn for me.

4. You can use AdSense with affiliate links on the same page

You are permitted to place AdSense ads on pages with affiliate links.

The real question is whether you should.  I do, but not on all pages.

If the affiliate revenue on its own is quite high, I don’t wish to hurt affiliate revenue with ads.  If affiliate revenue is mediocre, I include AdSense ads on the page.

In fact, you can put AdSense ads on pages that sell products such as ecommerce product pages.  I’ve seen merchants do this by putting an ad at the bottom.

5. It’s the highest paying ad network

AdSense ads are generated via Google AdWords (now called Google Ads).  It is by far the ad network that can command the highest bids per click (for the most part).  There may be some exceptions on Facebook, but generally, Google Ads clicks cost the most.

This means that AdSense ads will generally fetch the most revenue.

That said, there are ad networks that have great direct relationships with many advertisers that can get high RPMs… but many ads displayed via these ad networks include AdSense ads.

My point is if you can’t display AdSense ads on your site, even when using a 3rd party ad network will result in much lower revenue than if you had an AdSense account.

Every ad network I’ve ever used included AdSense ad inventory.

6. You can test AdSense with other ad networks

If you want to know what is the best paying configuration of ads from a variety of ad networks, including testing different types of AdSense ads, use the Ezoic network.  You can test pretty much everything with their platform.

You can test placements, colors and all types of ads against one another in various configurations.

7. You may do better using another ad network that includes AdSense ads

I use both AdSense directly (i.e. insert AdSense ad code in my site) and one other ad network called Monumetric.  Right now it’s a great mix.

Please keep in mind I’m constantly testing new ad networks and while AdSense and Monumetric are currently a terrific combination, I may find something better in a year.  It’s an evolving business where everything is changing.  The best tip I can tell you is to test different ad networks and ads regularly.

While I’ve never used them, I hear Mediavine and AdThrive are excellent ad networks as well.

8. You can let AdSense auto insert ads

AdSense has an option where it will automatically insert different types of ads into your site in multiple locations.  I think conceptually it’s good, but I tried it and found it inserted too many ads.  I prefer having control over ad placement so I don’t use this AdSense feature.

However, I think it’s worth trying.

9. You can test ad colors in AdSense

AdSense has an Optimization section where you can set up what it calls “Experiments”.  Experiments let you test ad colors which can help revenue quite a bit (especially if using Link ads).

You can also test text vs. rich media ads.

I’ve found this feature super helpful and ran many tests over a 2 month period trying to figure out the best ad colors for all ads across all sites.

10. You can test the number of ads in AdSense

AdSense also offers what it calls “Balance Ad” optimization feature.  What this does is you can load up your site with ads (don’t overdo it – keep within ad volume restrictions).  Then you set an ad balance to only display a percentage of your installed ads.

The aim of this feature is to maximize revenue while providing a better user experience with fewer ads.

I’m currently running my second Balance ad experiment.  The first one I set to display 60% of installed ads. The result was a very slight decrease in revenue.

I stuck with displaying all the ads and am now running an Experiment to show only 75% of ads.  If it’s breakeven or perhaps a tad bit higher revenue, I’ll choose for AdSense to run at 75%.

The reason I like this experiment so much is that AdSense will end up only displaying the higher earning ads.  This may be different on a URL by URL basis.  This is why you can end up earning more displaying fewer ads.  AdSense automatically optimizes which ads to display on every URL.

I have no problem putting quite a few ads on my sites, but if I can earn the same amount or more by displaying fewer ads, that’s great.

11. You need a quality site to be approved

I hate to say it, but your site needs to be quite good in order to be approved.  I don’t have some magic formula such as X number of articles or that articles average a certain length or that you have X amount of traffic.

All I can say is your site needs to be very good.

If denied entry, improve your site and reapply.

Do not expect some thin 8 page site to be approved.

12. Adding additional sites once approved is easy

Once you have an active AdSense account it’s easy putting ads on new sites.  You just have to add your site to the account and place ads on it.

I recommend that each site you put on ads on be high quaility.  AdSence can restrict ads to individual sites if it doesn’t meet their Terms of Service or quality requirements.

13. Testing placement can make a HUGE difference on revenue

I’m fanatical about testing ads especially placement.  It can make a massive difference.  For example, an ad above the fold will earn many times that of an ad at the bottom of your site.

Once you have decent traffic, you should invest time in testing placements.

14. Testing the types of AdSense ads can make a difference

In addition to testing placements, test different ad types.  Perhaps text ads do better than Link ads.  Maybe in-article ads perform far better in the middle of content than text/rich media ads.

You never know until you test.  It also varies by niche.  Test ad types for every site.

15. Testing colors can make a difference too

As stated above, ad color (i.e. background, title, text and URL colors) can make a big difference.  Run multiple AdSense Experiments to see which colors perform best.

FYI, don’t assume if one color is best above the fold that it will be the best color for all placements.  I’ve found that isn’t necessarily the case.

Moreover, if you change the color of one ad, it can impact the performance of the colors of other ads.  Every time you make a change to one ad unit, it can change the performance of other ad units.  Be mindful of this.

Testing and optimizing takes time.  Track results, be methodical and be patient.

16. The best way to put them in your site is with ad management plugins

I do not place AdSense code in individual posts or articles.

Instead, I put ad code in placeholders via AdSense management plugins.  This way I can insert and control ads on every page and post from one dashboard.

If you have 400 articles and you insert ad code in each post, if you want to make a change you, you need to spend days going into every article.

The two ad management plugins I use are AdInserter and Advanced Ads.  I use both, because each offers features I use.  Advanced Ads is a better platform because it offers more display control and options, but AdInserter is faster to use (with Ajax interface).  Hence, I use both.

I use AdInserter for every ad placement that I can control with the AdInserter options.  I do this because making changes can be done much faster in AdInserter.

I used Advanced Ads plugin for advanced placements that AdInserter doesn’t offer (such as before and after images or headings).

17. Use URL channels to see how much a specific article earns

If you want to know how much AdSense revenue a particular URL earns, you need to add that URL to AdSense’s URL channels.

It’s super easy to use, but the one big limitation is you can only add up to 500 URLs.  I have far more articles with AdSense revenue so I can’t track everything.  I had to pick and choose which URLs I track for AdSense revenue.

FYI, Ezoic offers really good ad revenue tracking on a URL-by-URL basis.

18. Once you hit a decent revenue amount, you get email support

When I started with AdSense I was frustrated by the fact it wasn’t easy to get answers to questions.  I was left to figure it out myself.

However, at some point I started earning enough revenue that I was granted an email support option.  I can’t recall how much revenue that was, but I’ve had the support feature ever since.

It’s a great feature and the customer support is outstanding.  They respond very quickly, are very polite and if they don’t know, they’ll refer the question(s) to people at AdSense who do know.

I submit support requests regularly and always get a response that’s helpful.

19. Know the AdSense Terms of Service

If you’re going to use AdSense, take time to read and fully understand the AdSense Terms of Service.  You do not want to violate the TOS because you can be kicked out with a lifetime ban.  That’s the end to AdSense monetized sites.  Such a ban can negatively impact your ability to use other ad networks who often require that publishers have an AdSense account in good standing.

That said, and this is in no way suggesting you take risks, but these days AdSense will issue violation warnings on a URL-by-URL basis instead of banning your entire account for a violation one URL.

However, if the violation is egregious enough, even if one URL only, you could still lose your account, so learn the AdSense TOS and don’t take risks.



What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • NetHustler says:

    Adsense is indeed very good for people who don’t know much about other monetization tactics. It’s also nice if you don’t want to deal with the headaches of affiliate marketing (there are quite a few of them, it’s not all milk and honey there either).

    But I agree, people should test out everything, and take advantage of all the optimization tips that you will eventually start to receive from Google once your site gets enough traffic/revenue etc.

    Also about the number of ads to place on your site… well since Google removed the restriction on 3 ad units and 2 link units, I see that most people will simply flood their website with ads, thinking that they will eventually earn more, when In reality they could just earn the same amount or even more by just sticking to 3-5 ads per page regardless if you are now allowed to add more than 3 ads on page.

    From my experience, I stick to 4 ads. Not 3, not 5, not 8. 1 Top of the article (before title), 1 middle of the content, one at the bottom of the content, and one sidebar. It’s enough for me, and any other combination I tried resulted in less revenue. But that’s on just 2 sites that I still use AdSense, so it might also be about the niche or whatever.

    Anyway good article Jon, I’m sure it’s helpful for people that are looking to monetize with Adsense.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Nethustler,

      thanks for the great comment. I agree AdSense is about as easy as it gets. I also agree less can be more with ads. I recently ran AdSense’s Ad Balance experiment and increased ad revenue 7% showing 25% fewer ads across all my sites.

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