AdSense puts ads on your site, and you earn money when people click them. Therefore, you want as many people to click them as possible. Of course, the simplest solution would be to pay people to click them, at a lower rate than what you make from those clicks, so you still make money. Google doesn’t like this, and they monitor accounts for invalid click activity. If they find such activity on your account, they can close it, including keeping any money you “earned” in such a way.
In order to avoid account closure, you need to get more legitimate clicks. Safe clicks are good; transparently paid clicks are bad. So how can you get more safe clicks to your ads?
More != Better Than
For those programmers out there, you’ll recognize that != means “is not equal to.” More ads does not mean better. One of the worst things you can do with AdSense is litter every page on your site with as many ad units as possible. It’s often better just to have one well-placed ad unit on each page. Do some testing to see which works best for your site.
Consider Ignoring Image Ads
Google has gotten better about sponsored image ads in the last year or so, but they’re still pretty transparently banner ads, and many people have banner ad blindness these days. Textual ads are much more subtle and easier to get people to click. Contextual ads are the best, because when the content is relevant, they’re virtually indistinguishable from actual valid and valuable links.
Pay Attention to Fill Rate
Your fill rate is the rate at which your ads are filled with, well, actual ads. Just because you place ad code on your page, doesn’t mean someone is going to bid to put an ad in that place. You might find that your fill rate isn’t full, in which case you’re wasting space.
Place Ads in Hotspots
If you’re using image ads or you’re using specific textual ads, you have tight control over their placement. It’s a good idea to use a heatmapping tool to discover where the most potent hotspots on your site are, and work ads into those spots. You don’t want to replace your CTA button with an ad, of course, but you can put an ad near a commonly-clicked navigation button.
Run Google Experiments
Google Experiments are an AdSense-exclusive method for split-testing ads that doesn’t require that you create two versions of a page, split your traffic, or anything else. You just set up your experiment and the code dynamically serves different ad layouts or content to your audience in a roughly 50/50 split. This is some of the easiest split testing you’ll ever find online, so take advantage of it!
Try Dramatic Tests
There’s something I like to call “testing tunnel vision” that comes up frequently in split tests. All too often, you’ll find one slightly-better version of an ad and you’ll run with it, trying every permutation until you get the most optimized branch off of the best path possible. Sometimes, you’ll follow this tributary with a fear of change, and you’ll end up missing a larger chance that leads to a much higher base ad. I recommend that you occasionally try something wacky, like dramatically changing up positioning, color or number of ads, just to see if it works. Most of the time it won’t, but you don’t lose much by trying.
Try a Left Sidebar
99% of the time, when you see sidebar ads, they’re firmly embedded in the right margin of the page. This is a great place to put them if you want them to be as easily ignored as possible. Instead, why not try adding them to the left of your content? This can give them a lot more exposure. Just make sure you’re not pushing your content out of the way; if you expose the horizontal scrollbar, you need to change your design immediately.
Make Yourself Mobile Friendly
Mobile is the wave of the future with the Internet, and it’s no different for advertising. You’re going to want to make sure you have a mobile website, and that the ads you’re running on that mobile website are compatible with mobile devices. This isn’t automatic; you’ll need to use specific mobile code for your mobile site. Thankfully, Google has a nice tutorial for implementing that code.
Order Your Ads in HTML
Fun fact: when your site loads, each ad unit is loaded sequentially. The first unit to load gets the best ad selected for that page, and so on down the list. If you have three ads, but for whatever reason your footer ad is the first to load, it will get the best ad. Try shifting round the order of your ads so the one with the best exposure and CTR gets the best ad. It might result in a slight but significant bump in your clicks.
Write Better Content
You know what boosts your click rate? Having more people visiting your site. The more people there are visiting your site, the more exposure your ads have, and thus the more clicks they will get. Even if your CTR drops, the volume will make up for it.
In order to increase the volume of traffic on your site, you can buy traffic trough Google, Facebook or another site. On the other hand, this cuts into your profits significantly, particularly if the ads you’re running aren’t all that expensive.
Instead, try creating more content, and making that content better. The better the content, the more people will be interested in it, and the more people will share it on social media and around the web. More sharing means more traffic, more traffic means more clicks, ore clicks means more money.
There are a lot of ways to make your content better. Try writing about more popular subjects. Try creating evergreen guides and tutorials. Try following industry trends. Create weekly roundups of great content from around the web. Try digging really deep into subjects where you have access to data others don’t, and share that data. Making yourself a resource really helps boost your long-term growth.
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