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Adventures in AdSense

I know, it’s been a long time since my last post here. But I have a good excuse. I haven’t had time to blog because I’ve been working hard on my main website.

One of the areas I’ve been focusing on is AdSense – and that’s the subject of this post.

I love AdSense as an income source because your success isn’t about how well you can write, but it’s about how well you can test, track and crunch numbers.

In this post I’m going to walk you through some of the things I’ve done on my mission to reach AdSense success.

Testing Different Ad Units

Before I implemented this strategy, my AdSense efforts consisted of throwing on the ads and hoping for the best. That made me about $3 per month – so I knew I had to start testing.

I’ve learnt that the key to upping one’s AdSense earnings is to take a very organized approach. I decided that I would run each ad test for one week, switching every Saturday morning.

I created a spreadsheet to plan out ahead of time which ad test I would run each week, and also to record the average CTR, CPC and RPM of each ad test.

The ad tests I’ve run so far are as follows:

  1. 300 x 250 – top of sidebar, text and image ads
  2. 300 x 250 – main content area, text ads, custom colors with border
  3. 300 x 250 – main content area, text ads, custom colors without border
  4. 300 x 250 – main content area, text ads, default colors
  5. 300 x 250 – main content area, text and image ads, aligned left
  6. 300 x 250 – main content area, image ads
  7. 300 x 250 – main content area

This may sound like a lot of work, but it only takes me 15 minutes each Saturday morning to switch my ads and record my stats. I know which ad unit I’m running because I’ve planned them all ahead of time.

The rest of the week, I don’t even think about AdSense. I credit my organized approach for that.

And it’s paying off too. In my first full month of tests (March 2013) I made $13.37 in finalized earnings. A big improvement from $3!

A Quick Note About Which Ads Performed Best

I am tracking CTR (click through rate), CPC (cost per click) and RPM (revenue per 1000 ad requests). I am not paying attention to earnings or number of clicks, because those depend on traffic and that’s not what I’m testing.

The ad unit with the highest CTR so far was the text ads with default Google colors. This was a surprise to me, as Google advises that making your text ads blend in with your website color scheme will usually yield a higher CTR. Only way to find out for sure is to test.

The ad unit with the highest average CPC so far was ad unit number 2. I took this with a grain of salt, because ad placement and color scheme has no effect on CPC. The only time you should pay attention to CPC is when comparing different ad sizes or when comparing text vs. image ads.

The ad unit with the highest RPM so far was number 5, and this was due to a good CPC and good CTR working together.

Note: I’m not disclosing exact CTR, CPC and RPM figures because it’s against AdSense terms.

AdSense Academy

The AdSense Academy is a great free resource that Google has created to help publishers run a successful AdSense account, step-by-step.

There’s a checklist that you can follow through and check off steps as you complete them. Steps are arranged in categories from Implement your ad units through to Increase traffic and grow earnings.

The Academy tells me I’m 40% of the way through the checklist. Still a long way to go!

Google Analytics Integration

Integrating my AdSense account into my Google Analytics account also helped me to stay on top of things.

One benefit is easy access to data, since my AdSense account is under a different email address to my main Google account, so it saves me from having to sign out and in again.

However, the real benefit is being able to get a page-by-page breakdown of your AdSense data, rather than just your whole site. Great for digging that little bit deeper.

To integrate your AdSense account into your Google Analytics account, follow these instructions.