I recently made a small tweak to an AdSense ad that created a ~6x jump in daily earnings. I will share that tweak below, but first, a lesson in AdSense. Long time AdSense users may even learn something. Google AdSense has been around for a long time. It is a contextual advertising option that web masters can include within their content that generates earnings based on clicks. No calls to action can take place. It’s a passive way of earning money by dropping ad blocks within content and waiting for them to be clicked. For a long time it was a primary method of earning income from web sites, and for many it still is.

AdWords vs. AdSense

AdSense is the opposite of AdWords, in the sense that when running a PPC (Pay-per-click), or CPM (Cost-per-1000-impressions) ad on Google’s “Display Network,” the ads will show up on various partner web sites. Ad blocks can take on various sizes and can be text and/or image ads rotated within a block, or can be a strip of single words or phrases. There are also AdSense options for search and mobile.

Ad placement and earnings

An AdWords advertiser can choose web site placements within the network and/or leave it to Google to decide on the best placement. The amount the advertiser pays per click for, or to display, his or her ad is shared between the AdSense account holder and Google.

Contextual vs. retargeting

It used to be that AdSense ads were dynamically generated based on the topic of the surrounding content. They were “in context” and therefore called “contextual.” While that is still the case a lot of times, more and more ads are being dynamically generated based on the viewers recent browsing habits (like cart abandonments or product browsing), resulting in ads being displayed that are unrelated to surrounding content. This is an advertising method often called “retargeting,” a “get back here!” marketing approach.

Webmasters in the past used to search for high cost AdWords keywords like “credit cards,” and write content surrounding those keywords in an effort to get large amounts of money per click on the AdSense ad. That approach may still be effective, but often less so with the popularity of retargeting. Retargeting marketing methods may involve offering a browser a discount coupon for a product they recently “almost purchased” on a different web site.

Finally, the case study

I personally use AdSense on a few niche sites, but this case study involves running my AdSense ads as part of a revenue-share program on a site that I do not own. Sites sometimes open up ad slots in exchange for content. While I cannot reveal the source as the owner asked that I do not promote it as a way to make money, because it should be looked at as a way to share content and get leads. Now, the placement of the ad is important in this case.

The ad slot is 728×90 and placed directly under the title (the h1 tag), a 300×250 post related image, and the by line, just before the start of the article. It extends the length of the body of the content with maybe a 1/2″ overhang, whether that is relevant I do not know. It has just enough white space above and below for a clean look. The ads are restricted to use “text only” ads and the default “Open Air” color scheme. For this site, we don’t just paste in an ID, but the full code.

I created a new account as of late and I forgot to choose “text only,” and the ads were running with images as well. I had no idea because when I visited the page of my published content only a text ad would show, but truthfully I was hardly paying attention. For some reason (that I later figured out – revealed below), I was only getting an average of $8/article (on the 1st day) for this new account but I had no idea why. My other accounts consistently show an average of $48/article for their first day. Well, after a couple of months of posting daily content I was alerted by the staff that I needed to change my AdSense ad code because they were showing images as well. I did so, and starting the following day, and with new data over a weeks time, the revenue jumped to an average of $46/day.

In conclusion

This “case study” is to impress upon you that

  • 1) AdSense is not dead, and
  • 2) that one small tweak can multiply revenue immediately.

I wouldn’t say to never use images because in some placements they may work well. I’m limited on my tests that I can perform with this site, but this new distinction put me on a Google AdSense tweaking and testing spree. Thanks to the Internet, very small efforts can multiply earnings, even up to six times or more.