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March 07, 2006

Introduction to Advertising Optimization - Ad Position

Posted in: Advertising, Adsense

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes that I see bloggers making with the positioning of advertising is with regards to position. In fact this is not a unique thing for blogs or even just online advertising as effective advertising relies upon positioning in all of it’s forms. This is why ads at Prime Time on TV, in the front pages of magazines and on the big billboards at busy intersections are in high demand (and are at a premium price).

The theory is pretty simple (and logical) really - if you increase the number of people who see an ad you increase it’s chances of converting (note that position isn’t the only factor, as we’ll explore later).

A good question to ask yourself as you consider ad placement on your blog is ‘where are people looking?’ Some of the factors to keep in mind when answering this question include:

Above The ‘fold’

When you look at the front page of enternetusers you will notice that only part of the page is showing. This is because I have more content than can fit on the screen (unless you have a massive screen of course). The only way you can see everything on the page is to scroll down.

If you were to draw an imaginary line across enternetusers’s front page at the point where you had to start scrolling this line is known in web circles as ‘the fold’.

Research shows us that elements of a website below the fold are seen by significantly less readers than elements above the fold. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in general (and there are some exceptions which I’ll outline below) this will mean a lower conversion for your ads.

Content

The content of your blog is hopefully the place where most of your readers are drawn to (if it’s not you might have a problem). This is the case whether your content is text, video or image and as a result one of the best converting positions on a blog in terms of advertising is within or close to content.

Different bloggers have different opinions on both on firstly whether ads should be put near content (that’s a debate for another post) as well as what is the best method to do so - but in general there are a number of fairly common ways that it is done. Let me outline a few:

  • Between Posts - perhaps one of the most common ad placements running on commercial blogs at present is to place a rectangle or small banner ad between posts when running ads on the front page and/or category pages.

    One example of a blog using this strategy is megablog - Engadget which places a rectangle AdSense unit between the second and third posts on it’s front page (see screen cap below).

    Picture 2-3

    In fact Engadget use this strategy between many of their posts on their front page (and category pages), using a mixture of AdSense ads and other ads (probably sponsorship deals). (Note: Engadget runs more than the normally allowable number of AdSense units per page. AdSense reportedly has deals with some larger publishers that allows this).

    I currently use this strategy here at enternetusers also on my front pages - inserting ads between my second and third posts.

    AdSense themselves have recommended this position in a diagram that they produced to show which positions work best (below):

    Blogtimize-775540-1

  • Before Content - Placing an ad unit slightly above a post can be an effective placement, especially if using an ad with a smaller height. 468 x 60 pixel ads are one such ad, as are the horizontal ad link units from Adsense which often are placed across the top of a blog just above a post’s title. My own experience is that ads above content are not quite as effective as ads IN content (see below) - but they are generally less intrusive than IN content ads.

    One warning however with these ads - if you use an ad that is too large you can actually push your content too far down the page and actually end up with a page that has little content above the fold (something that is likely to frustrate your readers).

  • In Content - There is some debate around this method of ad placement but in my experience it is by far the most effective in terms of Click Through Rate.

    While readers do scan content - their eyes are generally in it’s vicinity and to have ads in this position means they naturally see it and if the ads are relevant to the content itself they are much more likely to click.

    Ad sizes in this position vary in terms of conversion from blog to blog but some bloggers use a rectangular ad block aligned to the right or left

    For example - The Movie Blog uses a rectangle ad directly under it’s titles and aligned left on individual pages (see screen cap of this page below).

    Picture 3-7

    Another example is here at enternetusers where I insert a smaller ad (aligned right) into my individual pages.

    Picture 6-1

Comments

Another hotspot on many blogs is in the vicinity of the comments section. There are a number of reasons for this position converting well. For starters, comments are at the end of a post and at a point where a certain percentage of your readers are looking for something else to do. They’ve consumed your content and will either be looking for more of the same or wanting to take some action as a result of what they’ve read. As a result - an ad that is contextually relevant is sometimes quite clickable. The other reason ads near comments do well is because they are a place that draws the eye of your reader. The discussion that happens on a post can be just as valuable to readers as the post itself and so they become hotspots.

Here at enternetusers I place a rectangle ad at the end of my posts and a bit above comments. I find that these ads can some days get a higher CTR than any other ad on the blog.

Picture 8

Images

A strategy that some bloggers use is to draw the eye of their readers towards their ads by using images or other visual aids. While there are many poor examples out there of people doing this (many of which break the Terms of Service of programs like AdSense in my opinion) I’ve previously drawn readers attention to more subtle and stylish ways of doing this (like Karen Cheng’s approach).

Adsense-2-1-1

Left Hand Side

When I first started experimenting with ads the advice I was given was that ads on the right hand side of a page did best because people looked over there to use the scroll bar. In more recent times the research and expert opinion on the matter is that the left hand side is best. Perhaps this is because those of us from countries which read from left to right are wired to look left when viewing a page - or perhaps there is some other reason - but from my own experience in tracking ads - it does seem to be true.

AdSense published the following ‘heat map’ to illustrate where they found ‘hot spots’ to be on web pages. As you’ll see - ads positioned to the left tend to do better than those on the right.

Placement

Of course there are many other things to consider when working on the placement of ads - two that I’ve written about previously include Aesthetics and Financial Considerations (this is a post well worth reading if you’re using AdSense - it outlines how it’s possible to have less ads and be more profitable).

Next in this series we’ll examine the topic of Ad Design


Return to: Introduction to Advertising Optimization - Ad Position


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