Why doesn’t anyone click my AdSense Ads?
If you are like the many other webmasters who have the goal of creating a blog that earns money, one of the first things that you probably did after launching your website was sign up for AdSense, and with good reason; Google is the world’s largest advertising company with a revenue of tens of billions of dollars each year, and the income that they pay to advertisers is quite generous. However, in order for you to receive a share of that income, your readers have to actually click those ads. Unless you are one of the fortunate ones that hit upon the magic formula on your first try, chances are that the click-through rate (CTR) for your advertisements is not as high as you would like it to be.
Keep in mind that your CTR for advertisements is likely to always be fairly low. After all, how many advertisements do you click while you browse the Web? However, there are several steps that you can take to improve your AdSense CTR and, thus, increase the income of your website.
Note: There are no hard and fast rules for the best performing AdSense formats, ad types, colors or locations. Everything is relative and depends on the specific website. All I or anyone else can do is speak from personal experience, and you should always be willing to experiment with new ideas.
1. Increase Your Traffic
If your website does not receive a significant amount of traffic each day, nothing that you do will improve your AdSense CTR in a measurable way, and you will not be able to gather enough data to give yourself a true picture of which AdSense tweaks increase your CTR within an acceptable margin of error. If your website only gets a few visitors a day, add content first, and focus on increasing AdSense CTR later.
2. Improve Your Website
The design of your website should be clean and inviting. If your site looks amateurish or spammy, readers will be more likely to click “Back” than they will be to stay and read your content. If visitors don’t read your content, they will not read your advertisements. If they don’t read your advertisements, they will not click them.
3. Best AdSense Formats
When I launched my first website with AdSense ads, I looked at Google’s recommended formats and disregarded them. This was a mistake. In my experience, Google’s recommended formats are in fact the best performing ones. I have had the most success with the Leaderboard (728×90) and Wide Skyscraper (160×600) formats. Many webmasters like the Large Rectangle (336×280) as well. See examples of all AdSense formats at Google.
4. Best AdSense Ad Locations
You should always experiment with different AdSense ad locations, but work with the general mindset that your AdSense units should be where your readers’ eyes will be. The Google AdSense heatmap is an excellent resource for this. Three good locations to try are below your website’s navigation bar, at the top of the sidebar on the left side of the page, and immediately above the main content of the page.
Bear in mind that while blending AdSense ads with the design of your website is helpful for creating a smooth and appealing site layout, you cannot place your ads in such as way as to trick your readers into thinking that the advertisements are actually part of the website’s content. For example, one common AdSense placement is immediately below the title of a blog post, because readers will be very likely to look at it. However, if you do this, you should add a word or phrase above the AdSense unit clearly identifying it as an ad, such as “Advertisements” or “Sponsored Listings.” This prevents users from mistaking the AdSense unit as actual website content, and allows you to remain compliant with Google’s policies.
No matter what any “AdSense guru” tells you, clearly identifying an advertisement as an advertisement will not prevent readers from clicking it if they find the ad interesting.
In general, I have found that AdSense ads placed in a sidebar on the right side of the page often have a low CTR. Because a right-hand sidebar is so common in WordPress themes, and it is the easiest location for a beginner to place an AdSense unit, I think that Web surfers have simply trained themselves to ignore everything on the right side of a page.
5. Change Your AdSense Colors
In general, I like an AdSense unit that closely follows the color scheme of the website, with matching background, text and link colors. Matching background and text colors simply looks nice, and matching the link color of your website reminds the reader that the advertisements are clickable. However, don’t be afraid to try a contrasting color scheme instead, or to try something different if you see your AdSense CTR drop. Remember, everything on the Internet is dynamic, and your readers’ tastes are always changing as well. The one thing that I do not recommend is using the default AdSense color scheme, unless it fits well with your website. People tune the default AdSense color scheme out without even realizing that they are doing it, and your AdSense CTR will drop as a result. Learn how to change your AdSense colors.
6. Reduce the Number of AdSense Ads
This might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, you get the best AdSense CTR by giving readers the most possible ads to click, right? Not in my experience. I believe that indecision leads to inaction, and that if your website has too many items to click, your readers will end up clicking nothing at all. Your website will also look unprofessional and spammy. I firmly believe that advertisements should take up a very small area of any page on your website.
Also, remember how the AdWords system works. Merchants bid on keywords in an auction system, and their ads are shown based on the amount that they bid and how high their CTR rates are. By limiting the number of AdSense units on your website, you display only the highest-paying and best-performing ads, increasing both your AdSense CTR and pay per click.
7. Eliminate Irrelevant AdSense Ads
My belief is that you should always think very hard before excluding an advertiser from appearing in AdSense ads on your site, because Google’s context-sensitive advertising is the best in the industry, and really does present readers with the ads that they are most likely to be interested in. However, you are occasionally going to see an advertisement that you simply know does not work with your website. Once you have enough traffic to obtain a large data set, experiment with removing advertisers, and see if it increases your AdSense CTR. However, don’t forget to look at your Cost per Click (CPC) as well; if these ads do appear on your site, it is because they bid enough money in the AdWords system to be shown above another advertiser. Sometimes, a lower number of higher-paying clicks is better than the reverse.
8. Text vs. Graphics in AdSense Ads
My personal feeling is that text-based AdSense ads integrate more easily with the content of a website and are more likely to be looked at by readers. However, there are some situations where picture-based ads may work better. By default, Google decides which type of ad is most appropriate. However, you can also force an AdSense unit to display only pictures or only text. Experiment with both, but only when you have enough visitors to obtain a large data set.
9. AdSense Link vs. Ad Units
The AdSense link unit is a very small AdSense unit that displays 4-5 keyword phrases horizontally or vertically. If a reader clicks an AdSense link unit, they are taken to a new page that shows advertisements. The reader must click one of these advertisements in order for you to receive money — that’s two clicks before you get paid. Contrast this with the standard AdSense ad unit, which takes up more space on your page, but requires only one click for you to receive revenue. In my experience, AdSense ad units earn more money than link units. However, you should by all means try an AdSense link unit if it makes the most sense for your website’s layout.
10. No Change is Too Small
You would be shocked how the smallest change can result in a profound increase in your AdSense CTR. For example, I have one website that uses a single AdSense Leaderboard (728×90) at the top of each page as its only ad unit. I began with the unit above the title of each blog post. The AdSense CTR was not terrible, but not spectacular either. I moved the AdSense unit below the post title, and the CTR tripled. This was a change of literally less than 100 pixels, and I even added the word “Advertisements” above the AdSense unit to avoid reader confusion. No change is too small to be worth trying, as long as you have enough traffic to obtain a sample size large enough to quantify the value of the change.