In this post, I’ll write about my experiment with Google AdSense, with a very brief explanation of what AdSense is. Note: I’m not an AdSense or website monetization expert, but here I’ve provided metrics and an explanation of how I’ve measured. Convinced that the info as such (objective) can help both experts and amateurs – it is certainly valuable to me. Because I’ve found too much guesswork and hearsay on the Internet (not just on this topic).
If viewing this page with an AdBlocker enabled, some images (containing the word “AdSense” in the description, and/or filename) could be blocked. I’ve just noticed this with AdGuard AdBlocker. 🙂
- What is Google AdSense?
- How to apply
- My initial setup of AdSense ads
- AdSense experiment
- First impressions – September
- Second month of testing – October
- Preliminary conclusion
- November stats – back to discrete ad placement
- Website redesign and advert format change
1. What is Google AdSense?
Shortly: it is a program for showing adverts on a website. Companies pay Google for advertising, Google chooses which ads are shown on which website and gives a part of that commission to the website owners. Commission depends on the type and number of shown ads, as well as on whether the ads are clicked on by website visitors.
2. How to apply
Go to Google AdSense page and register. You will need a Gmail account and a website with enough good quality, unique content.
After providing all the needed data, you will get a snail mail letter, with a code – which you will enter to AdSense account once you receive it, in order to confirm you have provided a real address.
In this post, I won’t be explaining the technique of placing ads on the website – instructions for that are in my article about how to add Google AdSense to a WordPress site?
3. My initial setup of AdSense ads
I originally placed ads on the right hand side column, below all the menu options.
These ads were invisible for visitors using mobile phones (only after reading an entire article would they get to the ads section).
At the start of 2019 I added a small banner on top, that is also shown on top to visitors with mobile phones. At about the same time, I implemented AMP page versions, with ads included.
An interesting thing about AMP pages is they are “immune” to ad blockers, so ads are always shown on them. Downside is that Google chooses where to place those ads on AMP pages (which is good for earnings, but you can’t design the layout).
Here is how the ad layout looks like:
This drastically increased earnings from ads, much more than the rise in the number of visitors. Graph of monthly ad earnings change from month to month:
Overview of the ad revenue that each ad position has made in a month, relative to other ad positions:
It is interesting to note that the cycling website in English, with most visitors from USA and UK, earns a lot more money per visitor (RPM) than the cycling website in Serbocroatian, where most visitors come from former Yugoslavia. While this website, with computer related topics, makes even more revenue per one visitor:
4. AdSense experiment
The plan is to, starting from September 2019, let Google automatically place ads where it thinks it is best to place them, then see if there are any significant revenue changes. The experiment will be let to run for two months. I will be following the changes in both revenue and the number of monthly visitors.
I’ll also be visually checking what it looks like (for me) on the pages: is it too crowded with ads, or are there even fewer of them.
5. First impressions – September
Subjective impression is there are more adverts on websites. What bothers me the most (what I hate) are the ads inserted between paragraphs of a page. As for the metrics, I haven’t noticed a drop in the number of visits, nor shorter duration of visits. Will be monitoring this, as well as whether Google, after the experimenting is done, reduces the number of adverts, keeping only a few that pay best, in places where they give the best results.
Normalized stats for RPM and total website income compared for August and September (the experiment was started on September 1st):
RPM of io.bikegremlin.com leads to a conclusion that adverts on computer websites are paid a lot more than ads on cycling websites.
The fact that the English version of the cycling website makes over 10 times more revenue than the Serbocroatian version, while it has only 5 times more visitors, leads to a conclusion that the ads served to visitors from the US and EU pay a lot more than those served to the visitors from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and the other countries from the region.
In those terms, which is not shown on the graphs, practically all the income generated by this website (io.bikegremlin.com) comes from the US visitors. If the structure of visitors changes in the future, so that majority come from Serbia, it should, based on the above stated stats and conclusions, drastically decrease website’s RPM.
Will update this article after the October is through with new stats.
6. Second month of testing – October
In the second month of testing I added a variation to the experiment. I.e. added another experiment. In Google AdSense options, I set so that every second visitor sees only 65% of the available ads – those that are most relevant and most highly paid. As the graphs below show, this resulted in a symbolic drop in total earnings. Only the computer website (this one) saw a drastic drop in both earnings and RPM.
7. Preliminary conclusion
Allowing Google to place ads where it “thinks” it’s best resulted in the following:
- Increased total earnings by about 20%. As promised (“let Google handle it and see the income maxed out” is what they practically claim, to paraphrase it).
- A lot more ads displayed on pages (and across the screen on mobile phones). Even when it’s been set to show only 65% of the most relevant ads.
- Google didn’t (noticeably) decrease the number and frequency of shown ads during the two months of testing, no matter what setup I chose.
While I think it’s fair to get a few dollars for the good quality content I provide (for free), I don’t like when there are too many adverts on the site. Especially over the screen and in between paragraphs on a page. I find it a bit annoying and distracting at the same time.
So I returned the ads setup to the previous settings – in the corners, discretely (see picture 1). In November and December, I’ll keep tracking the stats for RPM and total earnings. Also, in November, I’ll be experimenting with showing only 75% of the most relevant ads – to see what difference in earnings it makes, with this more discreet ad setup, compared to showing 90% of the available ads.
8. November stats – back to discrete ad placement
With the start of November, I reverted the ad placement to the old way – so that ads fill the unused corners of pages and don’t get between article paragraphs, or “jump” over the entire screen on mobile.
As expected, this resulted in about 25 % decrease in revenue. A difference that is noticeable, probably important to those who make a living off the ads, or to whom the ad revenue presents an important source of income. Since my website is a non-profit one, the ads serve just to cover the expenses, I put more value into keeping the site clean and informative, not crowded with ads. That is why, after the two-month experiment’s conclusion, I decided to switch the ads back to the old setting.
AdSense offers a very convenient way to make some extra money from good quality content. It is set-and-forget. So no need to look for advertisers by yourself, or worry whether advertisers have paid for the current month/year.
- Google takes some 30% from what they charge the advertisers (but saves you the time and hassle).
- You depend on one large corporation with this type of income (find and add other ways of website monetization).
- AdSense ads can be blocked using an AdBlocker.
Finally, since both Google and the others keep reminding us how website performance (loading speed) is important, it should be noted that AdSense does noticeably slow down the sites.
For those interested in more details, here are the test results in PDF:
I have noticed this on all of my websites. It is especially noticeable if a site is viewed using a slower Internet connection.
How bad are these downsides, compared to the advantages? Is AdSense worth it?
Everyone must answer these questions for themselves. For me, AdSense is a good way to cover all the hosting, and backup costs, thus keep my sites objective and independent, as much as possible. They pay regularly, no hick-ups, no hassle, no mistakes.
10. Website redesign and advert format change
I’ve redesigned my websites, aiming to make them easier to find the needed information – and be better looking. 🙂 One of the results of the redesign was more space on the top for full-width adverts.
I’ve removed all the ads from the home page, though.
This is the current advertising space layout on my websites, from September 2021:
At the end of September, I’m planning to switch places of formats 2 and 3 (square, and vertical advert placement formats, respectively). By the end of October, I’ll know which of those two formats generates more income and in which position (higher, or lower).
Then I’ll remove the format that earns less, and place the format that earns more in the place where it earns more. 🙂
So in November, I’ll probably switch back to having only three ad-placement spots, instead of four. And I’m still refraining from using any in-article ads (between the article paragraphs). I find such ads annoying.
Update, October 1, 2021: Square advert made about 35% more income than the vertical ad, but still 50% less than the top banner, and 200% more than the Google matched content at the bottom of every page. Now I’ve switched places of the square and vertical ad units, to see how they perform, i.e. is the position more important than the ad format type.
Update, October 13, 2021: Based on the test so far, it seems that ad placement has a huge impact on its revenue. Of the two sidebar ads, the one that is on top makes significantly more income.
Having said that, when comparing vertical and square ad format performance in the same position, the vertical format generates about 20% more income.
With this info in mind, in order to reduce the number of ads on my websites, I’ve decided to keep only one sidebar ad, using the vertical ad format. Also, I’ve decided to place it below all the other sidebar info, because I think it’s more important for the visitors, even though I think it will result in reduced ad revenue.