Google AdSense earnings not as high as you’d like? Clicks and profits taking a nosedive? Here are 5 reasons your ads might not be making you the money they should – and what to do about it.
1 – You Don’t Have Enough Visitors
Often overlooked by new publishers, simply not having enough traffic to your site is guaranteed to keep your earnings hovering around the disappointing level.
Even for publishers who are high AdSense earners, the actual clickthrough rates (CTR) on ads is low. It’s hard to quote an average click through rate because it varies so much from site to site and niche to niche but for most web publishers it’ll be around 1.5-3%.
That means you need fairly large numbers of visitors to start making a meaningful amount of money.
Suppose the average click on your site gets you $0.20. That means you need five clicks to make one dollar. If your average click through rate is 3% you stand to make $0.60 for every 100 visitors or $6 per 1000.
This is just an example. If your site is based around a topic where the ads pay more – and there are many topics where the payout is higher than twenty cents – you can make more money with less visitors.
But the principal still applies. A good flow of traffic is a vital part of earning revenue – whether through advertising, affiliate marketing, or selling your own product.
2 – You’re Accidentally Attracting Low-Paying Ads
Not all user clicks are created equal. Imagine two companies – one sells greenhouse seeds, the other patio covers. Seeds sell for very little. This means the seed advertiser will never pay much for an ad click because he makes very little back on a sale.
On the other hand, the patio cover advertiser makes a lot more profit per sale so it’s worthwhile spending more for ad clicks. Here are the actual figures for those keywords taken from the AdWords Keyword Tool (Adwords is the advertiser side of AdSense):
greenhouse seeds $0.51
patio covers $3.16
Most of the time AdSense displays ads based on the content around the ad unit. So if you have a gardening blog and you’ve been writing posts about greenhouse seeds you’ve accidentally been attracting low-paying ads. Writing posts about more expensive items every once in a while will boost your income as your blog starts displaying ads with higher paying clicks.
You can apply the same method to any market. Use the AdWords tool or take a look on Amazon to see which are the more expensive products or services that relate to the topic of your website.
3 – You’re in a Low-Paying Niche
An extension of the problem above is when the entire niche is full of low-paying ads. A good example of such a market is games. There’s no shortage of users wanting to play casual web-based games but the click payouts for AdSense are extremely low, making it hard to make a good income with a games site using AdSense alone.
If you’re in this situation, it might be worth look into an alternative to AdSense or making money with a completely different system like Amazon’s affiliate program.
4 – Your Ad Units Have a Low Click Through Rate
High-paying ads won’t earn you cash if no one clicks on them.
As a general rule, ads perform better when they’re above the fold – in the upper part of the page, so they’re visible without scrolling – rather than hidden lower down the page.
Ad placement is usually the single biggest factor of success with AdSense. The ads need to be in a position where your users can see them but not be so in the way they’re annoying and driving people to the browser back button.
Best Ad Sizes
AdSense offers a large selection of ad sizes but you’ll find some are better earners than others. What will work best depends on your site design & layout but here are some examples of positions and sizes that have worked well for me and other publishers over the years, so they’re a good starting point.
336×280 – Large Rectangle
300×250 – Medium Rectangle
728×90 – Leaderboard
160×600 – Wide Skyscraper
My experience has been that the Large Rectangle works the best for most sites. It’s quite a large ad block so it’s not always easy to make it fit into a site design without it being overpowering but if you can it usually works well.
Good places to put this size ad are near the start of your content or over to the right, so that it forms the first part of a right sidebar. These positions are also good spots to try running the Medium Rectangle.
The 728 Leaderboard often works best to the right of a left-placed site logo, either above or below a top navigation bar. Many publishers report excellent results with this size banner so if you’ve never tried it it’s definitely worth experimenting with.
If you’re using the Wide Skyscraper, you’re limited to where you can place it by its large size – that usually means the left or right sidebar. Curiously, this is one ad size that often works better in the lower part of the page, below the fold.
Experiment With The Ad Style
The default styles applied to new ad units generally work ok but you should definitely spend some time experimenting to find a look that brings in a little more money. Often a small change to the look can increase your CTR, and therefore your earnings, quite considerably.
Don’t use a border
By default there’s a border running around the edge of some of the preset ad styles. My experience has been that removing the border can increase your CTR by as much as 1%. You can remove the border by making the color the same as your page background.
Set the URL color to black
The default is green and I’ve found it changing it to black often improves the ad performance.
Make the Link Color Match Your In-Content Links
If you’re using a non-standard blue color for links within your content, set the ad units to use the same color. The idea is to make your AdSense units blend in more with the content and look less out of place.
For the same reason, set the font and font size to match your site design.
Use Image / Rich Media Ads Only
If your site content is mostly images or videos try setting the Ad Type on your ad units to Image/rich media ads only. Again, it’ll make the ads blend in more which is likely to increase your profits.
Image ads also often perform better than text ads on tech and gadgets sites.
I can’t emphasize enough how crucial ad style and location on the page are to improving click-through rates. Sometimes even a small change can boost earnings significantly. The key to success is make one change at a time, track the increase or decrease in revenue and then move on to the next tweak.
That can be a time-consuming process, so I’ve found a good AdSense theme for WordPress which does the split-testing for you is a major time-saver that pays for itself quickly.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with techniques to combat ad-blindness (users subconsciously expecting to see ads in a particular location and ignoring it).
5 – You’re Not Making Your Ad Units “Targeted”
Make sure your best-performing ad units have ad channels associated with them. It’s a great way keep track of the styles and placements that work best on your site. You can now also connect your AdSense account with your Google Analytics account to see exactly which pages generate the most revenue.
When you create your channel, make sure you select the Targeting option. This allows advertisers to more easily find your site when they’re setting up their campaign in AdWords.
* Keep Building Traffic using ethical, white-hat SEO strategies. If you’re not sure you’re doing that, check out my SEO book.
* Ads Above The Fold
* Match Ad Style With Content
* Use Ad Channels To Track Performance & Add Attract Targeted Placement
* Consider investing in a specialized AdSense WordPress theme that does the split testing and optimization for you, so you can just concentrate on building traffic.
* Consider supplementing your AdSense income with Amazon affiliate revenue – I’ve found the two revenue streams work great together.