Seven Tips For Achieving Optimal AdSense Setup

OK, so you’ve reviewed your options for monetizing your website and decided that display advertising is one of the channels that has big potential. Great.
Now what?
Once you’ve signed up for AdSense, it’s time to start thinking about how exactly you’re going to incorporate ads into your site. Below are seven tips for getting AdSense up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. (Sign up for the free Vulkanisir-Dangstars Blog newsletter for more monetization tips and tricks.)

Tip 1: Use The Most Common Units

When you’re creating ad units within AdSense, you’ll be presented with several different dimensions. At the top are the “Recommended” sizes: 300 x 250, 336 x 280, 728 x 90, 160 x 600, and 320 x 50. Below are several other options for ad units, both big and small.

Size most definitely matters when setting up your AdSense units, and the five mentioned above are recommended for a reason. They are the sizes most commonly created by advertisers. Sticking to these standard sizes will increase your fill rate and ensure that you’re able to serve the ads that will drive clicks and earnings.

Here’s the IAB’s official display advertising guidelines–note the Universal Ad Package:

When you’re designing the layout for your website (more on this below) stick to the most commonly used sizes when it comes to your ads.

Tip 2: Use Multiple Sizes

When setting up your ads, be sure to include a bit of variety in your sizes. Building a page layout that features only 300 x 250 ad units, for example, can be a mistake. It will reduce the universe of ads from which AdSense is able to pull when attempting to fill your site, which means you might miss out on the opportunity to serve ads that would drive high CTRs and earnings. Moreover, failing to diversify your inventory can bite you down the road if you get an inquiry from an advertiser looking to pay premium CPMs to run a campaign that only has creative in one size.

Advanced Tip: If you have plans of selling ads directly to advertisers at some point in the future, make each page on your site identical in terms of the number of ad units it includes. Ideally, each page should have the same ad units in the same places. Down the road, this makes the inventory management process much easier.

Tip 3: Place Your Ads In Hot Spots

The most challenging part of setting up ad units on your website is figuring out exactly where they’re going to go. This is often a balancing act; you’ll want to come up with a site design that (literally) puts your ads in a position to succeed while also delivering a clean layout that provides a positive user experience (i.e., a site that just looks good).

Below is the official AdSense heatmap, which conveys some general rules of thumb for which areas of your webpage are most likely to attract eyeballs. The darker the zone where you place your ad units, the higher your CTRs and AdSense earnings will generally be.
Official Adsense Heatmap

Decisions about where to position ad units should be considered in conjunction with the two above; the decision of where to place your ad units is of course linked to the decision about how big your ads should be.

If you want more specific examples of layouts that work with AdSense, Spencer Haws has some good examples up at Niche Pursuits..

Tip 4: Watch Out For Pandas

Within the last few years Google introduced its page rank algorithm (affectionately known as “Panda”) as part of its shift toward visual search technology. Basically, the update was designed to penalize sites that displayed primarily ads “above the fold” and pushed any valuable content lower on the page. So if you came up with a layout that features your ads front and center while relegating the valuable content to below the fold, you might want to think again.

Below are the examples Google gives for layouts that highlight content (unlikely to be penalized) as well as one that pushes content below the fold (likely to be penalized):

Google Suggestions

Scott Blanchard of ClickBump has a great summary of what exactly the Panda update means for setting up your ads, along with a few examples of what to avoid. Anand Khanse at The Windows Club also has a good summary of the line you’ll need to walk when positioning your ad units.

Tip 5: Put Some Thought Into Color Schemes

As we highlighted in our recent post on ways to boost AdSense earnings, playing around with the visual presentation of text ads on your site (assuming you opt to show text ads) can be a high value activity. If you’re planning to show text ads, spend some time coming up with a layout that either blends with, complements, or contrasts with your site. Without your elections, AdSense will set you up with the “Google default” color scheme, with black texts, blue links, and a dark green URL.

John Saddington at TentBlogger has a good summary of the three general strategies. The official AdSense help guide also shows us some examples of the three approaches:
Options For Color Schemes

Once you’re up and running, you’ll want to come back and experiment with different mixes of text and color. But it won’t hurt to put some thought into this at the beginning.

Tip 6: Know Your Limits…And Push Them

If you’re using AdSense, you must be aware of the limitations imposed by Google. Specifically, there are caps on the number of ad units you’re able to have on your page:

3 ad units
3 link units
2 search boxes

You’ll need to comply with these guidelines in order to get approved, and you’ll want to be sure to remain in compliance afterwards (or risk getting booted).

But AdSense provides plenty of opportunities (eight to be exact) to generate revenue on each page. The limits above include three “link units” and two “search boxes”. A lot of website owners overlook these potential monetization sources when setting up ad units–which can obviously rob them of earnings.

A search box is simply a custom search engine that allows your users to look for content within your site. Along with the results from your site, Google will display some third party ads:
Search Box Example

Link units are smaller ad units (many of them are just 15 pixels tall) with text-based ads. When placed at the end of your articles or other content, these link units can generate impressive CTRs and potentially boost your overall CPM by $1 or more. Here’s an example of a link unit at the top of a page:
Link Units

Tip 7: Plan Ahead For Experiments

A critical component of any website monetization plan is experimentation. No matter how much thought you put into it, your first layout probably won’t be the strategy that maximizes your AdSense earnings. But don’t worry; you’ll get there eventually–assuming you experiment regularly with different strategies and layouts.

Wherever possible, do a favor to your future self and make it easy to rearrange the sections of your site. If you’re adding a 728 x 90 leaderboard at the top, think ahead to an experiment that may involve removing that leaderboard and putting another unit below the fold. Or set aside real estate that may be used later as an alternative position for a link unit. There’s no exact set of directions for following this tip; just think ahead, and do your best to make your site layout as flexible as possible.
Bottom Line

Not all website layouts are created equal, particularly when it comes to the potential to generate AdSense earnings. Decisions that may seem minor can end up having a big impact on how much money you ultimately make from display advertising. Follow the tips above to put your site in a position to succeed.