April 15, 2016
You’re the kind of person who doesn’t just settle for “good enough.” In fact, your ears twitch, just a little, if anyone within a 10-mile radius mentions the word “optimized.” We know, it’s OK. You’re in a safe place with like-minded people.
If you also know your way around a Google AdSense dashboard then this is the post for you. We’ve collected a few tips that are beyond the usual “use larger ad sizes” advice you’ll find almost everywhere. So after you read this post and implement its suggestions, you should have that competitive edge over your run of the mill AdSense publishers. With all that extra cash you can go out and buy that Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger you’ve had your eye on.
Fix Invalid Traffic
Since 2015, Google began to include a line in your monthly revenues report. The “Invalid Traffic – AdSense for Content” line that lowers your income. Sometimes it’s a negligible sum. And sometimes it can be significant chunk of your revenue stream.
According to Google: “Invalid click activity consists of any clicks or impressions that may artificially inflate an advertiser’s costs or a publisher\’s earnings, and for which we decide not to charge the advertiser. This includes, but is not limited to, clicks or impressions generated by a publisher clicking on his own ads, a publisher encouraging clicks on his ads, automated clicking tools or traffic sources, robots, or other deceptive software.”
And, although Google assures us it has smart tools and a dedicated team to protect advertisers from unethical publishers, it doesn’t always specify what it is you might be doing to cause the invalid clicks on your pages.
This isn’t the first time we’ve compared Google to an angry girlfriend when it comes to AdSense policies, but we find ourselves coming back to it again.
If you keep getting invalid traffic, you’ll keep losing money. And if there’s too much of it, your account might be suspended. Even if you don’t know where the heck these invalid clicks are coming from.
So what can you do? Well, Google has a few tips like avoiding low-quality traffic sources, verifying implementation and not clicking your own ads (Duh!). But that is not enough — scammers always find ways around these, so Google keep its tricks hidden (although there are some educated guesses out there). And honest publishers like you get hurt. But enough with the lamentations, and on to the solutions.
More content — Google will penalize you if your page has more ads than content. Make sure you balance the two. This can also affect your audience of returning users.
Keep an eye on social media traffic — AdSense just doesn’t like it. Google prefers viewers that come from its search engine (gee, wonder why) or from pages they reached through it. They especially dislike paid traffic that is not paid through the platform it’s coming from (like paid posts in massive Facebook groups or paid retweets by bots).
Last but not least – contact Google — If you’re not doing anything wrong, and the traffic you’re getting is real, legit and really clicking? You might be the victim of click-bombing from your competitors.
2. Category Blocking
Blocking or unblocking categories in AdSense can have an effect on revenues. How much of an effect and how? That’s a bit more complicated.
By default, all the “safe” categories are marked as enabled and the riskier categories (like gambling) are disabled.
Odds are you left these settings alone because you trust Google to pick the best ad for every visitor to your page. Well, that’s a very optimistic point of view. But let’s be realistic for a moment.
You might think that by allowing all available ad categories to appear on your website, you’re actually increasing the advertiser competition over your audience.
Some categories have higher CPCs, while others have higher CTRs. The main question is, how do you maximize RPMs with category blocking/unblocking?
Higher RPMs are a result of high CTRs and high CPCs. But one doesn’t work without the other. If a particular category of ads brings in record CPCs but sad-looking CTRs? Then maybe it’s not the right category for your audience.
Look at the reports under ‘Allow & Blocks Ads’ to check which categories are performing badly. Categories with a lot of impressions but low revenues are the ones that you should try blocking, at least temporarily.
We’d insert a screenshot right now but unfortunately this feature isn’t available in all countries.
True, it will lower the competition over your ad placements — just make sure not to go trigger happy with the block button, and keep an eye on those fill rates.
3. Gaming Smart Pricing for Higher CPCs
Many publishers seemed to be petrified of the Google AdSense Smart Pricing algorithm. This algorithm tries to ensure advertisers get their money’s worth when advertising on the publisher network.
This means, whenever possible, Google will track the conversions for the advertisers. Websites and pages that bring higher conversion rates will get higher CPC bids on their inventory.
Unfortunately for us publishers, we can see only click-throughs, not conversions — so we can’t really target specific ad categories or advertisers to improve our quality in Google’s eyes. What we can do is try to raise its worth to get better bidders and higher CPCs.
Smart Pricing isn’t new. It’s been around since 2007. For the most part, it’s about audience quality and its engagement with ads. Clicking is lovely. But if people click and don’t become clients, many advertisers see it as a lost investment over time.
So make Google’s Smart Pricing work for you instead of against you. Block unprofitable categories. Place ads in places where they cannot be accidentally clicked and do your best to bring traffic that will convert. Not just cheap views that don’t turn into clients.
But how do I know what traffic will convert?
You need to “reverse engineer” the classical customer journey and provide content that can be used as part of that journey.
For instance, many review websites have this down to an art. Since reviews are often read by customers as part of their “customer journey” to conversion, it’s highly likely that review websites will have a high smart pricing score and high CPCs. This was very much the case with Carz.co.il whom we wrote a case study about.
Think how your websites can fit into a customer journey and tailor your content to match.
4. Custom Channels
To attract savvy advertisers and granularly track ad unit performance, you want to use custom channels, if you aren’t yet.
Custom channels let you create groups of ads or single placements advertisers can target directly. By giving advertisers this ability, you’re increasing competition for your ad space.
5. Anchor and In-flow Ads
Every website monetization newbie knows: above the fold is gold. But it’s fools’ gold. Here’s why.
The over-the-fold ad is often one of the first things the visitor sees when they land on your page. Ads are made to be appealing. But the viewer didn’t come to your page to look at ads, and you can’t afford to forget that.
The person viewing your page is there for the CONTENT. That thing you’re really good at creating and marketing.
So let’s say a viewer lands on a page on your website, following a promise of awesome content. Now, assuming you do everything right, this viewer will see an ad relevant to them and want to click it.
But they’re there for the content. Even if the offer is relevant, if your content is as awesome as it should be, they’ll just continue scrolling. And by the time they are done, they may have forgotten all about that interesting ad.
How do you solve this? Anchor (also known as hovering, sticky and floating) ads and in-flow ads. The right combination of ads that follow the users as they scroll, and in-flow ads that give them “exit points” in the content is the way to higher RPMs.
6. Optimize for Size
What if you got a dollar for every time someone told you that it’s crucial you optimize for mobile? You probably wouldn’t even need to monetize your content anymore. Or work. Ever. But that’s not exactly what we’re saying here.
Depending on the theme or setup of your website, you can create different layouts for different devices. Responsive pages will always put ads in the wrong places, so you need to get on top of that to maximize mobile revenues.
For example, a sidebar ad unit might appear on the bottom of the post in the mobile version of your website or take up too much screen-room if placed elsewhere in the page.
So what you can do instead is hide the ads that bring less performance on mobile when the device is a tablet or a Smartphone. Next, add a mobile-only ad unit that displays only on mobile devices and is optimized for the mobile layout.
7. Advanced Geo-Targeting
Some countries and locales have higher CPCs than others. For example, the U.K., U.S., Canada and Australia bring much higher CPCs than Africa or India.
If you have a blog in Italian or German, you might want to consider adding an English section for higher CPC views. And you’ll have to look for high-priced niches in your locale.
Assuming your content site is in English, you want to do your best to bring in traffic from the countries that pay most. This means that your audience acquisition efforts should focus there and appeal to the interests of people in the region.
How do you check which countries pay more? Check the countries in your performance reports on AdSense. And bring more traffic from the locales with the highest CPC you can see.
8. Use Asynchronous AdSense Code
Back in 2015, Google introduced the asynchronous ad code to help publishers reduce the load time of their pages with ad units in them.
You can read more about the difference between synchronous and asynchronous ad codes, but the bottom line is asynchronous code will help your pages load faster, and ads will load according to order of appearance.
9. Test, test, test
Our last advice, is to always be testing. From our experience monetizing various niches, if there’s one optimization to take away it’s to always be testing.
Content creator, expert on everything you can Google.