AFP 8: Ad Unit Layouts And Strategies

AFP 8: Ad Unit Layouts And Strategies

Justin Cooke Justin Cooke February 2, 2012

In Episode 8 of the AFP, we cover some of the basic and intermediate steps required to effectively manage your AdSense account.  We’ve had quite a few questions about Ad Units, layouts that are effective, and the strategy involved.  We cover how to both effectively maximizing your AdSense earnings while making sure you’re seeing the reports needed to make effective changes.  We also report some hard data we’ve found in testing over 1,000 different niche websites and the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to Units, Layouts, and overall strategy for your AdSense account.

Ad Unit Layouts and Strategies

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Podcast Transcripts (Click Show to View)

[spoiler name=”Show More”]

Welcome to Episode 8 of the AdSense Flippers Podcast. I’m your host Justin Cooke and I’ve got my business partner extraordinaire here, Joe Magnotti. What’s going on?

Hey, everybody. Happy to be done with migrations.

Absolutely. Dude, we’ve got a great lineup for you today. First we’re going to go over some news and updates then we’re getting into the heart of this week’s episode which is all about AdSense units and AdSense layouts. So make sure to check that out. Finally we’re going to get into our ninja marketing tips, tricks and our plans for the future and we’ve got some today that will rock your socks, if you’re AdSense geeks like us. So let’s go over the news and updates.

First off, we would like to thank the two people that gave us 5-star reviews in the last couple of days. We’ve got Michael. “These guys give great honest information about making AdSense sites. This is a must read for internet marketers.” Thank you Michael.
Second we have G. Andrews who specifically states, “They’re a powerhouse team. They never shy from owning up to their mistakes and I’ve listened to episodes more than once to get out every ounce of goodness.” G. Andrews, you’re the bomb. Thanks, buddy. We really appreciate it.

Yeah. It was a really cool review. Justin didn’t read the whole thing but you really said some insightful stuff. I love it. Thanks.

Also I would like to thank Joe and the rest of the AdSense Flippers team for doing over one – no, not over. Exactly 111 site transfers this month.

Yeah. It was pretty good. It took us about two to three weeks to get them all done but we’re done and I’m very happy to have everything off my plate.

Next thing we want to talk about, we’ve mentioned it before. We’ve actually switched our hosting a bit on our niche sites. We went from GoDaddy hosting and we switched it over to HostGator. This is on Joe’s recommendation. He thought it might be a bit faster and he has got some data for you on the niche sites. So what’s up, buddy?

Well, we didn’t switch all our old sites. I should make that clear. We just went ahead and put our new sites on HostGator and the reason why was when I was doing migrations to customers over the last few months, I noticed HostGator had significant speed increase and so this month we tried it out and you have a little bit of data here for you. On average, our sites on GoDaddy take about 6.5 seconds to load and on HostGator, they only take 3.4. So we improved the load time of the sites by almost half.

Yeah. I think that’s really good and it’s really important that you have fast sites when you have niche sites. One of the things that we’re a bit embarrassed about right now is AdSense Flippers, man. What’s our average load time right now?

Fifteen seconds.

Yeah, dude. That’s horrible. So we will be switching our hosting for AdSense Flippers over to a private dedicated server in the near future so that we can get our speeds up there.

Yeah, some reasons that you might see the discuss system not work and then the comment section of the blog is because the load time is so high. You just reload the page and that happens because some days we’ve been as high as 60 seconds average load time which is terrible.

Wow, dude. A minute to wait for the page to load. That’s absolutely horrible. We will get that fixed, guys.

Yeah. Just so you know, some really quick stats here. Worse than eight seconds of load time is usually considered a failure. 5 to 8 seconds is OK. Less than 5 seconds is good and less than 1.5 seconds is super duper awesome. You can’t really do any better than that.

And we’ve got a good source of that. We will link to that in the show notes. Next thing, I want to talk about this a little bit. We get this all the time too. It’s a question about our roller coaster income. Basically the way that it works is we have a bunch of sites, right? We can let them build up some revenue and then we can sell a bunch of them basically whenever we want. So we can increase cash flow at will but our real trick and your real trick of your building out an AdSense empire as well is watching how much your average site earns, right?

So there are two things for us or metrics that we need to pay attention to. How much an average site earns over time and our multiple that we get when we sell them, right? So if either of those changes will significantly change our cash flow, the value we’re creating, that type of thing.

Yeah and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of these things if you’re selling a lot of sites and moving a lot of sites but put everything in a spreadsheet. You should get a roundabout number so that you have a good idea of where your sites are at.

One thing you would do – and we’ve noticed with our sites is that we sold off some of the top earners and then we end up with like kind of all the bunch of these like really low end earners. So our average site over time starts to look much worse. The best way to do it is take a snapshot so take a particular week or particular month and don’t sell. Don’t do anything with those sites and you can get kind of a rough idea on how much your sites make after three months, four months, six months, that type of thing.

So moving on along here, one of the things we’re working on is an internal theme to use on our sites. We’ve noticed that there are some good things about ProSense and some good things about CTR theme but we kind of would like to see a mixture of those two. So we’re developing a tool internally and we’re thinking that we would like to offer it up to our readers and visitors to the site.

We are getting most of our information is free but we’re thinking about whether we should add a price tag to this and we may be able to add more features or if it’s not that expensive and we’re able to develop it and get it running, get everything we need, that we may just offer it up for free. It depends but that is in the works and we’re working on it now. So know that we will have a theme out there soon that you can take a look at and check out.

****The AdSense Flippers Podcast****

So moving right into the heart of this week’s episode. This is all about AdSense ad units and layouts. Before we even get started, I want to mention something. We’re going to give as much data as we possibly can. We’re going to cover CPC, CTR clicks, RPM, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, the AdSense TOS keep us from giving exact numbers so what we will do is give you comparisons of one versus another different layout and how we found them to be effective.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that this is going to be a bit more of a dry episode than you may have seen in the past. If you’re looking more like partnerships or our thoughts on business or internet marketing, this isn’t it. We’re going to be covering ad layouts and the best position for your ads; a bit more boring and geeky stuff that we kind of dig into.

But if you’re looking to build niche sites, it’s important.

So let’s start it off, buddy. What’s an ad unit?

Well, an ad unit is going to be your basic building block of your AdSense account. Without it, you’re not going to be able to use all the other cool features of AdSense.

And you actually have to create these inside of your AdSense account and they could be customized to your site.

Yeah. One of the things we did when we first started building sites back in the early days of 2010 was we just took a theme, ProSense, and switched out the pub-ID and switched in our pub-ID but didn’t create our own ad units.

And that was my fault. I was a donk. I saw the pub-ID. I said, “Oh, I will just put that in. We will make some money,” and we did at first.

Yeah, but the problem was, was that URL channels and all your custom channels can’t collect the data that you need in order to find out what’s doing best for you.

Yeah. If you don’t know which site or which block is making you money, later on, your data is going to hurt. You’re going to suffer for that and you’re not going to be able to figure out which ads are doing better.

So obviously we don’t create ad units for every site because that would get a little crazy. I mean we have more than 1100 sites right now. If we had to create four new ad units – we use four ad units on every site – man, we would have to create a lot of ad units.

Yeah. That would be what? One hundred and sixty per week at 40 sites per week. That would be insane. You would spend all day creating ad units.

Right. So instead, we group sites by month right now and if you create a lot of sites, I really suggest that you do it this way. Either group them by time, by month, by week, by day or by niche, however you want to do it so that you can put those all into one custom channel.

And that helps us when we go back and look at our monthly stats. OK. How did this ad unit do for all the sites for this month? It’s not as individual as we would like it. I mean it would be better data if it was individual but that gets ridiculous anyway and extremely hard to read. You have so much data in AdSense. That would be too confusing actually.

Right. Another thing you got to keep in mind are your naming conventions for ad units because a lot of these things are just available from a pick list within your AdSense account. If you start naming them like “test one” or “blue” or something just out of the ordinary instead of a descriptive term, it’s going to be very hard to go back and make reports because you’re not going to remember which ad units are what.

Yeah. So we do things like January 336 ad unit and that tells us it’s the 336 unit for any of the sites in January.

Exactly. Yeah, and talking about sizes, you should stick to the most popular sizes recommended by Google. When you create new ad units within your AdSense account, you will see that there are recommended most popular sizes and these are the sizes that premium advertisers are probably going to use, stuff like large rectangle, medium rectangle, leader boards, skyscraper. Those four are going to be where you’re going to find the most advertisers. If you don’t use those four on your site, you can expect to get less than optimal results.

And this is especially important too when you talk about images that are going to be there, when you talk about rich text, when you talk about rich media ads. These are the ones that premium advertisers are putting out there. So if you want those to show, you’re going to have to use the most common ad blocks.

Yeah. If you think about it, these premium advertisers are – they have a whole marketing team, right? They’re doing a lot of testing on what looks the best so they’re not going to go out there and create a whole bunch of different ad sizes. They’re going to create one or two different ad sizes and they’re going to use the most popular ad blocks.

Another thing to pay attention to or keep in mind is the style that you want to fit. Now Google talks about two different ways you can do this. You can either make the ads blend into your site which is mostly what we use or you can also contrast, right? And I will link to it in the show notes but Google talks about using either one of these and they can be effective. You either want your ads to stand out so people notice them more or you want people to not really see ads and see content and be a bit of a blend.

So talk to us about interest-based ads, Justin. What does that mean?

Interest-based ads are basically this. You have someone that goes to your site and it’s about blue running shoes but previously, they were looking up bank accounts, right? So on your blue running shoes site, there might be advertisements for bank accounts.

Now if you have a running shoes site and someone clicks on a bank account ad, you’re more likely to get paid quite a bit more money. So interest-based ads basically follow anyone who’s logged into their Google account around from site to site and will show ads that Google thinks is relevant to them based on their search history.

Now it could also work vice-versa. They could be interested in knitting and then get a knitting ad and you can get five cents for that. So it could definitely hurt you as well and it’s something you should look at turning on or off within your AdSense account. We generally leave it on.

So now we talked a little about interest-based versus contextual ads and we talked about text and image and rich media ads. I thought I would give you some stats from our AdSense account, give you an idea how those line up and compare.

Right now, we’re getting about 88 percent of our ads are contextual. Meaning they match the content on the site and about 12 percent are interest-based meaning someone is logged into their Google account and they’re seeing ads based on previous searches.

Yeah. It makes sense to me that only 12 percent are interest-based because most people are not logged into an account. Most people don’t have a cookie available for Google to offer up interest-based advertisements but these interest-based advertisements are probably – not all the time but probably going to deliver a higher CPC based on what the customer was visiting before.

And when it comes to text versus image versus rich media, about 74% of our ads are text-based ads, 11%image, and we round it out with 5% for rich media Flash and animated ads. So a good – a huge majority comes from text and that simply has to do with more ads being available via text.

Yeah, and that makes sense because the most basic advertising in AdWords is text-based ads and most companies do that but premium advertisers, those advertisers that are going to pay a lot  more and therefore a lot higher CPCs to you are going to use premium ads, image ads, rich media ads, Flash or animated ads. Those are the kind of things that it takes a lot of money to develop and that larger companies that are willing to pay a higher CPC are willing to develop.

So even though it’s a lower percentage of a raw account, it probably accounts for a large percentage of our actual revenue.

Now you might see a lower CTR on rich media, on animated, on Flash but you will generally see a higher CPC as Joe was mentioning. So some people talk about whether or not you should turn those off. We recommend leaving them on in most cases. In very rare instances when people are smart-priced or they’re ads that are really outside of the context so you don’t think that will deliver well for the advertisers should you take them out, but 99 percent of the time you should leave them in. I mean that’s what Google is getting their 33, 34% for, right? Is to match up the ads with the searchers so let them do their job.

Right. And I would say if you have a small number of sites, make more ad units and do more custom channels so you can actually test this and see what’s most effective for you on your particular sites.

OK. The second part we want to talk about was specifically ad layouts and strategies for when you’re designing your page and putting your ads in. Now there are an infinite number of ad layouts. We’re not going to go over all of them or all the different particular places you can put your ads but you will find out that most of the themes built for AdSense stick with proven layouts. So CTR theme, HeatMap theme, ProSense theme and any number of the other AdSense-ready layouts are going to have generally the most popular, the most favorite AdSense placements.

Yeah, and those themes use the maximum number of ad blocks, link units and search boxes that you can according to AdSense terms of service.

So you can get three ad blocks, three link units and two search boxes per page. I mean that’s a lot of ads. I wouldn’t recommend doing all those but most themes provide some combination of that.

Yeah. I mean in a lot of instances, that would be too much especially for only a little bit of content on the page. One thing to think about too is if your particular home page has multiple posts on the home page, you’re going to need to remember that because the home page is viewed as a page so you’re still only allowed three ad blocks for example.

So if you have an ad block that’s visible on the first post, the second post, the third post, the fourth post down the page, that’s now too much.

Now a lot of the themes will clean that up for you but if you’re the one doing it, it’s definitely something to take a look at and make sure you’re not breaking the terms of service there.

So let’s talk a little bit about Google’s recent change with above the fold advertising.

Yeah. This was vulnerable a couple of weeks ago and specifically looks for sites where there was very little content above the fold, doesn’t look like a site that’s showing much to you. It’s really hard to get to the content and the search team has said specifically they’re going after those types of sites.

We’ve been guilty of using the push-down image option and CTR theme which allows you to use little image blocks in order to push down the content even further. But I would say in general, we try to use ad placements that have at least a little bit of content above the fold because I do think that’s important but I should say although I don’t have any data to back this up, that I guess it’s a small percentage of how impactful this change is in Google.

You’re not going to go from ranking number 1 to number 50 because you have a whole bunch of ads above the fold.

Yeah. If I remember right, this affected less than one percent of searches overall. So people would ask, “Well, how are your sites doing? How are they going?” Everything is fine. We haven’t seen any change, whatsoever.

So talking a little bit about Google’s heat map and how ads should be laid out on a page, most people read left to right, right? Unless you’re from another crazy country out there wherever they go right to left. Most people go left to right and so your eyes naturally go from right to left when you read a webpage.

Left to right. Right to left? Left to right, buddy. Yeah, left to right. So anyway, we’re going to link to some images in the show notes that kind of show Google’s heat map. There are a couple of heat maps. They have one for the SERP or for the Search Engine Results Page which shows kind of where people’s eyeballs go and then they have some for pages itself and the one with the pages, you will see that above the fold, left to right is the best place to put your ads. We also have a nice ad layout that Google gives you and shows you which of the hot spots or hot zones for advertisements and you should keep that in mind when placing your ads in your site.

Next thing I’m going to talk about is the H1 title with the ad right below. We’ve had questions about this. Your H1 tag or your title for your post or your page is right at the top and we generally put an ad block right below that and people ask, “Is that bad? Is that OK?” Completely acceptable when Joe spoke to the AdSense rep. Said it was aggressive but acceptable.

The only exception to that would be is if your title was, “Hey, click here,” or sponsored advertising or “Make me some money,” with an arrow pointing to your ad. That wouldn’t work.

Yeah. That brings up another interesting point. Like when you wrap text around an advertisement, that’s allowed but you do have to be careful not to overlap the ad in any way or to use deceptive text to try to trick people into clicking on your ad. You don’t want to do anything like that.

A lot of times, most of the AdSense layouts are going to have three ad units, one to two link units but at least one ad block above the fold. If you’re going to put an ad block above the fold, we recommend the large rectangle or the medium-sized rectangle that generally works best and has a ton of advertisers so you have a better chance of getting a nice ad in there that pays well.

Right. So let’s talk a little bit about the CTR theme channels that they have available because specifically some of the testing we’re going to cover in the next section of the podcast requires that you will understand the seven channels they have available and we will link to that in the show notes. We will have a little image up there so you can actually see the physical layouts and CTR theme if you’re not familiar with it. But there are a number of ways in which CTR theme allows you to lay out the page and manage your ad blocks.

Yeah, the specific seats here or theme channels that you can look at are double stack left, road block layout, 336 left, 336 right, double stack right, bottom block layout and 728 top. Now that’s probably really confusing if you’re listening to this in your car or something. Don’t worry about it. Just check out the page and we will show you what we’re talking about.

So getting right into the third section we want to talk to you about today is our hard data and testing. Now first, I want to explain the relationship between CTR, CPC and RPM. Now basically RPM is revenue per 1000 page views. So if that particular site had 1000 page views, that’s what your revenue would be.

Now what that does is that’s a combination of CTR and CPC. So that’s going to be your best metric to compare one site to another or a site against itself based on ad layout. You don’t want to look at only CPC. If you’re getting a much higher CPC, but your clickthrough rate went into the tank, you’re not going to be making more money on the site.

Yeah. Across the board RPM is always better because it allows you to say what would happen to this site if I scaled it up, if I just increased the traffic.

Now we’ve had some questions about how CTR theme is doing versus ProSense which we used previously and I have to say across the board, ProSense wins in every test we’ve done.

And it’s hard to say why. I mean I don’t really know why. I think the reason why is ProSense looks more boring so when people come to the site, they say, “Oh, I don’t want to go to the site,” and they click the ad and they want to get off it.

It sucks because I like a better-looking site and CTR theme looks better but unfortunately ProSense works better and for us, small margins make a big difference. When you’re talking about a 20 or 30 percent change in CTR and a 20, 15 percent change in CPC, that makes a big difference across the grand scheme of things.

Right, and these are some of the reasons why we want to come up with our own custom theme to use internally because this way, we can develop it and tune it to exactly what works best for us.

Now I’m going to go over. We’re going to actually rank the different layouts for CTR theme. Give you an idea on like what’s working, what isn’t working for us. We’re going to go through all seven. We’re going to go from number seven to number one. I will say that number seven through number five were only tested for about 45 days. When we realized that they were doing so much worse than number one through number four, we dumped them completely and started rotating just number one through number four.

And I wish I could share the actual stats with you guys. That would be very helpful but unfortunately, we can’t so we’ve just ranked them from worst to best.

One of the things we didn’t do is we weren’t able to take sites that had ProSense and then switch them to CTR theme. So when we’re comparing ProSense to CTR theme, we’re comparing hundreds of sites on one and hundreds of sites on another but they’re not the same sites. Unfortunately, we could not do that but it still gives you a relatively good or rough comparison.

Yeah. We think it’s statistically significant to compare them because there are so many niches involved on both sites.

And the difference that we saw there was important enough for us to stand up and take notice. Anyway, for the CTR theme ad layouts, at the bottom, we had double stack right. Number six we had bottom block and number five we had 728 top. Again, we didn’t test those very thoroughly, only 45 days, and then we got the hell away from them because the other four were doing so much better.

Yeah. And if you think about it, number seven and number six, it makes sense that those are the worst layouts. They put either the blocks on the right which most people start with the left or they put the blocks on the bottom where most people are not going to see them.

So these next four, we’ve done about five months of testing and reviewed the data and we could say pretty adamantly that this is the case at least for us and our niches. Number four was road block. That surprised me but road block is one with the double ad block to the top. I mean there’s basically nothing but ads, right?

So my thought on that might have been that there are too many ads. If someone goes to the site and they see that, they go, “Oh, it’s spam,” or “Oh, there’s no real content here,” and they back out.

Yeah, I think you’re right about that, Justin. I mean we take more testing to be absolutely sure but it makes sense.

And number three was double stack left. That’s the one with the two ad blocks on top of each other with the content wrapped to the right. Now if you look at the HeatMap theme, you will see ads that are to the left tend to get clicked on a bit more. So it’s not surprising that that one did well.

Number two was the 336 block right. That’s one ad block to the right with the content wrapped to the left. That’s our number two performing site and our number one performing site was 336 left. One 336 block to the left with content wrapped to the right.

Yeah, and all these layouts are going to have a skyscraper ad as well to the left. So it makes sense that the number one layout is 336 left because you basically have a skyscraper plus a large ad unit block to the left hand side where most people start reading the site.

We just want to give you an idea on some of the ad layouts we’ve used, tried and tested and give you an idea on like what has been successful with us with CTR theme. We have switched some of our sites back. We’re heading in the direction of ProSense and then we are going to be working with our own theme here in the near future and we will definitely let you know how that goes.

The last section we want to talk about today is the dos and don’t for ad units and layouts. We just want to give you some basic tips and tricks regarding units of layouts that I think you will find useful with AdSense.

Yeah. First one is do look at RPM instead of CPC or CTR when comparing similar layouts. Very important, guys, because if you’re looking at CTC or CTR exclusively, you’re only getting half the picture.

And make sure you get enough data too. A lot of times, we will have one person tell us, “Oh, I’m getting 22 percent CTR,” some crazy numbers and it’s on one site over like a period of like three days.

Yeah, and they only had like 100 page views.


It’s not really enough.

So make sure that you’re looking at a very large sample and you will get a better idea on like where you’re really at. The next thing, do not compare RPM across different platforms. I see people making this mistake where they’re comparing like their niche sites versus a forum or their authority sites versus their niche sites and it’s simply not the same. Authorities are going to have better content. You’re going to have more people really digging into the content than you will with like a basic niche site.

Forums are notoriously bad for AdSense and they have to have a ton of page views. That’s part of the point is you have to have a forum that is on fire to make a good amount of money with AdSense. So comparing one to the other is not reasonable.

Yeah, the next one is don’t put images next to ad blocks where the image lines up with the ad positioning. It can be near the ad block but just make sure you’re not trying to trick the user or the user would be unconsciously tricked into clicking on your ad because of something within the image or the text.

Or confused. If there are three text ads, you don’t want to line up three images lined up right next to those ads to make it look like they’re related in some way. That’s not acceptable.

The other thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to use images, titles, et cetera to encourage clicks. Really bad idea. You will see that sometimes where people will put in images thinking, “Oh, if I put images, with a ‘click here’ and arrow pointing to the ads, Google won’t be able to see that. They won’t see the word ‘click’ on my site. I can get away with it.” Really not a good idea, guys.

Yeah. Because what’s going to happen eventually is the avatar is just going to complain and the clicks that come from you don’t convert well and then Google is going to look into that and then Google is going to find out that your site has these unethical terms of service violations on your site and they’re going to ban your AdSense account.

Or they will smart price you and you’re not going to get anything for the clicks that you do get, right?

Right, which is terrible because you can be smart-priced on your whole account, not just on the site.

Yeah, it’s important to remember in general you want to make sure that the traffic you’re getting for AdSense is real search traffic that’s related to the particular site that you have.

You don’t want to get it from social media platforms where they’re not related to the site or they’re not interested in the site. Ultimately your job is to not only get them to click on ads and make you and Google money. It’s to make the advertiser money. So you want the people that click on the ads to have a pretty good shot of purchasing from the advertiser you’re sending them to.

Right. So the next thing here is, “Do you match or contrast your ad units to your font and color theme on your site?” That’s pretty important because we see people all the time that kind of just halfway do it where they made the background match but not the front color or they made the font type not match but they made the background match. We’ve used a blended approach for our ad units to our theme and I think that’s really the best way to go but make sure you do either one of the other. Take the extra time to make sure that your theme and your ad units match up in terms of visual presentation.

Next thing we would say is do use custom channels to find which ad layout performs the best for you and as we said, we do batch. So we batch them by month but what this does is that allows you to find out which ad units are performing better, which ones are worse and then across the board, if you want to make large, sweeping changes, you can do that because you have large amounts of data in that data set.

Yeah. That kind of stuff gives you the data to make decisions later on so it’s very important that you get that properly tracked.

Next point is don’t use more than the allowed ad blocks and link units on a page. Again, if you’re using kind of an AdSense-ready type theme, they’re normally going to limit you. You’re not going to be able to have too many but be particularly mindful if you’re using multiple posts on the home page. We’ve seen where that’s a problem where they will have multiple ad blocks there. Too many.

Probably one of the number one ways to get your AdSense account banned is the terms of service violation.

Well, that’s it for this week’s heart of the episode. We’re going to get right into the ninja marketing tips, tricks and our plans for the future.
****The AdSense Flippers Podcast continues****

So this second week in a row, Joe has got the ninja marketing tips that blow my mind, dude. I don’t know. This is way out of my league. I don’t use these. I think one of them I’m going to start using and we will talk about that when we get to it but hit us up, buddy. What you got?

Well, I’ve been doing a lot of migrations obviously the last few weeks and just had a couple of tools that help me. The first is called This allows you to check your DNS propagation. This is important when you move a site from one server to another so that you actually know out there on the internet what the internet is resolving your host to. So as your IP address changes, you’re going to be able to look it up using this site. I checked that out,
The next one is Clipboard History. This is great if you’re copying and pasting a lot of information and moving it around. It allows you to go back to your last 10, 20 or 30 or however many you want to set it to copies to the clipboard.

I like this one, man, because when I’m control V-ing – pasting I guess – when I’m control V-ing onto the page, I’ve already copied over something that I wanted, I’m like, “Oh, shit, man.” We’re going to go and I have to go back and find it again. I think that one will be helpful. I will definitely check that one out.

Yeah. Think about it. Like, some people just keep this in a Notepad open and they would like go back the last 10 times.

Yeah, dude. That’s me. That’s totally me.

Yeah. Now you have an actual program that can just go into your history. Now the third one is called Dolphin Text Editor Menu. What this does is it allows you to do some basic sorting functions and other control functions to text without having to put them into a spreadsheet or something like that. So you can change the case. If you would like, it’s all capitals or you want to make it lower case. If you want to sort the lines, if you want to remove spaces, if you want to do text editing like that on a mass scale, you can do it with that program.

That’s so funny. I’ve had that problem before where it’s all in caps and I wanted to put it lowercase and with this program, you can actually take like the first word of every sentence and put all lower case except for the first letter and that type of thing. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone back. I’ve actually done this where I went back through and just retyped everything out in lower – I know, dude. I’m silly, right?

Yeah. I’m laughing because this tool allows you to do it in like one second.

Yeah. So that’s a pain in the ass. I feel like a donkey for doing that before. I’m definitely using this one the next time too.

Anyway, all these tools are free. They’re free open source software so check them out.

Yeah. We will definitely link to them in the show notes and you can take a look. See if it’s useful for you.

Well, that is it for this 8th Episode of the AdSense Flippers Podcast. I want to thank you for sticking with us all the way through. A bit of a dry episode this week but I think it was good information especially if you’re using AdSense on a regular basis. These are the kinds of things that you really need to follow and pay attention to.

Yeah. If you have any questions about layout or ad units, please put them in the comments below and we will get right back to you.

Yeah. And make sure to check us out on Twitter, @AdSenseFlippers. Have a great day and we will see you next week.

Bye-bye everybody.
[/spoiler] Did you find this week’s episode useful?  It’s a bit more targeted towards AdSense users in particular, but thought it helpful for our audience.  Let us know if you liked it! Here’s the link to the podcast on iTunes.  Thanks for the support!

Interested in Buying or Selling? Click to Create Your Account

Topics Discussed Include:

  • Successful completion of more than 100 site transfers
  • Speed differences and load time comparison between GoDaddy and Hostgator
  • Changes and improvements on current theme
  • AdSense Ad Unit creation, naming conventions, and reporting
  • AdSense layouts and effective strategies to maximize revenue
  • Reporting data from testing over 1,000 niche websites
  • Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to Ad Units and Layouts
  • Text Editor tips and tricks
CTR Theme Layouts
Got something to add?  Please let us know in the comments below.
Leave a comment
  1. […] either ask a friend who’s already done the same, look up the numerous online tutorials that are available or hire someone to help you […]

  2. Michael says:

    In your ebook, Building a Niche Site Empire, you feature a zip file for installing WordPress that has Prosense pre-installed. What’s confusing is that the Prosense theme in that file does not look anything like the three layouts suggested in the tutorial video (based on the CTR theme layout image you have at the bottom of your post above). For example, the sidebars are on the right and not on the left as you suggest for adsense ads; and the theme does not automatically display some of the available adsense units such as the single_post_top_square or single_post_bottom_square, etc. Do you guys use a different template where you have manually edited the php to include the additional available ad units?

    Also, Justin, on Twitter you mentioned that you use a post for your primary content, and then use pages for the four other secondary pieces of content on a niche site. You also said the home page is static… but there’s no such thing as a static post for a homepage. :) If you could clarify that would be awesome. It seems to me, why not just create the 5 pieces of content and save them each as a page instead of a post in WordPress? (John was showing to make them all posts in the video tutorial.) There doesn’t seem to be a need for “posts” at all unless you build out the site and actually start blogging.

    Thanks again guys!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Michael,

      The theme we talk about in this podcast from February is regarding CTR Theme only…and we discuss the ad layouts that work best for us for that theme SPECIFICALLY. After testing both CTR Theme and ProSense, we decided to go back to ProSense as it had a somewhat significantly higher CTR across the board when compared to CTR Theme. Sorry for the confusion.

      That being said we have used a modified ProSense theme. We’re working on our own theme internally, but that won’t be available for a few months…we need to test through it first.

      You’re right in that you can’t have a static “post”. What I meant to say (or should have said) is that we create one post in ProSense that becomes the homepage and remains there (static) while we create pages for the secondary content. I should be clear…the only reason we really do the post for the homepage, pages for the secondary pages is because, when we started, it seemed to fit best with the theme we’re using. Plenty of people have success doing it differently and it’s not something you have to do.

      Hope that helps!

      • Michael says:

        Yes, that definitely helps, Justin. Thanks.

        What works for me is to follow what you guys have done (successfully) as closely as possible to help minimize variables and, hopefully, discover similar results in the end. Then, when I it IS successful, I’ll know that the formula worked, and I can tweak and scale as needed.

        As you point out, it’s the little variations that can make the biggest differences. So, at least at this point, I’m trying to avoid as many variations as possible that would stray from what works. And even though I know your ideas aren’t “LAW” :) they’re still proven to be effective, at least the majority of the time. Ha!


        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Michael…awesome!

          I would include this warning, though… (To you and anyone else reading this)

          Our process is not necessarily a blueprint for success for everyone else. We’ve had some people that have followed our process or something extremely close to it and are doing quite well…but we’ve also had others who are NOT.

          If it was a guarantee, EVERYONE would be doing it, right? Aside from the fact that it’s hard work and there are a ton of moving pieces…there may be things in our process that others can’t do the same way we can do it.

          Alright…enough of a disclaimer! Do let us know how it’s working out for you!!

  3. […] Ad Unit Layouts And Strategies […]

  4. Kyle says:

    as far as the over all theme of the sites. do you use the same one over and over for the over all look or do you switch them up, I have read some posts on other websites that tend to indicate Google would lump websites that look the same design wise and not rank them as well based on this.

    I have always thought Google only cares that you have relevant info to the search query then all else doe snot matter. obviously there are things that can hurt the seo but overall using the same them would not hurt you?

    any thoughts.

    • I doubt the automated algorithm makes decisions based on a similar look and feel as this would be tough to engineer. However manual reviews by the search team could be triggered by other footprints your sites leave, like anchor link spam. If all you sites look exactly alike aside from content, a human might mark them as spam.

      In short it couldn’t hurt to vary your theme selection a little from site to site.

  5. Matt Hagens says:

    Another question :)

    Have you guys tested CTR Theme’s subthemes? Which one works best for you?

    Thanks so much!!!

  6. Matt Hagens says:

    I think a super helpful podcast, that is in line with this one, would be how to best organize your adsense account. You touched on it, but I’ll bet there a lot of people that don’t have their accounts set up correctly – myself included :) It’s very difficult to scale if you don’t have a proper foundation and good organization.

    Thanks Guys!!!

  7. Matt Hagens says:

    It sounds like you guys always show text/image ads and never just show text ads? I have always shown text for the ads within content (left and right blocks) and then used an image/text ad for the 160×600 skyscraper. Did I understand that correctly?

    • We do use image/text for all ad units, but I like you suggestion of using it only on the skyscraper. It would take some testing to see if it has a positive affect. Right now the thinking has been premium advertisers (those who pay higher CPCs) would be the only one developing image ads, so we don’t want to exclude them from the best ad units. However, the case could be made to try your approach as sometimes text ads have higher CTRs that make up the difference.

  8. Sean says:

    Hows it going lads, great information! Just in relation to the CTR theme would you tend to use the push-down images on pages or not?

  9. Matt Hagens says:

    Great podcast guys!!! Just saw this on the Google Adsense Blog:

  10. dano says:

    I want to share something totally Off-Topic:

    I have this website called danofurniture dot com, its a thin affiliate Amazon site that I blasted to hell with 100.000 scrapebox comments and 50.000 xrumer profiles. It was PR0 in the last update. Today Google updated their pagerank and this site got a freaking PR5

    Are you kidding me??? Hahahaha, the site has not a 0 legit link, only the worse spamlinks cuase of an experiment I was doing (trying to get it deindexed).

    Anohter site of mine with 600 pages with hardly any content (still have to do) and 0 backlinks got PR3 today. It seems Google gives a LOT of weight to innerpages that obv all point to my mainpage cause of the Home button. So appareantly each link cary’s PR even when it shows as PR0 and has 0 backlinks. How strange is that?

    I will never think of buying domains with PR again to build a private blognetwork, I just build sites with massive ammounts of pages and spam the hell out of it to gain a huge PR. Really PR5 for that one site with spammed links and 7k innerpages, and PR3 for the site with 600 pages and ZERO backlinks LOL

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Ack…Dano…you’re hurting my soul! We’ve put in quite a bit of work on our blog here and we’re still just barely hitting PR4! lol…and you spam a site with crappy links and get PR5? Ugh… :-)

      • dano says:

        yeah really check it out, just type in the url danofurniture dot com LOL, i think it has to do with these many innerpage, well thats what I thought, till I spoke a freind of mine, he has a 5 days old ecigarette review site with PR4 (No Kidding) with a few dozen links lol

        • Andre Garde says:

          Gonna have to disagree with the innerpage. With the PR update today, I have a 1-page site that I just built and it’s now a PR3. I have a feeling Google will be rolling back these changes.

          • JustinWCooke says:

            Hey Andre,

            It’s definitely possible, heh. We get asked quite often if we worry about what Google’s doing, what if they change the algorithm, etc.

            It’s true that it’s definitely a bit scary to have your eggs in one basket (And I’m referring to relying on Google traffic here) but, it doesn’t seem to do much good worrying about what Google will do before they do it.

            Our best advice and the advice we follow is to stick to worrying about things that are under your control. Try to keep in mind Google’s overall goals and care for their end user/searcher…that’s the best you can do!

  11. I heard there was an earthquake today in the Philippines. I hope you guys weren’t affected by it.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      I didn’t even feel it down here in Davao. The earthquake was much closer to Cebu or Dumaguete. Initial reports didn’t show much damage or loss of life, but it may take a little while for them to properly assess the damage. Hoping everything’s ok…

  12. Andre Garde says:

    Hi Guys,

    I’ve found your site through Trent from OnlineIncomeLab. I’m really interested in your business model but I’m not quite there yet with my niche sites, but I am well on my way there.

    I listened to this podcast and you were saying that predominantly, left-to-right ads seem to perform better. This was evidenced in your analysis of CTRTheme’s ad layouts that performed well in your testing.

    But, you also said that you guys were moving back to ProSense because it out-performs CTRTheme. I checked out ProSense and aren’t the ads mostly on the right sidebars? Other than it being ugly do you think there are any other reasons why it might perform better?


    • We are going to customize ProSense to eventually allow us to put the skyscraper on the left side.

      My thoughts on why ProSense performs better than CTR Theme is exactly because it is so ugly. Visitors see the site and want to click off because to look and feel is so basic and unappealing.

  13. nohatseo says:

    Great podcast, my favorite thus far. Do you a/b split your ads or just time split them? If the former have you ever done entire template splits, and if so, how are you doing it?

    I have done quite a few splits, but not as much as I should. Best performing layout for me is road block (though I don’t use CTR Theme), with title above the block. I’ve also found that making the link color and URL color black increased CTR vs the standard blue and green.

    And a friend of mine recently changed the two large rectangles side by side (which was his best for years) to two 728×90 one on top of the other and he had solid increases. I’ve yet to test this.

    Aside from Smart Pricing, have you found that accounts can get “tiers” of pricing? IE account 1 has solid sites, only showing search traffic, RPMs are well above average so they get tier A which gets all the best RPM ads. Whereas account 2 has a lot of social media traffic, RPMs well below average and therefore get 2nd tier ads.

    I have sites across several accounts and have even had to move sites from 1 account to the other, and I have noticed the impact on the entire account when removing a poor performer, and also when moving from a 2nd tier account to a top tier, the site’s RPM goes up insanely. Could be a coincidence, it’d be interesting if anyone here has had similar experiences.

    • We use ad rotation within CTR Theme to report back to AdSense’s custom channels. That makes testing easy. There might be a more scientific way to test it going forward, it’s something we’re looking into.

      It’s interesting what your friend has reported about 728×90 blocks. I want to try something similar. My thoughts are it would be successful.

      In regards to Smart Pricing, we have a contact who is is a former employee at Google and he confirms your findings. Perhaps it’s time for us to start using multiple AdSense accounts.

      Just another thing to put on the to-do list and report back in a blog post!

  14. nohatseo says:

    Thanks you for the Clipboard History tip. Awesome.

    • Love this one as well. When I found I saw a productivity improvement immediately.

      • Justin Miramontes says:

        thanks +1. Perhaps the single greatest invention of all time. Can’t believe I never knew about it until you mentioned it. And can’t believe it actually works. I wonder what else there is software out there for. . . !

  15. Art-iClickThru says:

    That is funny that you picked this topic. I am just going through deciding the best layout. Good timing! Tough without visuals though… at some point will you guys be doing video’s as well?

  16. David says:

    Great PodCast (as always : )

    I just got a question…

    I currently host my sites at GoDaddy (Yes I agree with you that there servers are a bit slower than Hostgator… But it has been getting better over the years… and it dose depend on what sever you are hosting on when it comes to your site load time : )

    The sites you have on Godaddy … What hosting plan do you have (shared/Virtual…) ?
    What Hosting plan did you move over to at Hostgator ?


    • We use the Unlimited 4GH hostin plan on GoDaddy and the Baby Plan over at HostGator.

      You’re right that GoDaddy is very server dependent. Some of our hosting account are better than others (though I suggest you call and complain when you sites get too slow, as they will kick the high resource users off the server). However the GoDaddy Hosting Control Center is very slow compared with the HostGator cPanel.

      • Justin F says:

        Do you have a rule for how many sites you host per hosting account? Do you just open up a new Baby Plan every time you exceed the number of sites for that plan or do you upgrade?

        I currently have 60 sites on the $24.95 Reseller Account and am adding 20 new sites per month. Not sure what the next move should be.



        • JustinWCooke says:

          With GoDaddy we used a new hosting account per every 200 sites. We didn’t do this at first…it’s something we implemented later. I’m not sure about Joe’s plan for HostGator, actually!

          • My plan is a new hosting account every month which would put at at 160 sites per account right now. When we get to 200 a month, I will make that 2 hosting accounts per month.

  17. I don’t think interest based ads run the risk of you earning less than contextual on an impression. The interest ads should be just added to the mix and then the ad with the highest eCPM is served.

    • Makes sense Kieth, I’m not 100% sure how that stuff works anyway. It just makes sense to me that if the prices can go up it can also go down. I imagine Google has to find a balance between advertisers conversions and user experience. Wouldn’t it be better to serve up lower eCPM ads that have a higher chance of conversion based on user tracking?

  18. Anshul says:

    Great podcast Justin. I also find that a half banner text ad unit inserted at a couple of intervals within the content body also works quite well with a large rectangle at the top. In fact since the page layout update I ended moving a lot of my big ad units form above the fold to these half banner smaller ad units and my CTR has been exceptional!

    • Good strategy Anshul. In CTR Theme, those half banners are only used at the bottom on the content in certain layouts. The full banner has more advertisers though, so you might be limiting yourself there.

  19. tina says:

    great info as usual guys, thanks. when do you think your theme will be ready to go? can i use prosense in the meantime do you have a link to it? Do you use pages or posts on your sites now and due to the latest update from google how many pages do you see as a minimum now?

    • I think it will be ready for a limited alpha in March with a public beta sometime in Q2 2012.

      I suggest using CTR Theme in the meantime as it is easier to use, even if it does get lower CTR. You can find ProSense by searching Google, it’s the second entry. We use a post for the primary page on our site and pages for all secondary entries (as this is the way both themes work). We use a minimum of 5 content pages on all sites.

      • John Pearce says:

        Why we need 5 content pages unless 2 content pages?

        • Not sure I understand the question, can you rephrase?

          • John Pearce says:

            I mean one website must have 5 content pages right?

            Why not have just 2 pages per 1 website micro niche?

          • We’ve found that deeper content leads to better rankings and more stable revenue. Some people do it different, like Spencer who only expands his winning sites past one page.

          • dano says:

            Yeah i read Spencers post about his succes with 20 sites at $2k/month, but quite a bit of them dropped hard in the rankings within 2 months, from $100 to $10 kinda stuff. Looks like Google is giving us some time and waiting for new pages, and if none then they kicks your ass.

          • John Pearce says:

            Sound Like We build authority site not micro niche site that have more content in our site.

          • JustinWCooke says:

            It’s really up to you, of course. You can start with 1 page, 5 pages, 12 pages, etc. We just started with 5 pages and have run with it. For some of our sites that’s probably all the content that micro-niche needs. For others, they could easily be expanded out to 20, 50, even 100 pages of content as it’s a large niche.

  20. Matt_at_NSB says:

    Nice Podcast guys,

    It’s great to hear your stats as you probably have the biggest sample size of anyone out there! Looking forward to the next episode.



    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Matt!

      Thanks, buddy. We probably have the largest sample size of those that are outspoken. I’m willing to guess there are others out there with many more. (Especially if you consider autobloggers and those with automatically created sites)

      It would be interesting to hand our data to a “real” seo and see what they could pull out of it that would be helpful to all of us…

  21. Thanks for the shout-out at the beginning (I’m Michael) :-)

    This episode wasn’t dry at all. A small percentage point can make a big difference when you have 1000 websites.

    I should be hitting the 100 website mark this month. Only 900 more to the 1000 mark!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Ahhh…so that’s YOU! Awesome, man…thank you so much!

      That’s great to hear you’re going to break 100 sites this month, man.

  22. dano says:

    Which ad placements do you guys prefer? Can’t play the podcast right now, will listen to it tomorrow, personally I like the one in the top left corner though never used it. Google said it doesnt like to see to many ads above the fold, but Google Adsense then said that it did like the ads there lol

  23. Manyu says:

    Terrific podcast guys. Bookmarked it because I know I will want to go over it multiple times! Very interesting point about the Interest Based Ads. Was not aware about that and it might be the reason I was seeing lower CPC’s. It will be interesting to test out.

    Also it was funny when Justin started out the podcast saying this was going to be a dry episode. Does it mean I am a geek if I was excited to check it out? :)

  24. Adam says:

    Great podcast as always guys. Definitely got me thinking about a few things — may end up trying out ProSense…

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Awesome, Adam…let us know how it works out if you do!

      • Adam says:

        Definitely will do so! BTW, ya’lls podcast with Dan was awesome as well. It’s crazy, I NEVER used to listen to podcasts, but the AdSense Flipper podcast and Dan’s has really changed my mind about ’em.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Yeah, wasn’t a big podcast listener myself, but now I find myself anxiously awaiting the next installment of LBP each week! lol

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