The usual process for a blogger placing ads on their site goes something like this:
- Start your blog.
- At some point, put up ads (your own products, affiliate items, an ad network such as Google AdSense, text link ads or direct banner sales).
- Watch and wonder why the ads aren’t making you any money.
If you’re looking to make money off your football blog, knowing where to place your ads (and which placements work best for each type of ad) is crucial. Instead of hiding the ads away in a corner, you need to look at maximising user engagement of ads (while ensuring that quality of a reader’s experience of the site is not affected).
A higher engagement rate is much more valuable to advertisers than pure traffic – more engagement means a higher chance of an eventual sale happening, so whether you’re an affiliate, selling your own products or working with an ad network, more clicks on the ads will generally mean more money for you (but please ensure that you’re not artificially inflating the number of clicks as that will get you banned from any ad network).
Even if you’re not interested in ads, you can still use the advice in this article to understand how to promote yourself / your own content by knowing which areas of your website / article / webpage will engage the most users.
General Ad Placement Tips
Follow The Website Heatmap
A website heatmap measures those areas of your website that receive the most attention from your readers. In short: top points of engagement on your site = best places for ads.
If you’re interested in doing your own research into your site’s heatmap, I strongly recommend using the free 30-day trial period at CrazyEgg to test your site (just remember to cancel before the 30 days if you don’t want to pay for the full service) and get valuable insights into how your readers use your website.
Reduce the number of ads
CPM-based ads generally encourage bloggers to stuff as many ad units as possible on the site, but that means lower engagement rates per ad unit, and eventually, your ad revenue per ad unit drops considerably.
By limiting the number of ads and also focusing them on high visibility areas, you can get a high engagement rate and subsequently higher CPMs as well.
Full Ad Integration
Build the site with ad spaces integrated. If you don’t want to promote something now, put your own banners there, to encourage writers, to promote a piece of content you’ve written or to encourage readers to engage with you in social media.
Use the ad spaces for whatever you want, but always build the site from the start with those spaces in mind so that you can answer the user experience / ad engagement questions at the right time (when you’re designing the site) as opposed to shoehorning ads into a design at a later date which will cost you more (and most likely require a redesign).
Ad Placement Examples
What the advertising agencies tell you is different from what leading (successful) websites practice. Contrast Google’s standard advice for sites (1, 2) and blogs (1, 2) with how major sites like the Engadget, TechCrunch and New York Times place their ads.
Image Credit: The site screenshots above are taken from this article.
There are similarities but the stark difference is that while Google highly recommends ads to be placed inside the content area, most (if not all) major news portals leverage that ‘inside the content’ area for site-related ads – that is, promoting other sections of the site, or using images, or promoting social media options.
They’re making a rational choice to value user retention – i.e. encouraging the reader to stay for longer on the website – over click rates. This is sensible – increased time spent on the site is part of the basket of metrics used to measure the overall worth of a site’s audience, and by focusing on increasing that value, these sites can charge higher prices for their ads.
Having said that, there are other common elements that are very useful to note:
Ads Above The Fold
Use this website by Google to better understand what ‘above the fold’ means for your site.
You’ll see all major sites aim for 1-2 ads placed above the fold – usually a 728×90 leaderboard right above or below the site navigation and a 300×250 either at the top of the right (or left) column or right below social media options / site search / site navigation.
Rarely you will also see sites making use of a reader’s wider screen and placing a 160×600 ad on the left side of the site (only when you’re placing the 300×250 on the right). On one hand it places three ad units above the fold, but on the other hand it probably means too many ads on the site in the same space and might not be a great idea to follow.
Example: Skyscraper on the left.
Leaderboard – 728×90 – Placement
An common practice with 728×90 ads is to place them right at the top of the site, before any other site navigation / logos. The other option is to integrate it within the navigation, usually by putting it below the site navigation (or between two sections of it).
Whatever you choose, make sure you’re able to test both versions on your site to evaluate which one works better. Personally I think placing the ad below the main navigation is a better way of integration – it keeps the ads prominent and visible while giving a higher priority to the site’s navigation – which is more important than ads in any case.
MPU – 300×250 or 336×280 – Placement
While you will generally see this ad at the top of the right column (easily separating it from the rest of the site’s content), a more integrated way to present this ad is to place it second on the sidebar, below your most important section – whether it’s promoting content, or social media navigation, or your newsletter, or an internal ad for writers – push your content first and the ads second, and you’ll be able to integrate the ads more naturally into the site design.
Again, test both options to see what works best in terms of clicks and engagement for you.
Example: MPU integration with sidebar content
Ads At End Of The Article
A great place to place ads – within reason – is right after an article ends. It’s also a great place to promote other areas of your site, so use this spot as you wish, but you should be aware that it’s an oft-ignored but prime piece of website real estate.
Many news sites only place ads in this spot if comments (user interaction) is not available for that article, which makes perfect sense – if user interaction was available, that would be a more preferable outcome than getting a video played or an ad clicked.
Again, use this according to your site’s needs.
Example: End of Article Ad.
Homepage v Article Pages
If you have a different layout for your homepage as opposed to your article pages, make sure that you use different ad placements as well. In all likelihood the header part of your site will stay the same, with only the main content area changing shape. In this case, you can integrate your ads on the front page in a different way that suits your overall balance between content and ads.
Example: Homepage Ads
A great way to manage space on your site as well as promote internal content is to use non-standard ad sizes stick them around your content area / ads. Whether it’s a 180×90 ad that fills up space next to a leaderboard or a 300×100 ad that sits in the sidebar, you should leverage your design’s uniqueness to create site-specific ad units and promote your own stuff.
Example: Non-Standard Ads
Ad Types / Number of Ad Units per page
The best performing ad units are the 300×250 and 728×90, and many US-based advertisers will only consider those two along with the 160×600 wide skyscraper. My recommendation is to stick to 3 ‘standard’ ad units per page plus any non-standard site ads that you’d like to use. Remember, you’re not to make more money simply by pasting more ads on the site – it’s a short-term strategy and the subsequent poor performance dissuades advertisers from working with you. Placement and engagement matter far more.
Plus, fewer ads mean your readers will be more open to seeing the ads in the first place (instead of completely ignoring your site).
Ad Placements – On Your Site
The optimal ad placement on websites, while based on the above ideas, is often unique to each site. If you want to maximise your site’s revenues, make sure you follow the advice and examples above and adapt them to your own site design.