Hello! A warm welcome to the June edition of Online Advertising Answers. Every month I answer questions on digital marketing and share three of my favourites here.
More questions = more answers! Keep asking.
Let’s dig in.
This month’s questions are:
- How do I keep internal traffic separate from external traffic?
- What are ad impressions, and how can I use them to make more money?
- What if the same person clicks on my ads day after day. Will I still get paid?
[Click these links to skip down to the question]
Q: “How do I keep internal traffic separate from external traffic?“
“I work in a large organisation where staff use our website a lot to find information. I initially set up I.P / Domain filters to exclude this traffic and keep our data cleaner and to only include external traffic.
I was curious if there was a way to allow this traffic in (by disabling the exclusion filters), but keep the data segmented away from the rest? I am really hoping it doesn’t impact the data from our regular website users.”
A: “It’s not hard – simply create another view in GA with a filter that works the opposite way around (i.e. include that I.P. address instead of exclude). Similarly, you could break them out as a segment, but that gets annoying if you want to use other segments too.
Depending on what you’re company does, your staff can often be great customers! What they do on your site can be really interesting and informative – if your organisation is large enough (if your organisation is small though this doesn’t work so well as the people working on the site will make a significant portion of internal traffic, and so the info you get will be too noisy to be useful).
Also, if your site is informational (and your organisation is medium-large) then the employees are likely to be knowledgable in the field and therefore high-quality users of your site. You can get great insights into what information your site should be adding by looking at what they visit.“
Q: “What are ad impressions, and how can I use them to make more money?“
A: “An Ad Impression is one load of an ad on a webpage. You can use them to make more money by generating more high-quality ad impressions.
This doesn’t mean just cramming more ads onto a single webpage. In fact, adding too many ads onto a page will drive people away, and therefore actually reduce the total amount of ad impressions your site generates.
Instead, you want to work to increase the number of visitors your site receives, while at the same time optimising the types and placements of ads on your site. This will maximise your revenue from ad impressions.
Working on increasing your site traffic is a never-ending job for a website owner, and there are many paths you could take. So instead, I’m going to focus on how to maximise the value of the ad impressions on your site.
The right amount of ads
As mentioned, simply adding more ads to a webpage often has the opposite effect to what you are aiming for. People think that:
more ad spaces = more ad impressions = more money
However, this isn’t taking into account that most people find ads annoying. So the real equation turns out to be:
more ads = less users = fewer ad impressions = less money
This is known as the Cobra effect – while trying to achieve one thing you achieve the opposite because of human behaviour
While the number of ads on a page isn’t the only factor in whether or not people find them annoying (more on that in a minute), having too many ads is definitely annoying.
This is not only because of the visually distracting clutter you are creating but also because ads slow down webpages – and slow loading webpages are also incredibly annoying.
I would therefore recommend having between 3–5 ads on any webpage. It depends on the size of a page, but 3 ads is reasonable for almost any page, and 5 is tolerable for a long page. More than this and you are slowing down your site for little gain.
Note: Ad Refresh
While you shouldn’t cram more ad spaces onto a webpage, you might consider making more out of individual ad spaces by having them refresh every 30 seconds. This is known as Ad Refresh.
Many ad networks serve ads in this way, and if people are staying on a webpage for a long time it can make sense to have a new ad load periodically.
The best ad placement
The best place to put ads is ‘above the fold’. What this means is that the ads are visible on-screen when a page first loads. Ads which are set above the fold are far more likely to be noticed by people, and therefore more likely to be interacted with.
As mentioned, some ads are paid for when people see them, however, there are many types of ads that require some sort of interaction (and perhaps a conversion) to generate revenue, and above the fold ads will have a much higher engagement rate than other ad placements.
This is not to say that you should cram your above the fold area with ads, but if you place a horizontal ad (like a 728×90 or 900×250) at the top of every page it will do quite well. You can also put a 300×250 on screen when a page loads to help increase revenue too.
Note: Viewable Ad Impressions
Ad so many ads load ‘below the fold’ (ie off-screen when a page first loads), a type of ad impression has been created to account for this. It’s called a Viewable Ad Impression.
A Viewable Ad Impression is one that appears at least 50% onscreen for at least one second. There are various definitions of Viewable Ad Impressions, but this is the most commonly used one.
Some ad networks charge more (and therefore pay more) for viewable ad impressions. Even if they don’t however, these ad impressions are the most likely to generate interactions and so will be your most valuable.
The best types of ads
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the ad the better it performs.
There is one notable exception to this – the 300×250 (also called an MPU). The 300×250 ad size outperforms all other ad sizes, and so should definitely be included on any website looking to generate ad revenue.
This is partially because this ad size can appear on both desktop and mobile screens, and is more or less the shape of a television so can display video ads very effectively. If you are to place ads within content, an MPU works well too, which will contribute to its outsized performance.
Apart from an MPU, a 728×90 or 900×250 along the top of a webpage can work very well. This is due to the above the fold placement, but also because of how common they are. People expect to see a horizontal ad at the top of a webpage and so aren’t as annoyed by it.
On a mobile page, a 320×100 is often your best bet as your horizontal ad units. Many sites have them anchored to the bottom of every webpage, hovering there while you scroll. I am personally not a fan of this type of ad, however (more on that in a bit).
Along the sides of a website, it is commonplace to add a vertical add like a 300×600 or 160×600. Out of these the 300×600 typically performs better (as it is larger), but a 160×600 is still commonly used, so if you are going to place two ads in your sidebar it can make sense to run both ad sizes. The visual change between them will make more people notice them, and that is half the battle.
Note: Video Ads
Video ads are the most valuable type of ads you can put on your site. If you display a lot of video content and can monetize it then you should. This can be difficult when compared to adding display ads to your site, but it is generally very worth it.
Just make sure not to annoy your visitors by showing too many ads on any one video. I would personally recommend no more than 1 ad at the start of a video, but that’s between you and your ad network.
The worst types of ads
Another rule of thumb is that the more intrusive and annoying ads are, the better they perform… in the short run. If an ad pops up with flashy graphics then people might be more inclined to click it than other ad formats.
However, more people are likely to leave your site and not come back. As with the example above the cobra effect kicks in. What people think will happen is:
more intrusive ads = more clicks = more money
But what actually happens is:
more intrusive ads = more clicks from far fewer people = less money
So on the basis that the best way of increasing ad revenue is by increasing visitors to your site, I would highly recommend against using any type of annoying ads.
This means you should avoid:
- Pop-ups of any type (whether pop-unders, interstitial, overlays, whatever),
- Auto-play videos with sound on. EVERYONE hates these.
- Anchor ads – as in ads that stay on the screen while you navigate the site.
All of these types of ads make more money (in the short run) and so ad networks push them. They make sense for them to run – but not for you to add them to your site. Resist the temptation!
Note: Bad Ads
You also need to make sure that you police the ads that run on your site. If you get lots of low-quality ads (for example, ones that are just a button that says “Download” on it) then people will stop trusting your site.
Or ads that say they will go one place, but actually go to another, such as:
Similarly, if you allow ads from sensitive categories such as gambling, politics, firearms etc you could be driving away users. More than this, these types of ads generally don’t pay well so you’ll be hurting your visitor count for little gain.
Make the ads on your site as high quality as possible by refusing sensitive categories. Make it easy for people to complain about ads (have an email address on your contact page), and when they do complain talk to your ad network about removing the offending ads.
If the ads on your site are low quality, people won’t click on them and will stop visiting your site. If they are good quality then you build trust with your brand, and people are more likely to visit your site. It’s a no-brainer really.
Country and Industry
It should be noted that there are some things inherent about your site and users which will also change the value of your ad impressions significantly. Ad Impressions in the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia are worth far more than anywhere else in the world.
If you have users in these countries, they will provide you with far more revenue than in other countries.
Similarly, the topic of your website will vastly change the value of your ad impressions. For example, if your site is about luxury yachts then it is likely that your site visitors are wealthy, and so advertisers for more expensive products will want to use your site.
Conversely, if your site is about a sensitive category (such as the ones mentioned above), then fewer advertisers will want to use your site. This will drive down demand and competition, reducing the value of your ad impressions.
Where your ads come from
Finally, it’s important to note that where your ads come from can make a big difference to the value of your ad impressions.
Most websites don’t sell ads themselves, instead, they use some sort of ad network to sell the ads on their behalf. Different ad networks will have different clients and technology, and will therefore value your ad impressions differently.
The default ad network for most sites is Google AdSense. This is a great starter ad network as it’s easy to set up, and pays fairly well. I would recommend for any site to start off using this ad network, and then when they get to 50,000 page views per month to start looking around for other ad networks.
To see if the new ad network is better or worse, simply compare to how much you were getting from Google AdSense. You can either look at the Impression RPM (how are paid for 1,000 ad impressions), or the Page RPM (how much you are paid for 1,000 page views). Make sure you have a higher RPM than you got on AdSense, and if not, (after three months of testing) move onto another ad network.
Out of Page RPM and Impression RPM, I much prefer to use Page RPM because…
Note: Technical Issues
Many ad networks struggle to get a 100% fill rate. This is the % of potential ads they could deliver versus the amount they actually deliver. Put simply, for many reasons sometimes an ad simply doesn’t load (or it does and isn’t measured).
Some of the reasons are the fault of the ad network, some are not. However, if you use Impression RPM, then you are only looking at revenue from ads that they actually delivered. While this is reasonable from the ad network’s point of view, from a website owner’s point of view it means letting the ad network off the hook for any and all technical mistakes they make.
From a website owner’s point of view, you are working to increase your page views, and you want your ad network to monetise those as well as possible. If your ad network face technical problems that reduce your revenue – that’s a them problem.
Keep your eye on the bottom line by looking at Page RPM, not Impression RPM.
To maximise ad impression revenue:
- More visitors to your site is the best way to increase your ad impressions. Focus on this above all
- Don’t cram your site with ad spaces – 3–5 max
- Consider using ad refresh to get more out of your ad spaces
- Above the fold placements perform best
- Place a horizontal ad at the top of each page
- Always include 300×250 ads as they perform best
- Don’t use any annoying ad types. Losing users will cost you more money than they will gain
- Police the ads that run on your site. Don’t allow dodgy or dishonest ads and avoid sensitive categories.
- Ads shown to users from USA, UK, Canada, and Australia will generate the most revenue
- The industry your website is about will have a large effect on the value of individual ads (again, avoid sensitive categories)
- Different ad networks will value your ad impressions differently
- You should compare ad networks using Page RPM and not Impression RPM“
Q: “What happens if a person clicks on an ad on my website today, and tomorrow that same person clicks again (maybe the same ad)? Will I get paid for both clicks?”
A: “Both clicks will almost certainly be counted. Ad platforms and ad fraud prevention tech would stop multiple clicks in a short period being counted, but two clicks 24 hours apart would very likely not matter to anyone.
If someone clicked an ad every day (or most days) over a long period then there is a small chance that would be counted as click fraud, but it would depend on the tech being used to detect it.
There is also the chance that both clicks won’t be counted for random technical reasons. With ads being served on an essentially infinite combination of types of devices, operating systems, browsers, ad platforms etc, sometimes things just don’t work. So it’s always possible that some clicks won’t be counted.
Whether or not you get paid for both clicks (assuming they are counted) is a different question. Not all ads are paid for only when someone clicks. Some ads are run on a cost per thousand impression basis (CPM) meaning that you would get paid whether or not a click occurred.
Other ads are paid for on a CPA (cost per action) basis, which would mean that something (such as a sale) would have to happen after the ad was clicked on (or sometimes just seen) for you to be paid.
So a click from the same person two days in a row may trigger two payouts, but it might not pay you anything, especially if that person doesn’t do anything but click. You also might get paid regardless of whether that person clicked or not.
It’s also worth noting that a couple of clicks won’t earn you that much anyway. CPC rates are very low, so two clicks are going to make you a couple of dollars (USD) at most – but more likely less than a dollar.
To earn reasonable money from ads on your site you need thousands of people interacting with your ads every day which means tens of thousands of visitors. What one visitor does on two consecutive days is fairly inconsequential.“
See you next month,