Online Advertising Answers: September 2021

Welcome to the September edition of Online Advertising Answers. Get in touch to get answers to your digital marketing questions – with my favourite questions getting featured each month in this round-up.

This month I go through the basic steps of placing ads on your site, dispel an old myth about social traffic being bad, and give some specific advice to someone new to marketing.

Good times. Let’s dig in.

[Have a question of your own? Ask me on Quora or email me at]


This month’s questions are:

[Click these links to skip down to the question]


Online Advertising Answers



Q: How can I implement ads to my website?


A: “Hi James,

To implement ads on your website there are 4 steps to take:

  1. Decide on an ad network to use
  2. Design spaces for ads on your website
  3. Add the code for the ad network to your site’s code
  4. Make sure you comply with cookie laws


1. Decide on An Ad Network to Use

An ad network is a company that sells advertising space on behalf of many websites. While some large websites sell their own ad space, most advertisers don’t want to deal with individual sites unless they have to, as it’s simply a waste of time for them.

Instead, most advertisers buy ad space from ad networks, and ad networks use algorithms to place those ads on the web pages that:

  • Get the best results for the advertisers
  • Make the most money for the websites they are on

If you’re placing ads on your site for the first time, then the obvious Ad Network to start with is Google AdSense. Google AdSense is the largest ad network out there, it pays reasonably well, and it is exceptionally low effort to both set up and manage.

If your site has under 25,000 page views per month then to be honest you won’t be making much money from advertising anyway, and so there is no point in you putting a lot of time and effort into it. Therefore an ad network that pays well that you don’t have to think about is all that you should aim for.

You should still add advertising at this point as if you wait until your site is larger you will alienate your users who have become used to an ad-free site. If you start with ads then no one will get annoyed later at you having ads.

You can sign up to Google AdSense here, and if you want some simple tips on making the most out of AdSense go here.

If your site gets over 25,000 page views per month, then you should consider moving to a bigger ad network (most won’t take you before that point anyway). If you want some recommendations, here are a few reviews of ad networks.


2. Design Space for Ads on Your Website

When adding ad spaces to your website there are a few fundamental things you have to keep in mind:

  • Ads are inherently annoying, so you need to minimise that
  • Putting more ads on a page WON’T make you more money
  • Ads can be used as a design feature

The key thing to remember at all times is that you are adding ads to your site to earn money, and the thing that will earn you the most money is having more people visit your website. Therefore trying to earn as much money as you can now by throwing a million annoying ads at your users is counterproductive.

You want your site to be trustworthy and enjoyable to use so that people are more likely to click on your ads and fund your site.

This means that you shouldn’t use any super annoying ad units – no pop-ups of any kind, no floating videos covering half the page, and definitely nothing which auto-plays sound. These intrusive ad types do grab peoples attention, and therefore do make more money – however, they also drive people away.

Most ad networks push for sites to use them as they make the ad network more money – but don’t. Think of your users first and foremost always. In the long term, you will make far more money this way.

Similarly, you don’t want to put too many ads on a page. You have to remember that people are only likely to click on one ad at most per page view. This means that all adding more ads will do is annoy your users. Plus ads take a while to load, so they slow down your webpages and hurt your SEO.

The best place to put your ads is “above the fold”. That means they can be seen when the webpage first loads. There are three ad slots that it makes sense to add to every page:

  1. A horizontal ad at the top of the page (728×90)
  2. A vertical ad down the side of the page (300×600 preferably)
  3. A 300×250 above the fold


Where to position ads on your site


If you just ad these three then you’ll make comparatively good money. A 300×250 (AKA an MPU or Med-Rec) is the most profitable ad size, so if you are going to go with just one, then choose it.

I would also add to the above – you can put 300x250s within your content to break up big blocks of text. Don’t go overboard, but adding one in every 3–4 paragraphs can actually make it easier to read a webpage (images are better for this, but ads will work almost as well).

The great thing about 300x250s is that they fit on mobile screens too, so you don’t need to worry about making a different version for smaller screens.

One last thing to note is: don’t use auto ads. Auto ads are when an ad network automatically puts ads on your site without your input. This means that the code is ‘injected’ in your site’s code in places where the algorithm thinks it might get clicks.

This almost always results in exceptionally odd results and makes your website look terrible (the most popular place for auto ads seems to be smushed up against any images on a page).

You might make more money from auto ads in the short-run (which is again, why ad networks push websites to use them) but in the long run, you’ll lose visitors. You’ve probably spent time designing your site to be just how you like it – don’t let an ad network then decide to mess with it however they like!


3. Add The Code for The Ad Network to Your Site’s Code

I’m not going to go too much into this section, as each ad network has its own instructions and they change over time. You shouldn’t need technical skills to do this, just the ability to follow instructions.

Good ad networks will make this really easy for you. On the other hand, if an ad network has given you nothing but extremely technical instructions to set up their code and provides no real help then you can expect their customer service to also be terrible. And that is a big red flag.

I’ll also say – if you can then you should add the ad code via Google Tag Manager rather than directly onto your site. This has the added advantage of you being able to replace it with another ad networks code more easily, plus it gives you more options for cookie compliance.

If you use WordPress, you should also consider the Ad Inserter plugin to make your life easier.


4. Make Sure You Comply with Cookie Laws

Depending on where you are in the world, there are likely some cookie and privacy laws or regulations that you need to comply with. For example, if you live in Europe then you need to comply with GDPR.

Cookie compliance is frankly a real pain in the butt, so I would highly recommend outsourcing it. You will need to have a banner on your site that lets people make choices about what cookies you drop on their computer, and that banner needs to stop all cookies from being dropped until people agree.

It gets even more complicated when running ads on your site as ad networks use all sorts of extra tech to help them know which sites to put which ads on.

I personally use a company called Iubenda to do this for me because they are reasonably priced, very helpful and easy to use. If you want to know more about them then I’ve written about them here.

I’ve also used OneTrust, and their product for smaller sites called CookiePro. Both are also pretty good choices.

Whatever service you choose, make sure to get it in place quickly after you set up your ads, otherwise, you could be risking big fines.

I hope this helps,



[This answer originally appeared on Quora]



Q: Why is it that social traffic is not considered “quality traffic” for Google Adsense?


A: “Hi Gavin,

I’m afraid that this is simply an outdated opinion – Social Traffic isn’t considered low-quality traffic for Google AdSense. Maybe it was once upon a time when social media was new and social traffic would be a lot more spammy, but that hasn’t been true in a long time.

Nowadays the quality of your traffic from social media entirely depends on the type of site you have and the audience you have.

For some types of sites social media can bring in a very engaged audience – for example, how-to websites are likely to have an engaged community looking for the detailed instructions that are found on their site.

For other types of websites, their community wants to stay engaged on the social network itself. For example, websites based around a cause or movement. These audiences are interested in being educated and so will click posted links – but mainly want to talk about their shared interest with others (eg on the social network).


Don’t Social Networks Want To Send High-Quality Traffic?

It’s also important to keep in mind that social networks are websites themselves and don’t want people to leave their sites. They do this by showing posts with high engagement to more users, but also by showing people posts that have been engaged with in the way they are likely to engage.

This exacerbates the issue in both directions as engagements include both commenting and clicking on links. This means:

  • People who want to chat will find themselves drawn back to the social network faster. Posts with a lot of comments will get promoted to them, and while people might click on links these communities will know that they’ll always find another engaging discussion waiting for them when they return so probably won’t stay on other sites for long (making them low-quality traffic).
  • People who use social media as a gateway to their favourite sites will always find more interesting links shown to them as posts that get clicked on a lot will be surfaced. They will likely spend lots of time on sites outside of social media (making them high-quality traffic) but will return often to social media to find more stuff to click on.


How Does AdSense Judge The Quality of Traffic?

AdSense doesn’t care about the source of your traffic. They don’t want invalid traffic but that’s about it. If your site gets enough traffic and doesn’t break their program policy then they are happy.

AdSense just wants to show ads to people to make money. So much traffic comes from social media that it just wouldn’t make sense for them to rate it as worse than other traffic, especially as the quality of traffic is so variable from every source.


In Conclusion

I know this is all an oversimplification as there are more than two types of sites and more than two types of users on social networks. That is kind of my point though – there is no standard level of quality for traffic coming from social networks. With Facebook having over two billion users, how could there be?

I hope this helps,


[This answer originally appeared on Quora]





Q: “I was given an opportunity to fill a position as a marketer for a hospice agency. Zero experience, zero guidance. Any help appreciated.

I was referred to this position from a friend of the owner of said hospice. I have never even touched marketing and work mid-level at an insurance company. I have no idea what to do or how to start, but they don’t care and want me to “try” to attain referrals for patients as their marketer.

I guess I’m asking where should I start? What are some important things to know going in? What are some ways I can get the ball rolling? I’ve met with a few medical directors today and those went well, but I’m not sure how to sell it or what kind of relationship I’ll need to establish with them.

Important note: my best friend is the head RN for this hospice, so that works to my advantage.



A: “I used to work for a hospice doing digital marketing, so I can tell you a bit about the online part. You have to get doctors on board (which it sounds like you are), but you also have to make hospice not be an awful idea in your local area or no-one will accept being referred.

The first thing I would recommend is seeing if they have a Google Ad Grant. It’s $10k per month (it’s in USD but available in many countries) to spend on Google ads. I know hospices are eligible and it’s a huge marketing budget for a small charity. It does come with lots of rules though so it can be hard to spend all of it. If you don’t have one, apply – it’s not very difficult.

I would recommend targeting Google ads across and around your catchment area (+5 miles) with ads softly selling your hospice (don’t go into other hospices catchment areas). You can get ideas for keywords to target from Google Search Console by looking at the top search terms for the site and for specific pages (if their site doesn’t have that added, do that asap). You should also use your ad grant to advertise informational pages, fundraising events, and jobs. If they have charity shops advertise those too.

You should also look at their maps listings. When most people think of hospices they think of a terrible and scary Victorian building filled with screams. By adding nice, professional, pictures of your hospice (and maybe even a video walkthrough) you can help dispel this idea. Go to Google My Business for Google Maps and Bing Places for Bing Maps. Also, make sure to fill in as many details as possible in your profile, and respond to questions and reviews as soon as you can. Make the hospice feel helpful, reassuring, soft, and not scary.

You always have to keep in mind that when people find out they or a loved one are dying, they are frozen in place with fear and stress. No-one wants to go to a hospice. You need to soften the journey as much as possible in all Comms, telling people what it’s actually like, making things as easy as possible to find etc.

When people have been helped by a hospice though, they get a special feeling for it, but also want to forget it. This makes story gathering hard but also invaluable. Having stories of how people were helped by a hospice really helps others to consider it. Use these on the site, and link to them inappropriate places (eg on a page about a disease, a story from someone’s family being linked to will help).

You should also gather stories from people who work there, volunteer there, fundraise for you, and anyone who has any relationship to the hospice. Add these to the site too in a “your stories” section and again link to them on appropriate pages.

Many of these stories will work well on social media as long-form posts (get actual contractual permission to do this though, and take them down immediately when people ask you to – and take them down after 2 years anyway).

They will also work well in local papers. Hospices are an integral part of their communities, and local papers are always looking for stories so you can likely create a good ongoing relationship there.

Good luck!


[This originally appeared on Reddit]



See you next month,