Online Advertising Answers: November 2020

Welcome to the November issue of Online Advertising Answers. This month I take a look at the aesthetics of putting ads on your site. Do ads make your site ugly? Can ads move your site around? Can you make money from someone just looking at ads?

Like everything in digital marketing, the answer to all three of these questions is “it depends”! Keep reading to find out what they depend on, and how to make sure that ads don’t turn your site into a hideous freak.

To get your question answered (and possibly featured here) find me on Quora, and ask away.

Let’s take a look…


Online Advertising Answers


This month’s questions are:

[Click these links to skip down to the question]




Q: “Can ads cause CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)?”


A: “Hi Dexter,

Yes, ads can cause Cumulative Layout Shift.


Recap: What is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)?

Just quickly – CLS is when a page moves after it loads. This movement is now measured by Google and quantified as CLS and is a ranking factor in search.

[Google explains all about it here if you’re interested]

The reason for CLS being a ranking factor is that it is incredibly annoying to read a webpage and for it to suddenly shift – or for you to try and click a button and the shift causes you to click something else. CLS is a menace.

This CLS gif from Google explains it best:

CLS Example from Google


How can ads cause Cumulative Layout Shift?

Reason 1: When ads are dynamically inserted into a page.

Some types of ads are placed by an ad network wherever they think will get the most clicks (for example AdSense Auto Ads or Ezoic). When this happens the ad slots will load after the page loads as which ad slots are used depends on a variety of factors.

Because of this delay, the page will load and then move. It is annoying, but luckily it only happens when the page first loads. I personally think these types of ads are terrible anyway (as they often put ads in stupid places), but in terms of CLS, they are a minor nuisance.

Reason 2: Ads are loading later because of Cookie Management Platforms.

Since PECR clarified that cookies also require consent by websites under GDPR, websites in Europe (and with European visitors) are required to check they can drop cookies before they do. In most cases, this means no ads will run until consent is given.

[You can read up on PECR here – but it’s a real nightmare. My advice is to just get a Cookie Management Platform like CookiePro or Iubenda and let them deal with it]

What this often means in practice is that once consent is given, ads will be dropped onto a page, and the content will move. In terms of CLS, this is the least annoying turn of events and only happens when you click yes to allowing cookies the first time.

Reason 3: Ad Refresh keeps opening and closing ad slots

Many ad networks use something called “Ad Refresh” where ads are reloaded into ad slots periodically. This means that ads appear and disappear on the page regularly.

If the ads are within a page’s content (and there are more than one of them) this can mean a huge jump in content happening regularly.

Even worse – if the ads that load into a single ad slot are different heights this can mean that after the ads disappear and reappear, you might find yourself on a different part of the page altogether.

This is by far the most annoying thing ads can do in terms of CLS. It is something that is ongoing throughout a visit to a site and even worse – it’s inconsistent so each time is like a new insult.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to fix by websites…


How can you stop ads from causing Cumulative Layout Shift?

For Reason 1 (dynamically inserted ads) you basically just have to trust that your ad network will fix it. If you can get in touch with them and pester them about it, then do, as that might spur them into action a little quicker. As you have given up control of your ad slots though, there isn’t much else you can do.

For Reasons 2 & 3 you need to define the minimum height of all your ad slots. An easy way to do this is by putting them inside a div in your HTML and defining what the height is.

[This could look like <div style=”height:350px;”>[Ad Code]</div>]

This is Google’s general advice to avoid CLS anyway, but it goes double for ads using ad refresh. Setting your ad slots in containers with defined dimensions is a good idea in general so that if ads which are the wrong size load for whatever reason (or ads simply load late), they won’t shake your site up.

Grouping Ads for Ad Refresh

If your ad network is using ad refresh, you also need to make sure that they only load ads with the same height into any individual ad slot. This means grouping ads by height:

For mobile, this means:

  • 300×50 & 320×50
  • 300×100 & 320×100
  • 320×480 (on its own)
  • 300×250 (on its own)

For desktop, this means:

  • 234×60 & 468×60
  • 728×90 & 970×90
  • 120×600 & 160×600 & 300×600
  • 300×250 (on its own)

It could also mean using multi-sized ad slots but setting the minimum height to the tallest ad. For example, 300×250 & 336×280 naturally go together in an ad slot – and that ad slot should be in a div with a min-height of 280px (and a min-width of 336px). If you do this, make sure it looks right on your page and centre the ads which load in the ad slot if you can.

I hope this helps,



[This originally appeared on Quora]




Q: “Should I use ads? Will ads make my blog less aesthetically pleasing?”


A: “Hi Nicholas,

Yes, you should use ads to monetise your blog – especially when you’re just getting started. This is because ads are quick and easy to implement and run, so will earn you a bit of money while giving you space to focus on growing your blog.

When you are just starting out you are not going to make significant money blogging no matter what you do. You need to have an audience to sell courses or products to, or get sponsorship deals, or be able to effectively sell events.

Therefore you might as well add ads to your blog when you are still growing your audience as they earn you money with no extra effort after set up.

It’s also a good idea to add ads early on so that as your site grows people are used to them being there. Otherwise, you will get into a situation where you have a lot of people reading your blog – so you add ads, and then suddenly lots of people leave because they hate the change and so your ads stop making any money.

Start as you mean to go on and people will be less weird about it.


How Much Can You Make From Advertising

Reading the other answers to your question, lots of people seem to have odd ideas about how much (or little) money you will make from advertising. While the Page RPM (the amount you earn from 1,000 page views) you earn changes significantly depending on where you are based, what your blog is about, and the quality of your site – the overall average Page RPM for Google AdSense is about $10 (USD). This means you get paid about 1 cent per page view.


Page RPM Equation

Page RPM = Ad Revenue x1000 divided by page views.

[This calculator can help you estimate potential revenue from ads]


There are two main conclusions to draw from this:

  1. You will need another revenue stream. Advertising on its own will only pay the bills when your site is huge (and the larger it gets the more costs it will incur). You won’t be able to have another revenue stream however until your blog is at least vaguely popular so ads are a reasonable low-effort starting point.
  2. Ad money is a strong incentivisation to keep your blog growing. The more page views you get, the more money you earn – that direct correlation is not true of other revenue streams. As an additional line of revenue, ad revenue can be really solid in the long term, and really helpful in the short term.


Will Ads Make Your Blog Look Less Aesthetically Pleasing?

I’m going to say no, ads don’t make a blog look less aesthetically pleasing. I mean they can if you use them wrong, but by and large no they make no difference.

Do you know how I know this? Ads are everywhere on the internet! The vast majority of websites have ads on them, and they are perfectly tolerable when used correctly. If they weren’t, websites would stop using them.

I would even go so far as to say that when they are used right they can actually add to your blog’s aesthetic. What I am specifically talking about is that ads placed correctly within your content can actually improve readability.

There is a reason why webpages have pictures on them – in terms of UX huge blocks of solid text are difficult for people to read and unappealing. You can break the text up by generously using paragraphs, but what people really need mentally are images to keep them going.

That’s fine for blogs about visual topics, but what if you don’t have images that fit in your blog post? Or – if you have already used the only image(s) that makes sense but still have a lot to say? You can stick in stock photos of course – but then people hate stock photos and they often actually create negative connotations for a site (as you mentally link them with all the low-quality sites that you’ve seen them on before).

In these cases, you can stick an ad into your content to break it up.

An ad will not have a positive effect on your content per se – no one will see the ad and think, “Hooray, cool picture!”. An ad can however visually break up the space. Most people ignore ads too, so for the majority of people they won’t actually process the ad mentally at all – but you’ll still get the benefit of visually making your block of text easier to process.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive to put ads into your blog posts to make people like them more, but it oddly works. There is, of course, a limit…



No one is like this in real life


Don’t Put In Too Many Ads Or Allow Bad Ads

The key part of adding ads to your website and for them to be a net positive instead of driving people away is to go easy on it. Don’t allow any ads which are incredibly annoying, such as:

  • Pop-Up or Pop-Under ads
  • Ads which autoplay with the sound on
  • Ads which get in the way of content
  • Ads which are fraudulent (such as ones which say “Download now” on them)
  • Ads from any sensitive categories (such as politics, guns, gambling, religion, diet pills etc)

If you avoid all the most annoying types of ads, then you’ll stop your site from losing credibility from the outset.

You also need to limit the number of ads that appear on your site – people are likely to click on only one ad from a page at most after all. This means adding more ads to a page will likely not increase your revenue – it will simply drive away users (and reduce your revenue).

The simplest and most effective use of ads is just having a 728×90 at the top of your site, a 300×600 in the sidebar, and 300x250s within the content. Don’t overuse ads within the content, however – one every three paragraphs is the absolute maximum I would say makes any sense.


Where to position ads on your site


In Conclusion

Ads will make your blog money for minimum effort and can be a great *additional* revenue stream. When you’re starting out, ads are the only revenue stream that requires no ongoing effort – and so can help give you the space to focus on growing your blog. On top of that, ads can be used to actually improve the aesthetic of a blog if used right – that is sparsely and when they would visually make sense.

Deciding how ads appear on your site is entirely within your control. Makes sure to set ad units up yourself (don’t let ad networks place them for you – for example, auto-ads in AdSense are a bad idea) and only choose the ad sizes I mentioned. Go through the sensitive category options and block anything you are uncomfortable with, and get in touch with your ad network to have any bad ads you see blocked immediately.

I hope this helps,



[This originally appeared on Quora]




Q: “Do people need to click ads in order for you to get paid or is just having seen them enough?”


A: No, people don’t have to click on ads for you to get paid for them. Well not always.

While CPC (Cost Per Click) advertising is the most common type, most of the ways people pay for advertising don’t involve anyone clicking on anything.

How you will get paid for advertising on your WordPress blog generally won’t mention clicks at all. Your ad network (such as AdSense) will likely just bundle all the money the ads on your site earned, and turn it into a metric that makes the most sense to website owners called RPM – Revenue Per Thousand.


RPM Equation

RPM = Total Ad Revenue divided by Pages (or ads) x 1000

[If your ad network doesn’t tell you what your RPM is (or if you just want to double-check) you can use this RPM calculator]


There are two main types of RPM – Revenue Per Thousand Page Views, and Revenue Per Thousand Ads. Either way, they are simply taking all the payments you get for your ads and averaging them out so they are easy to understand.

Knowing how much you are earning for each page view is much more helpful than knowing how much you earn for each click. As a blogger, you can always try and increase your page views, but after optimising your setup, there isn’t really anything you can do to increase clicks (unless you are running the ads directly yourself – which you shouldn’t do unless you are a very large website).


Different Ad Pricing Models

As I said, there are many types of ways an advertiser pays for ads. The most common is PPC (or CPC), which is where an advertiser only pays if someone clicks on an ad. This means in many cases, yes, people will have to click on ads for you to get paid.

If you have a very small blog (under 5,000 page views per month) then you will likely only get sent this sort of deal from whoever is proving your ads. This is because you simply aren’t showing enough ads per day for any sort of optimisation to take place. This also happens because very small sites are often a bit dodgy so no big advertiser wants to go on them.

If you have a slightly bigger site then you will likely get sent ads which pay in a variety of different ways. Here is a brief overview of them:

  • CPM Ads – CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand and means you get paid per 1,000 ads you get shown. So if an advertiser is paying $3 CPM, and you show their ad once, you will get 1000th of $3 (which is 0.30 cents). This is the second most common type of ad.
  • vCPM Ads – (AKA CPvM) These are just like CPM ads, except you only get paid per 1,000 times an ad is actually shown on screen. This is defined as being over 50% viewable for at least one second. In AdSense, this type of ad is known as “Active View”. It’s not incredibly common for people to pay for ads this way, but to maximise your chance of getting this money you should put your ads above the fold (ie so they are seen as soon as your webpage loads – the ‘fold’ is the bottom of a screen).
  • CPA Ads – CPA stands for Cost Per Acquisition and means an advertiser only pays when an ad causes a sale. This still doesn’t mean that someone has to click on your ad for it to generate money for you though. Most CPA ads will still pay out if someone buys something within a day of seeing the ad (or within seven days of clicking on it). There are subsets of CPA ads with different names too, and these work basically the same except only for clicks. These are CPI (Cost Per Install), CPL (Cost Per Lead) and CPE (Cost Per Engagement).
  • CPV Ads – CPV stands for cost per view, and this is where an advertiser pays out if someone watches their whole ad. This is mostly just for video ads, but again, no click is required.
  • CPD Ads – These are ads where you get paid for every day that an ad is on your site, regardless of where or not anyone clicks on them. Very small and very large sites can use these ads effectively to maximise their revenue. They are good for small sites as you can just rent out your site for a while and focus on your business (while not having to worry about ad revenue for a while). They are good for big sites as you can charge extra for the advertiser to be associated with your brand (while not having to worry about performance).

So as you can see, there are many types of ads which don’t actually require anyone to click on them for you to get paid.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of any ad pricing model, you can check out this guide: Ad Pricing Guide

I hope this helps,



[This originally appeared on Quora]



Take care,