Online Advertising Answers: October 2020

Welcome to Online Advertising Answers, a dive into my mailbag for three interesting questions about Digital Marketing that I’ve been asked (and answered) on Quora.

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

This month I go deep into optimising AdSense with a thorough set of suggestions to boost your revenue. I also go through all the types of ads that *nobody* should click on, and do some mathletics to work out how much you should expect to get paid from 1,000 clicks per day.

Let’s take a look…


Online Advertising Answers


This month’s questions are:

[Click these links to skip down to the question]




Q: “What ads should you not click on?”


A: “Hi James,

There are lots of types of ads you should not click on. These include:

  • Ads on your own website. In most cases, your ad network will be able to tell that it was you (or at least that the clicks were suspicious) and will not pay you for your clicking. They might also ban you too – losing any outstanding money they owe you from legitimate clicks.Even if you don’t get banned, a few clicks aren’t going to earn you much money so click fraud is just wasting your own time.
  • Ads for your competitors. It’s fine to click on ads if you are genuinely interested but clicking an ad many times to cost someone else money is a dick move. It also won’t work – as ad networks will likely register that a single person is clicking the ads over and over again and disregard your clicks (so again – you’re just wasting your time).
  • Download Ads. These are almost fraudulent – especially when they have little-to-no detail of what you’ll be downloading. You should always look for download links from the actual maker of whatever you’re trying to download (or from a legitimate online store). Oddly on mobile, this isn’t such a problem as most download ads take you to the Play Store or Apple Store who vet apps for you.


Fake Download Ad


  • Get rich quick ads. Whether they are offering some unbelievably great work-from-home job or a secret as to how they made a ton of money fast, you *cannot* believe these ads. If you could get rich quick with some easy scheme then everyone would be rich. You’re not clever or special for seeing an ad. These ads are always a con – which will generally get you to pay them money now so you can supposedly make money later (which you won’t do).
  • Clickbait Ads which appear at the bottom of articles with an intriguing headline. The most common example is “You’ll never guess what this celebrity looks like now”. These ads never tell you what you think they are going to tell you, and often lead to entirely unrelated and disappointing landing pages – which you could guess from who has posted them.


Clickbait ads


  • Ads for guns, sex-related things, gambling, politics, weight loss, loans, religion – basically anything in Google AdSense’s sensitive categories list. This is because most websites don’t allow these sorts of ads, so if you’re seeing one of these ads you’re probably on a dodgy website – and therefore it’s probably a dodgy ad. If you want to find any of these things go directly to the website or Google it with SafeSearch off.If an ad especially intrigues you, Google the name of the company in the ad. If there is no company mentioned in the ad – it’s probably not a real ad. Even if a company is mentioned in the ad, that ad will probably not go where you think it will.
  • Any ad which auto-plays sound or takes over your whole screen, or does anything that really annoys you. This is because you shouldn’t encourage them – the more you click on these types of ads, the more they will be used.
  • Links from influencers telling you to buy things they have never mentioned before. Influencers get advertising deals because their audience likes and trusts them. They then monetise that trust to sell you things. They have a choice whether or not to take deals, and if they try to sell you something which seems “off brand” for them by personally vouching for it, then they are breaking your trust. Don’t reward them for it.I’ll put it this way… if a gaming influencer says “I love this gaming chair” then fair enough, maybe they do. If a fashion blogger says “this is a great essay writing service” then they are probably taking you for a fool.
  • Ads for weird things on Facebook. It might seem funny to start with, but Facebook’s algorithm will take that click and run with it and you will start seeing weirder and weirder things in your feed. All ad networks do this to an extent, but none so much as Facebook! If you do get caught in a loop where Facebook ads are driving you mad, you can always go to their ad preferences centre and tell them what you actually are (and aren’t) interested in.


One type of ad you should click on

If you’re on a site which you like and trust and see an ad for something that interests you, there’s no reason not to click on it. Ads fund most of the internet, and by clicking on an ad on a site that you like (and trust) you are (probably) giving them a tiny bit of money.

It’s not a big deal, but the more you encourage websites to use ads responsibly, the less likely that your favourite sites will start allowing the types of ads listed above.

I hope this helps,



[This originally appeared on Quora]




Q: “How did you optimize your Google AdSense earnings?”


A: “Hi Yeoeun,

There are lots of ways to optimise your AdSense ads. I’ve listed some tips in order of usefulness below.


FIRST – What are you optimising?

While increasing overall Revenue from AdSense should be your main goal, you should really always judge yourself on the speed at which you are earning revenue.

This means using RPM as a judge. RPM stands for Revenue per Thousand (M being the Roman numeral for 1,000).

AdSense has two RPM measures – Page RPM and Impression RPM. Page RPM means how much money you make every time ads are shown on 1,000 pages. Impression RPM shows how much money you make every time you show 1,000 ads.

I personally like to use Page RPM as my main measure, as it means I can see the effect of adding or removing ad units from a page or moving things around. Using Page RPM instead of just Revenue also means you can easily compare different months performance, regardless of how many pages views your site got.

The Page RPM Formula is:


Page RPM EquationClick to enlarge

Page RPM = Revenue divided by Page views (then times the whole thing by 1,000)

[You can use this handy calculator to work out your RPM quickly: RPM Calculator (Revenue Per Thousand)]

Ok, onto the tips…


Use Display Ads only wherever possible

When putting ads on your site, you want to make money from them right? Therefore the worst possible thing that could happen is for people to see the ads and then leave your site in disgust.

With this in mind, Display ads are much better than Link Ads. A site with all link ads on it looks low-rent, and essentially tells users that they have come to an unimportant place on the internet.

Ideally, therefore, your AdSense units should all be Display ads only. When your site if very small (under 10,000 page views per month), you won’t get sent any good image ads, so using link and display ads is ok. After you hit about 10,000 page views per month, however, switch to display ads only wherever you can.


Optimise your Link ads

Google wants your Link ads to look like your site in order for them to perform as well as possible. This means using the same colour background as your site and the same text colour.

I’m not a huge fan of any of these ideas as I don’t think you should trick your users into thinking an ad is just a link on your site. Trust is hard to earn but easy to lose.

However, if you are using Link Ads (against all advice) playing around with how ads look (so they at least are compatible with your web design) isn’t a bad idea. I use *roughly* the same colours as my site, so they at least don’t ruin my web design.

I once worked with a snowboarding website which doubled their RPM by simply changing their text links to red in AdSense text ads. I haven’t seen this work on other sites, but it’s worth playing around (a little bit) to see what your optimum design is.


Block Sensitive Ad Categories

Again – you don’t want the ads you run on your site to put people off coming to your site. Therefore, unless your site is about something sensitive itself, it makes sense to block as many sensitive categories as you feel uncomfortable with.

I err on the side of caution as I always think that increasing the number of users that come to your site should come first. Google will encourage you to allow more categories if it thinks your site will make money from them, but I think that you will make more money from having more users.

Here’s how you navigate to the sensitive categories menu:


How to block sensitive categories in AdSense


Please note: Google will occasionally add new sensitive categories and as this is an opt-out system that means you’ll have to go in and say no. Basically, you should check on this menu every now and then even if you’ve already set you permissions.


Place your ads Above The Fold

If you place your ads “above the fold” then they will perform much better than ads which are placed “below the fold”.


What is looks like: Above The Fold


Above the Fold simply means that ads appear on the screen when a webpage loads. This improves earnings because not only are people more likely to click on your ads but also any ads which are paying on a vCPM basis will also pay for these ads.

vCPM (or CPvM) means paying per thousand viewable impressions (see below), which isn’t that common, but worth keeping in mind when trying to optimise earnings. It’s free money, just for putting your ads in the right place.

Read more about Above the Fold here: Above The Fold Definition


Viewability (Active Views)

There was a study done a few years ago which found something like 80% of ads on the internet were never seen by anyone. This was because people would put ads in the footer of pages (or anywhere below the fold really), so if a person visiting a page didn’t scroll enough they wouldn’t see the ad. As many advertisers pay on a CPM basis (paying per 1,000 times an ad loads) this was seen as a big scandal – advertisers were essentially paying for nothing.

To solve this problem the online ad industry came up with a metric called viewability. An ad is considered viewable when it is at least 50% on screen for one second.


What It Looks Like: Viewable Ad Impressions


In AdSense a viewable ad impression is called an Active Views, and you can see how much you earn from it, by clicking the Active Views tab in your performance reports.


Active Views in AdSense


You can also see what percentage of all your ads are counted as viewable with the Active View Viewable metric which appears on the far right. The higher the percentage, the more likely you will be paid for this sort of ad.

As previously stated, paying for Active Views like this isn’t actually incredibly common, so you won’t make loads of money from it, but it is worth optimising for.

And as stated above, having ads Above the Fold makes them perform better anyway, so it’s a win-win really.

To work out how many of your ads are viewable, you can use this Viewability Rate Calculator: Viewability Rate Calculator


Use the best ad sizes

For Desktop computers, the most effective ad sizes in terms of revenue are the 728×90, 300×250, and 300×600. AdSense itself claims that you should also include the 336×280 in that list, however, not many advertisers use that ad size. This means that if you add it to your site, most of the time a 300×250 will just float in the middle of the space. This isn’t a bad thing, but also means you shouldn’t feel bad about just adding the smaller 300×250 if that is all the space you have.

There is a reason you see these ad sizes all over the internet – it’s because they earn the most money.

For mobile (smartphones) and tablet computers there is no absolute consensus on what the best ad sizes are due to there being so many different screen sizes. AdSense itself says that the 320×100 is best, however that ad unit isn’t actually very widely used. It can be used as a type of ad called an Anchor ad, which floats over the top of your page (see below), but it’s not an amazing money-spinner.

The lowest effort, highest reward option for mobile is probably sprinkling a few 300x250s throughout the content, every few paragraphs (with the first one being above the fold).


Other ad sizes

The reason why people use the ad sizes listed above is that they perform the best. However, most people have now developed “ad blindness” meaning they don’t even notice ads anymore.

This is mostly because ad placement is generally so predictable. You know they will be at the top and on the side of webpages, so if you just don’t look there then you won’t see them.

To get around this, you can use other, less common, ad sizes (of which there are many), and for some sites, these can work very well in generating extra income.

For most sites, however, they just clutter up webpages and slow down your page speed (which is a big no-no).

It’s up to you whether you want to do some testing to see if these work well for you or not. The general rule of thumb is that the larger or more invasive an ad is, the better it performs. However, sites with large and/or invasive ads also lose visitors at a higher rate, so you have to find your own equilibrium.

I personally recommend sticking to the best three ad sizes, but if you want to learn more about the other options out there, read this guide: The Ad Size Guide


Other types of ads – (Auto Ads)

AdSense has a whole section of other ad types called Auto Ads, which are mostly not very good. These ads work by you adding a bit of code to the header of your site, then simply toggling them on and off.

I would recommend testing them, but keep your eyes on the prize when you do as they are all at least a little annoying to users. (The prize is an increase in Page RPM in case you forgot).

Here is a quick overview of these ad types:

Overlays: Overlays are a type of pop-up ad which appears within the webpage you are on. These can work extremely well in terms of clicks and money, HOWEVER, they are also extremely annoying.

On AdSense, there are two types of Overlay ads (both for Mobile)


Anchor Ads

An Anchor Ad is a banner that appears at the bottom of the page (usually a 300×50, 320×50, or 320×100). It floats on top of the page and stays there unless closed. I have never seen anyone make a lot of money from this type of ad, but it continues to be quite common, so it’s probably not the worst option out there.

300x50 Example



This is a type of mobile ad which covers the whole screen in between pages being loaded. Google says it only shows these ads to people it will think it will get clicks from, thereby limiting how annoying they are.

As Google Search punishes sites which show this type of ad (for being so annoying) it is pretty hard to argue they are a good idea! Again, I have never seen a site running vignettes make a lot of money from them, so I don’t recommend using them.


In Page Ads

Matched Content

These ads aren’t available to everyone (you need to have over a certain amount of impressions for them to become available).

They are actually not ads in the normal sense, however. They scan your content and recommend other pages on your site to people based on the page they are on. They can also recommend pages on other peoples sites. This type of ad unit is actually pretty terrible for a couple of reasons:

  • They don’t work well. Google’s algorithms can match pages ok, but using an ad unit to promote pages on your own site isn’t the best idea (because of ad blindness mentioned above).
  • The really mess up your stats in AdSense. Every page that a matched content ad suggests (which is up to three I think) counts as an ad impression. As people so rarely click on these (and even when they do, they only click on one at most) it means your CTR will take a nose-dive no matter what happens. This isn’t useful if you are trying to optimise performance.


In Feed Ads

These ads at least look natural and are designed to go into “feeds” you have on your site – such as lists of blog posts, or products etc. They however are taking people away from your site at a vital moment in their user journey (when they are making a decision) in most cases. These are worth trying more if you don’t mind that happening.


In Article Ads

This is a form of native advertising, which I am personally against in general. Native Advertising means making ads which look like they are part of your content.

To be honest – the AdSense version isn’t bad in terms of the way it looks – they still are obviously ads (but not painfully obvious). The results don’t appear to be amazing, but in terms of adding an extra set of ads onto your page in the easiest way possible, they have a chance of being good money spinners at least.


In conclusion – what is a good benchmark for performance of AdSense accounts?

So you’ve optimised your AdSense ads, how do you know if you’ve done a good job?

Well, the overall average for AdSense comes out to about $10 RPM. This means for every 1,000 pages that load with ads, you will get about $10 (that is USD). Translate your currency into USD, and use this as a reasonable place to aim for.

Note: There is a huge variation in this figure depending on where in the world you are, and what your site is about. However, it is a reasonable average to work with.

To work out how much money can make from your site, try this useful calculator: How Much Money Can I Make?

Finally – don’t put too many ads on your site – don’t annoy your users

The most important thing to remember when trying to improve the performance of ads on your site is to not annoy your users. You can mainly do this by not putting too many ads on your site.

More ads rarely means more money, whereas more users almost always does.

I hope this helps.


PS There are other “dodgy” things you can do to improve your revenue from AdSense, but they’ll probably ban you for them, so don’t bother.


[This originally appeared on Quora]




Q: “How much does someone make if they get 1,000 clicks a day?”


A: “Hi Juan,

The standard answer to this question is, of course, that it depends. It depends on how much you get paid per click, which in turn depends on your websites niche, where it is located etc. So there is no standard answer, however, we can make a good educated/inferred guess.

Firstly – we need to make a good guess at the average CPC. I haven’t found any solid research on this (yet) so let’s work it out from other averages…

Starting with the average CTR. For display ads the average CTR is 0.2%. This means that for every 1,000 ad impressions you get 2 clicks.

CTR Benchmarks

[If you need to reverse engineer a CTR like this, try this calculator]

There is an average of 3 ads per page, so that means you get 1,000 ad impressions per 333 page views on average. Taking into account discrepancies (which mean all the ads won’t load every time a page loads), let’s generously call it an even 350 page views for those 2 clicks – or 1 click per 175 page views.

The average Page RPM (as in amount you get paid for 1,000 page views) is $10 – or 1 penny per page. This means that for one click you will be getting about $1.75.

[I know this was a roundabout way of working out average CPC, but $1.75 is coincidentally roughly what the top answer on Quora said about this, so it feels about right]

That means that 1,000 clicks a day would bring in $1,750. If you were consistently earning that amount, this would bring in around $12,250 a week, or about $50k per month. This equates to $638,750 per year!


It’s not that easy

In case this sounds like easy money – let’s take a quick step back.

From the above calculations, it’s taking 175 page views per click – which means 1,000 clicks per day would also need 175,000 page views per day.

This, in turn, would mean 1,225,000 page views per week, or about 5 million page views per month. This equates to 63,875,000 page views per year.

A 64 million page view per year website is likely a huge endeavour.

To get this many page views you would need a lot of money to start with – to invest in a proper business with staff to support you. You could possibly get it on a shoestring budget with a great idea, but that is not something that happens often.


Clicks are a bad way to guess income

I would also like to note that the amount of clicks your website gets is not a great way to guess your future income. While you can encourage people to click on ads on your site in a variety of ways, ultimately the volume of clicks depends on the ads that run – which you probably won’t have much control over.

What you do have (some) control over is your page views. The better your website (and promotion), the more page views you will get.

And because page views is a comparatively predictable (and controllable) metric, it makes a lot more sense to forecast your income based on it. If you are getting more page views but your income isn’t keeping up, you can always try different ad networks until you find one which makes more money for you.

To put it another way – you can always work to improve your site and thereby get more page views. What you can’t do is wish up more clicks on your ads out of nowhere.


How much can a website earn from ads v2

[To estimate how much your website can earn per page view try this calculator]


A warning

A final note to say – anyone who reads this and thinks “I’ll get rich by clicking on my own ads 1,000 times a day” – don’t do it. Advertisers and ad networks *will* notice and not pay you (and ban you from their network). There are many ways of catching these things, and click fraud is an actual crime in some countries so it’s just not worth it.

I hope this helps,



[This originally appeared on Quora]



Take care,