Less AdSense is more AdSense

by Martin Reed on 11 April 2007 in Snippets

If you use Google AdSense to monetise your site, you may know that you are able to place up to three AdSense units on each page of your website. Using more than one ad block may not be effective though, and I will tell you why.

The AdSense pricing structure

The majority of ads on your site appear through keyword matching. An advertiser joins Google, writes their ad copy and chooses the keywords they want to target. They choose an amount they are willing to pay, and then they are off. If your site matches these keywords, ads will appear based on the amount advertisers are willing to pay for each keyword.

Let’s imagine there are fifty advertisers bidding for the keywords associated with your site. The higher these advertisers are bidding, generally the more likely they are to appear on your site. Therefore, if you are running a 468×60 banner, it is more than likely that the two advertisers that are appearing are paying the highest amounts to appear there (and consequently you are being paid the highest amounts for each click).

As you can imagine, as you place more ad units all those advertisers who have bidded lower amounts will start to appear on your site. Whilst you may be getting a few more clicks by adding more ad blocks to your site, you will invariably make less money for each click as you are now allowing advertisers who pay less to have access to your site.

With AdSense, less can be more – consider using other ad networks rather than simply adding more Google ads on your site. Not only is it better to be less financially reliant on one single company, but by using other ads you will be ensuring that those sites advertising on your site through Google are paying you top dollar to do so.

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Tim April 11, 2007 at 4:17 pm

I completely agree with this. One thing that confused me was that Google’s AdSense recommendations for me told me to set up more than one ad unit on some pages. Should we trust our logic, or their statistics?

On another note, if you have to ad more units, make sure that the most visible ones are first in the HTML code. These are the ones to be served ads first, and therefore contain the highest-paying ads.

Dave April 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm

Good point, I’ll probably be removing one the 468×60′s that I have on my pages.

Martin Reed April 12, 2007 at 12:47 am

Hi Dave – thanks for your post, and welcome to the blog. Perhaps instead of completely removing this potential additional revenue source you could use a 468×60 from another advertiser?

Dave April 12, 2007 at 7:10 pm

Actually removing the ads is part of the plan for now…other than 1 or 2 select spots. Without enough traffic, it’s not going to bring in much right now, so I’m not too worried about it…yet ;)

Martin Reed April 12, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Dave – I think it is always a good move to stay ad-free until you are getting enough traffic to generate a level of revenue to justify their presence.

Tim Ebl May 1, 2007 at 12:57 pm

I was considering putting another block up, but now I don’t think I will. Thanks!

Martin Reed May 1, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Hey Tim – welcome to the blog and thanks for your post. By all means give that extra block a try, but don’t expect it to have the same eCPM as your other blocks.

Maybe instead of putting up another AdSense block, you can use a different advertiser. Remember – if you live by the Google, you die by the Google!

linux operating system May 4, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Martin, thanks, I will try this immediately on my site, by turning off one the banner for today and see what happen.

Martin Reed May 4, 2007 at 1:19 pm

How about instead of turning off that banner (and reducing your overall revenue) you replace that additional Google block with one from another ad company? There are revenue streams other than Google! ( I think! ;) )

Market Matador May 4, 2007 at 3:51 pm

You’re probably very right about “less adsense, being more adsense.” The fact is that they are so plain and boring, and can often be a distraction from the website. Unfortunately, and this comes from first hand experience, if a developer wants to try and run a break-even/profitable project, there’s no other way. AdSense is the easiest program to set-up and use. In the future, I can’t wait until I’m accepted into the Text Link Ads program! So much better system, and much less obtrusive to readers.

Thanks for the post,

-Sam from MarketMatador.com

Martin Reed May 4, 2007 at 3:59 pm

Hey Sam – thanks for your comment. I think AdSense has a lot going for it; it is easy to use and accessible for most sites.

Yes, there are alternatives – I think many people forget this fact! Over at Just Chat we use AdSense on our chat forum pages but that is all – we have tried using it on other pages and it doesn’t generate enough revenue to justify its presence.

For me, AdSense makes an almost insignificant amount of revenue compared to our other revenue streams.

Best of luck with TextLinkAds – let me know how you get on, and how it compares to AdSense on a revenue generating level.

Chad Brand May 5, 2007 at 5:24 pm

It seems to me that if you have 3 ad units instead of 1, you will earn less money per click, but your overall revenue will be higher. If I have Adsense on my first 3 posts per page, instead of just one, I should have a better chance of getting someone to click.

Sure the ads in the 2nd and 3rd posts will be less profitable than the 1st, but I still have the highest paying ads on the page, and if someone passes over them I have more chances to entice them to click later on by having more units further down the page.

So, I agree that revenue per click will drop with more ad units, but won’t total revenue increase? I would rather have a cheap click than no click at all, right?

Martin Reed May 5, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Hi Chad – welcome to the blog. Sure, your total revenue should increase but your revenue per click and effective CPM will drop as you add more Google blocks.

The main point of my article was to encourage people to consider using other ad networks instead of filling up with more and more blocks from Google AdSense. This way you are maximising your revenue and getting the maximum amount possible for each and every click.

Naeem July 22, 2007 at 9:17 pm

good article Martin. also me think that, if you add more adsense block, the effective CPM drop. I tried it on my website.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 22, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Nareem – It doesn’t surprise me that you found your eCPM drop as you added more AdSense blocks. You should see this fact as an opportunity to diversify your revenue streams and not rely exclusively on Google for your income.

Sutocu July 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Is that “up to three” from their TOS? I mean there are hundreds of sites that show more than three on a given page…

Tim July 23, 2007 at 11:07 pm

Sotocu, start reporting them!

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 24, 2007 at 2:54 am

Sutocu – Don’t quote me on this, but I believe that since this article was written Google have increased the number of permitted ad blocks for each page.

Why anyone would want to use more than three however, is beyond me!

Tim – Ah, a stickler for the rules eh? Or just a Google lover? Do tell!! ;)

Tim July 24, 2007 at 11:50 am

Martin, I just like diminishing the competition :)

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Ha ha – cheeky! ;)

Avi August 3, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the article, Martin.

I have noticed that ads on the front page pay less per click than ads on inside pages. It seems to me there’s some penalty for sending clicks from the landing page. Has anyone noticed that too?
Also, any clue what about link units in this “less is more” approach? Is this the case too?

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 3, 2007 at 7:02 pm

Avi – You’re welcome; thanks for the comment!

I have not noticed a lower eCPM for ads published on the front page of sites; although I try to avoid doing this as I don’t want visitors to leave my site the very moment they arrive!

I would always avoid advertising on the homepage of your website. For a site to be successful, you need people to read more than just your index page! Offering them an exit point on your homepage is not the right way to go about being successful!

As for link units, I feel they would also suffer if used excessively. Stick with just a couple of AdSense spots and use any spare ad space you have for other companies.

There are more ways to make money than just AdSense!

Avi August 14, 2007 at 5:50 am

Hi again Martin!

First I’d like to share the results of my experiment with my own website. One adsense block compared to 2 adsense blocks produced less money. Less is sometimes less. Everybody should experiment what’s the right formula for their site.

Second, your ads affect the way visitors behave, and therefore eCPM is not always an indicator to a whether you’re using your ad space successfully or not. I recommend creating a nice little Excel table and keep track of EARNINGS / VISITS. This is the real meter, and I wish Adsense had it in their stats.

And third, as to ads on the index page – every site has its bounce rate. Mine happends to be 25%. If 25% exit anyway – you can show them the profitable way out. However, for me these ads sell really cheap clicks (don’t know why…)

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 14, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Avi – Thanks for reporting back the results of this experiment on your site. I agree that everyone should experiment to find the right formula for their own website.

I am not surprised that having only the one ad block compared to two earned you less overall money. In this article I was trying to get across that the value of any additional ad blocks you publish will be less as you add more.

I strongly advocate the use of alternative ad networks rather than adding a huge number of AdSense placements on each page of your site. Of course, as you add more blocks you will earn more money – but you will be earning less per click as advertisers with lower payouts start to get their ads published on your page.

I still disagree about placing ads on your home page. Sure, 25% may exit anyway – but what about the 75% that have no intention of leaving? Why offer them an easy way out? Why tempt them with other websites?

Johan De Silva October 9, 2007 at 7:19 pm

The harder challenge is to find other ad networks that produce a higher rate of return. Not easy because many other networks are terrible, but I have begun doing it and yes less AdSense is more!

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 11, 2007 at 12:42 am

Johan – You are right; it can be a challenge to find other ad networks. You could always try your hand at private ad sales, though. Have you found any good alternatives to AdSense?

Milan Outlook October 15, 2007 at 5:26 pm

You’re definetely right. My income has almost doubled since I realized this truth. However, on long articles (and those with very interesting content) you should have more ad(sense) blocks because the article grabs them too much.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 18, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Milan – Did you substitute AdSense with ads from a different company or did you simply cut down on the number of AdSense blocks you were publishing?

Bollywood October 27, 2007 at 6:29 pm

I think if you add many company ads , you’ll loose money.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Bollywood – I think so, too. Not only do you risk affecting the usability of your site, but you will probably also be serving ads that pay out less – more ads but less revenue? Not a situation we want!

Johan De Silva November 23, 2007 at 5:05 pm

Martin – So far the only other company I am happy with is the Yahoo ads because I can target higher paying keywords that relate to my sites content. I do use Unruly Media sometimes and can work out a little better sometimes. Oh and yes I do try and sell ad space directly charged at double but these are rare.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 25, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Johan De Silva – How are you using Yahoo! ads? Through JustGoMedia? I am giving them a trial and are finding them reasonably effective – it all depends on your audience. Being able to target your own choice of keywords is a great benefit over AdSense.

Johan De Silva November 26, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Martin – Yeah through JustGoMedia and I target my movie site and it is a good third ad spot though not enough to replace my second ad spot (first is given to Google). Sadly I do not think it is a good deal for advertisers. I also think many webmasters will be tempted to put down betting sites where they can earn loads but will result in the site looking spammy.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 27, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Johan – You’re right; poorly targeted ads are not good for any website. Sometimes people become more obsessed with placing ads on their site than generating decent content!

allie January 3, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Awesome info! I’m glad I learned this before I try adding too many adsense blocks!

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 7, 2008 at 3:30 am

Allie – Thanks for your comment; I am glad you found the article useful.

Travel Tips & Culture February 12, 2008 at 1:51 am

Excellent article. One question would be. If I put only an ad showing one ad? any experience with it?

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 15, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Travel – The advantage to only displaying one ad is that you are only showing the advert that pays you the most money. However, by showing two or three you will be displaying ads that are a little bit different and may appeal to a wider variety of visitors.

I find that one or two AdSense blocks on a page is more than enough. As a compromise, how about using a ‘Quick Links’ block, and a ‘Content’ block? This way the ads should appeal to a wide variety of your visitors and should still pay decent revenue.

alex March 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm


Competitive Ads and Services

In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads.


Martin Reed - Blog Author March 21, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Alex – You make a valid point. Although Google have toned down the language they use, you still need to be careful that other ads that appear on the same page don’t look like AdSense blocks. This shouldn’t be a problem for most, but it is definitely worth drawing people’s attention to this point – thanks.

1lear April 8, 2008 at 8:22 am

This is a very interesting article and I am always in search of ways to increase my adsense earnings. Half the time I check with my eyes closed when I pull up m account then open them to see that killer adsense earning day-but it has not happened yet same old single digit earning day. Hopefully this will show a difference-I’m off now to decrease adsense off my site because my earnings are funnier than my website and my website is damn funny!!!

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 8, 2008 at 10:12 pm

1lear – Good luck, and let me know how you get on. Remember to keep experimenting until you get the right results.

Rosina May 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Great article! I find it very helpful as I’m considering to star using Google Adsense in my personal web site. Thank you very mucho for the information!

Timon Weller December 12, 2008 at 8:42 am

Good advice this one, I noticed this way back before it was common knowledge basically because i do not like the look of adsense riddled websites i kept it to a minimum i noticed pay on a per click basis was better in this cercumstance, also i believe it increase CTR as well… :)

Gareth April 21, 2009 at 12:30 am

Apply good sense to adsense makes more sense to me although I don’t get any revenue from other advertising I do ok with Google less is more sense or more or less right, COOL.

Thanks, Gareth.

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