by Shubha Bala, on August 28, 2012
Once you have AdSense set up on your site, the service has a number of tools to help you measure how effective the ad campaigns earning revenue for your site are performing and insights into how to make them perform better.
Understanding advertisers, ad auctions and types of ads
First, it is important to understand how an ad gets selected for display on your website and how much the advertiser will pay. Usually this is done through the real-time ad auction, which automatically matches advertisers who have signed up to place their ads with Google AdWords with websites looking to host advertisements through Google AdSense. The ad auction consists of a pool of relevant ads that are bidding for your space, and based on their bid and their likely performance one ad will win.
To determine who wins the auction, Google assigns a quality score for each ad based on a few factors including the ad’s past performance. Google creates an AdRank which takes into account the quality score and the maximum CPC (cost per click) that the ad is willing to pay. The advertiser with the highest AdRank wins that spot on your site, but what they pay is based on their quality score, and the AdRank of the other bidders. This rate, which is not necessarily their maximum bid, is therefore heavily impacted by the amount of bidders in the auction pool.
Watch this 5-minute video for all you need to know about Ad Auctions (and remember that in YouTube you can always click the CC button to close caption into another language).
Advertisers who are part of AdWords also choose one of three types of ways that they want to target their ads:
1. Contextual targeting is when the advertisement’s keywords (entered by the advertiser) are matched against words used on the webpage.
2. Placement targeting (or managed placements) is when the advertiser hand-picks websites they want to advertise on.
3. Interest-based advertising is when ads are shown to specific audiences based on the advertiser choosing from 1,600 interest categories, and matching them to a specific audience based on a combination of your website’s keywords and the users’ cookies (small files that contain information on other sites they tend to visit, demographic information they may have entered on other websites or social networks, etc.)
To get an overview of how well your ads are performing, click on the Performance Reports tab in your AdSense interface. Here you can see your estimated earnings, page views, clicks, PCR (page-clickthrough-rate), CPC (cost-per-click), and page RPM (average amount of money made per 1,000 pageviews) for any date range you choose.
You can also compare two date ranges. This can be useful if you made a change to your ads or site layout and want to see how that might have impacted the performance of your ads.
One thing to note is that currently all the AdSense reports are based on the United States Pacific Time (PT) time zone and a day is considered to start at 12:00 am PT and end at 11:59 pm PT. There is no option as of yet to change this.
Measuring performance: Reports
Under the Performance Report tab, the left sidebar provides you with a variety of report types.
• Ad units – displays performance reports based on an ad unit (an individual or a set of ads displayed based on the results of one piece of AdSense code repeated in different spaces on your website)
• Ad sizes – displays performance reports based on the different ad sizes you have used on your site
• Ad types – displays performance reports based on the different types of ads ultimately displayed, including images, text, rich media, flash, etc. This is especially useful if you have allowed all ad types, and want to see if some do better than others.
• Targeting types – displays performance reports based on contextual targeting, placement targeting, and interest-based advertising
• Bid types – displays performance reports based on ads that are paid by CPC (cost per click) or by CPM (cost per thousand impressions)
To makes sense of the reports, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with common digital advertising terms such as ad click-through-rate, matched revenue per thousand impressions (matched RPM) and revenue per thousand impressions (RPM). Google has a comprehensive glossary for the terms that are used in its AdSense reports. In addition to the glossary, Google also has this 2-minute video that provides a step-by-step explanation of how to use advanced reports.
A custom channel is a group of ad units defined by you for reporting purposes. For example, you might create one custom channel for your homepage, and one for a section front and another for a layout that you are trying out at the top of a page.
When creating a custom channel, you can also check the option for “Show this custom channel to advertisers as a targetable ad placement”. This important option allows you to optimize placement targeted ads by creating a channel which groups ad placements by topic, ad format, or location on a page – all important distinctions for advertisers looking to buy a specific location or reach a particular audience. Once you check this option, you will be asked for more information:
• Ads appear on: Note where ads in this placement appear on your site – on the homepage, or on other types of pages.
•Ad location: Select the location on the page where ads in this placement appear. For example, you might make a placement featuring ads in the top right of your pages.
• Description: This is what an advertiser will probably use to decide whether to place the ad or not so be very specific. Even go so far as to suggest an audience type who will likely view these ads.
• Site language: The primary language of your site content.
These are custom channels for reporting on your ads based on the directory structure of your site. By entering a top-level domain name or main web address of your site, you can track all the pages on that domain, or you can enter a partial URL, which would allow you to track ad performance on a particular section on your site.
If you are using Google Analytics for your website, you can also link your AdSense data with your Google Analytics account, which will give you even more information about who is clicking on your ads. For example, you can see the geographic region where they’re coming from, what referring site sent them to your site, and how long they stay on your page before clicking an ad.
To see your AdSense data, either click on the Content section in the Google Analytics navigation sidebar for your AdSense reports, or click the AdSense Revenue tab for a breakdown of your traffic by AdSense impressions, clicks and revenue in many other reports.
Optimising your ad performance
Linking AdSense to Google Analytics is just one way to measure the performance of your ads so that you evolve your strategy to get the highest possible returns from your ads. You’ll want to interpret your data and make small, informed changes to improve your advertising strategy. There are several different ways to optimise the performance of your ad network advertising. According to Google:
• Wider ad sizes tend to perform the best because of how much easier they are to read. AdSense suggests a few sizes that work best when you create your ad unit, but it is important to keep in mind your own website’s layout.
• Customise the colours of text, links and the ad background to integrate better with your site.
• In general, ads located above the scroll tend to perform better than those that require users to scroll to see.
• Ads placed near navigational aids and other engaging content also perform well due to high visibility.
Limiting ads through blocking
Of course, the best way to optimize the amount of money you get for ads is to allow as many advertisers as possible to enter the ad auction, simply and easily. However, you could have ads placed on your site that are offensive or ads for your competitors that you would want to block from advertising on your page. To block or limit ads, you can click the Allow & Block Ads tab to include specific URLs, topics, sensitive categories, or even specific ad networks.
You also do have the option, on your settings page, to hold all ads for a 24-hour review period before they show up on your site. However, the default is to run ads immediately which will maximize your potential revenue by opening up the competition to more ads.
Other Google ad services
Connect with high-quality advertisers
The Google Affiliate Network is a free service to connect accepted publishers to high-quality advertisers, currently supporting websites from 80 countries. It allows for a more flexible pricing scheme, determined between you and the affiliate. But it also requires more pro-activity to keep up your relationship with the affiliate advertisers. See the publisher optimisation checklist for an overview of how to stay on top of things.
Learn more about the Affiliate Network.
Keeping up-to-date information in DoubleClick Ad Planner
The DoubleClick Ad Planner is a free service that allows advertisers to quickly find websites that match their target audience. So it is important to make sure that your website information is complete and up-to-date so the right advertisers will find you. In your DoubleClick Ad Planner publisher profile, you can include a 250 character description of your site, the URL of a page on your site that describes how to advertise with you, up to five categories reflecting the content of your site, the different advertising types, formats and sizes that your site supports and whether you would like to share your Google Analytics data with DoubleClick Ad Planner.
Test different designs and pages
This new service allows you to do some advanced A/B testing on your website. You can create up to five different versions of a webpage and when someone visits the site, they will be shown one of these options. Then you can report on these different webpage options against your Google Analytic goals to understand how different layouts impact your click-through rate (see future issues of the Digital Briefing for more about Google Analytics and goals). Learn more about the Google Content Experiment, or get an overview on how to setup a content experiment.
Special service for small business
DoubleClick for Small Businesses is free service (if you serve less than 90 million monthly ad impressions, not including AdSense ads) provides you with several features to take greater advantage of your AdSense account. If you are at a point where you have begun to receive requests from advertisers, or you manage multiple ad networks, or you just need greater control over your ad delivery, the service will help you to do all of that. For example, you can limit the amount of times a user sees the same ad within a given period, or enable real-time competition between Google AdSense, Affiliates and third party ad-networks, or you can create mobile-specific targeting options. See a full list of features.
Other AdSense products
• Link Units: display a short list of related topics that the user clicks on to get even more targeted ads. This is a smaller display and can be useful in spots where an ad unit wouldn’t fit into the layout.
• AdSense for search: Create a Google search on your site and if a user clicks on one of the ads in the search result you will earn revenue. The search can be just for your site, for a collection of sites, or for the whole web. You can also prioritise or restrict the search to a section of your webpage.
• AdSense for mobile content: Google ads on your mobile webpages
• AdSense for feeds: Google ads in your feeds
• AdSense for video: InVideo overlay and text overlay ads for your video content
• AdSense for games: advertising specifically for games played within the browser
• AdSense for domains: links, search results, advertisements and other content for your unused domains
• AdMob: Google ads for your mobile applications
To get a more in-depth view of AdSense, you can go through the thorough online lessons at the AdSense Academy.
Warning: How not to increase revenue
AdSense has fairly strict policies against certain practices that would encourage fake click-throughs. A big one is masking ads – you cannot make it difficult to distinguish ads from your content. You also cannot use any language to encourage people to click on the ads, or place misleading labels above ad units such as “Favourite Sites” or “Today’s Top Offers”. Google advises to avoid partnering with untrusted or low-quality ad networks, search engines or directory sites in an effort to increase traffic. Lastly, there is a strict rule against clicking on your own ads – even if you’re interested in an ad or looking for its destination URL. Instead of clicking on the ad on your site, Google advises you to use a search engine to find the URL for that company.