When setting up a blog most people would consider that design is an important aspect, but how many people would consider ad placement in that equation?. It’s an interesting point I’d like to cover in this brief guide because I’ve been working with new templates lately and sometimes as much as they look pretty, designers are normally focused on asthetics as opposed to functional placement of advertising.
General ad placement
I’ve covered a fair bit here before in relation to different advertising options, but sizing of ads and how they fit on your blog shouldn’t not be overlooked in the greater picture of your all over setup. The general rule of successful ad placement is getting your ad into a “sweetspot” that blog readers are more likely to click on, and generally speaking this is s as close to content as possible, opposed to removed from it. Inline ad spots, such as a Google Adsense ad placed within the text post for example is highly regarded by many. Me, Ive never been able to use this spot due to design considerations (and the fact it makes picture placement highly difficult), but ads spots directly between text and comment fields for example work well. Side bar spots have various levels of success, where as top banners (above the heading) or footer ad spots have the lowest level of clickthru. Sure, if you’re running ads that pay on a CPM basis (paid on impressions as opposed to clicks) then its probably not going to be a huge deal, but I can say from experience, that the better the click thru rates you deliver the better chance of gaining repeat business, even on a set fee or CPM placement.
This is where things get fun, because the number of ad size spots continues to grow, with some companies now offering “non-standard” ad sizes as well, but I’ll stick to the standard spots as measured by Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance which interestingly also shows the impressions figures on leading music sites (ref: Center for Media Research email)
Wide Skyscraper (160×600)
Half Banner (234×60)
Button #1 (120×90)
Full Banner (468×60)
Medium Rectangle (300×250)
Vertical Banner (120×240)
Square Button (125×125)
Micro Bar (88×31)
Button #2 (120×60)
Large Rectangle (336×280)
If you’re surprised by these figures, you’re not alone, so was I when I saw that those dirty great big 728×90 spots were the most popular ad spots in that particular market segment. Would that apply to blogs? well yes and no. Yes, because blog ad spots are coming to reflect the general market more and more, and no, because bloggers also tend to be a little more innovative in some areas as well. The point I’d make though is that is these big banners are what advertisers are using and wanting, and you want to maximise your potential to get advertising on your blog…..well 2+2=4 in this case, and you’d want to be considering them in your mix (an interesting note: Weblogs Inc., runs these ad spots on most of their blogs).
But here’s another spanner in the works: just because they are the most popular sizes doesn’t mean they’ll work well on your blog.
As the stats show 468×60 standard banner spots are dead, they really are, and if your running this size ad spot I’d recommend against if you’ve got alternatives, because people are blind to this size ads. The 160×600 wide sky scrappers are becoming more popular because they allow the ad to be placed alongside, and most importantly next to content, and hence have a reasonable success rate. Expect to see more ads along this line in the future. The half banner was a surprise in that is was so high up the list, and vice versa the rectangle ads because they are so low. I designed the current template I’m using here to run the rectangle spots on the Blog Herald because they work pretty well.
Blog unique spots
Bloggers are lucky (or unfortunate I suppose) in that we’ve got other ad sizes to consider. I’ll cover two I’m using that would be of interest. First, the Google Adlinks bar, which I use in a 728×15 configeration on a number of blogs, and it works well. Its not my highest paying spot at the Blog Herald but it regularly ranks at no 2. On other blogs I’ve had no luck with it, and others its been beyond successful. Why? I’m not sure, it depends on placement and topic, but its well worth putting into your ad mix as an experiment.
BlogAds present another type of ad spot that for a long time I was critical of, but as time goes by I’m changing my mind on them. On two accounts: firstly blog advertisers using the service have finally found out the right way to use the service (in terms of ad graphics) and are getting better CTR from them, and as a consequence, despite a recent drop in impressions here at the Blog Herald according to the Blog Ads charts (to this day I still dont understand how they measure ad impressions), I’m still getting a regular number of advertisers, and despite doubling my advertising price recently, I’m still getting them on a regular basis. Is it my biggest ad earner? no, but its decent money and I enjoy the variety of ads they offer. There’s something to like about BlogAds, sure, maybe its just a familiarity thing but I still like them
The Chitika factor
One last different sort of ad spot that is getting a lot of raves across the blogosphere, and although I’m not using it here at the Blog Herald, I am using it extensively on other sites, and that’s Chitika with its eminimalls ad spots. Sure, they come in a variety of standard and non-standard sizes but its how they look and feel that makes them different. They are simply the best performing ad spots I have ever run on low traffic blogs (ie less that 5000 pages a day). They also work well on higher sites, but at a rate similar to other ad providers (there seems to be a lower CTR with higher traffic…not sure why). Again, as with any ad spots I’d recommend you experiment with them, and certianly recently they’ve launched a number of new size options that I’m still playing with even now. If you want to see how some of the Chitika ad spots work drop on over to The Gadget Blog and take a look, at the time of writing I’m running them exclusively there, or even a site such as Cooking-Gadgets. If your looking at Chitika take a look at the various ad spots and see how you’ll fit them into your old template, or if its a new blog, the template you are putting together. Some ad spots work better than others.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
Dont be afraid to experiment with your template as you would with any other aspect of your blog. First and foremost, its fun. For me getting a template to work is like painting a picture for someone else, its nearly like a piece of art that gives you a feeling of gratification once its completed (although in my case 3 months later I’m playing with it again :-) ) Take a stroll across the blogosphere and be inspired by what others are doing. Theres a lot more variety in blog design now than there was 2 years ago, and many good templates are available for download so you’ve got a starting point in which to create your masterpiece from. Sure, code can be daunting but the best way to learn is to experiment. Even now, if I cant work out whats wrong in a piece of code, for example the other day I had a sluggish template on one of the b5media blogs, so I literally tore out huge chunks of it to see what would happen to the template, and then did things like take out small bits at a time, random bits, all trying to work out what was slowing it down (it actually turned out to be a plugin!).