Where did the ad backgrounds go Google?

Now this is quite interesting. Notice anything missing?where did the ad background goThe background behind the ads, formerly a pale gold, is completely gone. Interesting that this coincides with the biggest shopping holiday of the year.

It seems like they have been lightening the background for a while. Lately I’ve been squinting at the adblock section at an extreme angle to see it. I tried it today and saw only white.

Why is Google doing this? Well like any for-profit blogger or website owner already knows, blending the Google ads in with the content by coloring the background white and removing the border increases click-through rates and therefore ad revenue. I assume they are lightening the color gradually in hopes it won’t get noticed by the majority of internet users.

Update: I double-checked in photoshop just to be sure and found that the background behind the ads is in fact still there! However it doesn’t seem to be perceptible to the human eye.

color-google ads


Update 2: It looks like these changes might be a result of a new “AD” label in searches. The “AD” label might not show up for canadians yet. Source: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2309456/Googles-Yellow-Ads-Label-Now-Showing-on-Desktop-Searches

Basing Every Goal on the Survival Number

Last month earnings blasted through my “survival number” of 30$/day like a freight train. Consequently, I’ve found my motivation for working hard melt away, leaving only existential bliss behind.

But the taste of independence is too sweet to risk to days filled with nothing but naps, snacks and video games. Now that my most important milestone seems firmly in the rear-view mirror, I must plot a course to the next.

The most dependable source of traffic for me is search engine traffic. Many internet marketers, veterans of the Penguin and Panda massacres, would disagree and claim from their own experience that search traffic is the most fickle. But my tail is long and fat. Take away any one keyword and the effect on the whole would look like normal fluctuation.

In the week of June 3, 2012 – a month after I launched my site – it attracted a total of 172 visitors from searches. Over the next 63 days, this figure doubled. 147 days more and it doubled again. Search traffic doubled a total of 5 times between June 3, 2012 and today – November 11 2013.

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.

My next goal is to meet my survival number with search traffic alone. Based on some numbers and graphs which I will not share here, I’m only 1/4 of the way there. In other words, this goal will require 2 more doublings which based on past history take ~100 days each.

Of course doublings should start to slow down dramatically at some point as the internet reaches its saturation point for information about buckets.

I like this new goal because it looks so similar to the last. Maybe I will base all future earnings goal on that same 30$/day number. It’s a “mind-sized” goal that keeps every number in sharp perspective.

Adsense Rich Media Changes on my site

Just a quick note about the adsense changes I made today.

I took the “text only” ad out of rotation – it’s clear that people click on rich media ads and that CPC has gone up so I think I’m happy with rich media ads. One advertiser selling foldable containers is advertising on the site, and I’ve been quite happy with that advertiser since they seem to be selling something quite useful and it’s well targeted at my readers.

It’s also still been reported as earning higher this week just as last week. I suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes so if this change hurts overall earnings I can easily put it back into rotation.

I’ve also changed the bottom ad to rich media+text – so now all 3 main ad units will accept rich media ads, whereas 2 months ago I accepted no rich media ads on the entire site.

I’ve left the mid-page ads which show up only on the most popular articles out. I plan to phase them out completely before long as those pages are now trying to display 4 ads, which is impossible and always leaves a yellow hole.



Adsense Rich Media Ads Results part 1

Well it’s been 32 days since I started the Adsense rich media ads experiment on my highest earning ad block.

I’m using data from June 6 to today, July 8. The 2 or 3 days the server was hacked will be included because both ads would have been affected the same, and earnings were very low on those days anyway so any statistical noise will affect data very little.

So here are the results.



I’d rather not disclose exact dollar figures, but I’ve disclosed the important data for each ad unit. As you can see, they are almost identical. The key numbers to look at are RPM – or revenue per 1000 visitors for each ad type. Over the last 32 days, the revenue for text-only ads has been almost exactly the same as the revenue for rich media ads. The difference is only about 2% – and it’s actually the text ads which are earning slightly more! So it would seem at first glance that google’s advice to switch to text-and-image ads is, at least for me, bad advice.

But what about my concern that since one ad block is new and one is months old, this will distort the data? Well let’s look at just the last 1/4 segment of the data – RPM for the last 7 days.

1-week-adsense-testJust taking the last 7 days into account, we are in fact seeing a significant difference. Now instead of a -2% difference, it’s a positive 25% difference showing up in the data when comparing the two side-by-side.

It’s worth mentioning that overall CPM is lower for both ad units for the past 7 days because of enormous referral traffic from Reddit and other sites. This always lowers my CPM while doubling or tripling overall traffic – an overall boon for my statistics.

Adsense Experiment Conclusion

Sorry, but there isn’t one – at least not yet. The data seems to be displaying 2 different messages, which to me means we need to gather more data! So I’m going to leave this experiment running for at least another 30 days.

Soon – I’ll run the numbers on the banner ad I put up mid-june and see whether I should remove it, or test a different ad block.


Yet Another Way to Sneak Google+ Into Everything

Google is desperate to get people using Google+. They covet that priceless metadata that right now only Facebook has, called the “Facebook Like.” Many of the end-of-year bonuses now at Google are directly tied to how much Google+ product you can push on the mostly unwilling crowds of internet users.

The latest of hundreds of attempts to get real people using Google+ is present in the brand new Adsense scorecard, which made its debut right around Adsense’s 10 year anniversary this past week.

It’s actually slightly useful – lets you know opportunities you’ve missed and what you can do better. I’ve already made a couple of changes based on the scorecard, and will probably installing a site caching plugin to address page speed performance as well. Of course right there at the end, they stick “Add a Google+ Button” – as if that’s going to actually help with earnings from Adsense?

I’m sick to tears of Google+ already, and I don’t even use the program.


Adding a Banner Ad


Today I finally added a third ad to my main website.

Adsense only allows 3 ads per page, and I’ve been running just 2 on 98% of my pages for the past few months.fgi-new

I put the ad up based on another of Google Adsense’s recommendations and a recommendation from another adsense publisher who gives mostly simplistic advice, but some good stuff.

I like my old design better. I think I’ll like my new design if I get rid of the like button.

Here’s what it used to look like.

fgi-oldThis test shouldn’t interfere with my other ongoing test with rich media ads, which already shows about a 30% increase in revenues per ad view compared with text only ads. This top banner ad should affect both ad rotations exactly equally.


Should I allow Adsense Image ads?

In summary – yes and no. You want to try both ad types at the same time and see which one does better over a 30 day or longer trial period. Then eliminate the underperformer. 

I’m using this post as a very extended annotation in google analytics because for some reason it only allows 160 characters. What is this, 1995?

Anyway yesterday (June 4 2013) Google asked me to allow images as well as text ads on my highest paying slot, a 336×280 at the top of a certain website about buckets.  They came to me promising up to 30% increase in weekly earnings, which is the same as a 30% increase in monthly earnings actually, if you do the math.

The unit was making about 10$ a day. For comparison, rent costs about 13$ a day, so this is a fairly important ad.

This is the 3rd or so time they’ve come to me begging me to allow those image ads. I’ve always clicked no but I figured – why the heck not – and clicked yes this time.

Day 1 of Rich Media Adsense Ads

The next day was depressing. Ad revenue for the entire site actually dropped by half.

I looked to the internet for some advice – and wouldn’t you know it I found some.

Apparently image ads used to have not such a great reputation back a few years ago, but more recent experience seems to indicate that they DO improve earnings. They may actually attract less clicks but since a single image ad may be buying out 4 smaller text ads, the payout per click can be much greater.

But the people who know better than me advised, each site is different. Which is true. Some sites get better responses to images and some text. Google’s algorithm is only as good as the average.

There’s a simple solution – test both at the same time for an extended period of time to get some hard numbers.

A/B Split Testing

I’m using 2 easy to use, free tools that any adsense site should already have set up.

  • Adsense Ad Channels
  • The ad rotation feature in my wordpress Ad Injection plugin.

Instead of just serving one ad in this spot, it’ll be a randomized test between ad A and ad B.

  • Ad unit A: text ads
  • Ad unit B: text or image ads

These will run either-or for 4 to 6 weeks, and after the end of the period we’ll see which one pays off better.

Adsense Ad Channels

I have 2 ad units that are set to serve 50/50 to each visitor. My new one is text only (same as before) and my “upgraded” old unit is now text and image ads. Both ads are the same in all other ways, including placement and size.

I’ve set up 3 ad channels. One for each of these ad units, and a third that adds the 2 together.

ad channels


Based on the reports from other people who have taken Google’s suggestion to allow media ads, I expect new relevant advertisers with image ads to trickle in over the next month. This test will allow me to get those hard numbers that I can confidently go forward with. I’ll be able to calculate a percentage and see how close I came to the alleged 30% claimed. Right now I’m at -50%, so we’ve got a ways to go.

However I expect that the rich media slot will earn more than the text slot by the end of the 30 day test. But there’s no way to know without doing the test right.

Results will be posted in a separate post. If I remember.


I have a few concerns that could muddy the data.

This new ad unit has no experience, it’s like a level 1 warrior on final fantasy. The older ad unit has been running for 6-8 months. I don’t know if the new ad unit will perform at the same level quickly enough to be a good data point. I don’t know enough about how ad units work within the Adsense system to know how quickly my level 1 ad will reach level 6-8. It could be a day, it could be another 6 months. There’s no way to know unless I can gather data from a much longer period of time.

This is the kind of problem that would eat at Taran. It’s at this point I get lazy and just let things slide. I may not have the patience for science.

Notes to Self:

Throw out data from June 5 and before. June 6 2013 and forward is good data.