Determining how much AdSense site targeting earns you

One of the mysteries of site targeting is just how much it earns you. One way is if you happen to see earnings without any associated clicks, simply impressions. But when Google serves up both site targeted ads as well as ads that are earning publishers revenue on a per click basis, it can be very difficult to determine how much money is being earned from each. However, this has now changed with last week’s control panel update, although it is hidden quite well and has gone unnoticed by many, so I thought I would point it out.

First, you need to go into your “Advanced Settings” section of the Reporting tab. Select “AdSense for Content” from the drop down, then select “show data by individual ad unit”. Once you select that from the drop down, a check box will appear that says “Show data by targeting type – contextual or site” which you will need to check. Then when you generate your reports – and it does support channels – you will see it splits into content and site for each date.

When I looked at one of my sites overall that has been targeted heavily for site targeted ads, I noticed my site wide eCPM with contextual was 4-5 times that of the site targeted eCPM. While I expected some differences, it was a much greater difference than I expected. However, AdSense support must have been receiving the same questions, as they then released a blog entry Why the Lower eCPM? I can definitely see how this impression – especially for those publishers that might not pay close attention to the Inside AdSense blog – might make publishers want to opt out of site targeting.

It is also interesting to note the the consistent CTR rate on site targeted ads is about half that of contextually targeted ad units. Perhaps a redesign of the site targeted ad unit is needed to keep it consistent with the other.

It is good to see Google offer more detailed data on their site targeting (they also added support for detailed referral stats), something I was honestly surprised to see them add.

What are you seeing as differences for both eCPM and CTR when comparing site targeted with contextual ads?

Also, forum discussion at DigitalPoint.

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6 comments to Determining how much AdSense site targeting earns you

  • For me the EPCN is 10 times larger on contextual ads. I thought site-targeted ads would make a nice baseline on what I’d make per page – but this is ridiculously low. Still, google says that these ads are only shown if they outbid the other ads that might be shown on that page. I can think of no way to check whether that’s true.

    I would not opt out of them at this point, given that they were shown only a few times. I know a few ad-units where google has trouble showing relevant ads in the first place, if this is what shows up instead – I should be able to figure out who the advertiser is. (with this small amount of money being spent, I cannot imagine that it is more than one advertiser)

    Advertisers are probably still testing the waters on this method, just like site-owners are. If clickthrough rates are consistently lower (in my case probably true as well), one would expect them to pay less then the more successfull of the normal ads.

  • Sounds like a perfect opportunity for Google to lie. There’s no way to verify their contention that they always serve you the highest eCPM rates — you “just have to trust them.” It’s the typical, secretive, Scientology-type attitude taken by Adsense. If they allowed you to track eCPM per page, you’d know this information — but oh yeah, you just have to trust them that the system is optimized for you.

    File this away in the “Don’t be Evil” category. We saw their real motivations when they got into China.

  • It varies for me. On some days the targeted ads had almost double the eCPM of the contextual. Other days they were 1/4. Those high days were bunched together so my guess is that somebody was pretty aggressive with their targeted campaign.

  • What possible incentive does Google have to lie and *not* serve you the highest eCPM possible? Their earnings are tied to your own.

  • Steve

    This has worried me as well for some time. There are lot’s of things that don’t make sense to me at times about Google. One crazy take I just ran across was a site trying to get a petition going for Google to automate 1099s for taxes. Weird.

  • Lundy

    I have finally taken the time to look at the site targeted vs. contextual for one site. Today the CTR is 800 times better on the contextual ads vs. ST.

    OK, I understand that i get paid if they click or not.


    Earnings on the contextual ads are 5 times higher per impression than site targeted.

    Doesn’t look good for the site targeted.

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