Does your highest CTR AdSense ad unit have the best spot for revenue?

AdSense Optimization Boot Camp Tip #2

If you are a publisher who has multiple ad units on a page, whether it is because of personal preference or simply because it is a long content-heavy page, you need to make sure your placement isn’t leaving revenue on the table.  Time and time again I have helped clients optimize their AdSense ads, only to discover they had the highest paying ads are showing in the lower CTR ad units… meaning that the ad unit that has the most clicks by visitors is showing lower paying ads.  This means they are making less than they could be!

It is important to know that Google distributes ads on a first come, first serve basis.  So the ad units that the mediapartners bot sees FIRST in the HTML code is the one that will show the first (and best) ads.  The bot does not look at the overall page output in a browser, so just because the ad is at the top of the page when you look at it in your browser does not make a difference if it is not also the first ad listed in the HTML.  The key is which ad unit appears first in the HTML code.

First, you need to figure out which ad unit is the one with the highest CTR.  Pick out a few pages with the most clicks overall, and set up individual channels for each ad unit.  Name them something obvious so you don’t get confused looking at the stats, that makes it easy to see which ad unit has the higher placement in the HTML code (not the one that is highest on the webpage when you look at it) such as “first in html” “second in html”, or something that you can remember which ad units appear first, second and third when it comes time to analyze the results.  Let them run for a week or so, then analyze the results.

Now, check your stats, bringing up those channels.  Which ad unit has the highest CTR?  If you see the “first in html” channel, all is good.  Now, if “second in html” or “third in html”, you have some work to do.  You need to take the one with the highest CTR and make sure it is the one that appears first in your HTML, such as through the magic of CSS.  If “first in html” only had one click worth seven cents in the week, you might just want to remove that ad unit to make it quick and easy for you.

Don’t fall into the mistake of ignoring click through rate and simply looking at revenue.  Why?  Because enough clicks on a low CTR ad unit that is showing the highest paying ads could result in more revenue than fewer clicks on the higher paying ads.  So it is the CTR you want to be comparing.  This will also help weed out any potential geotargeting issues that could be skewing it – where users from countries outside of your target market area could be seeing ads worth much more/less than the ones insideyour target area.  If you use an ad serving program that supports geotargeting, you can serve these special “… in html” channels only to your target market country, while serving up alternative channels to those outside of the market area.

Even if you think you know which ad unit must make the most money, without individually tracking them, it is always worthwhile in the long run to test it an ensure what you think is true really is true! 

Watch for Tip #3 tomorrow, which is a privacy policy readers can use for their sites running AdSense.  Also, read AdSense Optimization Tip # 1.  Get your optimization tips daily by Subscribing to the JenSense RSS.  And follow me on Twitter.

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19 comments to Does your highest CTR AdSense ad unit have the best spot for revenue?

  • Wow. I just looked at my stats and noticed my #2 block is getting twice the CTR as the #1 on one of my sites. Thanks for the tip.

  • Mike, you won’t be the only one who discovers this… it is a lot more common that you think, and something I have spotted on numerous sites.

  • This is a pretty clever observation.

    But is there any way to overcome google’s limit on the number of channel? Shouldn’t each page be optimized this way? And can’t that only happen if you have a lot of channels?

  • […] ad units on a page it is often found that one ad unit can produce more revenue than multiple units (Jensense has also recently done a nice post on […]

  • I think high CTR sometimes does not work well, so I decided to use 300×250 ads unit for my blog. This is highly recommended by Google, do you think it is the best size now?

  • Thanks Jen Looking at the CTR and your comments I’m making changes 😉

  • 300×250’s are definitely one of the better units if you’re just going to use one. They qualify for image & video ads which means you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting those higher paying placement. Video ads especially can make a big difference if you get a campaign or two.

  • I’m curious as to whether or not this also applies to link units, or are they treated separately. I tend to have a horizontal link unit directly under the logo, and then one skyscraper on the left. Sometimes another small ad on the right, or in the center, if it seems to work for the site. The link unit would normally scan first in the HTML, then the skyscraper, then any other ads.

  • netmeg, because link units don’t show regular ads, if it appeared first in the HTML, it wouldn’t impact the ad unit that is first in the HTML. So for this, just pay attention to the actual ad units and not any link units, search boxes or referral ads.

  • Yes, this is a very interesting piece – something I had not considered properly before now. I KNOW my highest ads get lower CTR, but what I don’t know is how to use “magic of CSS” to swap these ads round. Any pointers anyone?


  • Thanks for all the great tips – one question for you on google link ad units and how they impact revenue…

    If a link ad unit comes before my first, google text ad unit (for example, a 468×60), do the best ads show up in the link ad unit? Or do they show up in the 468×60?

    In other words, do the ads within the landing page of the link ad unit affect what’s shown on my original landing page? Hope that makes sense. I’m trying to max my revenue yield according to your suggestions on CTR.


  • Grrr… this is all over my head I click adsense reports and mostly just see a lot of zeroes 🙁

  • Does your highest CTR AdSense ad unit have the best spot for revenue? | JenSense: It is important to ..

  • […] geinspireerd door Jensense. Blijf op de hoogteVond je deze informatie interessant, zorg dan dat je het laatste nieuws en de […]

  • Great Tips! Thank you for this post, I will need to make some changes on my pages!

  • Zenzele

    This is a great post; and I’ve already made some changes. I have the same question as Steve about the “magic of CSS”. I have several WP blogs, self-hosted, and how to get the last block of AdSense on the single post page to show up first in HTML is at the moment beyond my pay grade…I’d like to qualify for a raise, tho’… Any resources someone can point me to for reference/help? Thanks!

  • I just started monitoring my units with channels so it is a bit to early to tell which is performing best for me. With some early results in, I have a suspicion that it is my second ad unit which is a skyscraper. The first unit in my code is a leader board which means for a user to click the highest paying ad they would have to click the one all the way to the left, which might not be the most visible.

    So, I would like to experiment with the placements and change how they appear in my source code. Does anyone have an example of the CSS to implement this? I have read plenty of posts which discuss “how easy this is” and none (so far) with any examples.

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