About a year ago Ezoic starting a massive advertising campaign all over the internet. You may have seen some of these famous ads claiming to “Double your website’s ad revenue.” It sounded too good to be true – you sign up with them, they optimize your site for a small monthly price, and you get to keep your increase earnings.
What’s great about them is they offered a free trial. What’s to lose by trying it out? So I signed up and started my 30 day trial.
Setting up my Ezoic account
After creating my account with them, I received an email explaining even further:
Why use Ezoic?
- Increased Ad Revenue: Typically 50%-250% more ad income daily
- Happier visitors from improved user experience metrics (like time on site!)
- Easy integration (no work required from you!)
Improving your website using Ezoic will make you more money and win you more traffic!
Gavin explained further:
“Once you integrate, we have a full technical team that reviews and sets up your site before setting it live. Once live, the testing is more or less automated but, I will be here as well as our tech team to look after it if anything unexpected arises. As far as testing goes, your original content and code is never touched. Our system will build new layouts with your original content. Imagine if you will, all the CSS is stripped away from your site leaving the content for Ezoic to re-wrap and package it into new layouts for your users. And if you ever want to revert back to your original, it’s all 100% reversible so you can do this at any time. “
Sounded great. I switched my name server settings over to Ezoic’s and while that propagated I asked a few more questions. Here’s what I learned:
- Ezoic is pronounced how it’s spelled, simply: Ee-zo-ik. I thought it was supposed to be spelled out at first, like “E z, o i c”, as in, “Easy, oh I see”. Haha
- They keep track of your ad revenue by taking over your adsense account. You have to authorize them to become a manager of your Google AdSense account (through Google AdExchange), and then all advertising revenue goes into their own account. In the future you’ll get paid by them instead of a check from Google. While that scared me a little bit, their minimum payout at the time was $20, so shouldn’t be too hard to reach the minimum and get at least one paycheck from Ezoic if I switch and decide to go back to Google directly.
- They ask your permission to get all your prior AdSense and Analytics stats. I guess this makes sense because they want to know about your traffic and how best to optimize ads for it, but seemed a little invasive at first. I opted not to give permission, and sent them a screenshot of my analytics so that they could see I have the required amount of traffic.
I signed up on April 27th. I was hoping they’d start optimizing my site within a few days, but it wasn’t until May 29th (over a month!) that I finally got an email saying my site was ready. They told me that normally it only takes a few hours, but my site was special so they had to make some updates to their system to make it work properly.
Along with the green light, they provided some screenshots showing what my site would look like as it was going through the testing process. Some looked okay, but many looked covered in ads. Check out this screenshot showing the mobile version of my site with over 50% of the screen in ads! Who puts 3 ads above the fold on a mobile layout?
I was pretty bummed out by a lot of the layouts they were going to test. I felt as though the site was unusable in many instances. Above you can see my site has been diminished into a collection of links and 3 ads. Where’s my content??
Here’s another view of how the site looked on the desktop. The square ad totally messed with the heading, making my whole site just look broken:
When I expressed that I didn’t like many of the layouts, they told me I could pick and choose which ones I wanted to opt-out of the testing in their admin. I did that, although they suggested I didn’t because they wanted the numbers (the ad revenue and visitor stats) to make the decisions instead. They were worried I could be turning off potential winning layouts. I ended up turning several layout off against their judgement.
At this point I was a little worried that this was not going to be worth it at all. However being in the conversion optimization industry I know the importance of running split tests and letting the results prove themselves. I gave them the thumbs up from my end and we activated testing.
After ‘optimization’ started, I visited my site periodically, checking in on it, hoping some of the poor layouts would have lost and worked themselves out of the system already. I also watched my stats – both in Google Analytics and in the Ezoic dashboard. Things were not trending well. I also thought I noticed that my site seemed to be slower, acting more sluggish than it should.
After about a week I had seen enough and turned off the testing. I reverted the nameservers back to my host and my site was back to normal.
Here are the results of the testing I saw when Ezoic was enabled (From June 2 – June 9):
- Bounce rate went up from average of 48% to 62%. Increase of 29%
- Pages per visit went down from 4.4 to 3.0. Decrease of 31%
- Server response time (Time to first byte) went up from 200ms to 600ms. Increase of 200%
- Page load time (DOM load) went up from 1.5s to 4.0s. Increase of 166%
These are all bad things. Bad for users, bad for search rankings, bad for revenue! Here are charts showing exactly what happened. I’ve highlighted the time period that Ezoic went live in some images. In other images it’s pretty obvious when performance started to tank:
Pages per session
Server response time
Page load time
Googlebot crawl stats
These images come from various sources – Google Analytics, WebPageTest, and Google Webmaster Tools – and they all consistently show poor performance in many areas once Ezoic was enabled.
I have forward this information to Ezoic, including these screenshots, and they assured me that the increase in visitor abandonment is due to testing (I can understand that – there may be poor variants before you find positive ones), and that the increase in load times is due to their CDN propagation. However I’ve used CDN’s before and they should take hours to propagate, not weeks.
I understand that split testing comes at a performance cost, but it shouldn’t be this high. As someone who prides themselves on fast, usable sites, Ezoic was not for me.
As a side note, I had met with the CEO of Ezoic while my site was getting set up (we lived in the same town and was gracious enough to accept my lunch invitation). He’s a super nice guy, with an extremely successful background and lots of great stories to tell. I had a great lunch with him (and if I recall correctly he even picked up the bill). It was apparent that Ezoic has great leadership and talent on board, however at that time its technology simply was not up to my expectations.