AdSense Experiments Review

Just a few weeks ago Google announced AdSense Automatic Experiments, which is a new tool provided by Google to enable you to optimize your AdSense ads. After logging into my AdSense account and clicking enable in the optimization page, I saw the following:

adsense-experiment-opportunities

The ‘automatic experiments’ are the 2 at the bottom. Honestly those 2 ideas didn’t interested me, however it had been a while since I last checked out AdSense Experiments, so I decided to give it a try and set up an experiment of my own.

Starting a new experiment

After clicking to run a new experiment, you have two options: changing ad unit settings, or allowing and blocking ads.

create-new-adsense-experiment-1

Since I’m not blocking any ads, I figured changing ad unit settings would give me the biggest changes in testing. After clicking that, you name your new experiment and choose the ad unit you’d like to test. You have 2 more options about the ‘experiment setting’ that you want to test: ad unit type or text ad style.

Here are the options if you want to test the ‘ad unit type’. All you can choose from is whether you want to display image, text and image, or text only ads.

adsense-experiment-unit-type

If you choose you want to test the ‘text ad style’ you get several options defining the formatting of the text in your ads:

adsense-experiment-font-style

I decided to try a test for both types. One one site I’m testing the ad type, and on another site I’m testing the font style. Keep in mind that you can only run one test per ad unit.

You’ll also see an option asking if you want Google to ‘automatically choose winner’. I was curious what criteria Google would use to choose, so for one experiment I enabled this, and for the other I wanted to be in control.

Results after week 1

I checked results after a couple days, and it said “50% confidence, collecting data.” That makes sense, the test just started.

adsense-experiments-collecting-data

So I waited and checked back a few more days later, after almost 18k ad impressions:

adsense-experiment-week1

Still inconclusive? Google must be very, very conservative when it comes to making decisions. 9,000 impressions for each test variant should be enough to move the needle slightly….Keep in mind this test is a text style one, which is a drastic change from default colors to highly contrasting (dark) colors, should make a decent difference one way or another.

Waiting and waiting

I keep checking back every few days, and still saw the same data – 50% confidence, collecting data.

Finally, after over 2 weeks and 40k impressions the confidence went to 80% that the test is a loss. Somehow the quality score is up (how does the text style affect quality?), but overall RPM is down:

adsense-experiment-week2

The other test I was running is still at 50% confidence.

I decided to end both tests after 2.5 weeks. I’m not going to wait months to get up to the 95% confidence that I’m after. The test that had ‘let google choose’ had not triggered any decisions, rightfully so.

Conclusion

While I admire AdSense for trying to optimize ads for us, I felt as though this was pretty pointless. Yes, I could try again, yet the options to test are so little that I don’t feel I’m ever going to reach statistical significance.

In all my experience, the biggest ad gains have been in testing ad positioning and ad sizes. Only testing the ad type and font gives minimal returns for your effort.

Keep in mind that if your site is running on WordPress, the AmpedSense plugin can automate testing ad position and size.

Have you tried using Google’s AdSense Experiments? Were you disappointed as well?

AdPushup Review – How does AdPushup work?

As creator of AmpedSense (the wordpress adsense split testing plugin), I became excited when I first heard about AdPushup a few years ago. AdPushup is an ad split testing service, founded by Ankit Oberoi and Atul Agarwal. Its website explains a lot of the benefits of using AdPushup, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, how exactly does it integrate? Can I use it on wordpress? What are the minimum requirements?

I reached out directly to Ankit recently, and he didn’t just want to respond via email – he wanted to chat via Skype – awesome! We chatted late one night (he had just finished watching a cricket match and it was midnight over in India), and I was amazed and how friendly and down to earth he was. If we ever get an opportunity to meet up in person I’ll definitely take it!

adpushup

About AdPushup

AdPushup was started in mid-2013, which at the time of this writing makes it about a 3 year old company. While that is relatively young, Ankit explained that they have a great team, solid funding, and will be around for a while.

You won’t get paid by AdPushup (they don’t manage the ad network), instead you’ll get paid via the ad network you’re using, such as AdSense. AdPushup also supports DFP, and has a goal to integrate with all major ad networks.

Requirements of using AdPushup

AdPushup targets medium to large companies, so if you’re a small website or blogger you may need to find another alternative. You need a minimum of 10,000 page views per day to be accepted into their program. This number is so high because they use a machine learning algorithm to make decisions about your ads, and it needs to have enough data to make accurate calculations.

AdPushup is installed via a javascript snippet, which can slow down your site. This method is short-sided. DNS-level integration like how Ezoic does it is a much better method long term; as it won’t slow down your site and will help you generate better reporting.

AdPushup should work on all platforms of websites, wordpress included. In fact they do have a wordpress plugin, although most sites on wordpress may not meet their 10k page views/day traffic requirements.

AdPushup Review

I was hoping to share a personal review with some before and after stats, but after signing up with AdPushup I was never offered into their program. I’m assuming this is because they’re currently in beta and using assisted onboarding for select few publishers.

If you’re in the same boat, try using an alternative like Ezoic; which we’ve had good success with.

How to Exclude Posts or Pages from Showing Ads

When AmpedSense is first installed, it creates a default segment that targets all of your traffic. This means any ad recipe you place into that segment will be shown to all users on all devices, and on all pages, posts, archives, etc. This is great at first, however you’ll most likely want to create some different segments to target what parts of your site you’d like ads to appear on.

If you don’t want ads to appear on a specific article or page, such as your home page, all you have to do is create a segment that targets that page, and then don’t place any ads on it.

Don’t show ads on a specific page:

1. Create a segment for ‘All devices’ and ‘Specific page’, and pick the page you want to exclude.

2. Reorder segments so this segment has the top priority.

3. Don’t add any ad recipes to this segment.

Don’t show ads on the home page:

Follow the same steps above, creating a segment for the home page only.

Don’t show ads on a category of posts:

Same steps above, but for a segment that matches a specific category.

Don’t show ads on…

Get the hang of it? Just create a segment for whatever you don’t want ads to show up on, make it highest priority, and then you’re done.

Toggling the Testing flag

To make your reporting page look a little cleaner, you can choose to toggle the ‘Testing’ flag to ‘No’ in the segment admin so that it doesn’t show any stats for a segment that you’re not really testing.

AdSense Alternatives for Blogs

Before you give up on AdSense – make sure you’ve tried AmpedSense!

I know Google AdSense can be discouraging sometimes, and the easy fix is to try another ad network, but before you switch to an AdSense competitor, be sure to consider the following:

  • Google is the largest online advertising network in the world
  • AdSense has some of the most configurable ads, allowing you to choose exactly how they look on your site
  • Google has the best reputation around for sending payments on time

So, feel free to look around, but when you’re disappointed with other ad networks and are back on AdSense, try the following to get better earnings:

  • Make sure you’re showing your mobile users ads that are specifically sized to them. With mobile traffic at almost 50% of users, they cannot be ignored!
  • Try testing different ad positions. People can become banner-blind to ads placed in headers and sidebars.
  • Try testing different ad sizes. Advertisers bid based on the ad size, so you may be missing out on advertisers if you’re not running the ideal ad size.

All of the above can be facilitated with the wordpress plugin AmpedSense. It’s a free, easy download – check it out!

 

AmpedSense 4.5 Released!

I’m happy to announce a brand new major update to AmpedSense, version 4.5!

You all sent me your feedback, and I listened. Check out all the new features:

  • Client side render mode – Cache friendly!
  • New segment types – Category Lists and Specific Category List
  • 3 more widget positions (up to 6 now)
  • 3 more shortcode positions (up to 6 now)
  • Improved Google authentication
  • Various bug and security fixes

If you downloaded AmpedSense via the wordpress plugin directory, simply update to the newest version in your plugin admin.

If you’re a premium user and you purchased before December 2015,  contact me and I’ll issue you a license that unlocks premium features on the version you can download from the wordpress plugin directory. This will be the last time you’ll have to manually upgrade.

I know you’re going to love it!

Godspeed,

Ampedsense

Split Testing with Caching Plugins

If you’re using a caching plugin (such as Wp Super Cache, Fastest Cache, or WP Rocket, etc), be aware that it affects how split testing is performed.

A cache works by saving the server-processed page to a static file, so that same exact page is shown to every visitor without having to recompute it (that’s why it’s faster).

However when you’re split testing, you want to show slightly different versions of pages to your visitors. Visitor A should see a page rendered with your first ad recipe, and Visitor B should see that page with your second ad recipe. If a cache had saved the page, then visitor B would never see a custom page with the second ad recipe, and you’d never get stats on which ad recipe is the best.

Most ad rotation plugins do not work if you have a caching plugin enabled in wordpress.

Luckily AmpedSense is cache-friendly if you choose ‘Client render mode.’ This allows split testing to happen in real time, instead of showing the cached version of your split test.

Even in client render mode, you’ll still have to remember to reset your cache whenever you make a change to ads.

Learn more about Client vs Server render mode in AmpedSense.

Render Mode: Client vs. Server

A new feature in AmpedSense is the render mode. This allows to you choose whether the split testing is performed at the server level (ie, in PHP), or at the client level (in Javascript).

Server mode is the default mode, and decides the recipes that will be shown to the user before they receive the page.

Client mode is cache-friendly, and allows the decision to be made once the user loads the page in their browser.

The main difference is that client mode is wordpress cache friendly (ie, even if you have a caching plugin enabled the split testing will happen in real-time), where in server mode the recipe chosen will be cached and not rotated until the cache expires.

Client mode gotchas

Even if you’re using client mode and have a caching plugin enabled, you’ll still need to reset your cache every time a new recipe is added/deleted, changed, or paused/resumed.

Client mode relies on the user’s screen resolution to determine whether the visitor is using a desktop, tablet, or mobile device (for segmenting).

Client mode may (in rare cases) cause extra spacing in your content (depending on if your theme was coded properly). When switching from server to client mode, please clear your wordpress cache and check that everything looks as expected.

Server mode gotchas

You may still run tests in server mode with a cache enabled, and over the long term the effects won’t matter, but for short term it may skew results a little since one variation may be shown one day, and another the next day (and traffic/environment could change from day to day). This is why we recommend that you use client mode if you have a caching plugin activated.

Server mode relies on the user’s browser (user-agent) to determine whether the visitor is using a desktop, tablet, or mobile device (for segmenting).

Switching render modes

To change between modes, choose the desired option from your settings page:


render-mode

How Many Ads is best for a WordPress Blog?

The number of AdSense ads you place on your website can have a huge difference on your ad revenue. If you put too little, you risk not earning as much as you can. But if you put too much, you can annoy your visitors and they’ll never be around to click on ads.

So what is the best number of ads to put on your site? The answer: it depends. Depends on your audience, your site layout, and your site topic. Some traffic will be easily annoyed by more ads, while other visitors may not care. Some site layouts make it easy to add more ads without it looking odd, while others look extremely cluttered once you ad more. And some niches/topics have lots of advertisers and thus a variety of ads, while others have less and you’ll see repeated ads.

How to decide the best # of ads

The only way to find out what’s best in your situation is to split test. By testing one ad vs two ads vs three ads you’ll be able to find the best # of ads for your site. Keep in mind that by adding more ads you may not eventually see more revenue, and once that happens you know you shouldn’t add any more.

For example, consider the following scenario:

  • One ad: $50
  • Two ads: $90
  • Three ads: $92

See how adding a 3rd ad block didn’t really increase your ad revenue? In this case, I’d stop at 2 ads. However sometimes you’ll see that by adding more ads you’ll actually earn less, and in that case it’s easy to know which is the clear winner.

Case Study

Consider this site that had 2 decently performing ads. Using AmpedSense, I ran a split test that showed Ad #1 vs Ad #2 vs Both Ads:


numads_forum_post-better
 

So before this site would get either $3 CPM or $7 CPM. Now with both combined it gets $9 CPM, and since they’re unobtrusive it doesn’t bother the visitors too much. This is an increase of 28% in ad revenue!

Yay for increased earnings!

Next round we’ll try a test with 3 ads and see how that performs 🙂

Try Split Testing

The only way you’re going to know which of these works the best is if you AB split test them. If you know how to program, then you don’t need my assistance here. Otherwise, consider using a plugin like AmpedSense to split test your ads to find the optimal configuration that gives you the best CTR.

Here’s how to set up this set of tests in AmpedSense. When creating a new ad recipe to test, note the ‘# Ads on page’ option:


num_ads

 

To test one ad vs two ads, simply create 2 recipes to test against each other. On the first recipe just choose and configure 1 ad. For the second recipe, choose 2 ads and configure them both.

I suggest trying a split test with your best performing ads, grouping them together into separate recipes. Be sure to preview your recipes to ensure you like the way it looks, as adding too many ads may make your site look cluttered. Let the test run for a week (or less, if you get more traffic), and you’ll be able to see how many ads is the best for you and your website!

Give it a shot and let me know what you find out, would love to hear about your increased earnings!

Not able to specify ad size, type, or color

Some users of AmpedSense have trouble setting up their first tests because their ad configuration screen doesn’t allow them to specify the ad size, ad type, or ad color.

Your screen is supposed to look like this:

expected-screen

 

But instead it looks like this:

blocked-screen

 

This happens when you have an ad blocker, such as AdBlock, enabled on your browser. Try disabling the ad blocker add-on, or using another browser without that extension installed, and you’ll be able to see the entire set of options.

Why aren’t my ads showing up?

If you just installed AmpedSense and are frustrated that no ads are displaying, take a look at these common situations that will fix no ads showing on your site:

  1. Do you have a caching plugin enabled? Caching plugins are great, but it may be causing your site to show you a previously cached version of your pages before your ad recipes were enabled. Try temporarily turning off caching, or clearing the cache so you’re seeing the newest, fresh copy of your site. AmpedSense has a special feature called client side render mode which works great with caching plugins, but you’ll still need to clear your cache after making any changes to your ads. Read more about AmpedSense and caching plugins
  2. Do you have a plugin that’s minifying javascript? Some speed optimization or caching plugins will attempt to consolidate javascripts. This breaks AdSense’s javascript and will prevent ads from showing on your site. Try disabling this option in that plugin’s settings.
  3. Did you preview your ad? When creating or editing your ad recipe, be sure to click the preview button so you can see what it looks like before it goes live. Are you able to see your ad when you preview it?
  4. Is this a responsive ad? If so, make sure you haven’t chosen a position that uses left or right alignment (choose center instead). This is because responsive ads take up the entire width of the container they are inside, and aligned ads can’t have containers. Read more about AmpedSense and responsive ads

If you’ve tried all the above and ads still are not showing up, contact support and I’ll be happy to figure things out for you.