The keys to an effective display ad strategy is pretty straightforward:
- Position your ads in places where visitors are likely to notice them; and
- Style your ads in a way that visitors are most likely to engage with them.
One of the effective ways to accomplish the first bullet above is to insert ads into sections of the site where content is normally featured. This helps to combat banner blindness and increases the likelihood of visitors at least seeing the ads on a site (and hopefully of interacting with them as well).
The hard part, of course, is putting these ideas into practice. To go beyond theoretical suggestions, below we highlight several sites that do an excellent job of placing their ads in areas of a site where visitors would be hard pressed not to notice them.
Site #1: Kiplinger
The below ad for Square juts into the body of the article, making it difficult not to notice while consuming this content. Though this ad doesn’t completely interrupt the reading experience, it takes up quite a bit of prime real estate and is positioned right next to the text.
Allowing this ad to run as text with styling matching the natural links on the site would improve performance even further.
Site #2: eHow
This site is one of several general knowledge properties that also happen to serve as great examples of effective monetization strategies (About.com is another great source of monetization inspiration that we’ve highlighted before).
Take a look at the screenshot below. At first glance, it’s quite difficult to distinguish the text ad from the instructions. The styling of the ad unit helps it to blend in, which no doubt improves performance.
Site #3: Digital Inspiration
This popular technology blog is always trying out new implementations of a basic concept: an AdSense ad immediately after the first paragraph. The below example shows an image ad, but text-based ads appear here regularly as well:
Site #4: Houston Chronicle
We don’t usually think of newspapers as being on the cutting edge of monetization, but this site has clearly focused in on a best practice for maximizing AdSense ads. Similar to many examples here, the ad below is styled to match the surrounding content almost perfectly:
Site #5: The Simple Dollar
This personal finance site is a good example of a standard AdSense implementation in the middle of an article. Below is a screenshot of a text 300×250 rectangle that appears after the third paragraph of an article:
Site #6: 101 Cookbooks
This cooking and recipe blog inserts two side-by-side 300×250 ad units right above the start of the actual recipe. It looks like they’ve sold directly to a few advertisers, and are using this configuration to ensure they deliver good results:
Site #7: Yahoo! Finance
Yahoo! hosts one of the world’s most popular finance portals, which the company monetizes primarily through display ads. On the Finance home page, there is a lengthy list of article headlines and summaries covering a range of finance news and analysis.
Integrated into this list are occasional ads styled similar to the organic content on the site. This similar styling is no coincidence; it helps to disguise the ads, which leads to higher engagement and click rates:
In the screenshot above, the headline about Credit Cards with 0% APRs is a CPC ad (without the “AdChoices” label, it would be very hard to detect).
Site #8: MoneyTalksNews
This site is another example of an ad unit interrupting and taking up the entire width of the content. Note that the text ads are also styled to match the surrounding text:
Site #9: Len Penzo
Below is an example of a site that puts an ad at the very beginning of an article, between the title and the first word:
It’s worth noting that this strategy has some risks. As shown below, there are three large ad units plus a link unit above the fold–and zero words of the article. Google has made it clear that sites deemed to be top-heavy with ads will be penalized. So while the current earnings of this page are probably great, they may be coming at the expense of long-term traffic.
Site #10: TVGuide.com
Yes, TV Guide is still around. And they’re adjusting to a world where most of the eyeballs on their information come through a computer screen. Below is a screenshot from a page displaying a local TV schedule, featuring a text-based AdSense unit appearing in between the listings:
Site #11: ChatSports
This sports news site inserts a text-based leaderboard ad unit between the feature image for an article and the actual text:
For sites that make money primarily through CPC-based display ads, there are some relatively simple ways to improve performance. The sites above are good examples of properties designed to maximize visibility of their ads, which generally results in more clicks and more earnings.