Should I put ads on my website?

Knock up a quick website on a popular subject, draw in some traffic, make tons of money. Sounds like an easy formula to retire to a tropical paradise in three simple steps, right? Which is why it’s a question I am always fielding from bloggers just starting out; should I put ads on my website? The answer is a bit more complicated than you might think.

What ads should I put on my site?

The big name in the room is Google Adwords. This is the defacto and most popular ad platform for websites. It’s the inverse of the Google Adsense platform, where companies pay Google to place ads around the web for them. If you’re accepted into the Adwords program, those companies’ advertisements will end up on your website. If is a big word. Google don’t accept any and every site into their program. The rules often change, but you need to have an established and legitimate site with unique content.

Beyond Google there are myriad other options to partner up with, some with less strict acceptance rules, albeit expect them to pay less. Worthy of note are niche platforms that operate in specific verticals – fancy marketing speak for industries. From food to photos, there are ad platforms that seek out advertisers from only that vertical, and likewise, websites to place those advertisements on. For example, big food brands love to have their ads on recipe websites. These can often pay a little higher as the advertiser expects the website reader to be more targeted and ultimately relevant to their brand. This will take a little Googling around on your part, but ad money powers the web.  You’ll be surprised by how many platforms and options are out there.

If you choose one of these platforms you will likely be paid per impression (CPM) or per click (CPC). The former is an amount you will be paid for 1,000 impressions. E.g. your site shows company X’s ad 5000 times and in turn you will be paid 5 x CPM rate. CPM rates vary like anything else but it’s rare to see them exceed £2-3. CPC models pay you each time a website visitor clicks an ad on your site.

Another option is going it alone manually. If you operate a niche website you might be able to strike a deal with a business yourself. Let’s say you have a website devoted to your local area – you might be able to get a local business or two to pay you directly. Chances are (if you’re not greedy) the price you’ll be asking for an ad on your site is far less than they’re being quoted by print or radio media in your local area. Of course, to do this, you’ll need to demonstrate to the business how ads on your site are valuable, and that usually means having traffic to your site.

How much money can I make from putting ads on my website?

The simple answer is – it can vary. Taking Google Adwords specifically, the amount you’re paid is based on the type of ad being shown and then clicked. The more competitive the vertical and the more money the advertiser is willing to pay for each click, the more you will make. This is a double edged sword. Having people click on high value ads on your site might pay a tidy sum, but this also means the competition in the space is much higher. It’s harder to rank your site and harder to generate the traffic you need to make the whole thing valuable.

According to this recent report by Wordstream, these are the top 25 most expensive (CPC) ad terms in the Google Adwords inventory in the UK:

Casino £58.57
Online Gambling £25.45
Finance £13.76
Real Estate £13.57
Money Transfer £12.38
Insurance £11.94
Business Services £11.68
Internet & Telecom £11.27
Advertising £10.45
Vehicle Tracking £10.26
Elderly Health £9.94
Estate Agents £9.68
Video Production £9.41
Locksmith £9.14
Medical Health £8.85
Health & Fitness £8.72
Charity £8.59
Financial Trading £8.35
Education £7.74
Racking £7.47
Loans £7.39
Coffee Rentals £7.31
Mattress £7.22
Law & Government £7.16
Rehab £6.77

That price near each term – that’s the average amount the advertiser must pay to Google every time their ad is clicked. Yep, you read that right, just clicked. Nearly sixty pounds to get one single click on a casino related term (should you rank at the top of the results). If those ads are appearing on your site, you’re getting a proportionate piece of the advertising pie, too. Ever wonder why you see so much spam and/or hacked sites for certain phrases…?

In practice no one sets up a casino focused site overnight, and the next month rakes in millions of pounds worth of ad revenue. The truth is much more prosaic. The reality is you probably have a niche site, and the ads that appear on your site are from operators in that space.

Here’s an example kindly shared with us by one of our own customers. The data represents several years of traffic across multiple websites all running under one Google Adwords account:

Example adwords income for a website
Example adwords income for a website

As you can see, the above user needed to generate millions of impressions before the income really started to build up to an appreciable amount.

Where should I put ads on my website?

This one takes time and experimentation. Generally speaking, the most popular area to have an advert on your site is right at the very top in the leaderboard space. You’ve seen this ad a million times over, up there at the top right hand of the screen – a rectangular ad banner. Typically, the more the user scrolls down the page, the less chance there is of them clicking on your ad.

A common technique is to put a second ad after the 2nd or 3rd paragraph. Just as readers are really starting to get into your content you might be able to pique their interest with an advertisement relevant to the content. At least that’s what platforms like Google Adsense try to do with their ads, which work dynamically within your content to show each user a different ad based on what they know about that user, and what they know about your page.

As a side note, this is why ads don’t have to be a dirty word. The goal here isn’t to try and trick the user into clicking on an ad; your genuine goal should be to present something relevant that may interest them in addition to your content. Imagine you’ve just shown them a great recipe to wow their family with and now you’re showing them a coupon for 20% off their weekly shop. That’s a great experience for the user and hopefully a little extra cash in your pocket too.

Regardless of where you place the ad on your website, we recommend using a responsive ad unit if possible. While the bigger ad platforms like Google Adsense will offer you various sizes and shapes of preconfigured ads to use, the responsive unit automatically fits into your content on the fly. It understands what device the ad is being displayed on, the dimensions of the viewing experience and browser and presents an ad that fits best. With the vast computational resources someone like Google has at its disposal, it’s usually safe to say they know what performs best in any given situation. Trust them.

Therein it’s also worth investigating how users interact with your site. Do they mainly view your website on a desktop browser or are you seeing more mobile devices visit? If your content skews to users on the go, it’s massively important to consider their user experience and how you present your ads. It’s a completely different ballgame to the desktop experience where you have a lot of real estate to play with. Mobile devices often have limited screen space, so being respectful of the user’s browsing experience is key.

How do I put ads on my website?

We’ve gone over the why and where, but what about the how? Ads are nothing more than an extra piece of code to add to your existing site. At their most basic they can be as simple as an image, with a link to your advertising partner. Usually they’re more complex, and might use Javascript. Again though, it’s as simple as plugging that code into the area of the site where you want it to appear.

Chances are, if you’re running a website through a hosting company like us, you’re running WordPress. The reason you smartly chose that application was the easy drop in plugins to add simple functionality like – you guessed it – advertisement management systems. One plugin I’ve personally had success with is Ad Inserter. The core functionality of this plugin is free which lets you get to grips with insetting ads into your content. Using a plugin like this, you can specify certain rules for how plugins appear: after X many words, Y many paragraphs or only on pages and not posts.

Another consideration is Google AMP – Accelerate Mobile Pages. If you are generating Google AMP pages for mobile users, more than likely you’ll need to use another tool to deploy these ads. This is somewhat trickier and more advanced than the scope of this guide – but again there are WordPress plugins to handle this if needed. Ask away in the comments if you have any advanced queries.

A few general tips for adverts on websites

 

Don’t game it

Under no circumstances click on your own ads, and don’t encourage friends and family to do so either. Companies like Google operate sophisticated machine learning systems; they have enough nous and know how to suss out when they’re being played. At best the clicks will be disregarded, at worst you’ll simply be ejected from their platform altogether. Similarly don’t worry if you accidentally click on one when testing the site, just don’t make a habit of it.

Patience

Depending on the type of ad you have on your website, it can take some time for them to start really working for you. Some contextual ads (that change based on the users browsing history or the content on your site) take time to learn what works best for your page.

Trial and error

As I touched on above, it takes experimentation to really hone in on what works best for your site. Implement a set of ads, then sit back and watch for a month or two. Review what seems to have worked, and what hasn’t. Mix and match different ad providers inventory perhaps, to see if one works better with your readership. Don’t get disheartened if the money isn’t flowing in. Focus on growing your site, building your readership and optimizing your ads and their placement. The revenue will come in time.

Every penny counts

Those meagre few pennies that trickle in each month don’t seem like a whole bunch by themselves right now, but wait. Over time they can start to add up to real money. And remember that for most sites this is passive income that doesn’t require any effort on your part. The site, content and ads will sit there 365/24/7 with revenue potential. You might only earn enough over the year for a cheap dinner at the fish and chip shop one night – but it’s still cash you wouldn’t have had before – and any small success can be built upon over time.

Don’t go crazy

One or two ads is plenty. You might think the more the merrier, but the result is a poor user experience. That in turn means more people bouncing off your page, less traffic and less revenue. Most websites will find that one really good well placed ad often outperforms everything else. In those cases it makes sense to focus in on those 1-2 star placements and drop the rest. You’ll give the user of your site a better experience, they will stay longer, and hopefully click on more ads.

Businesses

Just don’t do it. If you’re a business selling a product or service, just say no to ads. It might seem like an extra revenue stream but its more than likely just going to turn your customers off. It looks tacky, feels tacky and ultimately might be an advertisement for a competitor. You should be making far more money selling your product or service than the side hustle of ad revenue. And yes, believe it or not, I see this time and again.

Start from day one

The sooner you can start to implement ad inventory into your site design the better. Not only does this help you start to feel more comfortable with displaying advertisements on your website, but so will your visitors. Starting with website ads from day one, as opposed to dropping them in overnight after ten years of building an audience are completely different experiences. Most readers and website users understand that ads are necessary if you’re not otherwise charging them. Just be respectful and considerate with their usage and you’ll be fine.

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