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One of the most overlooked and least understood aspects of running an ad-based website that I think small to medium-sized publishers make is that of ad placement.

Many publishers simply slap up some banner ads (or Google AdSense ads) and never give any thought to how effective the placement of those ads is. Yet the placement of ads can mean the difference between great results and no results.

While I've read lots of articles that try to provide concrete placement tips, I think that is impossible to do. Each website is different and a lot of factors must be considered when optimizing ad placement.

Thus, here are some general tips to help you determine how to position your ads more effectively:

  • Above the fold = gold. Although positioning within the above the fold area can lead to dramatically different results, in general, your most valuable ad space is above the fold for the obvious reason that every visitor to a page on your website is guaranteed to view the space above the fold.
  • Understand how your users use your website. Understanding how your users typically interact with your website is the biggest boon to ad placement.

    One of the best ways to determine this is to use an analytics service that offers heatmaps. Clicktale and Clickdensity are two such services.

    Once you know the locations where your users interact most heavily with the pages on your website, you can make some educated guesses about ideal ad placement.

  • Proximity to content is key. In general, the further away from your content your ads are, the less effective they will likely be. Therefore, placing ads as close as possible to content is usually highly-desirable.

    Take news articles, for instance. You'll notice that many websites place ads in the middle of the article (as seen here). This can boost ad effectiveness considerably as this general area in the center of the screen within content is usually extremely effective.

  • There's no substitute for experimentation. As I mentioned above, there are no hard and fast rules for ad placement. As such, experimenting with different placements (and even different unit sizes) is crucial.

I have personally seen the difference various ad placements can have on ad revenues and would encourage all online publishers who haven't invested a whole lot of time in optimizing ad placement to make doing so a priority.

Your bank account will thank you for it!


Published 17 September, 2008 by Patrick Oak

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Comments (1)

Mihkel Jäätma

Mihkel Jäätma, Founding Partner at Realeyes

Ad placement indeed matters! Top media buyers are definitely aware of that and already take advantage of different ways to optimize placement.

One method for doing so is eye-tracking. Below is one recent example, showing another factor to consider in placement: contrast to background. In this case blue banner attracted over a third more attention than a red banner against red background.


The same study also shows that below the fold ads are not necessarily dead from the start. Very likely because this page has successfully followed your advice in the 3rd bullet point! :)

about 8 years ago

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