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Ad Design – Tactics to Increase Your AdSense Earnings Overnight

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of May 2008 Adsense 0 Comments

increase-adsense-earnings.jpgOver the last week I’ve been covering a few tactics that can lead to a significant overnight increase in your earnings with AdSense (and other ad networks). So far we’ve looked at AdSense Ad Positioning and the number of AdSense ads on your page.

Today I want to talk about AdSense Ad Design – another key factor in the performance of AdSense ads.

In my previous posts I’ve talked about how changing the positioning and numbers of ads has seen significant changes in my own AdSense earnings at different times – ad design can have a similar impact.

AdSense give quite a bit of control over how text ads can display on your site. You can change the color of a number of elements in ad units by changing the ‘color palettes’ that you choose.


As you can see above in the ‘default’ color palette there is the option to change the color of ad borders, the title, background, text and URL. There are rumors floating around at the moment that we might have more control over the font of ads too in the future (I’ve been seeing a variety of fonts in my own ads lately which is a signal that Google is experimenting).

Unfortunately there’s not a single color palette that works best on every blog. As with everything – testing different color schemes is the only way to work out what works best for you.

There are a number of different AdSense ad design strategies that bloggers have used over the years. Lets look at three of them:

1. Contrasting AdSense Ads

When I first started experimenting with AdSense the trend among publishers was to do everything possible to make the ads be seen. The theory is that if people see the ads they’ll be more likely to click them.

The result was some of the most horrendous color combinations that you’ll ever see put together in an AdSense unit.

Warning – what you see below might induce headaches….


I’m not sure why anyone would select this kind of combination but it was commonplace a few years ago. I saw a number of publishers back in that day saying that a Red/Yellow combination worked best.

The Pros of this design where that they were eye catching – the Cons were that they didn’t do a lot for creating a great first impression of your site.

2. Blended AdSense Ads

As a result the trend moved from ‘clashing’ ads to what was known as a ‘blended’ approach.

The keys to this approach were to set the background and borders of ad units to match the background of the site that they were going. In doing so you removed any border/boundary between the ad an your content.

The Title was then made to be the same color as links on the site. Text was made to match the color of text on the site and the URL field either was made to match the title OR to be as light a color as possible (a light grey) so as to blend into the background as much as possible.

The attempt was to make the ads blend into the site as much as possible and look like an integrated part into the site. So ads here at ProBlogger with a blended design might look like this:


The pros of this approach was that ads didn’t clash with the site and as a result didn’t scream ‘CHEAP AND NASTY MONEY GRABBING WEBSITE’. The ads also performed better in most cases than a ‘clashing’ ad. The Cons were that sometimes the ads could blend too much into the site, particularly those sites which had a loyal readership which became blind to the ads.

3. Complementary AdSense Ads

Over the last couple of years another term has crept into AdSense publisher circles to describe ads – ads that ‘complement’ a site.

These ads are similar to blended ads but they don’t completely blend in. They complement the colors of the site but aim to also stand out a little by adding a different background and border color. The color you use might be unique to the ads but still ‘match’ the overall colors on the site.

This type of ad is what Google recommend if you’re putting an ad in your sidebar or some slightly out of the way part of your blog as it draws the eye to it. However if you’re putting an ad in or close to content they suggest a blended ad.

4. Designer AdSense Ads

Most publishers still use a blended or complementary approach (I do) but over the last few years a number of AdSense publishers have played with incorporating different design elements around their ads to integrate them even more fully into the site.

There was a period where publishers got away with aligning images directly beside, above or below ads – AdSense cracked down on this and now don’t allow it at all – however there are ways to incorporate the ads into the design of your site.

I first wrote about this in a post called Designer AdSense Ads where I highlighted these two ads from Karen Cheng’s blog:

Adsense-Ad-Design-Designer-1 Adsense-Ad-Design-Designer-2

You can see the ads themselves are placed inside frames that integrate the ads into the design of the site.

Interestingly Karen no longer uses these ads on her blog. I’ve seen a number of publishers attempt to do this with mixed success. It’s something to experiment with.

So Which AdSense Ad Design is Best?

The choice of which AdSense ad design to choose for your blog is a decision that you need to weigh up on a number of fronts including:

  • Performance – test different designs to see which converts best in terms of click through rate
  • Aesthetics – each of us have a different preference on what does and doesn’t look good and on how willing we are to allow ads that ‘stick out’ a little.
  • Other Competing Design Elements – if your blog’s design is ‘busy’ and has a lot of competing points of visual interest for readers you might need to increase the ‘loudness’ of the ads in order to compete.

When it comes down to purely financial considerations – the fact is that sometimes blending works best and on other occasions it can be better to go with a more contrasting approach.

Check out the official advice from AdSense:

The color strategy you should use on your site varies depending on the ad placement and the color of the background where the ads are placed. Review the table below for a quick reference about which strategies we suggest will work well on your site.”


You can see the overall design of your site comes into question quite a bit in the eyes of AdSense.

Other Design Choices

There are a few other choices that publishers have when it comes to the way that their ads look.

Curved Corners

One somewhat recent chose that AdSense have given us is the ability to round the corners of our ads. As publishers we now have the ability to have three formats – Square ads, Slightly Rounded ads and Very Rounded ads:

Rounded Corners

Your choice with the corners of your ads only comes into play if you go for a complementary or contrasting approach (ie blended ads effectively don’t have borders that can be seen). The choice will will depend upon the design of your blog. If you have curves on other design elements this will help to integrate the ads better.

Rotate ads

If your blog has a lot of repeat readers who come back day after day you will want to consider changing the design of your ads from time to time so as to overcome ad blindness.

You can manually do this on a regular basis or use the built in mechanism that AdSense offers for you to choose up to 4 different color palettes for your ads to automatically rotate through.

Test Test Test

The key to finding the right AdSense Ad Design for your blog is to test different options and see what works best for you.

One way to do this is to try Split Testing (sometimes called A/B testing). I’ll write up how to do this tomorrow – stay tuned!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Very well-thought discussion of adsense design.

    My natural proclivity is to use something that looks nice to me. Unfortunately, I have no eye for design. Heck, my wife picks out my clothes becuase otherwise I’ll walk out the door wearing a purple turtleneck and khaki pants with tennis shoes!

    Great series, Darren. Looking forward to what’s next!

  2. Darren, blending the ad to site design has always worked for me.

  3. Great post Darren.

    This is exactly what I was looking for. My blog is young and I don’t want to turn people off because of design.

    I want them to read the content and then find an ad link or two.

  4. I guess the last point is the most important one , I’m kind of new to Adsense so first I had contrasting ads which as expected didn’t get any clicks.My clicks improved as soon as I blended them with the layout. But for Adsense to really work I believe you need to get considerable amount of search engine traffic.Traffic from digg, Entrecard don’t seem to have any effect on clicks :(

  5. Nice follow up after yesterdays blog post on this.

  6. Thanks Darren,

    This is extremely helpful information and since I don’t even know if I will make enough with adsense to warrant a payment, I can see how your advice could help me actually make some money. I am going to give it a go!

  7. Nice break down on adsense ads.

    I use a complementary style on my site and for the most part have seen my adsense $ increase since the switch – although it could also be down to the switch in design which happened at the same time + traffic increase :o)

    One thing that I had missed with regards to the ads is the ‘built in mechanism that AdSense offers for you to choose up to 4 different color palettes for your ads to automatically rotate through’. I need to review this to see how the rotation is implemented i.e. every page refresh or daily etc.

    Thanks for this tip

  8. Darren:

    I must be learning a lot from your SixFigure blogging course- I actually knew most of this already from class, and have incorporated complementary ads into my blog – I feel so smart… and cool!


  9. I prefer using link colors that are the same as link colors on my site, and blending the backgrounds!

  10. Can I place the sign up to my newsletter by entering your email in the same webpage that I have adsense? I have notice problogger does this in his home page but google’s adsense program policies says;

    “Referral offerings must be made without any obligation or requirement to end users. Publishers may not solicit email addresses from users in conjunction with AdSense referral units.”

    I’m new to adsense and perhaps I’m misinterpretating. Please, someone clarify this for me.

    Thank you,

  11. This is a very current topic for my blog.

    When I started with AdSense, I chose a blended color scheme, and this resulted in a click-through-rate of X%.

    As an experiment, I switched to a complementary-contrasting hybrid color scheme. My click-through-rate decreased to about 0.5X%. Not good.

    When I recently reverted back to blended colors, the click-through-rate increased back very close to X% again.

    So, for my blog, blended colors seems to work best, but I echo Darren’s advice to experiment with colors on your own blog to see what works best for you.

  12. Thank you for sharing this great article with us! Simply great and includes all necessary informations!

    I agree that Advertisement Design is very important for better click-through rate of your ads, and by that way of course, more earnings!

  13. Thanks so much. This really got me thinking about some great ideas to implement.

  14. No offense, Darren, but this article equated to “test what works for you, but here are some of the obvious default styles available through Adsense.”

    What new information was given there? What works for YOUR site?–why not give a personal experience as to the positioning and styles you employ that PAY BIG?

    I enjoy your posts from time to time, but this one was filler.

  15. There are so many ways to play with the ad format that I haven’t even considered yet. My ads are working out ok in the Adsense optimized template I’m using, but I definitely want to try messing with the formatting. Different color combinations are definitely something I’m going to look into. Right now I’m afraid my ads might blend in TOO much so they don’t attract any attention, especially to repeat visitors.

  16. This is all good information, but I still beg the question, how do you get people to click on your ads at all?

    Personally, I don’t click ads. I know my friends don’t either. Most of them run some sort of ad blocking plug-ins. My blog has been running for four months now, and although I don’t get a lot of traffic, there is a fairly steady flow. I get lots of impressions, but never a click. You’d think that in four month somebody, somewhere would have click at least once… if even by accident, but no.

    Is it really just a numbers game? Ten million impressions means 3 clicks? I don’t think my little blog will ever get there. Perhaps adsense just isn’t for me.

  17. Your article is indeed interesting.

    After reading this post, I realized that making money through Adsense means that one should adjust your approach to presenting your Adsense in the way that is currently accepted.

    It seems that the appropriate approach for Adsense would depend on the currently accepted trends. Hence, an individual should note this and be prepared to accept and adapt to the recommended change.

  18. Thank You Darren…I had not heard of rotating the ads before..Seems like a good strategy..And a built in strategy by Google. Will implement it.

  19. I’ve been considering the rotation of ad styles as a possibility, as I do see symptoms of ad blindness at times when a site has had the same style for a long time. Overall I do blending most often, although I can see the point of complementary designs.

  20. Keith says: 05/14/2008 at 8:14 am

    Can you give any information on how to set up the rotating ad colours? I can’t find anything in Adsense about this.

    I’m using it in the UK, if that makes any difference.

  21. Hi vanleurth,
    The “referral program” is something different from Adsense. It’s when you refer other webmasters to sign up for google adsense. Google does not like the idea that you would require the aforementioned referred webmasters to give you their email before they sign up.

    You are, however, perfectly “authorized” to have any kind of sign-up form on your website for your newsletters, even if you run Adsense on your website.


  22. I use Rotatee to rotate the ads, though the OIO Publisher also does a pretty good job at it. I’m big on trying to blend in ads right now, especially after I redesigned my site!

  23. Great series! I keep waiting for each subsequent post! Thanks!

    I use a blended approach, which makes for good aesthetics, and is working well.

    I have implemented your suggestion of placing the ADs neat the top-left area of the content – would share the (hopefully positive!) results with you…

  24. Thank you Tony.

    By the way. I’m reading a book called the adsense code which I think is very straightforward.

    Any comments about this book. It actually mentions some of the tricks in this post.


  25. Hello! Thanks alot for the article! I also have included Google’s adsense onto my site: http://www.ventureblogster.com.

    My site features entrepreneurs and their success stories. I have added Google Adsense ads on my site and it has not done too much. I need to do some marketing, and I am surfing the web to find out more. Thanks alot again for this post, and I look forward to implementing it!


  26. Ken Kensington says: 05/15/2008 at 8:46 pm

    Hi Darren,

    Why don’t you use adsense on this blog?


  27. I’m still in search for an adsense format that give me clicks. It seems to me that get adsense clicks is a very difficult thing.

    Maybe in the future I get some… :(

  28. For me, blending the ads below a post seems to work very well. It doesn’t really work in the sidebar so much, but I’m not really interested in making them standout. I’d rather them blend in, because it looks better.

  29. Maybe we can try half blending.

  30. I’ve always had success using the complimentary approach.
    I found blended ads dont get the clicks. Usually just changing the url to something that sticks out a bit more but matches the site I find works. Still all blends, but just enough color to make the ads stick out more. Great write up. I enjoyed the others as well, on placement and quantity of ads.

  31. Thanks Darren,

    I will try the tips you give,
    hope my earning will increase,,, :)

  32. hmmm nice……… Thank You Darren

  33. I’ve experimented quite a bit and I have settled for the blended background with Google’s default link colours. Those seem to work best. However, it’s still a struggle trying to maintain my average of $1 per day…

    One problem I’ve realised is the limited advertisers in my niche, resulting in similar ads most of the time.

  34. I’ve been into adsense since last year and I wonder why am I not getting any revenue on it.. Now after reading your article, I found out why.. it’s the placement of my ads and the colors I used.

    Anyway, thanks for the article. I’ll try to enhance my site and follow some of your tips. *Wish me luck!*

  35. I think i shud test everything now..my adsense ads never change all the time..=.=”

  36. This is a good tips. I will apply it on my site.

  37. I read your entire article and found it to be of great use because right now I’m testing out my ads.

    we’ll see what happens….

  38. really good information about color combination strategy in goole adsense, thanks

  39. thank you very much for useful information on adsense

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