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How to Design Your AdSense Ads

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of November 2006 Adsense 0 Comments

christmasThere is always debate about how to design your AdSense ads. Over the last few years there has been a real shift in thinking of what type of ads work best:

Grab Attention – When I first started using AdSense there was a school of thought going around that the best performing ads were those that stand out ALOT from the rest of your blog. The result was that there were a lot of jarring, headache inducing ads out there (I remember experimenting with bright red backgrounds and yellow titles – I’m getting dizzy just thinking about them).

Blend – In more recent times ‘blended’ ads have become all the range. This is predominantly what people are doing these days and the ads involve borders and backgrounds that are the same color as the background of your site and links and text that match the site as much as possible. In this way ads don’t attract a lot of attention but merge (in a sense) with content.

Integrate – In the last 6 months I’ve noticed another shift in the design of AdSense ads being used by some publishers. It’s a fairly subtle shift from the ‘blend’ approach and one where the ad units are integrated further into the site using visual elements around them that both ‘blend’ and ‘grab attention’. This has largely happened in two ways:

  • Pictures Near Ads – This integration started with people experimenting with putting pictures above/below/next to ads (Google themselves even tested it). This technique has caused some confusion and debate within the AdSense community with different publishers being told different things about whether the practice was acceptable or not. The advice I’ve received from AdSense is that you may use images close to ads as long as there is some visual element separating them (a border around the ads or around the image). Having said this I see a lot of ads without such borders that seem to be allowed to remain.
  • Adsense-2-1

  • Designer Ads – Another integration technique that has been increasing in popularity is what I like to call ‘Designer AdSense Ads’. I pointed to one blogger who did this a few months back (with the approval of AdSense). Since then I’ve seen similar techniques used by others.

    In the last week I even came across a product that you can buy that will give you over 100 designer ad borders for use within your site (aff). I bought it myself to try it out and have seen some improvement in the ads that I’ve used it with. The key with designer AdSense ads is to integrate with the rest of your site. I find that when you use such borders on a site where they don’t ‘fit’ that the results (both aesthetically and with CTR) are not great.

Take Home Advice – different techniques continue to work on different sites. I have some blogs where I go with a ‘blended’ approach (like here at ProBlogger) whereas I have other sites which perform better with an integrated approach. I’ve had something to do with a couple of other sites that do better with the old ‘get attention’ approach (sites with a high loyal reader readership that suffer from ad blindness. My advice would be to start with blended ads (they are easier than integrated) but to then experiment with some of the designer ads that are coming out.

This post has been a part of the How to Fine Tune your Blog for Christmas Series.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Good post Darren, I have to agree with you that placing a picture(s) near ads really helps (see the sidebar on my blog for an example). As long as a visible border is there, you’re fine.

    The designer ads still scare me somewhat. I feel Google is contradicting themselves when they say in their TOS that you can’t bring “attention” to your ads or “mislead” your visitors (as above, you need a border between the pics and ads). Yet these designer ads bring far more attention and are fine?

  • I believe the blend/stand out argument comes down to how tech or internet savoy your audience tends to be. Since more and more non-tech savoy people are harder to come by, the blend seems to be taking hold.

    However with that said, I think the Google ads are now going the way of older banner ads and people are growing their blind eyes. I think we are primed for the next evolution of internet advertising.

  • I like this article, I currently using the blend technique with moderate success, but I would like to start testing the backgrounds. I would check out the AdSense Backgrounds thing for $67 but I would need to see all of the backgrounds first to make sure there are a few that would fit with my site.

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  • I like the idea, and the price is semi-reasonable, but the HTML won’t pass W3C validation.

    Not too hard to modify though:

    For example, modify the table tag to use css :

    table style=”margin-left:132px;width:255px;height:248px” border=”0″ cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″

    and the td tag:

    td style=”background-image: url(‘/memo1.jpg’)” width=”246″ height=”248″ >

  • The idea is great. I have been using this techniques for months and applied them to several sites. The result is My CTR is increasing.

    To “pcunix”, why the HTML won’t pass W3C validation? :)
    Perhaps, instead of declaring inline, you can put the style inside external CSS file. It makes the HTML code tidier and easier to maintain.


  • Great post. I’ve got new ideas about using AdSense in my blogs. Thanks.

  • The use of designer adsense ads is interesting. The ads themselves are attractive, but I wonder if they are more likely to be clicked than the usual text ad. Since they are more like an image than a text ad, I would think the CTR would be lower.

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  • Henry:

    There is no css in their code. I added it to make it pass W3C.

  • For anyone using WordPress, there’s a plugin called Adsense Injection that will automatically insert Adsense blocks into your content. The URL is
    It allows you to configure how you want your ads designed in its control panel, so you don’t have to go to the Google site to do that if you’re using this. I don’t know if there’s anything similar available for other platforms.

  • What drives me crazy with changes like this:

    Typically I run $30-$35 a day with Adsense. I implemented this Tuesday late afternoon, and Wednesday’s earnings dropped to $26.00

    Coincidence? Probably – you get bad days now and then, sometimes even runs of bad days. So I can’t shut this off for at least two weeks.. and even then I wouldn’t be absolutely sure it was “bad” even if earnings jumped back up immediately. I’d have to turn it on again and watch it drop once more..

    I’m not a patient person :-)

  • Give it a couple of days pcunix.

    It’s frustrating but every technique I’ve ever tried works on some blogs but not others.

    Test – tweak – test – tweak – test – tweak…

  • Well, that’s my point: a couple of days really isn’t enough because any change can be entirely coincidental..

  • But as it turns out, this does seem to hurt my earnings. I’m going to do some further testing to be sure, but I took it out this morning and the per hour rate is back to normal..

    I had done this to a 336 x 280 ad that runs just above the fold within text.
    I think it affects white space and is therefor affecting the earning power of the 160 x 600 ad to its left.. I need to set up a test to see for sure which it is affecting, but I think that’s it: in other words, this decoration may be giving better earnings to the 336×280 it is applied to, but is stealing attention from the 160×600 ad.

    Fortunately the new multichannel tags give us the power to design tests like that.. I have a write up on my site “Using Google Channels to test layouts” that explains how..

    I’m leaving it applied to a 234 x 60 low on the pages; that doesn’t seem to hurt anything else but is improving that ad’s earnings (roughly from 50-60 cents per day previously to $1.30 – $1.50 a day on that ad).

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  • I use both blended and integrated approach. I also use image ads in my sidebar and content – only those images that work visually well with my web design. Because of this “requirement” I don’t use poorly designed banners even their commissions are good. Comments are welcome. My URL is:

  • Google approved the free Adsense backgrounds I provide on my site over at Hope everyone enjoys the service!


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