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Introduction to Advertising Optimization – Ad Design

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of March 2006 Adsense, Advertising 0 Comments

Ad Design

Another factor to consider with many advertising systems is the design that you’ll go with on your ads. While some ad systems do not let you customize the look and feel of your ads (ie many impression based ad systems like Fastclick) a growing number do allow you to not only choose from quite a few different ad sizes but also give the option to change colors of different elements including the text, links, borders and background colors (for example AdSense, Chitika, YPN, AdGenta all give some ability to change the look of your ads etc).

There are as many opinions on ad design as their are on ad positioning – but the trend at the moment amongst most publishers is to go for a blended look with your ads.

One might think that the best performing ads would be ones that stand out from the rest of your page and draw the eye – but most publishers that I speak with have found that such a strategy not only annoys readers but brings about results that underperform when compared to more subtle and blended designs.

In general – to blend an ad using a system like AdSense, YPN or Chitika you’ll want to:

  • make the background and border colors for your ads to match the same color as the background of your blog
  • make the links (title and URL) on your ads the same color (or a similar one) to other links on your blog
  • make the text color in the ad the same as text on your blog

So on a blog that looks like ProBlogger ads might turn out like this:

Picture 9

There are of course exceptions to this and some publishers do mix things up a little in an attempt to both keep the look of ads fresh (to combat ad blindness of loyal readers).

For instance some publishers make the text and URL (at the bottom of ads) a lighter color in an attempt to highlight the title/link. Others rotate different ad color variations and even types to make every impression a little different in the hope of keeping them somewhat fresh looking (you can do this in AdSense by holding down the Control key and select up to four colour palettes when generating your ad code in the Ad layout code page of your account).

Having said that the blended look is popular among most bloggers there are also some publishers that I know of who take the exact opposite approach in their ad design and make their ads as loud as possible. Their ads annoy me of those TV ads that are full of screaming announcers and flashing visuals that obviously want to break through into TV watchers numbed state by being as visually and auditarily (is that a word?) offensive as possible. I actually saw one AdSense ‘expert’ a few months back advising publishers to make their ads a bright red background with a bright yellow text and links. Their argument was that these were the colors of McDoncalds which were scientifically proven to trigger people into a buying frenzy.

My own feelings on this that ads like that might be trigger a slightly different reaction in readers (violent ones) but I guess it’s each to their own.

The key with ad design (in all ad systems) is to experiment and track your results. Most ad systems allow you to do this in one way or another. AdSense especially allows it by adding channels which means each ad unit on your blog can be tracked to see how it performs. Some bloggers also use other AdSense trackers like AdSense Gold (aff link) to track their results as they give a lot more information which is especially helpful in working out what design and ad positions work best.

Ad Size

Another aspect of Ad Design that publishers can choose is the size of the ad. There are many ad sizes available for publishers in modern day advertising systems (almost too many to choose from at times). It is difficult to make sweeping statements about what ad size works best on a blog and as with everything I’ve written above you’ll want to experiment quite a bit with what works for you.

AdSense always advise that rectangle ads works best (300 x 250 for example). This size seems to suit many blogs not only because it fits nicely into numerous positions – but also because it allows image ads to be used (something that on one hand can be more lucrative in terms of income – but something that can also interrupt the design/flow of your blog as at times image ads can be very dominating and can even clash with your overall page design).

I also find that 468 x 60 pixel ads can work quite well as they don’t dominate a page quite as much as a rectangle ad as they are not as high – yet they show two ads. Once again they allow image ads if you choose to have them activated.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to choose a size that fits naturally into your blog in an optimal position without crowding out your content. The temptation is often to use a large size, but this can often leave little room for content above the fold. Usability for readers needs to be kept in the forefront of you mind when considering these factors.

Next in this series we’ll turn our attention to Ad Relevancy

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. Is there something your can set in your prefs at Adsense to always have a specific number of ads display in the ad box?

    I always set my ads to blend but when I look over some of my sites and see a 336 x 280 box with 2 ads and lots of white space, that kind of annoys me. It looks like an ad now.

  2. no – this is completely controlled by AdSense unfortunately.

  3. Great stuff Darren. Are your trackbacks working?

    I sent a couple today from this article:
    Raise Your CTR By 200% by Getting Personal

    The blended look definately works better for me.

  4. Darren: Nice tip about rotating adsense colours – I hadn’t heard that one before!

    I must say, the blended option has worked very well for us on Unreality TV. The design remains consistent and the clickthrough rate is good.

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