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Learn From My Mistake – Don’t Leave Money on the Table!

Posted By Darren Rowse 17th of October 2009 Advertising, Chitika eMiniMalls 0 Comments

Have you ever found that you’ve been leaving money on the table? It’s a frustrating feeling and one that many of us can relate to. I discovered that I’ve been doing it for the last few months – here’s my story.

I run Chitika Premium ad units on some parts of my blogs – particularly at my photography site on single pages. One ad unit that I’d had running for a while now was one that appeared above posts whenever anyone from the US arrives at my site from a search engine.

I like these ads because they don’t appear to regular readers arriving from RSS feeds, newsletters or other sites – just those people coming in from Google – PLUS the ads that show are contextual ads to the search that the person has just performed.

I’ve always found that the ads convert pretty well – but this week I realised that for months now they could have been converted ALOT better.

I made this realisation by making one simple change to one ad unit – here’s what happened to my earnings on that ad unit when I made the change.


Yep – the ad unit had been averaging around $37 a day – but in the few since making the change it’s earned around $108 a day on average – around 3 times as much!

Considering I’ve had the ad running for quite a few months now – I’ve been leaving money on the table.

OK before I tell you what change I made (and it’s so simple that I’ve been kicking myself for a week now) I want to really emphasise the take home message here – even though it is so very obviously – test your ad units!

Here’s the thing – the chitika ad that I did have in this ad position used to perform to the best of its ability. I’d previously tested it and made sure it was working well. However Chitika added a new option to their premium ads – an option that I ignored. In actual fact someone from Chitika told me to make this change months back – I got distracted (life’s busy) and never got around to doing it.

While I feel pretty stupid and am completely aware that I’ve cost myself thousands by not making this change earlier – I know I’m not alone.

Many bloggers are in the same boat. We put ads on our blogs, get them to a point where we think they’re well optimised and then move on to work on other aspects of our blog without ever coming back to make sure things are still performing at their highest potential. Ad networks change their offerings, add features and sometimes blogs just change and things that used to work well no longer do.

The lesson here is to revisit your ad units and to test if there might be someway to increase their performance. You might not see the tweaks you make bring in $70 a day like my one did – but over time the small tweaks add up!

What was the change I made?

The change was so simple – I just made the Chitika ad unit bigger. The ad unit I used to have on there was a 468×180 pixel sized ad. The new one is a 550×250 pixel ad unit. It’s considerably wider (it now takes up almost the whole width of my content area) and a little deeper.

It does push the content down the page a little but as it’s only impacting search refferal traffic and the content is still above the fold user experience isn’t impacted that much – but the ad performance is so much better (with 3-4 times the click through rate depending upon the day).

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.
  1. I am currently running no ads on my site, I want a little exposure before starting monetisation, however, I have experienced the same effect with my previous blog. Often it’s not the size, but maybe something else.
    For example (it’s been a few years now) I’ve been occupying space with AdSense Referrals units, making literally *no* money. It’s ad space anyway, so I decided to change it to a text link adsense banner. The changes were quite immediate. Great advice, if you want to see some cash from your work, it is worth trying out different scenarios!

  2. I’ve just started using Chitika. I’m using the large unit.

    That’s an impressive difference in click rate. I wonder if it’s the size that makes a direct difference, or that the larger size attracts advertisers who typically achieve higher CTRs. In other words, are people clicking simply because the ad is larger, or because the larger ad space is attracting BETTER ads?

  3. Darren, thanks for sharing your experience and the details of the change you made. Sounds like a no-brainer in your situation. :)

    It relates to ecommerce A/B testing in that you should always re-evaluate your offerings and then measure how successful they are.

    Rob – LexiConn

  4. That is amazing that simply making the ad a little bigger increased the CTR that much.

    I don’t use any Chitika ads yet. Does the ad have the options that you mentioned to only show a selected audience, or did you write a script to detect where the viewer came from?

  5. I had an adsense setup for about 6 months that I was so used to on each of my articles.

    Then after a post I read here recently (about how less ad units brought higher CPM and CPC) I made some tweaks, and my eCPM doubled by just increasing my rectangle ads to the largest sizes and removing any Ads above my highest CTR ad unit.

    I then wanted to continue experimenting, changed things up but after only 2 days of seeing much lower results I could feel the money slipping away and wanted to change back so bad.. but I held off for 7 days to get enough views for a proper average to compare to.

    It’s so important to experiment and compare the results to your highest make up, so when new advertising opportunities come, like private ad deals, affiliate banners, or something like Chikita, you can compare the results to your top performing ads for that slot or previous page configuration.

    They say, imitate the best, I tried mimicing your ad configuration on DPS but that top Leaderboard just didn’t go well on my site. It goes to show each site is unique and the only true way to monetize it to the fullest is to experiment on your own.

  6. Test test test…. It’s all about testing..

  7. @Blake @ Props Blog Reviews: That’s the way Chitika works. It only displays the ads to US visitors coming from Google. You can choose to display nothing for the rest, or display a different ad (like Adsense or whatever).

  8. It amaze me that a tiny change can give so much impact. We surely can not ignore the tiniest thing in our ad.

  9. Darren,

    This reminds me of the changes that I made to my site with Adsense that you featured a few months ago. It’s amazing to me that the slightly larger ad units perform so much better above the posts. Nice impact!!

  10. Great tip, I am doing the same mistake because the lake of time, but actually when I came across my blogs and do some modification this usually make a difference and raise my earnings, thanks for the good remind Darren!

  11. Great reminder to go back and fine-tune ad units. You’re right, once they’re set up, many of us move on and forget to come back to tweak.

  12. I agree that it is quite easy to get distracted with other duties and obligations. Maybe keep a daily *to-do* list nearby or scribbled in your calendar book will help remind you to take action. I do this a lot of times but admit that I must also go back and review for any notes that I did make, lol. Great tip! thank you. :)

  13. I do keep trying different sizes and recently switched to this ad unit.

    However, there’s an important thing to remember about these changes there should be enough time between changes. I find many bloggers changing ad placements every week! That does not give enough time for testing. Usually, I wait for a month and then think about changing layouts.

    And yes, the title was interesting! :-)

  14. It always good to test your ads, and to keep track of the performance of the ad too. This way you can always know how to be better or go back to test the old ones again.

    Its also good to use the Google Website Optimizer to test the position of the words or pictures.

    Like the good old sales pitch says “Always Be Closing!”, For us in the Internet world is “Always Be Testing!”

  15. As I read this, I realized that I made a mistake as well when I changed things around on my blog that might have cost me some earnings. I’m gonna fix that right now.

  16. That is a kick in the chops isn’t it. I am not currently running Chitika.

    I am going to try that with my current google ads on my blog. Do you think it will have the same effect?

  17. Amazing that just the slight change in size would make that much difference. How much would it change if you showed it to all of your traffic?

  18. I recently upped all the sizes of my Adsense ads and limited them to one per page. It has made about a 10 per cent difference. Wow triple is really cool.

  19. Seriously though, ad optimization is the difference between a good and a bad blog.

    Remember,larger, redundant or ads which reduce user experience are only going to harm the blog.
    If you look at the homepage of you will find over 20 well placed, well disguised ads in the forms of “recommendations” and such. In my mind, contextual advertising is the most potent form of marketing.
    Look at the plug for his digital photography school, that’s damn well placed advertising for something completely unrelated. Its also not invading on the readers experience.

    Just remember, optimize for the best user experience.

  20. ya we need to play with the ads.. test them in various places and most importantly look after their performance….
    who knows sometimes you can be as lucky as darren..

  21. It has always been like that …. The bigger the Ad Block the Better the Click Trough Rate on that Ad Frame.

    Even Adsense Experts recommends to use the Larger 336×480 Rectangle Format when using Inside the Content Field.

    But Any Ways ….. More CTR on the Ads means More Money… But doesn’t it mean One is Losing a some Quality Readers for some cents or a few dollars.

  22. Darren how do you make the ad appear to just US visitors? I’ve seen WP Plugins that show certain content for search engine visitors, but how do you geo-target it?

  23. That is a kick in the chops isn’t it. I am not currently running Chitika.

  24. When I introduced Chitika ads, they had a pretty poor impact on my revenues on my computer site. I introduced the 550×250 units and they simply didn’t convert. What did work though was the ‘Whitespace ads’ but these were incredibly annoying – for me (and I presume my visitors!)

    Chitika ads are search based only (they will only show up to those from search engines) and in doing so, you present your blog in a very poor light. Chitika won’t earn you money from your regulars – in the long term, if you’re turning away or monetizing search traffic straight away, does that impact long term blog revenues?

    Chitika has no major advantages over Adsense (apart from being able to add more ad space to a page) – and I found Google was paying more. There’s more Adwords competition.

    Although I only used it once, and in only one niche – I wouldn’t recommend it!

  25. Nice sharing there,that’s a good reminder to always tweak,optimized and test new method or techniques to our site.Im glad you’ve made 4 times from just one tweak alone

  26. I keep getting emails from Chitika so I have been considering using them on one of my blogs. I will definitely be making sure I use bigger ads, now that you have proven they convert better.

  27. So in summary, an increase in ad area of 1.6 times gives a 3 times increase in revenue. I guess that is true of print ads so why not online ads?

    Thanks for the info Darren.

  28. I’ve just started using Chitika Premium ad units. Great tip, thanks.

  29. Darren, are you using a WordPress plugin for your Chitika ads on your photography site? I’m curious how you styled the ads so nicely to blend in with your content.

    It looks like you also moved some of the text and added separators. Did you hack the css or something?

    I looked in Chitika and couldn’t find anything besides changing the font type, background, text, and link colors.


  30. I know of many people that go ahead and do not spend the time to really tweak their articles. By doing a little research and changing a word or two you can really unlock some true income off adsense and other affiliate ads.

  31. I have never seen the ads as I always come from the rss feed. But the improvement in conversion is impressive.

  32. You almost tripled you chitika earning. So, making more money from your present blog will be easy. I think, regular changes in your colors and place should be tested for ad placement.

  33. It’s all about testing and tracking… yes we leave money on the table when we settle… “ok I think this is good enough” and stop testing.

    The thing is we never know if an ad is really performing to its best unless we continue testing by using different versions and/or making subtle changes.

    Sometimes when we think we have got it all figured out, a/b split testing can reveal surprising results!

  34. Solid info.

    One of my blogs uses Chitika, but I’m not really enamored with it. Why? Because more than half the time *I* go to my site (directly, not through search), a Chitika ad shows up on top. Something’s not working as it should.

  35. Hmm sounding interesting and also feeling bad for those money which we have missed.

    But any way lets forget it and move ahead.

    Adsense also made big changes these days and I think you should also write about that in DETAIL.

  36. Great Tip Darren, I also use chitika, but my earnings are very low. After reading your post, I have changed the ad unit to a bigger one. My search engine traffic mounts up to 80% of my blog traffic, so I feel this should also work better for me – Let’s see the result

  37. It sounds that the bigger the better. :-)

  38. I have started Chitika .
    Thanks for the tip

  39. I don’t get enough search traffic from US so running Chitika on my blog is waste.When I will get great traffic from US,I will setup chitika on my blog.

  40. Now you’ve got me wanting to revisit my Chitika account and optimize my ads. I’m all about learning from others and I certainly don’t want to leave money on the table. Thanks for being so open about this with all of us.

  41. Darren, that’s just awesome. I’ve not tried Chitika until now, cause I never thought it would work so well. But when I hear now, how much you make with it, I’ll give it a try. Thanks a lot for sharing your mistake and remind us to constantly test and tweak!

  42. Thanks for sharing this mistake, and that’s great your earning gradually increased.

    I hope you will be sharing this short of leaving money on the table articles in future..


  43. I agree who wants to leave money off the table?The key to success is testing changes always to see what is the best way to earn more money.

  44. Wow $108 a day is so amazing, hope to get that kind of amount too..

  45. This is really helpful for new bloggers. We have to learn from our seniors.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.
    Please keep sharing mistake like this.

  46. I’ve been doing this for years by not having a mobile version of my site running mobile ads.

  47. Hey man don’t beat yourself up about it, just realize you made the change and now are seeing the benefits. Sides you are one of the best bloggers so you have to think that sometimes it could get to your head ;).

  48. I have been running Chitika on my blog since very long time, but my earning is very low. As I can not see chitika ads on my blog, so I did not know how to optimize ads like adsense ads. I will try your tips for increase my chitika earning.

  49. I only use adsense and cj, 250+ banner works really work well than low height banner.

  50. Thanks for pointing out this simple, yet effective, improvement. I have had some problems with chitika lately, mainly because I can’t test them at all. Not being a US resident when I visit my blog it won’t appear no matter what, so that I’m forced to blindly position them in my content and hope for the best.

    It’s too bad they restrict themselves to a US and Canada only market. I’d love to use them on some other blogs too :-)

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