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Study finds Stand Alone RSS Ads Do Better

Posted By Darren Rowse 16th of December 2005 RSS 0 Comments

Jeremy just forwarded me this article on Clickz that shows ads in RSS that are an entry by themselves (ie the ad itself is a stand alone post) perform nine times better than RSS ads attached to other posts. They can generate CTR up to 7% (much better than any RSS ad I’ve ever had).

Good results if you want to take this approach – but my immediate question is that if you start putting posts into your RSS feeds that are just ads do you risk alienating your readers? I’ve seen a few publishers using this technique recently and the ads definitely interrupt the flow of an RSS feed. Interested in your thoughts?

The other finding in the study mentioned was that RSS ads put in every second post seem to perform better than putting ads in every post.

I have to say that my own RSS Ad experience using Adsense to provide the ads has been less than spectacular. They don’t even keep me in coffee.

What do you think about these findings? Do you use RSS ads? Would you consider using them as stand alone posts?

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.
  • Darren – On my outdoor cooking – product review blog, I have the RSS feeds turned off on the portions of the site that actually contain posts with ads in them. I took this approach because I thought they might be considered spam. Now, you have me thinking it may be an acceptable practice and a good source for clicks.

  • It’s too early in the lifecycle of RSS for advertising to be very effective in the mainstream. Look at the profile of the average person who knows what RSS is, and actually uses it. Geeky, bleeding edge folks, still less than 2% of the general population. Your ads will need to be VERY targeted to have much effect. Not because of the content, but because of the audience. Difficult to get the right ads posted, you’re working on several metrics.

    When I ask people if they have heard of RSS I get a lot of blank stares. That’s not to say we should ignore it, I firmly believe that RSS has HUGE potential. IE 7 is going to help getting it more in the mainstream when that gets released. Just because it doesn’t work today doesn’t mean it won’t work tomorrow. Stay tuned….

  • Most of the blogs that I read in RSS readers are either people I know (through blogging) or people who put a good deal of effort into making a site that I enjoy reading (such as this one). In either case I have absolutely no objection to them making an income (large or small) through advertising and I accept it as a part of their site / feed.

    Lets face it. If someone’s making money from making something I enjoy, they’re going to keep on doing it so I can keep on enjoying it.

    Obviously there would be a point at which adverts could become too intrusive but I don’t think a seperate advertising post every now and then is a problem.

  • I’m also not against people trying to make a living blogging.
    If they put their ad in the RSS feed I wouldn’t visit though.

  • I’ve unsubscribed from feeds before that put ads as a whole post. I don’t mind so much ads at the bottom of a post with real content.

    On my own site, I won’t put ads in summary feeds, because I consider those to be an ad for the full content anyway. I’ve just enabled a full text feed in addition to those, and that is intended to get ads. At the moment, though, all it displays are some text links to Google searches and Amazon searches. It’s also chucking out the Chitika code, though I’m not sure if any RSS readers will actually process the code and display the ads yet – just enabled it to try today. I’m guessing it’ll only work in readers that let IE or Gecko render the HTML for them.

    All this is only in posts where we manually insert a coded tag with keywords to use, so quick links and very short posts can be left ad-free, and ads and links should always be relevant.

  • RSS Feeds are for scanning without the aggrevation of going through your bookmarks. I personally think it’s like the summary vs full feed argument all over. SURE you want to read the full feed, but if you don’t like it you still have to scroll past it. If you like the summary feed you might come to the site and then the ads are fair game.

    I’ve removed all RSS feeds in my bloglines that have ads at the bottom ever since “WWdN” started embedding them – it’s that annoying to me. If they were separate posts it would be MUCH worse.

    People should be clicking on links to our website/blog URL’s in our RSS feeds – not on embedded Ad links. I hope people smarten up on this point – even though I know as RSS gets more popular something’s bound to change. What’s going to happen when it becomes more efficient to retrieve RSS feeds directly to your cell phone? Half the time will be reading those stupid ads!

    Bottom line (unfortunately) is that if everybody else will be doing it – I’ll probably end up doing it too, but getting the tail end of the ‘wagon’ so, I’ll look stupid not having them., and make no money having them.

  • “I have to say that my own RSS Ad experience using Adsense to provide the ads has been less than spectacular. They don’t even keep me in coffee.”

    Then maybe you should consider dumping them. Lord knows you already have 10 spots on your website with ads. I feel like I’m reading IGN a lot of the time. If they don’t perform, yank them. I realize there’s a fine line between just enough ads and too many, and it feels like you’ve crossed that invisible line, wherever it is. This happened somewhere around the time you added the Chitika ads. Ads are great, don’t get me wrong, but it feels like you’re trying to cram too much into too small a space.

    For instance, how well does that Yahoo ad just below this comment box perform? Can you reduce clutter without reducing income significantly?

  • One of my favorite bloggs started doing that… I unsubscribed. I’ll do the same with any site that SPAMs me.

  • True Rian – I’ve considered pulling them. In actual fact I run ads here more as a test than anything.

    In terms of positioning – the ad below the comments does remarkably well.

  • Rian – I think you’re being a bit harsh. If you want the information that Darren can provide then you’ve got to be prepared to ‘pay’ for it and skimming over a few ads is a small price to pay for the information that Darren gives out so freely.

    Personally I think Darren should be putting in more advertising but then I’m in this for the money.

    Commercialism and capitalism rule babe!

  • Stuart, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I don’t mind embedding ads into a post, but if I click on a feedline on a subject that has just one post, and that one an ad, I’ll consider unsubscribing.

    Apart from that, it depends on who’s blogging. I’ll put up with more from Darren’s site than others, but do you really want to risk being on the bubble by sending ads by themselves? There are very, very few sites that I would consider indepensible.

  • Of course Bill – but people still use Yahoo as a portal even though it is absolutely covered in advertising. You don’t see the masses running away simply because there are a lot of ads there.

    Those people are prepared to accept the ads as a cost of using the portal for free.

    Maybe the bleeding hearts who want something for nothing might not like to see advertising but then they’re never going to be happy anywhere are they?

  • “Of course Bill – but people still use Yahoo as a portal even though it is absolutely covered in advertising. You don’t see the masses running away simply because there are a lot of ads there.” has exactly one banner ad. Nothing else. has one ad. And it’s not even a banner.


    Anyway I must apologize for the way my above post read. I don’t dislike problogger–I find it quite interesting much of time time, and I’ve been an intermittent reader since Darren was slashdotted back in July or so. I’ve followed the emergence of b5media with great interest. I even considered applying to join the network until I stopped blogging for myself and started writing for someone else. So if you’re thinking that I hate all ads, I don’t. I just think there’s a fine line between 1) good web design 2) content and 3) how many ads should be on a given page. And I stand by my comments above — I think problogger has somehow crossed that nebulous line. But I am certainly all for writers making money from their work in whatever ways they can.

    I hate ads in my RSS, but I put up with them because for a truly large website–millions and millions of pageviews every month–RSS sucks up an enormous amount of bandwidth. When you’ve got a custom colo setup you generally pay by the GB for your bandwidth, and so having RSS ads makes sense as a means of covering costs.* Services like feedburner, of course, mitigate this somewhat, and can actually (help) monetize your feeds, but it’s still a huge expense if you’re not recouping your costs somehow. I would immediately unsubscribe from any feed that had ads as the content of a post.

    * as opposed to renting a dedicated server from a provider like Host Rocket or Dreamhost where your bandwidth is bought in bulk. For example, my dedicated server–which I bought for when I was writing for myself–costs me $120/month and comes with 2TB of bandwidth a month. Naturally, I don’t come anywhere NEAR using it all and most people that have dedicated boxes are in the same boat as me. Buying 2TB of colo bandwidth costs a heck of a lot more, because if you’re colo-ing you generally have a good idea of how much traffic you’re going to get, so if you buy 2TB, they know you’re probably going to use the full 2TB, or pretty close to it.

    Anyway, I’m rambling now.

  • Ciderella

    Agreed. Ads in RSS if done correctly attract good attention.
    Saw this site selling RSS ads in Adbrite.

    Cool item of the day:

    Fragrance and beauty RSS feeds:

    Sggirls RSS feeds:

    Soccer results RSS feeds:

    Children books review RSS feeds:

    Perfume and Fragrance Blogs:

  • hmmm…great insights from everybody who commented. As my subscriber base begins to grow, I am aware that I am growing a readership who will not be clicking on any google ads precisely because they won’t be visiting my blog. It is becoming increasingly important to me, then, to find ways to monetize toward these folks… after all they are the people who are sticking with you, who you’re building credibility with, and who are most likely to support your blog financially. Targeted ads placed at the end of a really good content post/feed is one way to monetize toward that segment of your blog population…

  • I don’t like ads in RSS unless it’s a full text.

    I unsubscribed from one blog that had ads in its RSS because they kept pulling a dirty trick – they’d change the last word in their posts so they would re-highlight in my reader.

    I would also unsubscribe from any feed that started sending ad only entries.

    One thing with ads in summary feeds are they are what I would call “cold” ads.

    They’re like a cold contact – I haven’t warmed to the context yet. If the summary warms me enough, I will click on it anyway, and not the ad – so either way the ad doesn’t get clicked.

    Ads work best when someone’s read your article, has warmed to the content and are ready to dig deeper (this is why product blogs have so much success). Contexct sensitive ads that get this response I’d call “hot” ads.

    “Warm” ads would be the non-context relevant ads. You’ve read a site, warmed to the content and then seen an ad that interests you, albeit unrelated to the content. Because you’ve enjoyed the content, you’ve let your eyes linger a while and noticed other ads.

    Of course, there’s still ad-blindness in all of this – no matter how much you like the content. eg I rarely “see” the ads on ProBlogger, despite reading it daily.

  • One of the blogs that I aggregate at has a really annoying habit of shoving an RSS ad in every now and again. It’s unwanted and unnecessary. I have no issue with ads on blogs and sites and even in the RSS feeds themselves, but “posts” which are ads only are really bad. Yes – it would alienate readers.

  • I find this to be a fascinating subject, it’s so interesting to see the comments left by everyone. I may be new to blogging (my site’s been up for only a couple of weeks, and won’t have the depth needed to start monetizing for a couple of months), but I’ve been in marketing for years. There’s a very important point that everyone here has to keep in mind:

    Everyone wants to see advertising.

    That’s right, everyone. No one will admit it, but it’s true. It’s because at one point or another we are all consumers. And the single greatest point of contact we have with any kind of producer is through advertising. There’s a reason sooo much money is spent on it – because it works.

    So the question is not whether or not we should advertise (or have advertising on our sites, or in our RSS feeds). The question is how much advertising should we have. The answer always is: just below the average consumer’s pain threshold. Too little and it doesn’t register. Too much and you drive them away.

    So how much is too much? I look at it the same as I would in setting pricing for a product. You should set your pricing high enough to drive a percentage of customers away. That’s right, you want some people to think your price is too high. Think about it, if everyone loves your price you must be lower than everyone else, and you could be getting more. Somewhere between 5%-20% of your customers should look elsewhere for the product.

    Same with advertising. A certain percentage of people should think you have too much on your site. If no one complains, no one is noticing, and you need to make it more prevelant.

    0 ads, 0 complaints, $0 dollars. Don’t quit your day job. Simple as that.