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Where to Position Ads in Your RSS Feed

Posted By Darren Rowse 13th of September 2008 RSS 0 Comments

Over the past month since AdSense have released AdSense for Feeds to the wider publishing community I’ve noticed a lot more of the bloggers that I’m tracking each day are including ads in their RSS feed.

When they first started appearing I noticed most bloggers had the ads positioned at the bottom of their blog posts – but in the last week more and more seem to have shifted the ads to the top of their posts.

Obviously positioning them this way makes them more visible to RSS subscribers and is likely to lead to a higher click through rate – but what cost does it come at?

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

For starters – here’s how the ads look underneath content (taken from TechCrunch – click to enlarge):


The ads slot in quite nicely – particularly those in the 468×60 format.

Lets look at some ads above content (taken from Chris Brogan – click to enlarge).

This first one is of a 468×60 ad.


In the 468×60 format I think the ad actually doesn’t look too bad. It does interrupt the flow of the post a little – but because it is narrow it isn’t too much for the eye to slip over it to the main content.

However look what happens when AdSense servers a different size ad:


While the 468×60 ads interrupt the flow a little – larger rectangle ads can be quite intrusive and distracting from the content of the post.

The problem that publishers face is that they have no way of blocking larger ads unless they opt for ‘text ads only’ in the setting up of their ads. If you select ‘image ads only’ or ‘text and image ads’ you run the risk of getting served the larger ads if there is an ad that AdSense deems relevant and potentially profitable for your post.

As you’ll see below – at present in the setup of RSS ads the ‘size’ section says ‘feed units are automatically sized’.


The problem with just going with ‘text ads’ alone is that they are not as profitable as image ads (as premium advertisers usually go with images).

What I’d like to See AdSense Do

A number of suggestions come to mind for how AdSense could improve AdSense for Feeds:

1. Allow publishers to choose ad sizes – this way they could select 468×60 ads at the top of their posts and still serve image ads in that format.

2. Rotating positioning – I’d love to see AdSense allow publishers to rotate the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ option so that on some posts they’d be higher and some lower. This might help combat ad blindness.

3. In post ads – this is a bit of a wishlist but I have heard a few publishers mention that they wish they could insert ads inside their content – say after the 2nd or 4th or 5th paragraph. This would put them down the post but close to content. It wouldn’t be for everyone but I suspect it could convert well.

4. Ads that Wrap content around them – one possible solution might be ads that align content around them. This could be complicated when images are used at the top of posts – but might help feeds to flow a little more.

What Should a Publisher Do?

I see three main options for publishers wanting to include RSS ads in their feeds:

1. put them below posts – this is what I do on DPS at the moment. While I’d like to have them higher I’m not willing to disrupt the flow as much as what the larger ones do in the above illustration.

2. put them above posts but only with text ads – this will increase visibility and CTR of the ads but probably earn you less per click/impression

3. put them above posts with text and image ads – for those publishers willing to ignore the disruption.

Different publishers will come to different decisions on this and I’m not going to judge anyone for the one they come to – however I think if AdSense could add a few more options for publishers they could help us all meet our goals of optimal profits AND optimal readability for our readers.

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. I’ve yet to add adsense to my feed but after this article I think I’ll go ahead and try it out. I’ll just stick with image ads that the bottom. Thanks for the info. Eric.

  2. I’m hoping to use them soon. But Adsense has given me some difficulties and they don’t seem to be through their first batch of migrating yet. It’s a bit frustrating.

    As my RSS feed has grown with quite a few subscribers I am quite curious to try it out and see how it goes myself. Getting anxious.

  3. I’ve been using ads in my rss feed, but I haven’t decided where I want to put them.

    I’ve been playing around with both areas to see which one gets the most success.

  4. I’m sticking with a single 468 banner (text & image) below the posts on my blog. It’s not performing too well, but the few clicks I do see pay well.

  5. You have some good suggestions there, I hope Google will read this post one day.

    I’m still skeptical about AdSense for Feeds though. :-)

  6. I started with ads below but now have my ads above. I figure in an RSS feed I only have so long to show the ad before a reader moves on. They have me in their reader already so they are coming for the content. Now I have a shot at them seeing the ad.

  7. Interesting find. I think you had some good suggestions for different ways AdSense and sites in general could display their ads. It’s very possible that we may see some of these ideas in the next AdSense version or similar program.

  8. I completely agree with this. The exact same thing can be said for ads within content on blogs. Whenever I see a large ad directly below the title, I exit.

  9. I’ve noticed that sometimes ads show up in my feed and sometimes they don’t on the same post. Is that normal?

  10. I too would love to be able to rotate positioning – especially in the case of scrapers, who can easily cut the headers and footers, at least this way you could make some money off your stolen content.

  11. I had them at the bottom all the time, but after reading a bit by John Chow about getting a 5x difference, I swapped them to see if I’d get the same result. Well, I sure did, but then, that’s five times more than 30 cents or whatever. I don’t make much on the RSS feed.

    But yeah, those big honking ads are making me need to put it back down at the bottom. Guess when Darren Rowse blogs it, I have to do it. : )

  12. Great post subject Darren! I haven’t yet implemented ads to my RSS feed, so it is good to get some constructive feedback to help me decide whether to add google ads or not. I am totally turned off by the obtrusive ads in the above example, and I will make my decision based upon my own gut instincts, and how I feel about it myself. Hopefully they improve the system soon, because the 468×60 ads do not look so bad. Who wants to be bombarded by intrusive ads when browsing through content? Not me!


  13. Ads on RSS feeds have made people unsubscribe if they’re new subscribers.

  14. RSS subscribers can be considered your most loyal readers and I think should be given more priority and a better reading experience. Unless you have a huge number of subscribers the best option I think is to add them at the bottom or not add them at all.

  15. I have not added any ad’s into my feed as of yet, however have saw many doing it already.

    I am with you on wanting to be able to have ads that wrap content around them, just because I think it looks better.

  16. I’m not using ads in rss..
    I think it is just a good tips for me to earn more money..

  17. Thanks for the technical demo! Very nicely done. I want to use Adsense in my RSS feed, but I’m not quite ready yet. My apologies if you’re already done this one, but you should post a topic, “How to make more than $0.00 a day using Adsense”. Lol..?

  18. As usual Google does what Google thinks serves their interests bests and at the moment it is to give themselves the prerogative to choose the size of their feeds ads. I suppose they figure we are lucky to have it there at all.

  19. I haven’t used adsense on feeds yet, this one sounds like a good explanation, I will keep these points in mind when adding mine.

  20. Darren,

    Do you know whether anyone has reported RSS subscriber drops since adding Adsense to their feed?


  21. Hi Darren,

    My only worry is people who are subscribed through RSS are NOT interested in your ads. They are interested in reading new posts. That kills the CTR.

    Another problem is they may dislike the ads and unsubscribe.

    What do you say?


  22. Currently they offer only 2 sizes and 2 position. I’m really hope they can offer more size and more position.

  23. Folks, for some reason I can’t figure out how to get the AdSense ads integrated into my RSS feed (http://whatmattersonline.wordpress.com/feed).

    Is it some weird WordPress thing or am I getting something wrong? Would someone be willing to help me figure this out?

    Thanks in advance, and let me know if I can do anything in return.


  24. As Chris Brogan said above in reference to the John Chow results being 5x higher in CTR for Adsense RSS ads at the beginning of posts:

    I think that may be a premature synopsis of RSS advertising performance, despite J. Chow’s reach, given the newness of RSS ads as a whole.

    What concerns me more is that it may negatively affect readership loyalty after seeing inyourface RSS ads preceding content in the RSS feed…

  25. I’ve unsubscribed from some feeds as a result of adverts – not all but there has to be a higher level of desire to read as the adverts, for some reason, really irritate me.

  26. At the end of the day, I’m a fan of testing and measuring results.

    There’s patterns that work and patterns that don’t, but I think the trick is to find what’s relevant for your scenario.

    I think it’s great that you share the patterns that you see along with your insight into results.

  27. Hi Darrin or anyone that can help me please,

    Our traffic has went up 40-50X our usual numbers with peeks a bit higher on great days over the past ten days but for some reason we are getting 30X-40X less per click and much less per impressions. Is that normal? I have tried contacting Google for a few days with no luck whatsoever.

    I feel like these huge pet companies are getting to advertise for free and that doesn’t seem fair at all.

    Another question is concerning our impression numbers as we had around 3,000 page views the other day with only 2,000 impression, does that make any sense or is Google forgetting a few numbers here and there?

    I would appreciate any advice Darren or from other experts in here. Thank you so much and God Bless.

    Darrin & Josy

  28. I would love to see some stats on how each performs so I can use the most effective one for my entrepreneur blog

  29. I would also like to see some stats. I started to put adsense in my feeds, but then decided not too. I am going to hold off adsense feeds for a little while, so I can research the best way to implement them and not lose subscribers. If anyone has any success stories or what not to do stories I would really appreciate hearing feedback on adsense for feeds. You can email me at:
    admin [at] usapresidentmccain.com if anyone is feeling generous. I will return the favor. Darren enjoyed the post, I learn something every time I visit your blog.

  30. Thanks! I just learned how to insert AdSense ads in my blog, but I still have many things to learn about feeds. This information was valuable for me! Keep on bloggin’!

  31. It would be nice if we could choose themes of ads:)) No useless ads then, only those that bling money:))

  32. I appreciate you taking the time to include screen shots in your article. Having a visual really impressed on me the importance of your observations about ad placement.


  33. I also intuit that feedreaders are really not clicking on adsense-ads alot. And average surfers don’t even know what a feedreader is…

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