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.