A few weeks ago I began what I called my “Big Honkin’ Ad” experiment. I decided to give this approach a try after Colin King, who writes A Geeks Journey, made a good point in a comment on this post, Can Behavioral Targeting Improve Income for Smaller Web Sites?. He had observed that not only were visitors blind to Adsense ads but were becoming increasingly blind to the ubiquitous 125×125 button ads. That got me to thinking, maybe the conventional wisdom doesn’t work as well as we might think.
The conventional wisdom when it comes to ads on blogs is to use either text links, usually meaning Adsense ads, or nice, neat, 125×125 button ads in your sidebar. You should make your ads where they blend in with the theme of the site so that they look like your other content. You shouldn’t use large top and side banner ads because they’re ugly and nobody clicks them. Overall, much of advice you’ll read and the examples you see in theme after theme encourages you to make your advertising nondescript and blended with, or perhaps even camouflaged by, content.
Well, it does make for a nice looking blog but do 125×125 button ads generate clicks and make money?
125×125 fever started catching on a few months ago when John Chow and other big name bloggers switched to themes that prominently featured them. They look good, fit well within most current looking themes and can maximize advertising space and revenue. The downside is that they typically have a lousy click-thru rate because they don’t attract attention because everyone and their cousin are showing the same exact ads in almost the exact same positions on their sites.
The result is that visitors are becoming increasingly blind to 125×125 button ads just like they have to Adsense ads.
Taking a Closer Look
So, I started doing some research, taking a look at the schemes used by various, high profile, bloggers as well as news sites.
One thing I noticed was that in spite of having the 125×125 button ads John Chow also kept the big 336×280 block ads that’s right in his content. Other monitization methods were also right up front in his header. Likewise, John Cow also has a big ad block right in the content. Shoemoney, some 125’s but also big ads sprouting out like weeds. Working my way down the 45n5 Top 100 I noticed that the lower the got, the more 125×125’s I saw but there were fewer and fewer large ad blocks. Hmmm…..
Then I looked at several big news sites. ESPN, large ad blocks. MSNBC, large ad blocks, usually mixed in content. CNN, ads of various sizes integrated into content. Most of the news and entertainment sites I visited had larger ads integrated with content but still very obvious.
My conclusion, big, eye catching, ads work while nondescript, perfectly blended, ads aren’t seen by most visitors.
The Experiment’s Results
Back on December 8th, I kicked off my test as described in this article, Bye-Bye 125’s. Previously I had a block of six 125×125 button ads that had a click-thru rate, or CTR, of 0%. Nobody clicked them. What kind of results have my Big Honkin’ Ads achieved over the past few weeks? Several people have asked me this in private emails so I thought I’d go public with it in this evil stats post (Sorry Vic and Court).
The aggregate CTR of the large ads has been 18%. This means the for every 100 ad impressions the ad was clicked 18 times. While this would be low for a site geared toward converting affiliate offers this is quite decent as compared to what I’ve seen on a lot of blogs and certainly a lot better than 0%.
Yeah, OK, so people are clicking them, are they converting? Yes, they are. When compared against Adsense and other ad earnings from previous months it’s at about 4 times better. Could it be even better? Yes, it could, but considering OpTempo’s recent focus has been primarily on the low money making area of meta-blogging and money-blogging it’s not that too bad. Imagine how effective this technique could be in a niche blog.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the thinking behind the ads I selected, my overall Big Honkin’ Ad delivery strategy and some other thoughts I’ve had on this topic.
As always, if you have any thoughts and questions you would like to share in a comment, please go right ahead and leave one.