Previously I had discussed my results for Big Honkin’ Ads and my Ad Selection Strategies for them. Today In this article, I’m going to discuss ad placement. Remember what I mention may or may not work for you. The important thing is taking time to experiment and find what works well for your blog. Don’t just do what everyone else is doing.
Once you’ve selected the ad campaigns you want to run, you have to decide where you can fit them into your blog’s theme where they’ll draw both clicks and conversions.
Rotation vs. Static Placement
First, let’s look at using a rotation of ads versus using a static ad. My observation has been that using a rotating ad is more effective unless you’re want to concentrate on selling just a few items. By changing the content on each page load you prevent the visitor from visually ignoring the ad space. Change in a pattern will attract the eye of a visitor while a fixed pattern often will be ignored. That’s just the way the human eye is wired up.
Static ads are best used when your site is built around a particular set of offers. For example, if the point of your blog was to extoll the praises of product XYZ you would only want ads that backed this up. If the advertiser only offered a single large banner this might limit you to that one ad. However, if they have several different creatives, you might find it better to rotate these banners to prevent ad blindness.
Rotation also seems more effective when coupled with a dynamic ad size. If you observe the ads I have in rotation in my sidebar you’ll notice that they vary between about 180 to 400 pixels in width and about 180 to 800 pixels in height. This causes the sidebar to look slightly different on each load of a page, thus drawing the visitor’s eye to the change.
In Content Placement
The best place for a Big Honkin’ Ad is directly in the content. Placing a block of 250×250 pixels or larger inline with text greatly increases the chance of a click thru. That’s why you’ll see this method used on news sites and many A-Lister blogs, including those that encourage you to place wimpy 125×125 button ads on your site.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to display in content. Some blog themes don’t work with this well, such as the one I’m using here, due to how narrow the content area is. Perhaps you want to use graphical elements like I’m doing and that can preclude using inline ads. My recommendation would be that if you’re kicking off a new niche blog is to select a theme that allows you to place Big Honkin’ Ads inline.
Another issue with placing ads inline is management. If you place the ads directly inside your article and not in the template you could face significant content management issues down the road as Vic describes. Using a plugin that allows you to control the inline ads without you having to edit individual articles if there’s a change is the key to this placement working well.
The sidebar is your second best location for ads. Placing ads here allows you to more easily control the ads than placing them directly in content. Sidebars will usually adapt well to different vertical sizes of ads without breaking the template although you should test wider ads to avoid layout issues.
Remember that the higher you place the ads on the sidebar the better they’ll do. However, you shouldn’t allow them to compromise site navigation. They’ll tend to work best when they cozy up to your content. For example, if you have a right side sidebar you want the ads to be aligned to the left, as close to the actual content as you can get them. If this is done well you can get almost the same effect as an inline ad.
If you’re selecting a new theme from scratch, as for using a right side versus left side sidebar, I’d recommend a left side bar of at least 250 pixels. Why? English readers read from left to right. Placing the ad on the left increases the chance that the reader will notice the ad. Also, the wider sidebar column is less likely to be treated mentally as a margin than a narrower, 160 pixel or less, sidebar. But, even if your theme is like mine with a right side sidebar you can get it to work. Just remember the wider the ad, the more noticeable it will be to visitors.
I would recommend avoiding themes with same side dual right or left sidebars where one holds navigation and the other holds ads. People will marginalize the ad column and be blind to it.
I’ve found header ad placement to be rather iffy. People tend to breeze by it to get right to the start of the content they’re interested in. Ads disguised as navigational widgets might help initial click-thru but won’t help get conversions. Using 468×60 ads as article ‘bookends’, like I’m doing here, seem to do OK but not as well as inline or sidebar block ads. It’s also more difficult to vary the size of horizontally oriented elements than vertically oriented ones on most themes.
Footer ads are practically useless. Almost nobody digs down that far on a regular basis. It is a good place to ‘hide’ various blogging badges and widgets though if you want to have them on your site.
Summing It Up
Your theme, your niche and your site goals will determine which ad placement strategy is best for you. If you’re planning on starting up a new niche blog I’d recommend finding a 2 column theme with a wide side bar on the left. However, you can find ways to make Big Honkin’ Ads work on your site as it is provided that you give it a try.
Let me hear from you if you have any ideas, different experiences or suggestions or questions about these advertising methods.