Everything a user does online generates data. When collected, processed, and used correctly, the data becomes the most important asset in a publisher’s online kit.
Data is paramount in understanding your audience’s behavior and preferences in order to provide better user experience and more relatable content. But it can also be used to improve your ad revenue.
In this article, we will discuss several strategies and tactics publishers can apply to improve the performance of their ad inventories based on data collected via Google Analytics and other sources.
Since we’ll talk about metrics and other generally-available tools, these tips can also be applied if you’re using a Data Management Platform.
The Right Data
Data can be collected from a wide array of sources (your website, social media platforms, partner websites, surveys, online apps, plugins, and more).
However, first-party data is the best type of data a publisher can use. This is data collected by you (your company) directly from the audience and provides deep insight into their preferences and online behavior. In the case of Google Analytics, the data comes from analytics tracking codes embedded in the code of your online properties, which is why it’s highly reliable.
In addition, first-party data is extremely useful in optimizing programmatic ad campaigns and helps publishers optimize their content in order to increase revenue.
Using Google Analytics to Optimize Ads
Google Analytics (GA) is one of the most widely used platforms for tracking and observing users and it has the great advantage of being free for small and medium-sized websites.
While it’s not considered a Data Management Platform (yet, anyway), it has some important DMP features that can be useful in tracking AdSense progress and making predictions for improvement.
Quick note: Most publishers know and understand the GA interface, but it does have a learning curve. So, if you’re new to the world of data and analytics predictions, it’s best to consider some Google Analytics courses. There is a lot to learn about this platform, especially when it comes to AdSense integration!
A metric that helps, in this case, is scroll depth. It lets you know how far a user has scrolled down a web page.
Scroll depth can be set up and tracked as an event on a page, which gives you the possibility to see viewers’ behavior on individual pages. As such, if you notice certain pages have a scroll depth of 75% from users coming from search engines, your ads should be placed in the top 75% of the page for better viewability.
Google Analytics does a great job tracking users who go through your pages. Even more, it creates a user flow chart that lets you know the main entry pages, the main second options, and the main exit pages.
According to Google, the main landing and exit points in your site can be monetized with clever ad placement. For instance, if you track the referring source as well, you will know which site is sending users to your pages. As a result, you will know which ads to place on the landing pages and which on the exit pages.
Still, make sure you avoid clutter, especially on web pages. If the first thing a viewer sees on your page is a bunch of ads, the bounce rate will quickly increase.
Demographics & Interests Reports
Any publisher can agree that understanding what the audience likes and wants from your site or app is a difficult task. Without data tracking and processing, most of us would be dead in the water since viewers have different interests.
Luckily, Google Analytics offers two incredibly valuable reports that shine some light in the mind and interests of viewers.
The data from the Demographics and Interests reports will let you know about the audience’s age, gender, and affinities – extremely valuable metrics to understand how to create a better user experience. But it also helps to improve ads targeting on pages.
Pages with Returning Visitors
If you have pages with many returning visitors it shows your content strategy is working. Clearly, viewers are interested in the topics you develop on the site and want to know more. It also means your audience is loyal, which could bring new means of capitalization to mind.
But this metric (returning visitors) is also important for ad revenue optimization.
First, to learn about these pages, you will have to access the report in Audience → Behavior → New vs. Returning.
Once you identify the pages, make sure to play with ads location on each page. People who see the same layout every time they visit will quickly become blind to your ads unless you play mix and match.
Content Optimization for Improved Ad Revenue
Yes, the quality of your content is linked to your advertising revenue. After all, the more people you have on your pages, the better the chances they will click on ads, right?
For this, you need to know the type of content that’s catchy for the public. Metrics such as page views (from GA) and shares on social media (from the specific platform) can tell you the type of content enjoyed most by your audience.
For SEO purposes, you should also consider using post tags. So, when you run the numbers, it will be easy to understand the topics that are appealing to your audience and their hierarchy.
How to Place Ads Correctly
Online users are so used to seeing ads at the top and sides of a page that they learned to ignore them. As it turns out, the ads that get the most attention are the ones placed in the middle of the page, right above the fold. As users scroll down, to read the text or interact with the content, they also see and acknowledge the ad space.
Even more interesting, for mobile web pages, the engagement is higher with in-image ads placed at the bottom. In addition, data shows that sticky containers are the best solution for mobile pages – the ads here are visible at all times without blocking access to the content or taking up too much real estate.
So, how do you know where the best place on the page to place your ads is?
First, it’s important to differentiate your traffic on sources because they tend to behave differently. For instance, viewers coming from social media tend to bounce off rather quickly, while viewers from search engines usually engage with the page and scroll down to find the information they need.
It’s important to analyze each source’s behavior as some groups are more prone to clicking on ads while others will get you more impressions. Once you know this and the pages they prefer, it’s easier to know which campaigns will perform better and where.
Another parameter you should follow is CTR for each category of content on the website (vertical). When you cater for audiences with different preferences and behaviors, the CTR lets you know which campaigns are most effective.
The Ideal Ad Size
Google is one of the biggest platforms in the world that runs on advertising. They took ad-placement and turned it into a science, so when they released their guide to ad sizes for AdSense users, publishers everywhere can trust the information there is based on high-quality data.
Sure, this is not the kind of action that will change your AdSense performance overnight (or even in a sensible manner), but it can lead to a cleaner looking page with better user experience.
Also, we recommend experimenting with different sizes in different positions, to see how users react. Then, pair the data provided by Google with your own findings (based on data from your Google Analytics account) and find the ideal combination for you.
In the end, this is the thing that drives your ad revenue forward!
The secret to better ad revenue is data-driven optimization. Whether you use Google Analytics or other sources (diversity is highly recommended) you must continuously adapt ad placement and content according to your audience’s evolution.
All the tips above can be useful but you shouldn’t implement them blindly. Verify each suggestion and test if you can improve it to better fit your unique situation. Keep in mind that each of these suggestions did work, but on a different set of data and conditions.
Overall, data and analytics are the tools that should guide your decisions as a publisher whether it’s about content or advertising revenue.
This is a guest post by Stewart Dunlop. He looks after content marketing at Udemy and has passion for writing articles that users will want to read. In his free time, he likes to play football and read Stephen King.