Google AdSense

What’s Causing the Sudden Drop in Your AdSense Earnings, CTR and RPM?

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Your AdSense earnings suffer a sudden drop. What happened?

A lot of publishers face sudden drops in their earnings, CTR and RPM. Why? Drops can be caused by anything from irrelevant ads being displayed, invalid clicks or even a drop in the cost-per-click for a particular keyword.

Determining the cause must be done on an account-by-account or site-by-site basis.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common reasons why you may be seeing lower-than-normal earnings.

Invalid Activity

invalid_activity

Google must monitor all clicks and impressions on their network. Monitoring protects Google’s credibility and is also in the best interest of the advertiser. Automated systems and human reviews are part of Google’s system where:

  • All clicks are monitored.
  • All impressions are monitored.

Invalid clicks leads to higher publisher earnings and increased cost for the advertiser. Filters are in place to determine if a user’s clicks are valid or if they pose a risk to the advertiser. A few of the most common clicks or impressions that are ignored include:

  • Clicks or impressions from unethical users.
  • Automated clicks.
  • Encouraging clicks on ads.

These are the most common filters that are triggered and can lower your earnings. If you looked at your earnings in the morning and noticed a drop in revenue, impressions or clicks later on in the day, it is likely caused by invalid activity.

Google refunds all invalid activity costs to the advertiser.

Until very recently (June 22nd to be exact), Google did not display this information on the AdSense dashboard. Now, publishers will be able to view their earnings as well as debits from invalid traffic and activity.

Improper Ad Placement

AdSense does not allow you to encourage users to click on ads. While this used to pertain to just words, such as “please help us by clicking our ad,” it has also transitioned into improper ad placement.

Improper ad placement can encourage accidental clicks.

What is improper ad placement? You cannot place an ad in such a way that you’re:

  • Ad can be mistaken for:
    • Site content
    • Menus
    • Navigation
    • Download links
  • Placing ads near:
    • Video players
    • Game windows
    • Download buttons
  • Aligning images with ads
  • Placing misleading headers near the ads

Sometimes, these actions are blatantly undertaken by the account holder, but a layout can also unintentionally lead to accidental clicks. A warning may be given to the account holder, or you’ll notice a drop in earnings that will now be reflected in the invalid activity on your account dashboard.

If you notice unusual click activity on your account, you can alert Google directly.

Drop in RPM or CTR

RPM (page revenue per thousand impressions) allows users to estimate earnings based on the number of page views received. This metric is not always 100% accurate because it can change drastically from one day to the next due to advertiser expenditures.

If the price of a keyword drops and your highest paying ad displays were based on that keyword, your earnings and RPM will drop.

A drop in traffic would be the first signals to evaluate. If there has been a significant drop in traffic, earnings will drop as well, but not necessarily the RPM. In the case of an RPM change, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are site traffic levels the same?
  • Is a particular page receiving less traffic?

With both CTR and RPM, the content of specific pages will cause different ads to be displayed and can affect your earnings.

Let’s say you have two pages on your website. One particular page receives a high amount of traffic and typically displays higher-paying ads. The other receives only a small amount of traffic, and the ads are typically low-paying. If the page with the higher-paying ads suddenly sees a decline in traffic while the page with the lower-paying ads sees an increase, your earnings will suffer as a result. Despite this, your traffic will still remain the same. You can measure your page level earnings by integrating AdSense with Analytics.

Overlooked Site Changes

Changes to a website can produce lower or higher earnings. Removing a high-paying ad unit or poor targeting may be blamed for a lower CTR or RPM. Simply put: readers won’t click on irrelevant ads.

A few problems that can occur are:

Crawl Problems

Google_crawl_error

If Google can’t crawl your page, the ads displayed will not be relevant. Check your robot.txt to ensure that you’re not blocking Google from crawling your site. Changes in the form of adding images or dynamic content can also cause issues.

Google is much less effective at analyzing images and dynamic content than it is with text.

In the event that none of these issues arise but your site was down due to a hosting issue or change, you should wait up to 48 hours before taking action.

Targeting Issues

Google recommends using JavaScript tags instead of iFrame tags. Why? There are fewer issues when using JavaScript. If you changed your ad server, targeting issues are the likely culprit because initial targeting issues often exist.

Targeting issues will lead to irrelevant ads being displayed.

Irrelevant ads can reduce RPM and CTR dramatically, resulting in a massive drop in earnings. Correcting targeting issues is a necessity. Websites that have little text can also benefit from using AdSense’s section targeting tags.

This is done with the following tags:

< !– google_ad_section_start –> 

< !– google_ad_section_end –>

The most relevant text, the text you want to have AdSense target when selecting ads, should be placed within these tags. You can also ignore certain text using the following start tag:

< !– google_ad_section_start(weight=ignore) –>

Increased Mobile Traffic

mobile advertising

If mobile traffic has increased but non-mobile traffic has decreased, this can lead to poor performance. Websites that are not optimized for mobile will lead to fewer user clicks and earnings as a result.

Ad Coding Placement

Simple coding changes will have an effect on earnings. If the coding for the first ad has changed in such a way that the highest producing ad is now loaded later than other AdSense ads on a page, the ads displayed will be of lower value.

AdSense will display the highest paying ads on the first ad block that loads.

Ad Placement Changes

Have you changed ad sizes or placement recently? Different ad sizes will display different ads. For example, a 468 x 60 banner will not display video ads, so if this ad size replaced a 300 x 250 ad block that played video ads, earnings may be less for RPM and CPC.

The placement of an ad can also change CTR dramatically.

If you’ve recently changed your ad positions and notice a drop in CTR, it’s a good idea to use heatmap tools to determine your site’s “hotspots”, where users will be more inclined to view an ad and hopefully click on it.

Ad Blindness

banner blindness

Gradual CTR decreases over time are typically the result of ad blindness. This occurs when your site’s visitors start ignoring your ads. When a site has a lot of recurring visitors, ad blindness becomes an even greater problem.

Following strategies to optimize banner ad revenue is a must.

There are a few ways to negate ad blindness:

  • Change the color of your ads. Both text and background color can be changed.
  • Change ad type. Use images or text ads to try and counteract ad blindness.
  • Reposition your ads. A new ad position may result in reduced ad blindness.

Every site has the risk of its users suffering from ad blindness, and small changes will help offset the number of visitors that have become ad blind.

Declining CPC

The cost-per-click (CPC) that an advertiser pays for different keywords in their ad campaign has a direct result on your earnings. Unfortunately, this is completely out of your control, which means earnings can drop quickly.

Advertisers can alter their campaign to:

  • Target sites based on the time of day
  • Target different keyword to match campaign goals

Seasonality can also have an effect on your earnings. Advertisers that are targeting consumers during the holiday season will pay a much higher CPC for their campaigns due to the amount of competition bidding on a particular keyword. Once the sales rush is over, the competition and CPC will often decline, leaving publishers with lower earnings.

Your site may see overnight earnings changes due to seasonality.

From a publisher perspective, there is nothing that you can do to prepare for a declining CPC aside from implementing other, higher-paying ad networks into your ad rotation. If you would prefer to stay with AdSense, gearing new site content to other keywords will also help alleviate a declining CPC for a particular set of advertiser keywords.

Traffic Sources

Where is your traffic originating? The referrals you receive may be more or less inclined to click on your ads. The traffic may also be of lower quality and will come to your page for a second before leaving.

Take, for example, Reddit. If your site reached the top of Reddit, you may receive a massive influx in traffic, yet traffic from Reddit is known to click on ads less often, resulting in a much lower CTR than expected. Traffic from your social media profile, on the other hand, may be more inclined to click on your ads, which would result in a higher CTR.

Many publishers find that traffic from search often results in more clicks and a higher CTR.

The referrals that you find in your analytics will indicate if a drop in a particular traffic source is resulting in a decline in earnings and CTR.

When your AdSense earnings suddenly drop, there is always a cause. While you can optimize your CTR to enhance your earnings and optimize content for a higher RPM, some fluctuations are out of the publisher’s control.