Those of you who use Google AdSense for publishing advertisements on their blog or website may have wondered what a good CTR (click-through rate) is, most likely after finding out that the CTR is one of the important key figures for measuring the quality of your advertising efforts. The same holds for those who advertise their business, blog or website via Google AdWords. Here, too, the click-through rate is one of the crucial figures you should consider.
In this and the next article I will discuss what a “good” CTR is and in which context this statement can be considered. There is no universal answer that fits all but it is possible to come up with some decent pointers that should help newcomers to understand how to deal with the information Google delivers through the CTR.
CTR in AdSense
First of all, you can not expect to find any actual data about the CTR of AdSense users by searching the web for this phrase. Revealing your CTR is against Google’s terms of service and besides that, actual values would not really provide any more information than carefully derived intervals.
The CTR in AdSense is the value of the fraction ad clicks divided by ad impressions. So if 1,000 visitors see a banner on your website and 10 of them actually click on it, the CTR would be 1%.
The CTR is actually subject to many factors with some being more important than others. Most of the important factors should be covered by the following list:
- Topic of the Site
- Site Design
- Ad Design
- Ad Placement
- Seasonal Changes
- Relative Number of Ads on the Site
The topic of a site may be the most influencing factor of them all with the reason for this being manifold. One of them clearly is that there are some topics for which a big advertising market exits and some topics for which it doesn’t. If you blog about vegetarian food for dogs of age 2.5 years, there are just not so much ads available that would integrate seamlessly with your content. There is however if you blog about technology or sex, for example. The better the ads fit your content the higher the chance a user gets attracted and clicks on them. And the more ads there are that fit your content, the higher the chance the user is presented an ad that he considers relevant. Another reason for the relevance of the topic of the site is the fact that some topics are more suitable for advertising than others. If you write product reviews then there is a good chance that a visitor of your site is actually planning to buy a certain product. What if he is presented a very targeted ad that shows him exactly what he is searching for? He will most likely click on it! While visitors of “How to Solve Linux Problem xyz”-sites are usually not very interested in advertised products.
Site design is obviously important for the success rate of AdSense usage. This can pretty much be broken down to the question where ads are placed best on a site. It’s a balancing act between shooting them directly into the visitors face on the one hand and not spoiling great content by annoying ad banners. This is of course a question that cannot be answered in general but must be decided for each and every website individually.
The ad design is something that you, as the AdSense user, usually don’t have too much influence on. The more it is important to design your site in a way (design-wise and content-wise) that will allow AdSense to place ads that are not only relevant by their content, but also by their design. The influence on this is however unlimited when you sell ad spots on your own and dictate your advertisers what their ads must and must not look like. Always keep in mind: You eat with your eyes! An attractive ad is much more likely to be clicked than a stupid, boring text only ad.
Ad Placement is somehow connected to site design but it can be seen as a refinement of it. While site design deals with where on your site ads should appear (and where not), ad placement is the optimal choice of ads available for your site and assigning each of them to its best possible ad spot. Your influence on this when using AdSense is of course very limited but, again, the key to success is great content which is structured and clear.
Seasonal changes can obviously occur, sometimes more, sometimes less. Just imagine you have a blog about ice cream and assume for simplicity that all ads on your site are for ice cream, too. This will of course result in a higher visitor-interest in the summer months than in the winter.
The relative number of ads on a site is the number of ads divided by the number of all outgoing links of the site. The larger the value of this fraction is the higher is the probability that an ad is clicked instead of a “normal” outgoing link. This does not mean that many ads and only a few outgoing links is good in any case – this could seriously screw up great content! It is again a balancing act that must be thought over for each site individually. There is however some latitude that can be played with.
Keeping all this in mind and taking into account numbers from big and famous blogs that can be found on the web – check out Steve Pavlina’s blog post about his revenues from 2006, for example or look up the total number of visitors for sites such as TechCrunch or Mashable and compare them with their respective revenues – we can conclude that a CTR between 5% and 7% is a reasonable upper bound for most of all cases.
There are of course sites that stay way below that, some even fail to reach a CTR of 1% because of one or several of the reasons discussed before but a blog about an “average” topic with an “average” number of visitors and reasonably interesting ads should be able to make it to something between 2% and 3% as CTR. This is of course just a rule of thumb and there are for sure many extreme counterexamples on both sides of the bounds mentioned.
Never forget: One great key for a great CTR is great content! Especially new blogs with only a handful of articles might increase their CTR seriously over time as their content grows (not only in quantity but in quality, too). So don’t be impatient if you are just starting over. Many rules of thumb can be derived simply by applying the above discussion to your site and a little bit of thinking can also do wonders every now and then. Try to see your site from the average visitors’ view and you are on a very good way to a decent CTR.
Be careful with those blogs you sometimes find on Google that tell you that it is no problem to earn several thousand dollars just in the first week or month of using AdSense – this is just not true in most of all cases. It might be undeniable that every now and then there comes up a great website with an even greater idea behind it which can actually do this. But a blog about making money with a blog that has only two articles in it, both about how rich the author got just after he started his blog is definitely not one of them. Be patient, be careful and grow monetarily as your experience grows!
Do your experiences confirm this? Do you have one of those extreme counterexamples? Tell us what you think and have seen!