Put your CONTENT above the fold

For years now people have been suggesting that you make sure to put your ads above the fold. Above the fold means that users won't have to scroll down the page to view the ads.

People have been taking this advice to heart. Too much so in many cases. It's an ordinary day, you have a question and you turn to your trusty friend Google to help answer it. You click on the links in the search results and page after page all you see are ads, until you scroll down a bit. Then maybe you find your answer or maybe not.

Now, the ability to scroll does not take a lot of education or training. Most mice these days even have scroll wheels to make it even easier. But many people don't have patience. When I first started working on websites in the mid 90's the general rule of thumb is you have 3 seconds to make your visitors feel like they came to the right place. In this era of quick communication and text messaging, it still holds true.

For some reason, visitors still don't like to scroll. Maybe they get confused by all the ads and think they landed on a Made For Advertising (MFA) site and don't expect to find anything useful there.

Or, they may find something interesting to click on before they try to scroll down the screen. Above the fold is still important.

The practice of putting ads underneath titles has not gone unnoticed. Google has posted an entry in their Inside AdSense blog describing it and why you should not do it.

As you can imagine, users who click on ads that they think are publisher-created content may lose trust in your site and decide not to return in the future. It's important to keep their interests in mind, as well as your own.

Also, advertisers can tell which sites have a high conversion rate for them using Placement Performance reports. A conversion occurs when a click on an ad leads directly to user behavior that the advertiser deems valuable, such as a purchase, sign-up, page view, or lead. Advertisers have the option to exclude your site from their campaigns and may do so if it is not leading to conversions.

You want to engage your visitors. You want them to feel they came to the right place. You want them to come back to you over and over. You want them to recommend your site to other people.

Many of the sites that do this don't seem to get a lot of traffic. So I guess they're trying to milk what few visitors they get into clicking as many ads as they can. If they're not getting much traffic, maybe the content isn't worth reading is what I think when I see sites like that. And many times that's true.

I'm sure people find that using a template such as the mock up above increases their click-through rate. But advertisers don't only care about click-through rates. They care about conversions. On an advertising network that pays per click, such as Google's AdSense, getting a large number of clicks but a low conversion rate is likely to get your earnings per click reduced. You might get more clicks but make less money in the end. Get more interested people to click on the ads instead of clicking them out of confusion or frustration because they didn't find what they thought they were looking for and advertisers will see the poor results and move on. You still may get a lot of advertisers but not the good ones.

Have you ever gone to a site on the same subject as yours that also runs Google AdSense? You look at their ads and you wonder "Why don't I get those big name advertisers?". There are a lot of reasons that may explain it but it boils down to the quantity, and more importantly the quality of your traffic. If you've done any research on improving your AdSense performance, you've undoubtedly heard of Smart Pricing. Smart Pricing tries to regulate the cost to advertisers for clicks from your site, based on the quality of those clicks. The implementation may have flaws but you don't help yourself out by creating a site that will send poor quality clicks to advertisers.

While Google seems to currently allow this type of behavior as long as you don't have the ads directly below the title (you need to put the words "Advertisements" or "Sponsored Links" above the ads) things change. Google constantly updates their criteria and they have written their Terms of Service to make it pretty broad. Under the current AdSense policies, they can start implementing this type of change without rewriting the TOS. If they decide it's better for advertisers to do this, then they will. Remember, without the advertisers, there would be no ads to click on.

You should put ads in or near your content to give them better exposure. Even Google recommends you do that as you can see in a heat map they published. But you don't want to go too far and make the ads overwhelm your content. The heat map may be misleading. It shows 14 different ad slots and very little content. In the real world, you wouldn't have this many ad slots. AdSense policies only allows you to put 3 ad units on your page.

Most people won't be put off if you have advertising on your site. They understand the time and money involved and they appreciate you providing them with whatever information you provide. You should always think about optimizing your ad placements and how to improve your earnings. But if you go too far you can lose your advertisers and your visitors.

Here's a better idea for floating your ad inside your content that will give you better results and not risk your status with AdSense.
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