We usually recommend nifty new tools to optimize your AdSense earnings but there are handy tools right in the AdSense publisher console that can help you boost your earnings. One of these tools is Google AdSense Custom Channels. Curious? Well, it gets better. Spoiler: Advertisers LOVE it.
So what are Custom Channels?
In a nutshell, Google AdSense Custom Channels is a reporting tool on steroids and a great way to organize your ad inventory. But the best part is that Custom Channels turn your ad inventory into targetable for advertisers. Which can, in turn, increase your AdSense CPCs and revenues, creating higher competition for the premium ad real estate you offer.
Custom Channels work differently with different publishers and content hubs. It’s hard to pinpoint best-practices that work for everyone. In this post I will try to cover the basics and give some insights from my personal experience.
Analytics and A/B Testing With AdSense Custom Channels
Knowledge is power. And you can use this power to increase your earnings from AdSense with Custom Channels. By grouping ads into channels you can benchmark performance of ad sizes, placements on the page, colors, pages they appear on, user device used, surrounding content, and other factors.
As We’ve mentioned before, the effectiveness of custom channels differ from one content site to the next but since you have 500 custom channels to play with we’re reasonably confident you’ll find a nice, snug fit for you. So go wild, and check back in a week or two and see what you learn.
Actually, don’t go just yet.
Here’s a great example of how effective custom channels can be at increasing Google AdSense earnings. Custom channels allow you to create reports for specific ad units and analyze them דo take a text ad and analyze how it performs in comparison with image ads in that same placement.
This allows you to isolate other factors that affect performance and create a laser pinpointed A/B test.
If you see the image ads perform better – tweak your settings accordingly. Removing the poor performing ads or ad formats will increase your revenue with little effort. Pretty sweet, right?!
But we’re not done…
How do you know which section of your blog is bringing in more ad earnings?
Here’s another example. Let’s say you have a Lifestyle blog that covers both sports and fashion news. You can create Custom Channels for each of the sections and track the RPM for the pages in the section. If the Custom Channel reports (we’ll get to those in a bit) show better RPM for the sports section, there are two things you should do: Create more sports related content.
That’s the obvious one. At the same time, you should try and figure out why your hard work in the fashion section isn’t paying off. One of the ways to do that is to use Custom Channels. A/B test different ad types and placements in the fashion section to see what will increase revenues there. Group your tests as Custom Channels and analyze performance over time. Don’t forget to let each experiment run for a while before making decisions.
How to make your ad inventory targetable for advertisers using AdSense custom channels
In addition to giving you a powerful A/B testing and analytics tool for your AdSense inventory, Custom Channels make your online assets targetable to advertisers through Google Adwords. And this is great for everyone.
Let’s say I am an advertiser of sports equipment with a video ad to promote. I don’t want my ad to appear on your lifestyle pages. I would, however, like my ad to appear on all the pages in the sports and wellness sections of your wildly popular website. I don’t care so much about the homepage or other sections, but I do want above the fold video placement on very specific pages.
I don’t want to have to compete with hotels, lawyers and government agencies looking to target the broad audience your website attracts. It’ll cost me, and most of the views will come from irrelevant audiences.
As an advertiser, I want to be as certain as possible that my precious budget isn’t wasted on irrelevant views or clicks. With targetable ad inventory, I can choose where on a website I advertise.
Now you might be pouting at the screen, thinking: “So what’s in it for me as a publisher?” or “Hang on, doesn’t this DECREASE the competition for my ad inventory?!” No, it doesn’t. Making specific ad units targetable for Adwords advertisers has the following benefits for publishers too:
- By giving advertisers the choice of location, size and ad type, you’re actually increasing the competition for the better performing ads and ad locations.
- You’re attracting savvy advertisers willing to pay more for the optimal location of their ads.
- Targetable ad placements provide an opportunity to offer and describe your inventory to advertisers (almost) directly. So they can choose where and how they believe their ad would be most effective on your website.
- According to Google: “Because CPM ads compete against CPC ads in the AdWords auction, we’ll always choose the highest-performing ad for your page. If an advertiser wants to target your site specifically, they will need to bid high enough to beat out the CPC ads that are already in the auction in order to show up on your page.”
- Smart Pricing: If you’ve heard of smart pricing before then you know where we’re going with this (if you haven’t, read about it here). Better targeting will equal more conversions for advertisers and higher CPCs for you.
This is great for everyone involved: the users get relevant ads they want to click, the advertisers get the audience they want and you get more money. Awesome, right? So let’s get down to it.
Making it Happen – Setting Up Custom Channels
Once you decide how and what you want to measure and offer advertisers: it’s time to create some Custom Channels.
When you create a new ad unit, you can add it to a Custom Channel (or several). You can also add ad units to Custom Channels by editing the ad unit properties.
Assuming you already have quite a few active ad units on your website, let’s add a few to a Custom Channel.
In the AdSense console go to Content => Custom Channel and click “New Custom Channel”.
Pick a descriptive name for your channel and add the ad units you want to group.
At this point you might be tempted to mark all your channels as targetable. Don’t. Before you offer your inventory to the advertisers who want to pay you, make sure you offer the best package for them and you. Test channels and ads before you make them targetable.
Remember that changing the name of the channel will make you lose all the current bidders for that placement. So be smart about adding and removing ad placements. But more on that later. First, let’s check how our channels are doing.
In your AdSense console go to Performance Reports” => Advanced Reports => Custom Channels.
Here you can see the performance of your various channels over time. You can play around with the report to see different metrics like performance of specific ads, pages and categories across platforms.
Love Your Advertisers – Optimizing Ad Placement Channels
Once you’ve done some testing and optimizing on your ad performance with Custom Channels, it’s time to let advertisers fight over them. Just edit the best performing channels after your benchmarking period, and tick and box that says: “Show this custom channel to advertisers as a targetable ad placement”.
This is where your copywriting skills can shine. Don’t be shy describing the channels you offer. Keywords, demographics, ad sizes… Anything goes. Just be sure not to promise something you can’t deliver, or Google will suspend your account.
Don’t make all your Custom Channels into targetable ad placements right away. Choose the channels that perform best and offer those. If you have too many targetable ad placements, advertisers will get confused.
In my experience, it’s worth creating separate Custom Channels for mobile and desktop versions of your site. Some advertisers are platform-specific (like app install ads or direct call ads), and I personally like to treat mobile and desktop traffic differently in reports and optimization.
Another good strategy is targeting video advertisers with video ad units as these are getting more and more popular.
A/B Testing Your Advertisers with AdSense Custom Channels and AdNgin
You may not know this but many advertisers have large advertising budgets that are entirely devoid of tracking. They’re not bothered with conversions, click-through metrics, or, in fact, any metrics at all expend spending as much of the budget as possible. Sounds great for publishers, right? Not necessarily.
If an advertiser isn’t focused on performance metrics the results of their campaigns can suck for everyone. Here’s an example: let’s say I have a website about computers and gaming. A women’s clothing store whose campaign is managed by a novice advertiser throwing ads arbitrarily on my website. CTRs are so low they cry.
Even if I get paid in CPMs and not CPCs, this hurts my overall publisher score with Google. Besides, I could be making more with well targeted CPC campaigns from other advertisers relevant to the content I publish.
That’s where we come in. You can use AdNgin to create two separate but identical variations of your page layout. Then, hard code the custom channels to serve before serving the AdNgin tag in your page. This will, in effect, A/B test your advertisers to see which performs better in terms of revenue.
Channel Surfing – Keep Testing
Odds are you’ve heard me say this before: the secret to AdSense optimization is that it’s a process. Plastering AdSense code on your page is easy enough, but if you want to make substantial sums of money with Google AdSense, it requires some work.
This is especially true with Custom Channels. It’s an invaluable analytical tool and ad placement promotion platform you simply cannot ignore. Keep experimenting with it – you can have up to 500 channels!
If you find yourself hitting a wall with optimizing your channels leave a comment below and we will help you with your setup.