[Video] How Aggressive Ad Placement Kills Websites

When I did a recent Q&A thread one of the recurring themes with sites that were struggling was AdSense ads positioned above their content. Many websites are never given the chance to grow because they monetize too aggressively and look to spammy to enjoy the benefits of organic growth and community building.

Mentioned in this video:

Published: November 30, 2007 by Aaron Wall in videos


November 30, 2007 - 4:39pm

I've made a couple posts about my site favoritepart.com

I used to replace the image with an ad every 5 page views (I had a link that would allow you to keep using the site). This improved the conversions greatly, but visitors didn't stick around. I changed it to every one in 15 and I'm slowly building up visitors.

Dave Dugdale
November 30, 2007 - 5:59pm


I would like to do videos like this one, however I am concerned about copyright issues. Did you contact each of the web site owns for permission to display screen captures?

November 30, 2007 - 6:54pm

Hi Dave
I don't think you will get in trouble for creating videos like these. I generally link to most of the sources and think displaying them briefly while talking about them probably falls within fair use. Blogs are sorta like news channels, IMHO.

November 30, 2007 - 6:14pm

Great post Aaron!

I agree that sites that only display ads above the fold are annoying. Some ads are fine, as long as at least half of the content above the fold is actual content.

For me, this brings up the question, What about large sidebar ads? For example, a lot of the blogs surrounding the blogging industry have an oversized sidebar that are thoroughly saturated with ads. Granted, over half of the page above the fold contains actual content, but there is still quite a bit of ads on the page. How effective do you feel these techniques are?


November 30, 2007 - 6:56pm

Hi JMorris
I suppose it all comes down to testing and how clean the site looks. On my mom's weight loss blog she has ads in a wide left column and I think that works fairly decent for her.

As I teach her more about web stuff we will likely feature recommeneded affiliate offers or something of greater value there.

Also, if my mom was in the tech market or a market where visitors were less likely to click ads I might not even consider using AdSense.

To me the easy line to draw is if I have to scroll to get to any content then the site went way too far. Also 300 by 250 ad blocks top and to the left IN THE CONTENT AREA with the content wrapping around them is weird to me. I float the ads right on that sort of stuff.

November 30, 2007 - 11:19pm

I am changing the look of my site.

December 1, 2007 - 12:07am

Aaron, that was a really good and insightful post, especially for websites that have a, let's say, middle-sized reach (say 100,000 visitors a month), but the audio quality was bad to say the least. I love your advice but at a certain point it is really difficult to keep track of what you're saying - it sounds like muffled garbage at a certain point. Your videos are expert (content-wise), but they lack the audio clarity. Please improve on that, because they're really frustrating.

December 1, 2007 - 8:41am

Sorry about that Lukamaras
I think the problem was that I made that video after being up for about 26 hours...I think it was me that was unclear more than the microphone. My USB microphone was recommended by and audiphile friend in the recording industry, and I even have a pop filter, etc.

December 1, 2007 - 1:35am

It isn't enough to say that top placement of ads will kill the site. You have to know what state your site is in. You are right, Aaron, in noting that if you are competing for 'stickiness' then less ads may be the ticket. But an established site (Digg, About) will get much higher conversions by placing ads higher and that's why they do it.

If you are building a site that you want to last and it is content rich, then forego revenue and ads for a while. Add them later when you know it won't affect your user base.

Wait .. this is backwards... don't show ads to new users so they will like you then reward them later after they've demonstrated their loyalty by sticking ads in front of them?

Odd. But it works.

December 1, 2007 - 8:43am

Some sites (About, Digg) have so much gravity and inertia that they are hard to kill. Newer smaller sites where others offer something that is approximately equivalent and you haven't built a strong brand deserve a far different approach...precisely as you stated Doug. Great post. :)

December 1, 2007 - 7:49am

Hi Aaron great blog and book, I respect you heaps.

With your video you should embed using http://www.veoh.com it has a bigger screen and it looks better.

December 1, 2007 - 8:40am

Hi Shaiki
The reason I have stuck with YouTube is that many of the video companies have 1% or 2% market share, and I think many of them will likely go under over the next year or two.

December 1, 2007 - 4:51pm

Hmmm....I guess I always thought that content came first then build the ads around it.

Wasn't the mustang forum being promoted by vbseo as having a significant increase in adsense revenue? I might be mistaken on that, but I do know that there is a lot of people from the forum arena that most believe to put 2 big adsense blocks in the header of the forum. I had a reasonably successful forum and tried this but realized that while I was getting a higher CTR, my traffic and forum activity dropped huge.

Aaron, I'd love to see an article on forum building and promoting. Also, seeing the google screen shot of the areas of a site where people look the most brings up an obvious question...Do we put ads where the people are already looking? Do we save the ads for below the fold? It's obvious that people expect to see ads on the right and left hand columns of the website, do we skip or use those places?

Too many questions...

December 1, 2007 - 5:58pm

I'd love to see an article on forum building and promoting.

I have helped others launch their forums by announcing them and have been a moderator at many forums, but have never done a serious job of creating and promoting a forum of my own.

Having said that, I think my advice on how to grow a forum might not be as good as tips some others offer. Some tips though:

  • do at least basic SEO
  • hold contests
  • create editorial content and launch tools that fit around the content
  • highlight featured content and featured posters
  • cross promote with other forums and blogs
  • participate in other forums to start building up your name and trust

The hard part about explicitly telling people where to put ads is that if people follow exactly what I am doing on my sites and that emulation starts spreading across the web then I make people ad blind to what I am doing.

About as aggressive as I would get is what my mom's site looks like on fattyweightloss.com. I have some other higher touch sites that are a bit less aggressive though.

Mike Smith
December 12, 2007 - 8:32am

Hello Aaron,

Thanks for mentioning my website, Bootstrapping Blog in the video. You weren't the first to mention that the design was good but the ads were horrible.

I've redesigned Bootstrapping Blog now, and have a much cleaner look and approach to the website. Would love to hear your comments on the redesign of it to see if you think I've done a better job this time?

Mike Smith

December 12, 2007 - 10:10am

Hi Mike
Honestly I thought your old design looked far more unique, and better...I just did not like the poor integration of the affiliate ad. The new design looks a bit monochromatic to me.

Mike Smith
December 13, 2007 - 12:54am

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for your reply and taking the time to look it over.

I do agree that the old design was more "visually" appealing, but with this design, I wanted a cleaner, lighter design.


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