We did a recent case study involving the use of the section targeting parameters for Google AdSense and were pleasantly surprised by the results. First, for anyone that isn’t aware of what section targeting is, allow me to explain. Many sites have different sections of particular pages that are there either for design purposes, user functionality, private ad agreements or whatever the case may be. The content in those sections may not necessarily be as relevant to the actual content of the page as it could be, and this can impact which ads are shown to your users. Since Google factors in whatever content it crawls on your page to determine which ads to show, the section targeting allows you to be more laser focused with which ads will show. It does this by allowing you to actually tell Google which content on-page should be ignored for ad serving purposes.
In theory, it makes perfect sense that this should work. After all, as an advertiser I prefer my ads to be shown on the most relevant pages of content since they are more likely to result in a click and conversion. Since I’ll be no doubt competing with other advertisers for the most desirably ad placement, this should drive up the cost of the click, which means a higher eCPM for the publisher. Sounds great. However, we generally trust very little of what Google tells us, so we insist on real world testing to determine if we’re being fed a line of BS from The Big G.
We tested the Google AdSense Section Targeting parameters on 3 different sites in different, competitive niches to ensure there would be an adequate number of potential ads to be served. Site A has been running AdSense for over 4 years and gets roughly 1,000 impressions/day. Site B has been running AdSense for a little over 1 year and gets roughly 200 impressions/day and Site C had AdSense implemented just for this test, but gets roughly 3,500 impressions/day.
To implement section targeting, you need to add the following code to your pages:
<!– google_ad_section_start –>
Content that you want considered for ad serving purposes…
<!– google_ad_section_end –>
To exclude certain content from consideration by Google’s ad bots, you wrap these tags around it (adding weight=ignore):
<!– google_ad_section_start(weight=ignore) –>
Content you do NOT want considered for ad serving purposes…
<!– google_ad_section_end –>
Well, I was going to make up pretty little charts and graphs to demonstrate the difference after implementing section targeting, but decided not to, mostly because I’m too lazy to be bothered with it. However, I can recommend adding this feature, particularly if your pages are cluttered. On Site A, the home page is a mutilated mass of nastiness, and its a wonder that Google can ever guess what types of ads to show due to the different sections and post snippets that have very little in common with each other. We saw a huge eCPM increase on this site (eCPM effectively doubled on the homepage), and a moderate eCPM increase on article pages. Site B is a far more narrowly focused site, and perhaps that’s why we didn’t see a noticeable improvement, but it doesn’t appear to have hurt it either.
Site C was used just to throw in a site that doesn’t run AdSense to see what happened. Since we didn’t have an AdSense eCPM baseline to compare with, it was sort of pointless for this case study, but I wanted to see if it behaved differently on “new” AdSense sites. Google has to be concerned about people trying to “game the system” with any new features so I just wanted to monitor the bot behavior on a new AdSense site to see how if they handled that initial AdSense crawl differently, but they didn’t. My guess is they’ll monitor eCPM’s on the site and compare to other sites in the niche, coupled with a manual review just to ensure everything is on the up-and up, but I didn’t run the test long enough to see since CPA offers earn far more money on that site than AdSense does anyway. I always suspected as much, but now I have definitive proof so I was able to kill two birds with one stone during this case study.
Final Verdict – definitely implement this, particularly if you have different sections of your site that result in different types of ads. The new laser targeting will get you a higher eCPM and if there is enough traffic to your site it will no doubt be plucked out by advertisers for site-specific placement which is what you want as a publisher. Google sucks at so much, but this is one feature we love and highly recommend – now if I can only figure out why I haven’t used it before…