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AdSense Website Teardown: RealCarTips.com
Reviewing an AdSense Case Study

 4:00 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

There are several definitions of the word, Teardown. I am using the definition related to reverse engineering an object to find out what makes it work. For our purposes we are reviewing an AdSense Case Study site and figuring out why Google feels publishers should take note of it.

RealCarTips.com [realcartips.com] is a site about buying new cars. Please take a look at it and let us know why you think this site was selected by Google to be featured on the home page of AdSense.

My impressions

New Car searches seem to have a lot of inventory. This niche has traditionally been a high margin industry heavy on advertising so it would be no surprise if this historic trend carried over to online advertising. Certainly a keyword phrase such as New Car Deals features a healthy inventory in the regular Google search.

Could the navigation be any simpler? Big green tab-style navigation at the top of the page. This is a characteristic Google encouraged publishers at the last Learn with Google event in Manhattan. They encouraged publishers to make it easy for site visitors to find what they want and click through to it. RealCarTips.com does that in spades with the tabbed nav panel.

Then there's a table of content at the left hand side. Labeling it Table of Content is an interesting strategy because it encourages browsing as well as the conceptualization of the site as something similar to a book or a pamphlet guide. On the right side are links to related top level sections. Again, following Google recommendations of pulling site visitors deep into the site. Further down on the left hand side there are more links to differently themed by related content, used cars, leasing, financing, etc. Overall I think the publisher did a great job of categorizing the site content then placing links to it all on the home page without making it look like a Big Page-O-Links.

There's more to the site but check this out. How many clicks does it take to get to an AdSense ad?



 5:00 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I quite like that site; no ads on the home page, and nothing the least bit spammy, and not overdoing it on ads where they appear. Nicely blended. Rich content. They're doing a lot right.


 5:06 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

As an AdSense primer specifically, RealCarTips is a real head scratcher. There's considerable amount of content pages without ads and those with ads have only two blocks neither of which are the size Google reps have been actively pushing - realcartips uses 160x600 and 336x280 while G steers you toward 728x90 and 300x250 every chance they get (at least in my experience), saying those two latter types have better inventory and media ads. The two blocks instead of three is significant because I am constantly deleting reminders from AdSense (automated, no doubt) that I could earn more if I add a third block to x,xxx pages. None of their advice seems to apply to the posted child of AdSense success, so I wonder where do they get those advices from?


 5:24 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm pretty sure his AdSense strategy revolves around getting people to sign up for his weekly newsletter. The reason I think this is because I don't even see ads except on the weekly tips section. My guess is it's probably a very effective strategy but requires the newsletter to work to maximum benefit as that's what's going to drive traffic to his AdSense pages.


 5:30 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Good observation 1Script, about the seemingly exclusive use of 160x600 and 336x280 ad units! :) RealCarTips.com also uses 728x90 ad units, but not often. I note where the publisher uses them below.

I don't even see ads except on the weekly tips section.

He features ads throughout the site, but typically one to two clicks in. Why would that be? Does user experience suffer? Or does he make more money herding ad clickers to the more lucrative money pages?

Digging into the code I see that the different sections have different Channel labels attached to the ads. Presumably this makes it easier to troubleshoot and improve ad performance.

Buyers Guide and Weekly tips sections feature unique tracking channels. The channel names are visible in the source code.

Now take a look at what is likely the publisher's money pages, where he lists autos by make and then one click down by the automobile model. He uses unique channels to track the top level and granular level ad units. Interestingly he uses a less agressive 728x90 unit for the top level pages [realcartips.com] then dials it up on the granular pages [realcartips.com] with a 336x280 rectangle, presumably the end of a visitor click path through the site.


 3:17 pm on Mar 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ordinarily I considered the 336x280 ad units a tad big and even aggressive. But somehow they don't look that way as implemented on this site. Here's what Google AdSense Support recommends: [support.google.com]
As a rule of thumb, wider ad sizes tend to outperform their taller counterparts, due to their reader-friendly format. Readers absorb information in "thought units," several words at a time. Wider sizes let them comfortably read more text at a glance without having to skip a line and return to the left margin every few words, as they'd have to with a narrower ad.

If positioned well, wide ad sizes can increase your earnings significantly. The sizes we've found to be the most effective are the 336x280 Large Rectangle, the 300x250 Medium Rectangle, the 728x90 Leaderboard, and the 160x600 Wide Skyscraper.

Anyone else use the large rectangles?


 4:18 pm on Mar 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Anyone else use the large rectangles?
Not 336x280 but I do use 728x90 leaderboard and they suck. Probably because I stick them into the space where everyone expects to have a banner ads and ad blindness kills it.

I think 336x280 works for realcartips because he uses very large font for the rest of the content. It kills two birds with one stone, so to speak: the page appears to have more content than it actually does and the huge ads no longer appear huge. Some (most?) of his money pages are extremely thin and even actually scraped (not to mention old - there's nothing I see that's younger than 2011) so I can see where he might want to make them look bigger with large font.

I also think large font makes his pages more mobile phone friendly - don't know if it plays a role or not but 336x280 ads are still useable as mobile ads due to large font sizes and all the rest of the blocks (I haven't tried the largest yet) are simply useless for mobile traffic, at least in text format.


 8:34 pm on Mar 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

so I can see where he might want to make them look bigger with large font

I took the larger font to mean he was trying to appeal to an older audience (which translates to a more monied audience).

His layout and style seems to follow the very best practices when appealing to a 50+ audience. Boomers, despite the recession, are flush with money right now. In appealing to them, you would get an audience that is more likely to convert on high end purchases, much more likely to have been through the car buying process several times and therefore more open to avoiding the hassels of the car buying process and therefore more likely to purchase the services that dominate his ads, and are more likely to be actually looking for a car they mean to purchase, rather than just fantasy window shopping.

Alot of times people talk about the ads and their placement as a way to increase money, but people might want to think about their audience and how to appeal to the part of the audience most likely to convert for the products advertised on their site. Cater to those people to attract them, and your ads become more valuable and your adsense income goes up.


 8:49 am on Mar 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Believe me the "table of contents" approach makes no difference. We noticed this mainstay of G's fav: Wikip and adopted it early on after Panda (replacing our top-center menus) hoping it would help, and it made no difference that I can see.

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