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MakeupAlley.com - AdSense Case Study Website Teardown!
Finding Out What Accounts for 50% Earnings Increase

 10:48 pm on Mar 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Latest post [adsense.blogspot.ie] at Official AdSense Blog announces newest case study, MakeUpAlley.com [makeupalley.com]Case Study PDF here. [services.google.com]

The results are pretty dramatic, although a before and after screenshot would be helpful to see the previous ad placements. Archive.org has a record but it's not apparent where the ads were placed from their snapshot. Archive.org snapshot here:

http://web.archive.org/web/20110426015647/http://makeupalley.com/ [web.archive.org]

A side by side review shows that the new MUA site only has two navigation choices in the nav bar, compared with eight choices last year. Site visitors are now funneled to the Product Reviews section (an obvious money page section) and the forums. Fonts and layout look identical.

Gone is the link to the Links section and the link to Favorites is also removed. Somewhat redundant so no surprise. Also gone are links to MY MUA, Swap, Mail, and Diary. What they did to the navbar was create a tighter focus on driving site visitors to the money pages and to their community (content creation & site stickiness).

Clicking through to the Product Reviews section and doing a side by side review reveals a web page layout that is essentially the same. The site is supposed to be highly successful.

What do you think? Big change? Meh? Any lessons here?

Improve user experience
Increase user engagement

Revamped landing page with simplified design
Grouped, highlighted affiliate links,related content
Made product ratings, reviews stand out
Reorganized AdSense ad units
Used Google Analytics to conduct A/B test

171% increase in on-site interactions
21% more clicks on affiliate links
50% lift in AdSense revenue



 12:43 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

See, you are learning. Now we can have a good conversation about this.

However, I believe if you are running a website covering a certain industry (any industry) than it does add a lot to your credibilty if you actually are supported by the major players of that industry.

And can't they do this within Adsense/Adwords? In Adwords, you can choose the sites you advertise on. So why bother with a direct sale? As an Adsense publisher, can you really compete with a network like Adsense?

I know that the reason I don't directly deal with companies is because I simply do not have the network to even talk to the people in charge of advertising. And it does bring a certain amount of credibility that "Fortune 500 Company" is advertising on my site through Adsense (or another network) as opposed to "Mom & Pop XYZ - FREE WIDGET WITH EVERY ORDER - CALL NOW - LIMITED TIME OFFER" Company - which would be the best I could hope for with a direct sale. I know it is not fool proof, and I get some of that when I use Adsense, but on my own that kind of ad would be my only option. You have to think about that too, you know...

Take a look around at major websites. Most use some kind of ad network, mostly Adsense or whatever MS is pushing these days. Why? Because it is easy. That has always been the beauty of Adsense/Adwords. They are easy to use. Central and direct.


 12:57 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

@cwnet: Then we're in agreement :)

A) Alexa does not mean anything. Nor does Compete, Quancast or any other of the "traffic reporting" sites.

I think they all have some kind of meaning. None of them are very accurate in their measurements, but they *can* give an overall idea on the health of traffic to many sites, especially over a longer period of time.

Anything below 100,000 and even moreso below 50,000 gives a somewhat reliable indication with Alexa. The others are very hit-and-miss.

edit: a 2,000-something Alexa ranking is not something to blink your eyes at.


 2:17 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm still flabbergasted that you can't see most of the site without registering.

I'm not, go to Google news and click on all the top story links. You'll find that you can't even see a good number of the articles being linked to by Google without registering, they are behind paywalls. About as useful as a brick in my wallet.

I'm still flabbergasted that they would "feature" a site which has a special adsense account capable of creating units the average joe cannot access, like the link units shoved mid content. That's just deceptive in my opinion, the results are meaningless to 99% of publishers as a result.

I count 5 ad units as well, not the allowed 3 standard + 3 link unit + 2 search that 99% are limited to. This is deja vu of "askthebuilder" site which was once their poster child featured sites with 8 text/image units + 2 search boxes + 3 link units(the owner now loathes adsense, apparently).

- Header 728x90
- Sidebar Top 300x250
- Sidebar Bottom 300x250
- Center page 800x90 text special unit
- Bottom of page 800x90 special unit

Why even feature it when 99% of publishers don't have special units and can't post 5 of them anyway?


 3:09 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Tim Carter, the owner of askthebuider.com, was often featured as a model web site, and even more as a model AdSense webmaster [web.archive.org]. I saw him speak at the very first "Google Partners' Day" and met him along with his account manager.

His site isn't the best and god help us if it was, but we're seeing almost the exact same thing with MakeupAlley.

AskTheBuilder was hailed as the 'be all and end all' of Google's "what to do", but the search team says it's rubbish.. God bless him, he's been relegated to nothing in cyberspace.

But even though Google has deleted all mention of AskTheBuilder, who are these newcomers? They are nothing less than the new generation of AskTheBuilders.


 3:24 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I did a G search for askthebuilder, there it was.

the first page I checked had adsense, amazon, chitika, and a banner ad.


 3:37 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I did a G search for askthebuilder, there it was.

the first page I checked had adsense, amazon, chitika, and a banner ad.

and an extremely irritating, hustling for your email, "slide in" form..which partially obscures the 336 ad from Google on the right side of the page..just inviting inadvertent clicks on the underlying ads, as you try to get rid of it..( or fill it in ) if you are foolish enough..


 3:58 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

just inviting inadvertent clicks on the underlying ads, as you try to get rid of it..( or fill it in ) if you are foolish enough

Just one of the very many issues. I'm not defending anybody, just giving perspective. These shenanigans are pretty new due to losing traffic.


 4:12 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

re: Alexa and large sites, sometimes it's more accurate than others and one of my personal sites was pushing over 1M visitors a month once and they ranked it reasonably well at the time being well above 20K in their ranks but traffic volume has nothing to do with the number of people running the site.

Look at PlentyofFish, the guy was also a one man show that tossed up a UGC free dating site which went ballistic and he made a small fortune on AdSense so traffic volume and earnings has nothing to do with the size of the team and everything to do with working smart and not working hard.

One person, one database, one really fast dual quad core CPU server with lots of RAM and and lots of cache and a kick butt idea and you can easily handle tons of traffic and make make buttloads of money but you really have to get it right to be that kind of a success.

A little luck doesn't hurt either.

The problem IMO is that now the spotlight is on their site a bunch of people will try to try to directly compete with them instead of learning from them and applying it to other areas being neglected in the AdSense ecosystem which is the real pitfall of being held up as an example for the rest of us to learn from.


 4:15 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't consider other people rushing off and doing the wrong thing a problem..bunches of them doing it, is even better:) meanwhile, back at the haunt..


 1:28 pm on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

...instead of learning from them and applying it to other areas being neglected in the AdSense

Which is the point of the Case Study Website Teardown discussions, finding the real reasons why a case study site is successful. I appreciate Google's attempt to help web publishers do better. But the truth is that those case studies are short on details. WebmasterWorld members do a superior job of identifying the missing details to explain why a site improved their earnings. I am truly humbled by some of the responses in these discussions.

It's humorous to point out embarassing points to subvert Google's judgement in making a site a case study. But it's financially edifying to identify why a site is making more money. Ultimately, understanding how to improve our sites and earn more money is why we're here at WebmasterWorld. Just wanted to thank the members once again for the great contributions to these discussions.

For my part I have learned from the previous teardown discussion that my fonts were too small. I increased the fonts and the CTR on the top positioned large banner went up and stayed up. I also tried the 336x280 ad unit and found that it performed less good than the 300x250 add unit that was there previously. However I'm going to test it out in other contexts using detailed channels for a/b testing purposes.

The lesson I learned from MakeupAlley.com is more of an affirmation of the concept of focusing on who your best site visitors are, the idea that too many choices are confusing, and that there is such a thing as money pages.

[edited by: martinibuster at 1:44 pm (utc) on Mar 23, 2013]


 1:32 pm on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Absolutely, and that's also the same reason I would never ever ever want Google to feature one of my sites (not that they would - but if they wanted to, I'd sure say no)


 3:53 pm on Mar 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ah, yeah, like top companies have a army of people who just search out good websites to work individual contracts with that they then have to manage after that? Because you know, they want to spend 100s of hours of manpower on that.

None of the top beauty sites have contract ads - it's all CPM, CPC and affiliate links. I'm not sure why this is, but my guess would be that the brands realize it's really the reviews that make the sales for them, not the banner ads. They send out a lot of free product samples for beauty sites to test and review, and that's probably a much better marketing spend for them than to make a contract deal with each beauty site. For as much good as banner ads do them, it makes more sense to just spend a modest budget with ad networks like Adsense and let the ads show up on ALL the major beauty sites. Focusing on getting their stuff reviewed on the best sites is a much better plan.

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