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Does link color affect ad clickability? Yes!
ergophobe




msg:4643197
 6:36 am on Feb 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

Switching the shade of blue used on advertising links in Gmail and Google search earned the company an extra $200m a year in revenue... "And actually, to make sure we covered all our bases, we ran forty other experiments showing all the shades of blue you could possibly imagine."
[theguardian.com...]


A few good takeaways
- on a micro level: ever so slightly more purple link color drew more clicks (though the actual color that draws clicks may depend on overall color scheme and design).
- on a macro and more worthwhile level: testing reveals untapped revenue sources that might not seem apparent.

Any surprising results from your tests?

 

tangor




msg:4643629
 1:50 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Forget just color blind, the bigger demographic would be people with cataracts and other such eye afflictions like I suddenly ran into 2 years ago. The contrast is a huge issue and dark fonts on dark backgrounds or conversely light faded fonts on white, is a real problem. Heck, I had to use a phone camera flashlight to read most menus in restaurants if they weren't simple B&W menus for the very same reason.

Even more important is the font size and whether it will scale on the page properly when zoomed because the 20-somethings and their 8pt reading eyes are just wrecking the place for people over 40 with money to spend which is why we all shop at Amazon.


incrediBILL's comment is another illumination... and one which can be quickly checked. View THIS PAGE with NO STYLE (Under view in Firefox or IE) and see what a different it makes.
Site is still fully functional, but all the action colors have disappeared (backgrounds, etc).

Code your sites to be READABLE so that your user is not forced to NO STYLE just to see what you have posted on line.

And lose your action colors, too.

Play_Bach




msg:4643634
 2:14 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

May have been a bad move but it's done so the question remains (and why this thread is important) is how to adjust to the change. Color has become a very necessary tool for succeeding with Adsense.


@ webcentric - Color is important, but even the best contrasting scheme doesn't make up for the functional aspect the underline has in conveying a link from regular text.

More and more it seems like the people running AdSense are just using the place to try ridiculous design ideas, while Google Search stays the course with the same text link ad format, now virtually unchanged for over a decade. That's the ad format that works and that's the format I want (and have wanted and wanted from AdSense for years!), the one where links look like links, not headers.

ergophobe




msg:4643650
 3:51 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Now turn the graphic into a grayscale image


Pro graphics people I know do this with everything. It's not just colorblind and cataract people - if your content is truly shareable, it might be printed out and posted in a bulletin board and there's a damn good chance the printer will be B/W

Google Search stays the course with the same text link ad format

Though they also run a lot of tests, not least with background colors on the ad sections.

20-somethings and their 8pt reading eyes are just wrecking the place


At least 2x/week I find myself saying "They need someone older than 50 on staff." Most recently, I went to Death Valley and the NPS newspaper had a map with 6pt fonts (yes 6pt). Speaking of people who need to do some A/B testing!

Play_Bach




msg:4643657
 4:33 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Though they also run a lot of tests, not least with background colors on the ad sections.


@ ergophobe - That's true, but not the ads on the right side. Those text ads look pretty much like they always have, just like the search results on the left. Those are the ads that have traditionally been Google's "cash cow," and (not surprisingly) they're not messing with that.

When AdSense first started, the text ads were closer to that layout too and as far as I'm concerned worked a lot better than the garbage designs they've been serving up the last few years. Removing the underlines only further weakened already weak publisher layout options crippled by stupid arrows and other so-called improvements, none of which you see on Google Search.

incrediBILL




msg:4643658
 4:51 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I concur w/play_bach, the original ads worked great - it's been increasingly going south the more they 'improve' things. The better it gets the worse it pays and I often wonder if that isn't the intent to make sure people REALLY REALLY intended to click that ad?

However, that's drifting way off to a more AdSense oriented topic than just the color of the link.

webcentric




msg:4643667
 5:33 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Those text ads look pretty much like they always have, just like the search results on the left.


Almost exactly the same. Just the column width is different. No stupid panels, arrows, etc as mentioned. If Google was an Adsense publisher (wait a minute, I think they are), they'd be in violation of their own policy. They know what works and they're not interested in allowing publishers to emulate their success. I also don't see any header-sized (non-underlined) links in the ads on the SERPS either. In fact an observant person will note that there are virtually no headers in the SERPS at all (at least not up where they can be confused with ads). Everything is pretty much the same size. So just as too many colors can confuse the eye, too many sizes can do the same thing. But I digress.

I recently tried something that I think works pretty well. The actual url in the ads implies clickability by the very fact that it's a URL. Playing on this, I've started making the Title and the URL the same color and keeping the description very dark (almost black). The theory is that keeping those two elements bound together with color passes the concept along to the viewer that the title is part of the URL which is what a person recognizes as clickable. With enough contrast, these two elements (and the arrow) form a pretty decent hot spot. Trying to use three separate colors for Title, URL and text only seems to make the unit more visually confusing. I also keep the title and link in the blue range and use complementary colors for the ad background (so a pale orange in this case). This makes the Title and URL pop off the ad space and provides a larger hot spot generally. All that's left is for the ad text itself to do its work. Not perfect but seems to be more effective than some other approaches.

blairsp




msg:4643726
 6:01 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have also tried different shades of pink on other parts of the site with little to no success.
Wonder how long it will be until someone on this thread says Pink is great. Actually.......that would be me :) used for about 5 years now.
webcentric




msg:4643735
 6:42 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Wonder how long it will be until someone on this thread says Pink is great. Actually.......that would be me :) used for about 5 years now.


Pretty much any color can be great if it's used right (i.e. in a color palette that works with it). Try using hot pink and pumpkin orange together and see how great it is. ;) Theoretically it could work (again if you do it right). I've seen some very dynamic pink palettes in my day. Pink is just a lighter shade of red so red (theoretically a darker shade of pink) pops off off a pink background in a huge way.

Red, orange and yellow are a "warm" colors (the colors of fire). These tend to excite rather than calm the viewer. Cool colors (blue, green, etc) on the other hand have been traditionally used in psych wards to help calm people down. Too much warmth in an environment can lead to subconscious agitation whereas cool colors can have a settling effect. Getting the mix right is an art form in itself. I'm happy to identify with the pro-pink contingent. It's a shade of color on the wheel. What's not to like about pink?

littlecubpanda




msg:4644587
 10:48 pm on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

My experiment with pink colors lasted all of one day. Never again. I figure go with Google colors to be safe: blue and green.

webcentric




msg:4645270
 3:34 pm on Feb 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

I figure go with Google colors to be safe: blue and green.


I suppose if you don't care what you're website looks like this will work for anyone (or not). Granted, developing your own unique brand and running Adsense effectively in the context of a color scheme you developed takes actual work and attention to detail. Those colors work for Google because their brand palette is at once very simple yet very sophisticated. This isn't a strategy motivated by doing what works for others. It's a brand. It's unique, it's based on research, it's based on experimentation, it's based on context, it's based on the history of the Internet and it's based on solid color theory (along with a great many other core fundamentals of design).

littlecubpanda




msg:4645655
 2:04 am on Feb 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

I care what it looks like, but I want the ads to be differentiated and clear, and with Google colors, people recognize that.

Right now I'm going with blue title, slightly darker blue URL, and black text.

webcentric




msg:4645807
 4:48 pm on Feb 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Right now I'm going with blue title, slightly darker blue URL, and black text.


Which is only part of the picture e.g. Ad background color vs page or container background color. Also, whether you're using borders around your ads or not.

I want the ads to be differentiated and clear


So...

1. Borders help separate the content and the ad. The question here is, are you using borders or not?

2. Background color of the ad can be same as the container or different. What are you doing in this regard? This also applies to the decision to use borders or not.

3. Is your title color or URL color the same as the link colors on your page or not? Also, is the title color similar to any h1, h2 elements on your page. If your headers are clickable (such as with a WP article) then it's easier for people to understand that your ad titles are clickable.

All of this needs to be considered in the context of the color palette your page is built on. Blue and green might actually wash out in certain color environments and not pop at all. Clever use of ad background color can push the ad space toward the viewer in relationship to the surrounding content (making it virtually impossible to miss). This issue isn't just about the color of the links and whether they look clickable, it's about attracting the eye to a section of page. The way you use link color from their is where the whole "is this clickable" question get's answered.

So color isn't just communicating clickability. It's also a visual magnet. Both these aspects are important. Drawing the eye is step one. Communicating clickability is step two.

One main point I'm trying to make here is that if you want to discuss the effectiveness of the colors you use in your ads, you need to take into account the entire color palette of your page and the entire color palette used used in your ad design. It's not possible to determine whether blue and green will work well without knowing how that fits into the rest of the content on the page. Others keep making this point as well. If you want to talk color, it's no use if you tell us you're using blue and green but fail to mention that the rest of your site is pink and red (or whatever). I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, just making a general point that the devil is truly in the details where this subject is concerned.

ken_b




msg:4645813
 5:38 pm on Feb 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

High contrast link colors make a real difference for people with vision issues. And underlines are a BIG clue when using less than max contrast font colors.

eek2121




msg:4646242
 6:40 am on Feb 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have an interesting, but true story to add. I've been using A/B experiments to attempt to raise my CTR on one of my ads based on color, borders, etc. One thing i've noticed is that an ad that isn't usually clicked (inline content ad) actually causes the top ad (most clicked) to DROP in CTR when the style is changed to 'blend in' with the rest of my website.

Go figure.

webcentric




msg:4646384
 2:55 pm on Feb 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have an interesting, but true story to add. I've been using A/B experiments to attempt to raise my CTR on one of my ads based on color, borders, etc. One thing i've noticed is that an ad that isn't usually clicked (inline content ad) actually causes the top ad (most clicked) to DROP in CTR when the style is changed to 'blend in' with the rest of my website.


I think there's a definite reason for this and I've been seeing results along these lines as well. The same effect can be seen when using an image ad in one spot and a text ad in another.

This depends on the overall visual look and feel of the site but on a quiet page, an image ad will jump out at the viewer and scream "I'm an ad!" It's actually distracting the viewer from the fact that another ad somewhere else on the page is also an ad. This distraction factor causes the viewer to look elsewhere on the page for actual content and sort of causes a mental division of the page into ad space and content space. This causes them to see the less demonstrative ad as part of the content space. When you tone down the distraction ad, e.g. by making it a blended text ad, you loose this sort of disarming effect on the viewer. This is certainly a form of visual trickery and I'm not big on trickery in general but color moves the eye and it's one of the techniques we still have in our arsenal to work with. Anyway, that's the theory, using one color dominating ad space to make another space on the page appear friendlier in a sense. It's a form of contrast.

littlecubpanda




msg:4646974
 8:39 am on Feb 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Most of my sites are white background, black text, and pretty simple. Not a lot of stuff going on on each side of the site, all attention is directed to the middle/center of the page.

None of my sites use the same link/color scheme for content as they do for the ads -- this is a violation, of course -- but one way around it, I feel, is using medium/light gray links for your content. This way your real links sort of blend in with the page and aren't as noticeable, while the blue ad links stand out.

Since I'm sensitive to ad blindness myself, I try to structure the ads so that they don't appear all at once on screen (i.e. a sidebar ad next to a center ad), but instead the ads are found as the user scrolls down. However, not all my sites are like this, and the ones with sidebar and center ads I try to differentiate a little, such as making the sidebar ads text/image, and the center ad a text-only ad with different font style and color.

webcentric




msg:4647170
 4:39 pm on Feb 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

@littlecubpanda

1. Are we talking about article pages where there's a lot of reading going on in general, large blocks of text?

Observations on that question would be that people who want to read, read and tend to focus on the content. Reader's are good at working their way around the ads on a page. Consider a magazine where you actually have to follow an article to another page. Readers are in dogged pursuit of the conclusion if the story is what they're interested in and they'll jump over all kinds of hoops (your ads) to get there.

2. What size ads are you using in the body area?

I'm finding that smaller ad sizes are less likely to have panels in them and when I can avoid panels, I get better results. Leaderboards generally don't have panels so can be effective but so can a 250 x 250 inset in the article content.

Also, when in-lining ads in content, too much contrast is like screaming. When you have a huge title (such as with a leaderboard) amping that up with color can go too far. If your site is predominately black and white, you might even want to try using a simple greyscale approach. For example:

Border: #aaaaaa
Background: #dddddd
Title: #555555
URL: Could be same as title or a bit lighter #777777
Text:#333333

I'm just throwing these colors (well, is grey actually a color) out there for a concept. A unit set up like this could be made to look like a magazine inset. Now maybe just poke a little bit of actual color into the mix to make it pop off the page slightly. For example, you could pull a bit of blue into the Title by changing it to something like #555577. You can also push the URL toward green with something like #779977. You may be surprised a what subtle changes like this can accomplish. This keeps the ad from glaring at the reader, blends it with your content and then uses just a touch of color to pull at the eye. This is just one possible approach but demonstrates some reasoning behind the use of color in the context of your page palette.

eek2121




msg:4647346
 4:41 am on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)


Most of my sites are white background, black text, and pretty simple. Not a lot of stuff going on on each side of the site, all attention is directed to the middle/center of the page.

None of my sites use the same link/color scheme for content as they do for the ads -- this is a violation, of course -- but one way around it, I feel, is using medium/light gray links for your content. This way your real links sort of blend in with the page and aren't as noticeable, while the blue ad links stand out.

Since I'm sensitive to ad blindness myself, I try to structure the ads so that they don't appear all at once on screen (i.e. a sidebar ad next to a center ad), but instead the ads are found as the user scrolls down. However, not all my sites are like this, and the ones with sidebar and center ads I try to differentiate a little, such as making the sidebar ads text/image, and the center ad a text-only ad with different font style and color.


I don't understand why people think that using the same color scheme as what is on their website is a violation. This is false. The only thing that Google says regarding this is that disguising your ads as content is a violation. You are free to use whatever colors you wish, as long as you aren't trying to fool the user into thinking your ads are content on your website.

eek2121




msg:4647348
 4:56 am on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)


I think there's a definite reason for this and I've been seeing results along these lines as well. The same effect can be seen when using an image ad in one spot and a text ad in another.

This depends on the overall visual look and feel of the site but on a quiet page, an image ad will jump out at the viewer and scream "I'm an ad!" It's actually distracting the viewer from the fact that another ad somewhere else on the page is also an ad. This distraction factor causes the viewer to look elsewhere on the page for actual content and sort of causes a mental division of the page into ad space and content space. This causes them to see the less demonstrative ad as part of the content space. When you tone down the distraction ad, e.g. by making it a blended text ad, you loose this sort of disarming effect on the viewer. This is certainly a form of visual trickery and I'm not big on trickery in general but color moves the eye and it's one of the techniques we still have in our arsenal to work with. Anyway, that's the theory, using one color dominating ad space to make another space on the page appear friendlier in a sense. It's a form of contrast.


Exactly, but i'll even give you a bit of further thought. On my site my headers weren't bolded. They used a 'semibold' weight of 300 or so. My ads however had a bold font. The ads had incredible CTR (for the site...that was actually only 2.5% ctr...but lets continue...) One day i decided to remove the bold font on my ads. When i did the CTR dropped like a rock. from 2.5% down to 0.40%. It's all about catching the eye just enough to draw the users to the ad, without intentionally doing so...talk about a balancing act...

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