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Does style even matter?

Uglier the better?

     
11:08 am on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Put put up AdSense on a new site. Tweaked it to "ok".

A week later I went to make a change and copied the wrong code out of the adsense generator. It was for a leader board format instead of the perty stock format. So the whole site looked a mess with a big ol banner in the middle of every page - some times covering content itself.

I didn't/couldn't check the results and didn't know what had happened until a user wrote me a week later.

Interesting though, that the click through rate doubled overnight. It stayed doubled too... hmmmmm maybe this is what they were talking about putting ads in the middle of the content? Man that is annoying.

11:11 am on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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In seriousness, yes, I think ugly often can work. Leave it another week and see if it holds.
11:24 am on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think it depends on the purpose of the site and whether you want repeat visitors.

Ugly might get you plenty of firt time visitor click throughs, but you are less likely to get repeat visitors. Short term you make more money - long term the site will probably burn itself out.

11:32 am on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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long term the site will probably burn itself out.

Whilst my gut instinct would say the same as you, I've seen many very succesful sites that have been around for a long time and are pig ugly.

I think it was Brett that turned me onto Neilson's philosophy of "users don't come to your site to see your content, they come to your site to see their content".

The majority of website visitors (based on seeing members of my community sites' own websites) wouldn't know a "good looking" design if it hit them in the face.

Ultimately, if you find a way to lead them to clicking on what you want them to click on, you potentially reverse Neilsons philosophy. That can be a powerful tool. The same psychology is used by magicians ("pick a card" = "you want to pick *this* card") - I don't see why it couldn't work on the internet.

I think the same applies to copy. I get to see loads of highly succesful online stores with the worst kind of sales drivel you have ever read in your life. I couldn't bring myself to write copy like that. Ever. But these guys actually sell stuff like it's going out of fashion.

TJ

2:15 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think this is another iteration of past discussion - if you make a page that attracts readers via good search engine placement, but which has poor content or is difficult to read, the readers have an incentive to "go elsewhere" to try to find the information. And that may well be by clicking an ad.
2:39 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Put put up AdSense on a new site.
Maybe it is because you put the code twice ;)

Depending on the number of repeat visitors that the site gets this could very well be a matter of the visitors saying "look at this ugly new thing here, let me check it out".

Is the sample big enough?

4:01 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The most profound thing in this thread is the bottom line truth about click thru based advertising:

... if you make a page that attracts readers via good search engine placement, but which has poor content or is difficult to read, the readers have an incentive to "go elsewhere" to try to find the information. And that may well be by clicking an ad.
4:22 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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all my adsense in the middle of content on our sites generated high CT rates. 10 - 15 percent at times.

i dont see what the problem is.

5:09 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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all my adsense in the middle of content on our sites generated high CT rates.

yea, it works. google is even saying in their little adsense guide they mailed out to make it big and plop it in the middle.

this really is the whole "ugly sites sell" mantra again isn't it? I need to give the art of ugly design it's due.

It still depends on what kind of site you want to have. If monetizing strategy is based on advertising dollars and not repeat (or necessarily happy)visitors, then you've got a pretty effective model here.

5:17 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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We place adsense in the middle of content articles, it does increase click throughs, but our rational is since they are reading an article about"widgets" they just may want to "buy" a widget...thus adsense.

I agree...having an ugly site would bug the heck out of me! Money is one thing...self respect is another!

5:28 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Who says it has to be ugly? We incorporate AdSense ads in the middle of articles and clearly delineate them as ads, too. Looks great (from my point of view ;-) and has respectable CTR.

KOB

5:45 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Side note: When I find an ugly site, that looks like a directory or doesn't have what I am looking for, I usually click "BACK" ....2 seconds max. spent on a sites that don't have what I am looking for.

Then again, I just may be programed NOT to click on the Google Ads and may be in the minority ;)

9:54 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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When I hear people bragging about their double digit ctr it means one thing to me - their sites suck.
11:04 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I had an unintentional error on one of my sites that caused the content not to show. It took me about a day before I noticed. AdSense clicks/revenue more than quadrupled during that time. The pages had nothing but navigation and AdSense ads on them during that time.
11:17 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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My nomination for the most valuable post so far in this thread goes to 4eyes for this post.

I want my adsense pages to accurately answer the question that the user searched for, but I want the next most interesting thing on the page to be the adsense.

Frankly, I doubt adsense advice gets much better than this.

1:55 am on Aug 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

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If you can position adsense to be the first clickable things above the fold you can do pretty well on most shopping related queries. That's not an easy one to work into most sites but for 30-50%CTRs we always figure out a way.
1:57 am on Aug 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ah, should say: first clickable thing above the fold but after some decent info that should satisfy the query.
2:10 am on Aug 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

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30-50%CTRs

!

ok...now that is the most profound statement in this thread.

2:51 am on Aug 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I don't know about ugly, but my best performing and most consistent site (CTR + total earnings) is a plain white page with two columns of links (titles to articles). All the articles are on plain white pages with nothing but links to "Home" in the top left corner. And Adsense ads of course. The site is on my ISP (no domain name) and #1 for two very decent keywords. It's so well placed in the SERPs that I'm afraid to move it to a real domain....cracks me up that it is such a good earner.

I suspect the fact that it is ooooold and has a high PR spot in the DMOZ is the real reason for its success, but there are times I'm tempted to throw design out the window and duplicate it. =)

6:43 am on Aug 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think the old mantra (ugly sells for clikthru)is true, but...

1. In many cases Adsense is something extra on a site that you want to be sticky for other reasons.
2. In your example there is not enough statistics prior to the ugliness to determine if the higher ctr is accompanied by a drop in cpm due to lack of completing the business objective.
3. Some of us bury our heads in pride whilst designing a site and ugly is just too,... well, ugly.

<added>Wow, 2000 posts</added>

10:27 am on Aug 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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An ugly site can be more trustworthy - "this is made by a person, not a professional company that doesn't do anything without the purpose of taking my money"...

So, ads on ugly pages can similarly be more trustworthy to some users, that think of them aas recommandations from a "little guy".

Also, sites that look "too good" sometimes compromise in respect to usability (pageload, simplicity, navigation, not enough text etc.) - making them "less sticky" than an ugly site.

2:40 pm on Aug 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I had a mySQL database problem on one of my sites once which caused most of the site's pages to be mostly empty. The AdSense ads, however, did appear.

I noticed the problem shortly after checking AdSense and wondering why the click-through rate had skyrocketed.

I've never had a day since where I earned so much from AdSense.

But I wouldn't recommend it. Google would figure it out pretty quickly and start running PSAs (or disable your account). And it doesn't do much to attract repeat visitors. :-)

-- Roger

3:29 pm on Aug 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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An ugly site can be more trustworthy - "this is made by a person, not a professional company that doesn't do anything without the purpose of taking my money"...

Good point.

Also, ugly is in the eye of the beholder, and what's ugly to some may be simple and unaffected to others. The site's function also comes into play.

An editorial site, for example, may lose credibility if it looks like a corporate site or an e-commerce site.

Readability may also suffer (and users may not stick around) if an editorial site uses a small sans-serif typeface or tiny fixed fonts. Such fonts may be acceptable for catalog blurbs on e-commerce sites, but they're likely to drive away readers of articles (especially on editorial sites about travel and other topics that attract large numbers of middle-aged and older readers).

Finally, let's not forget that AdWords/AdSense ads are pretty ugly themselves (with the exception of well-designed "image ads"). Despite their ugliness, they're performing well for many of us, and they're certainly bringing in a lot of money for Google.

8:00 pm on Aug 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ok, I took the Brett's advice and changed one of my sites so that I can have the skyscraper adsense on the place where the real menu was. I even removed the borders and have the same color as the contents(site reviews). The menu went up to where the adsense leader board was.

NOW the CTR trippled today. I will have to see if it holds. It may look uglier than before, but the ads are where the menu was.

If they are clicking one of the ads after reading the review, they are going to the right place. (Since those advertisers sell the products)

Thanks Brett in advance...

8:30 pm on Aug 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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itisgene:

Do you want repeat visitors? Do you want to build a long-term reputation (and position in Google) as an "authority site" or "expert site" with your reviews? Or are you just looking for the quick buck?

If it's the latter, replacing menus with borderless AdSense ads may work. (Although it could backfire if readers of your reviews are clicking on ads out of confusion, the clicks don't generate many sales, and Google's "smart pricing" gives your advertisers bigger discounts because of low conversion rates on your clicks.)

If you're thinking long-term, questionable tactics like replacing menus with borderless ads may work to your disadvantage, however. For one thing, you're likely to get fewer inbound links from legitimate sites.

2:18 am on Aug 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, europeforvisitors.
I appreciate your concerns.

I do understand the long term and short term impact.

I have another (bigger) site for the same industry. It is much polished and targeting long term visitors. The one that I mentioned is for a niche market. I don't think no one will bookmark the niche site to comeback again. So, yes. It is short term site until I have enough traffic to the main site that I am building. The main site has a nicely put leader board, which has much lower CTR for now. I am fine with that. The niche site may go away soon.

If I have built the main site for the full contents, I will have to redo the niche site.

But seriously, do you think it is that BAD to put the sky scraper adsense on the left column? Do you think so many people will click the left column ads because there is no border?

In fact some of the advertisers are showing up as reviewed sites. So, it is visitor's interest to click one of the advertisers' ads to see if they offer what the visitors want.

I haven't done that before for any of my sites. I am not sure if I will have to stop doing this. It's been almost a full day since I changed the ads format. The site had very good CTR even before this change. Now it is so good that it seems like it will break a daily record...

Any thoughts?

2:30 am on Aug 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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When I hear people bragging about their double digit ctr it means one thing to me - their sites suck.

Their sites suck? Ok...but its making a lot more than your sites :)

2:34 am on Aug 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Yes, I admit that the niche site sucks.
The main site is much much better, though.

A site that sucks makes more money to me than looking good and more content site. (at least for me for now)

2:54 am on Aug 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I guess G should check and warn people if they have really really bad looking site to just to show the ads..

As I always say, the more adsense banners, the uglier adsense banners all over the place will end up with less clicks very soon. But everyone is after a quick buck that is a different story.

Well, what can I say, SERP ers, ugly site designers, I hope we wouldnt see bad days bcuz of these quick buck methods.

2:32 pm on Aug 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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As I always say, the more adsense banners, the uglier adsense banners all over the place will end up with less clicks very soon. But everyone is after a quick buck that is a different story.

Google wanted AdSense banners all over the place so it could achieve an overwhelmingly dominant market share (a la Amazon). Now that Google has achieved that, it has the opportunity to maximize bids and profits with product extensions that provide greater audience targeting and/or exclusivity within the AdSense universe. For example, it could offer:

1) An "AdSense Gold" or "AdSense Select" product extension for advertisers who are leery of the anarchy found on the existing netwok.

2) An "AdSense Editorial" or "AdSense Media" product extension for traditional print and broadcast advertisers who used to having ads delivered in a media context.

3) An "AdSense E-Commerce" product extension for advertisers who want to piggyback on shopper traffic at e-commerce and affiliate sites.

Such product extensions would give advertisers a choice between a "run-of-network" audience (what AdSense offers now) and audiences that fit more targeted advertising strategies or advertiser preconceptions.

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