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Faster servers can increase Adsense revenue by 25% or more

AdWords has new focus on speed; AdSense may follow

5:40 am on Mar 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to start a discussion on the topic of speed based on a comment from another thread [webmasterworld.com], because it's significant and timely--and rarely mentioned in this forum.

Faster server, faster connection, income up about 25%.

How did you come to the conclusion your site was slow? Visitor complaints?

By the way, recently in the AdWords Blog [adwords.blogspot.com], Google said something which indicates it is finally understanding the significance of slow servers to its profits.

Landing page load time will soon be incorporated into Quality Score... As part of our continuing efforts to improve the user experience, we will soon incorporate an additional factor into Quality Score: landing page load time. Load time is the amount of time it takes for a user to see the landing page after clicking an ad. . . . Why are we doing this? Two reasons: first, users have the best experience when they don't have to wait a long time for landing pages to load. Interstitial pages, multiple redirects, excessively slow servers . . . users are more likely to abandon landing pages that load slowly, which can hurt your conversion rate. . . . In the next few weeks, we will add load time evaluations to the Keyword Analysis page (we'll notify you when they are available). . . After the one month review period, this load time factor will be incorporated into your keywords' Quality Scores. Keywords with landing pages that load very slowly may get lower Quality Scores (and thus higher minimum bids). Conversely, keywords with landing pages that load very quickly may get higher Quality Scores and lower minimum bids.

I have never seen anything from Adsense about making sure pages load fast enough. Google says it's going to punish advertisers whose landing pages are too slow. But what about publishers? How much money is Google losing by poor servers? Millions?

How fast is fast? Are shorter pages the equivalent of a faster server? How much faster are your new servers?

I hate to bother with server changes if it's not going to help. But the 25% income boost is intriguing.

How do you know you couldn't make another 25% with even faster servers?

What are the internet industry standard server performance tests?


5:08 pm on Mar 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ok, here are the facts and figures from my experience. I will list what I know and you can arrive at your own conclusions.

My primary site is a large user-created-content site with 50,000+ pages of user articles, plus a 20,000 or so support pages (member information, etc.) These articles cover over 400 categories of topics, so it covers a broad range of subject matter. I record the traffic logs in a database instead of regular server logs so I can more easily parse the data. Previous to the change I was getting about 33,000 referrals from Google per day. Even though I had dedicated servers, my ISP was getting slower and slower. YSlow was showing page load time of about 1.65 seconds on average, with my home page loading at about 3.5 seconds. YSlow shows my biggest problem as too many HTTP requests. I don't have large images on this site, just a lot of smaller optimized images. I tend to add features primarily with the end user in mind, trying to remember general principals of optimization, but most of my pages contain 10 or more database queries and they are not uber-optimized for page load time. My focus has always been on providing cool features and not the fastest page load times. Because of the large number of pages, I have never tracked keyword ranking, it would be a futile waste of time.

I decided to switch to a local Internet Service Provider (a friend) who had just installed a fiber connection. I built a new server for the switch, and upgraded to SQL Server 2005 (from SQL 2000) .

10 days ago (Saturday March 8th) I made the switch. Here's the specs on the hardware:

Old System:
2.8 Ghz P4 with Hyper-threading (remember those?)
2 Gigs of RAM
10,000 RPM Barracuda SATA drives
SQL Server 2000
Dual Bonded T1's, which are supposed to equal 3 megabits up and down but my tests showed an average of about 0.3 megabits up and down (this was a definate bottleneck).

New System:
2.33 Ghz Dual Core
4 Gigs of RAM
1,500 RPM SAS drives
SQL Server 2005
Fiber from my local ISP (Comcast). Rated at 10 Megabits, but my tests show as much as 25 megabits up and down, almost 100 times faster than my previous connection.

Testing shows that SQL Server 2005 processed the queries about 18% faster on the same hardware. On the new hardware the pages are processed about 60% faster.

Page load times were reduced to an average of 0.7 seconds, less than 50% of the previous load times.

Traffic with Google Search referral information increased 11% from the 10 days previous to this switch to the 10 days since this switch.

Page views per visit have increased 9% from the 10 days previous to this switch to the 10 days since this switch.

Without giving specifics (AdSense TOS) the CPM for this site increased 6% from the 10 days previous to this switch to the 10 days since this switch.

CTR hasn't changed. (Don't know why this is.)

This has all equaled a total increase in AdSense earnings for this particular web site of about 26%.

I should say that even though it's only been 10 days since the switch, because of the large size of the site and the broad array of topics, traffic to this site and AdSense CPM has usually been very stable. I expect this 'trend' from the past 10 days is here to stay.

The most surprising thing to me is that the difference was apparent immediately. It didn't take days for traffic from Google Search to increase. It didn't take any time at all for eCPM to increase. It happened pretty much immediately.

For obvious reasons, we have been very pleased with this change. I am the primary programmer for this site and I hate the thought of tediously going through the site, optimizing one page at a time. This is one very rare example of when simply throwing money at a problem actually fixed the issue.

11:27 pm on Mar 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It didn't take days for traffic from Google Search to increase.

'page load' time is always a curve (generally a bell curve) - some visitors will have the page load slowly, and some quickly, across a normal distribution defined by the capabilities of your server.

Some percentage of the visitors who hit the high end of the curve and get a slow page load will leave.

When your server config pushes the curve to the right and gives you more visits with a slow load, a higher percentage of your total visitors will leave.

Adjust the server config to push the curve to the left and a smaller %age of visitors will abandon before page loads.

So, I would say there is a strong possibility that the change you are seeing is due to fewer people bailling on you :)
You may well still be getting the same traffic you always did, but making greater utility from it - well done :)

11:41 pm on Mar 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Just a brief update if you are interested...

Coming up on 3 weeks since the server change and CPM has suddenly taken a sharp ($2) increase. Don't know if this is some kind of smartpricing adjustment or what, but it adds quite a bit to the bottom line.

2:06 pm on Mar 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have removed Analytics [...]

Longtime analytics users might not have noticed that there are new scripts you can use for analytics (it's not called "urchin.js" anymore, the new script is called "ga.js".). Those newer ones are significantly faster, and as always they belong at the very end of you page, just before the </body>, so that the page is displayed before it starts to run. You can generate a new one:
  • login in analytics
  • go to the right account (if you have access to more than one)
  • click on the edit behind the right site
  • click on "check status" right side above the table
  • click on the "new tracking code (ga.js") tab
  • cut and paste ...
  • 6:57 pm on Mar 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Over the past year I have gone from a single dedicated server to multi dedicated server network - my adsense eCPM and CTR has changed very little but my traffic has increased which is the only reason my income from adsense increased
    8:30 pm on Apr 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    I have (very small, no image) static pages which are alongside my (slow, graphics and formatting laden db-served) wordpress pages.

    they are not the same content, but they probably have 100% better adsense performance and much better pages per visit.

    This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36