This post started out simply enough. The plan was to go through the 20 most popular blogs in the world, and I would then sort them from the ones that had the most ads (both in terms of in terms of total number of pixels of ads per blog) to the ones with the least.

For some reason I thought that would be good enough for a solid blog post. But then I realized as I was writing it that that doesn’t really provide any new or useful information! And that is NOT good enough.

Instead, I shifted the focus of the post to observations about and lessons learned from the ads on the various blogs, and what I found surprised me.

I’ve done a case study using Technorati’s Top 20 blogs before, and I probably will again. Even though a lot of those blogs are news blogs and not in my niche, I feel like there are still lessons to be learned.

Below is a short report in the form of a PDF ebook that lists the top 20 blogs. For each blog, I noted the number, size, and placement of all ads.

Click below to view the PDF report or right click to save it (note that all ad dimensions are in pixels).

Download the Report!

Take a few minutes to skim through that really quick (it should’t take long; it’s about 700 words and it’s all easily skimable).

Ready?

Now on to what I learned!

1. These blogs don’t have as many ads on them as I thought they would.

11 of these 20 blogs have 4 or less ads. That’s surprising. I thought they’d be plastered in ads. The Huffington Post (the most popular blog in the world) only has 2 ads on its first page.

I think one reason for this is that most of these are news type blogs, and news blogs don’t really have much in terms of products that they can be affiliates for. I’m guessing their advertising models are impressions-based; that is, they get a certain amount from the advertiser for each page view or impression.

2. Not having any ads might be a great idea.

You’ll notice that some of these blogs have no ads at all. This really surprised me!

And as a side note, I think it’s funny that the official Google blog doesn’t have AdSense on it…

Not having any ads (or having few ads) might just be a good idea for your blog. Ads do send people away from your site, thus reducing pageviews/impressions and time spent on your site.

Ads also aren’t the most effective way to sell things. Though I don’t have any hard evidence of my own for this at my fingertips, I’ve read several places that writing reviews and strong recommendations in posts is the most effective way to sell. (At some point in the future I’d like to do a post about making money with your blog without having ads on it.)

Or maybe I totally just made that up and someone can correct me :)

3. Most of the ads are big.

I was surprised that there weren’t many 125 x 125 ads (the square ads you see on pretty much all internet marketing blogs). Only a few blogs had ads of that size.

The most popular ad size by far was the 300 x 250 ad (the large, squat square), and there were a lot of 728 x 90 ads (very wide and not very tall) ads.

As I said, I’d say most bloggers (in my niche, anyway) have 125 x 125 ads on their blogs. But when was the last time you clicked on one? I think the problem is that we’ve become so used to the two columns of 125 x 125 ads in the right sidebar that we just ignore them completely.

I don’t have ads on my blog right now, but if I did, I would have just one or two 300 x 250 (or even 300 x 300) ads in the sidebar for things I most heartily recommend. Everything else I’d throw into a “Tools I Use” page.

4. Images rule.

Only one blog had text ads! The rest only had image ads.

I’m guessing they’ve all done the testing and figured out that graphics get more clicks than text. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean… I honestly don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a text ad!

5. Ads aren’t the only way to make money.

Several of the blogs had online stores. The the gadget blogs, for example, had stores where you could buy some of the various gadgets they talk about. And if they didn’t have their own stores, they had Amazon affiliate links all over the place.

A number of the blogs prominently displayed books for sale, again with Amazon affiliate links. While I guess these technically are ads, I don’t think of them as such.

Another way that us small-time bloggers could make money without ads is offering consulting or coaching services.

It really just depends on your niche!

6. Don’t put ads in the footer.

Only one blog had ads in the footer. So to me that says it’s probably not worth putting anything there.

I mean, it probably never hurts to have ads in the footer (someone might click through at some point, right?), but I think there are probably better uses of that space down there.

7. And the best ad placement is…

Based on what I saw with these 20 blogs, this is what I think the perfect ad setup for a blog (assuming that blog was relying on ads) would be:

Optimal Blog Ad Placement

Again, I haven’t tested this and I’m not positive that this really is optimal, but this seemed to be the trend of what I saw on these blogs.

Any thoughts on that? Any areas that, from your own experiences, you think would be better?

Over to you…

It would be interesting to go through the top internet marketing blogs (not just top blogs in general) to see what the their ad placement trends are. Does anyone know of a list of the top blogging/IM blogs? The closest thing I can think of is Technorati’s list of top small business blogs. I guess that’s probably good enough, yeah?

So I’ve got some questions now for YOU. I want to hear about the ads you’ve got on your blog!

  • How many ads do you have on your blog?
  • What kind of ads are they (text ads, image ads)?
  • What size(s) are your ads?
  • Where are your ads placed?
  • What kind of ads are they (cost per click, CPM, affiliate links, your own products, etc.)?
  • How many clicks do you get on your ads?
  • Do you think ads are the best way to make money blogging?
  • Do you make much money from your ads?

I’m really looking forward to seeing people’s responses!

Oh, and here’s a reminder to go check out my daily blogging diary!