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From the author of You’ve Got the Look

You’ve Got the Look

That tip about link units implies that you get some clicks by tricking readers into thinking that your page’s ads (or link units) are actual content. Well, none of us likes trickery, but there is something to the concept of confusing readers into clicking something that they think is legitimate content, but is actually an ad. You do get paid by the click, remember, no matter why people might be clicking.

This conflation of advertisement with site content leads us to our next big tip, which concerns the look and feel you choose for the ad units you place on your site. You might think that an ad that really stands out from the page might generate more clicks, as visitors would be more likely to notice it. That isn’t the case, however.

You see, an ad that stands out too much—an ad that looks like an ad, in other words—tends to be avoided by most users. So if you have a nice white page background with blue text highlights, formatting your ad units in bright red will draw attention to them, but actually reduce the number of clicks received.

Instead, format your ad units to match the color scheme of your web page. You don’t want contrast; you want the ad to blend into the regular content, to actually look like it’s part of everything else you put on the page. Visitors are less likely to identify this item as an ad, thinking instead that it’s an integral part of your normal content—and thus something of value to click.

Yes, this is a bit of subterfuge and deception, but that’s kind of how advertising works. You might not be comfortable with this; you might prefer more of a separation between church and state, as it were. That’s okay, I understand your scruples and the urge to avoid deceiving or annoying your site’s visitors. But know that if don’t format your ads to blend it with your normal content, you’ll reduce the number of clicks, and the corresponding advertising revenue you receive. It’s okay to create a site where the ads are clearly separated from the editorial, and visitors might appreciate the design, but you’ll be working against your own best financial interests. That’s a compromise only you can make.

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