Now before I start this post, I’d like to state for the record that I don’t like depending on Webmaster Welfare (Adsense). I prefer to get my website income from affiliate marketing whenever possible.

That said, we create our websites for users and that means that we focus on informing the visitor and not simply writing posts with the sole goal being to make money with affiliate marketing.

For example, my website devoted to all things Blackberry will blog on upcoming products and releases that our users want to know about, such as the BlackBerry Monaco. Since the Monaco (aka the BlackBerry Torch 9850) is not available yet, it means we have to find other means of monetizing the posts we do on it aside from selling the phone itself. That’s where Google AdSense comes in.

Now AdSense is easy enough right? You sign up for the service, customize the code using their AdSense Wizard and place the code on your site. If you have traffic, you watch the money begin to roll in.

But what you may not realize is that AdSense has a feature called “Channels” that can help you increase your revenue. AdSense eCPM is calculated by dividing total earnings by total number of impressions in thousands. Essentially, your eCPM determines how much money you’ll make per click. The higher it is, the more you make per click.

What Custom Channels are

Google describes channels as:

“Channels enable you to view detailed reporting about the performance of specific pages and ad units. By assigning a channel to a combination of pages or ad units, you could track the performance of a leaderboard versus a banner, or compare your motorcycle pages to your automobile pages. You can even create a channel to track each of your separate domains, so you can see where your clicks are coming from. While channels can be used to track performance and revenue, they won’t have any effect on your earnings or ad targeting.

There are two types of channels from which to choose: URL channels, and custom channels.”

The ones we’re going to focus on in this post are Custom Channels. Now, you may know custom channels can help you track which AdSense placements are performing. You can label an ad “mysite-sidebar” and “mysite-topad” so you can tell which ads make you the most money and test out changes to your ads to see if the change increased revenue or not.

What you may not know is that you can also use Custom Channels to make any specific AdSense slot on your website an Ad Placement to allow advertisers to *specifically* target a certain ad slot on or section of *your* website that you define as a single Channel.

How to create a Custom AdSense Channel

When you initially setup your AdSense, you’ll see a section of the Wizard (or single page setup) that is labeled “Choose Ad Channels.” Click “Add New Channel” and name the ad something that describes where you’ll be placing it.

For example I have one called “site-inpost” which means that it is the AdSense unit that appears within each post on the site. My “site-leader” channel means that it is the AdSense unit that will show in the top Leaderboard slot at the top of all the pages on my site. Once you’ve added a channel to your AdSense unit, you copy and add the code to your blog or website like you would with any other AdSense ad.

Once you have the code in place, you can go to AdSense Setup > Channels to see a listing of the various Channels you’ve created. To the right of each channel, you’ll see a link labeled “edit settings.” Click that link and you’ll be taken to a screen that asks you if you’d like to turn on targeting and show the ad unit as an available Ad Placement. Click the check box and fill out the specific details about that AdSense unit. In the description area, you can let folks know the exact details of the ad. For example:

“A 300X250 textual or graphical ad slot that appears to the left of the second paragraph in ALL blog post entries.”

(*NOTE: Be thoughtful when choosing your Channel name as if you end up changing it later, you’ll lose any advertisers bidding on the old Channel name.)

Now you’ve made your various ad units visible to advertisers who are creating placement-targeted campaigns.

How Channels can help increase your AdSense revenue

By using custom channels, you’re able to do several things…

Learn which of your ads perform (and which don’t)

Creating channels meant that I could test the 300X250 unit against the 250X250 unit to figure out which gave me better results. It meant I could test different color palettes against each other to see which one got a higher CTR. I was also able to determine which placements on my site (the Leaderboard vs. the Sidebar ad) were attracting the most attention. While Google provides an AdSense “heat map” (below) and a “best placements” for blogs map (also below) I’ve found that not every necessarily site conforms to it.

adsense heatmap

best blog placements

Create higher bids from advertisers

If an ad has a low CTR, it generally has less value to the advertiser. By using channels and eliminating ad units that had a low CTR and/or low eCPM, I made the ads that *did* appear on my site more valuable. So, if I had three ad units on the page and two had a great CTR and higher eCPM, I’d eliminate the ad that performed poorly (and thus didn’t make me anything significant anyway). This made the competition to appear on my site focused on the two higher performing units (which were separate channels) and that meant advertisers were willing to bid more to ensure they appeared in them.

Increase your reach to additional advertisers

Some people who advertise through AdSense prefer to stick with “Ad Placements” to control exactly when and where their ads show up. If you’re not creating custom channels and making them available for targeting by those running Ad Placements, you’re limiting yourself from an entire segment of advertisers willing to bid for the ad space on your site. And again, the more people that bid to appear on your site, the higher your earnings should be.

My experience with Channels

Channels (and making those channels target-able for Ad Placements) caused a significant rise in my AdSense earnings across the board.

Bonus Information

When AdSense first met with me to discuss increasing the overall AdSense performance on my group of sites, they suggested to me that I enable my ad units to show both text OR graphical ads. They explained that (also published on the AdSense site):

“Because CPM ads compete against CPC ads in the AdWords auction, we’ll always choose the highest-performing ad for your page. If an advertiser wants to specifically target your site, they will need to bid high enough to beat out the CPC ads that are already in the auction in order to show up on your page.”

Bottom line is that allowing both in the same unit can potentially push the bids for your site Channels up higher. I say potentially because in my experience, that hasn’t been the case with every site. But, it has been the case with enough of them that I definitely recommend you give it a try.

Pump up your AdSense knowledge

Want to learn more? Google has an entire series of webinars devoted to helping you become an AdSense aficionado.