The Power of Channels for Increasing AdSense Revenue

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.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand a lot of PHP, Genesis will give a ton of functionality that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise with a simple control panel instead of having to alter code. For the advanced, Genesis has incredible customization possibilities via Genesis hooks.

The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

You can find out more about Genesis below:


  1. Rafael Montilla says:

    Thanks for this great information!!

    Did you get my email?

  2. Vinny O'Hare says:

    Great article.

    I name my channels slightly different as I want advertisers to find me. My channels would look something like (site main keyword- ad size – placement) or (Blackberry 300 x 250 above the fold). It is usually a job to get it under the character limit but I find my system works very well.

    If you go into adwords and search for sites odds are mine will come up to the advertiser in that niche. Most adsense users don’t want to be targeted but not me. I want to be found to create more competition for the ad space on my sites.

  3. Dawn Wentzell says:

    For the record, the 9850/9860 is available now ;) At least at Telus and Bell, so it should also be available at Verizon by now too.

  4. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Dawn – actually, it doesn’t come out on Verizon until tomorrow. :)

    Vinny… the mysite-sidebar is the short channel code I use – then when I turn on targeting, I name the ad something more descriptive like My Site 300×250 Sidebar Ad. The channel name that displays to advertisers looking to target placements doesn’t have to be the same as the channel code name that appears in the code. :)

    Rafael – backed up on email – hope to be caught up today :)

  5. Tony Griego says:

    Excellent post. I’ll be using your advice. Thanks!

  6. The one Adsense unit I would wholeheartedly recommend for most non-ecommerce sites is Adsense for search (this is different from the ‘standard’ Adsense units you might place on your search results pages).

    The main advantage of Adsense for search is that you can pass in your own behind the scenes query additions to guarantee relevance for your particular niche. You also have a lot more flexibility as far as how many ads appear in a unit, etc.

    This is the main reason why it’s great:

    People tend to omit certain words from their queries when they’re searching on a site that’s all about a particular topic. For instance, if your site is about cars, people probably won’t use the word ‘car’ in their search queries — they assume it’s implied. However, there’s no guarantee that Google will interpret ‘Mustang’ the right way — and Adsense relevance (and revenue) often suffers as a result.

    But when you can pass in the word ‘car’ through a variable, you’re establishing relevance — which leads to higher earnings.

    I have a few sites where my custom search ads outperformed all my other Adsense to such a huge degree with a fraction of impressions ($10.00 CPMs are common in my experience).

  7. I agree to you Rae, But i wish add one more point to this. When ad targeting is associated with channels, income can get a greater boost and our visitors will get much targeted ads.
    Only now I know that if I change channel names I will lose advertisers. Beware webmasters!

  8. Dave Starr says:

    Two other “good things” Google AdSense can do for any site … especially sites which are eventually going to be focused on better-paying affiliate offers.

    When starting a site, publishing a new page/post, we all know it takes some finite period of time for Google to index the new content and then for that new content to process all the way through Google labyrinth of data centers.

    Well the minute you post new content (or refresh the page after editing content) which has AdSense code on it, the Google AdSense crawler visits and make a near-real-time determination of what the age is “about”.

    Got all sorts of wildly “off topic” ads? This is then your chance to fix things now, rather than waiting weeks for the content to get indexed in a way you don’t want it to be.

    Second, after running AdSense even for as few thousand page views, go to the Google AdWords External Keyword tool and search on the specific URL you are interested in.

    You get a list of everything Google “thinks” that page is about, in order of Google’s ranking of contextual relevance.

    So, AdSense and AdWords can do alot more for a blogger/web site builder than just delivering “lowest bidder” type clicks.

    If you are featuring a higher-paying monetization offer than AdSense, then by all means, remove the AdSense code once the indexing work is done. But AdSense can give you a really good “peek” inside the “mind of Google”, and even pay some of us for taking the look-see.

  9. Are you aware of any WordPress plugins that will automatically insert Adsense code between blog posts as per the “blog heatmap” shown above?

  10. Steve Sherron says:

    I’ve been following your site for a long time. This is a great post and very helpful to us who are trying to earn a little coin from the big G. I love the term Webmaster Welfare in which you rank #1.

  11. Thanks Rae,
    Really informative. I hadn’t looked yet to custom channels to advertisers as a targetable ads. Will explore this for sure. Up till now they were very useful for me, specially to track different channels in different websites where I have Adsense.

    Thanks again.

  12. >>Essentially, your eCPM determines how much money you’ll make per click. The higher it is, the more you make per click

    I think that’s a bit misleading. CPM doesn’t determine anything. CPM is determined by the Sum Total of what you made per click and per impression.

    BTW, CPM is Cost Per 1,000 Impressions, Adsense now calls it RPM which stands for Revenue Per 1,000 Impressions, which makes more send from a publishers perspective
    CPM = (Cost/(Impressions/1,000))
    RPM = (Revenue/(Impressions/1,000))

    Interesting tip about choosing the name of your channels by how they will show up in Adwords, I’ve never though of it from that perspective.

  13. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Don, true. I understand what CPM is. But a lot of my readers are new to the game, so I try and explain things as simply as possible. Because Google doesn’t show you the avg amount you are paid pay per click. Yes, you can easily determine it by dividing your earnings by your clicks, but at first glance, you know if you’re improving your EPC by the amount your eCPM is going up or down (assuming CTR remains the same since this post is about increasing the ad spot value, not the CTR). :) Additionally, in the display advertising world, campaigns are actually sold by declaring a CPM value for the spot and advertisers buy a certain number of impressions – they won’t even know their CPC until they test run the campaign.

  14. Owen @ Quitting The 9 To 5 says:

    @ richard
    There is a free wordpress plugin called ‘Advertisment Management’ that can help with that. That’s waht I use on my niche sites with adsense.

  15. Crystal Watts says:

    Thanks for the great post Rae.

    In your experience with Custom Channels, have you seen a greater response to the Leaderboard ads versus, skyline, or box ads? I was just wondering if there were any ads that just simply create a better response than others.

    I enjoy your articles and thanks again for sharing.

  16. Govind Choudhary says:

    WOW! I learned many new things about Adsense.I’m gonna give them a try.Thanks Rae :)

  17. Adeniyi Samuel says:

    Could this be the reason i am having low cpc ads on my blog? i havent used targetable channels since i got approved in adsense and my cpc lately has been in the range of 0.02-0.05, would using tagetable custom channel make it better?

  18. Soki Briggs says:

    Nice Post Rae,
    I’ve known about the importance of channel targeting and learned the lesson the hard way when i changed the channel name of one of my best earning channels.

    What i wanna know is:
    If i blog about tech, celebrity, TV shows, Mobiles, Education and Sports all in One place (SMF) – do i have to Create a Custom targeted channel and description for each category?
    E.g Appears on – Mobile phone category >
    Desc. This leader-board ad is displayed on Top section of Mobiles and Phones category.

    I am currently using One custom channel for each ad Location/size (top, inside post, sidebar, footer) – Will check back or a response.

  19. Daniel Sanchez says:

    Great article, it’s a bit dated but still has some really good relevant information that can still be used today!

  20. From your experience, if we just create a channel and apply it, estimate how long it takes to see the impact?

Speak Your Mind