31 May 2009

Making Sense of Google's Adsense Reports

I have been asked a few times about the meaning of some of the data in Google's Adsense reports, so here is a short list plus some strategies to increase earnings.

The basic reports page within Adsense gives numbers for Page Impressions, Clicks, Page CTR, Page eCPM and Earnings.

Page Impressions and Clicks should be fairly obvious. Note that Page Impressions shows the number of times your page or article has been viewed, not the number of ad impressions. So if you have three Adsense units on one page it will still count as one page impression, not three. The Adsense for Feeds data, however, gives the actual number of ad impressions.

Page CTR is the Click Through Rate and is simply the number of Clicks divided by the number of Page Impressions expressed as a percentage. Your Earnings are obviously the total value of all the Clicks and is the actual amount you will be paid once you have accumulated at least $100 in unpaid earnings by the end of a calendar month.

The value that seems to cause some confusion is the eCPM, which is the "effective cost-per-thousand impressions". I have no idea why they have called it this as a "cost" is to the advertisers whereas for publishers like us it is an "income". Anyway, to cut through the confusion, all this number really represents is the your Earnings divided by your Page Impressions - that's all! However, this raw number is likely to be in fractions of a cent so to make it look more meaningful it is scaled up by a factor of one thousand. So if you look at your Adsense earnings and have exactly 1,000 Page Impressions then your eCPM will be exactly the same as your Earnings. One direct comparison that can be made is with those revenue sharing websites that pay per page view. Associated Content pays $1.50 per 1,000 page views and Bukisa pays a variable amount but roughly $3.50 per unique page view. Your eCPM should be much higher than these.

One value that Google does not give in their reports but which I find useful is the average earnings per click. To keep track of this you'll need to download one of the csv files and calculate the figure within a spreadsheet: it is just the Earnings divided by Clicks. These earnings per click (EPC) can then be compared to the theoretical Cost per Click (CPC) published in Google's Keyword Tool, as well as to the Potential Earnings (PE) that I described in my article on finding the most profitable keywords.

So, what can we do with these numbers? The ultimate aim is obviously to increase our total Earnings but a quick look at some of these basic statistics can be a guide to what to do in order to drive up that income.

A high CTR but low eCPM shows that your articles are well-focussed with relevant adverts that people click but with low unit values: this would show up in your spreadsheet as a low EPC. Analyze your pages to see which keywords are being picked up then put these through the Keywords Tool to see whether there are higher paying keyword combinations within the same topic. It may just be a matter of adding more focus to the keywords or writing more articles about very specific areas within your broader topic.

A high eCPM but with low CTR shows that the articles are generating high-value adverts but few people are clicking them. Sadly, your article may be too good! Your article may be so good that readers don't need to look elsewhere, or you may have too many links within your text. Remember that people are more likely to click on a contextual link rather than an obvious advert. Try either taking out all the links or, alternatively, create quick bookmarks and link to those instead. Give people a good reason to want more and hopefully that extra is an advert.

A high eCPM with average CTR but low Page Impressions means having to focus on generating more traffic. Everything seems to be working well apart from the lack of readers. One thing is to link your articles together. This may be a link to your private blog, to an index page or contextual links to previous articles. The other thing is to start promoting your articles on social bookmarking websites. Sure, they don't in themselves earn money directly but they can be a good source of traffic. Don't spam them as they will ban you for it, but try to promote one of your articles plus one other site and you should be fine. One other trick is to do a search for your article's keywords and see which links come in the first two or three pages. Many will be blogs or forums or news sites; if there is an opportunity to comment then do so with a link back to a relevant article. Yet again, spamming can be counter-productive as your comment may be deleted and you will be banned from commenting again.

A very low eCPM is a sign that your articles are just not generating very much income. Writing about philosophy, life, the universe and everything may be personally enriching but it won't fill your wallet. If you're happy doing so then fine. If income is of secondary importance but you'd quite like to dine out at Google's expense every so often then think about mixing a few quick and tightly focused bookmarks to complement your longer articles.

The ultimate aim is to increase one's total Earnings. Hopefully I have shown that even with the basic report data it is possible to see which areas need some work to improve that all-important monthly income. Any other advice you feel I've left out then please leave a comment.

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