Preventing Ad-blindness on Your Blog


The human mind doesn’t pore over every inch of your site, examining every image, reading every word and link. In fact, other than the content, readers take in very little. That’s why click-through rates on advertisements are so low (sometimes just a handful from a thousand impressions).


Once common and problematic pay-per-click (PPC) advertising myth is that more ads = more clicks — as if readers were clicking all over the page and simply need a bigger net to catch those clicks in. Not true. The more ‘stuff’ you push at your readers the less attention they’ll pay to each element. The ads will seem like nothing more than a blur.

Web users are very good at recognizing layout elements of little interest to them. The more ads you have, the more likely they are to be considered an obstacle and subconsciously blocked out.

Which brings me to the second problematic PPC advertising myth: that ads get more attention when they have a big swathe of space all to themselves.

Wrong again. The mind sees a cluster of ads surrounded by nothing of interest and ad-blindness kicks in. If anything, stacking the ads in one place makes this easier.

If you want visitors to give your ads the kind of attention you’d like, you need to do two things:

  • Place high interest elements near your ads. These include category lists, popular articles lists, posts, inspiring quotes and so on. Attention has a radius — it will be focused on what’s important and leak into the surrounding area. A note, though: never place your ads so close to another element that a reader might accidentally click the ad when meaning to click something they else. The reader will feel tricked.
  • Less is more. Ad-blindness tends to operate in broad strokes. Less and smaller advertising is unlikely to trigger ad-blindness as it’s generally lumped in with nearby layout elements. The less you have on the page overall, the more attention each element will get. Your ads will stand out rather than fading into the background.

The key is to experiment with your ad-placement — not just for a day, but for a week or so. Different locations, different ads and different combinations will perform at varying levels. Try fewer ads in more prominent locations. Try sandwiching your ads between elements of great interest to your readers.

De-cluttering can improve the performance of your ads

Readers have a definite amount of attention to give. Simplifying down to your blog’s essential, important elements will mean readers can divide their attention up into bigger portions. More attention given to PPC advertising will mean more clicks, as the reader needs to take in the message of the ad before they’ll be compelled to click it.

Fewer ads can mean more clicks

More ads means reader attention will be spread more thinly between them, possibly to the point where visitors aren’t taking in the message of any of your ads.

It’s better for you if they’re focusing closely on just one, rather than only partially registering the message of several. In addition to experimenting with ads in different locations, reducing the number of ads on your site could also be a worthy experiment.

What methods have you used to reduce ad-blindness on your blog?

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26 Responses to “Preventing Ad-blindness on Your Blog”

  • Online Money Maker

    I think that sometimes less is more when it comes to advertising, although I dont exactly follow that myself, lol

  • Dot

    As a blog reader, one thing I can’t stand is when I can’t tell what’s the article and what’s an ad. Also, when I get a headline, then a whole bunch of sponsored links, and have to search for the actual article, as in I tend to be ad-blind, but an ad that was exactly where I wanted it was a link to Amazon’s page for a book, placed in the text of a discussion of that book. Just as I was thinking “I want to see what kind of Amazon reviews that book got,” there was the link and I clicked it.

  • Reverse Funnel System Blog

    Thats very good tips to let people pay more attention to your ads.

  • constructicle boy

    true true..i agree with ad placement experimentation.

  • Zath

    I’ve been both reducing the size of my Adsense blocks and also reducing the overall number of income generating programs.

    Mainly because it made looking at my site less easy on the eye and seemed more cluttered. Having made the changes, I certainly prefer reading my own site, so hopefully visitors will do too!

  • greg hickman

    I am actually going through a site redesign in which I’ll have some ad space and with a lot of your thoughts above in mind, I am planning on keeping the space limited and clean looking!

    good post!

  • BloggerDollar

    Good tips Daniel. I am watching your work..

  • Skellie

    @ bmunch: Thanks! I’m on holidays at the moment — that helps ;-).

    @ Brian Auer: Cool to see an example of this working in action. Thanks for sharing :).

  • Brian Auer

    “Place high interest elements near your ads.”

    It works — I placed a photo feed from my Flickr group right below my sidebar ads and my CTR went up a bit.

  • Wayne Liew

    Having lots and lots of ads to improve the CTR is certainly not a wise move.

    You will not only earn less but you are on the way to drive your visitors out of your site.

  • bmunch

    Wow Skellie,

    You really are productive. Even with regular guest posting on Problogger and DailyBlogTips, your post are still top notch.

    How did you manage to keep this up?

  • Eric

    I have found this to be true as well. I toned down the quantity of ads, spaced them out according to folds. Low and behold the ctr went up.
    Getting readers is the goal, with some too many ads=no reading, subscribing nor clicking. More readers will lead to more revenue.

  • liveweb

    Great points, and I totally agree with putting readers first if you want to have some sort of visitor loyalty.

  • Caribwebdev

    a blog cluttered withs ads is a blog that will never see me visiting again. Ad blindess is not a problem unless you make it one.

  • Daniel

    Sergio, it depends on how many ads you have to begin with.

    I have friends that saw an increase in earnings once they reduced the number of Adsense units on the blog, for instance.

  • Sergio

    great tips, but i dont agree with the “numbre of ads” idea, a prudent number of ads are required no more and less.


  • Wayne Smallman

    The balance and positioning of adverts on this ‘blog are, in my opinion, spot on.

    There’s also a lot to be said for creating some sense advertising exclusivity — that you’re not just going to go down the Google AdSense route for easy clicks…

  • Daniel

    Yeah even people that blog just to make money should be concerned with putting their readers first.

    This is particularly true if you plan to keep working on said blog for a long time.

  • The How-To Geek

    I absolutely agree with the idea of decluttering your site and reducing the number of ads… but I think the point of that is to increase your readership by putting the readers first.

    If you do some research into how some of the “top” bloggers are really making money on their “other” blogs that they don’t tell you about… you might be surprised what you’d find…

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