AdSense Picture Testing Results

by SMD 

You may have noticed that I’ve been running little pictures next to the AdSense ads on my pages for the past couple months. I’ve actually been conducting a test of which ads perform [convert] better based on a few factors.

There have been six different variables in the test, essentially six different variations that are displayed randomly based on a script that generates a random number from 1 to 6 each time the page is loaded [sent to a viewers web browser].

I was testing two things at once. The first was a test of 3 different colors of the AdSense link colors. I chose the default basic blue link color and then navy and a light teal, both of which match link colors on my site. Then I set up two different containers for the ads to go in. One had 3 little pictures of thumb tacks [I decided on a generic image, rather than a topic related one as I have seen others do - the topic related ones seemed to look bad so small, and the thumbtacks had nice colors!]. The other picture box was blank.

Here is an approximation of the six possible ads [these are only single ads, in reality they were 3 per box like the one near the top of this page]:

Basic No Picture
Link no Pic
Navy no pic
Basic Picture


Link Picture


 Navy Picture


Which one do you think won? Google doesn’t allow publishers to disclose their click-through-rates which is what the test was all about, so I came up with a graphical way to represent the results without revealing details.

Here are the results. Each add had near 1000 views so I feel that it is a relatively accurate sampling.

Test Results
The clear winner was the t_NavyPic which over some options had almost double the click through rate.

My theory is that the images draw attention to the ads and therefore increase the chance that a viewer will actually read them, find something interesting and click.

As for the navy color, it is interesting that the navy color on its own did not out perform the other colors, but in combination with the image, it was magic. That is the advantage of doing a multi-combination split test: it allowed for a variety of comparisons.

So if you’re like me, afraid of upsetting the lords of the cash over at Google, you’re probably thinking, “But Jon, is it okay with the AdSense Terms and Conditions?”

Well, wanting to get the answer straight from the horse’s mouth, I wrote to them and here’s the response I received [I asked a couple other questions that are unrelated so that's why it is edited]:

Hello Jon,

Thanks for your email…

Placing images next to your Google ads may be in compliance with our program policies. We ask publishers to place a border around any images placed next to their Google ads. Please know that the images should not draw any undue attention to the ads. This activity is strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.


The Google AdSense Team

The way I read it, they are okay with it to a point, I haven’t gotten around to adding the border yet, but I think as long as the images don’t have flashing arrows or say “click here” then it is acceptable.

If anyone has any other opinions or has run similar tests I’d love to hear the results. And if you have a website, it is certainly worth a trial. In fact some sort of split testing should always be happening on your site, there is always a 1% improvement to be had, and as your traffic levels climb, those one percents can add up and really start to make a difference.

[Disclaimer: you are responsible for your own actions if you embark on this or any other AdSense testing, this is only my interpretation and I'm not a lawyer or an expert]

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5 Responses to “AdSense Picture Testing Results”

  1. nickel on June 13th, 2007 5:01 am

    This is great information. Now I need to figure out how to create and place a table alongside my ads so I can get the images lines up properly.

  2. Dave on June 13th, 2007 5:01 am

    Great articles.. out doing research on this very subject! Thanks!

  3. New Jersey on June 13th, 2007 5:01 am

    I have treid adding images and seen anywhere from a 25-50% CTR increase.

  4. Vince on August 4th, 2010 9:02 am

    Very informative. But still very dangerous to implement. How will you know that you are not really violating their terms and conditions concerning images beside their ads?

    But yes, this might really increase clicks.

  5. kolly on January 11th, 2011 7:14 pm

    yes it works for me

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