| Mar 24, 2023 | | 12 min read

Best practices and guidelines for designing ad placement on your website

Putting ads on your website is a great way to monetize your content to offset costs and earn extra income. But it’s not as simple as inserting ad units and watching the cash roll in. When it comes to ad placement, balancing user experience and performance is essential to keep your website visitors happy and maximize your ad impressions and revenue.

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Here’s what you need to know about how to put ads on your website for optimal results.

Creating a cohesive ad experience

Creating visually appealing ads consistent with a website's look and feel is vital to maintaining user experience (UX) and achieving more ad impressions. If ads are ugly or intrusive, they impact the UX negatively by making it difficult or unpleasant for users to read the content and find the information they need. In this case, they’ll exit the site (bounce).

Not only does that mean fewer eyes are on the website content (and, as an extension, fewer ad impressions), but Google sees high bounce rates as an indication that a website offers a poor user experience. Rankings may be suppressed as a result.

Cohesive ads that fit seamlessly within the content make the browsing experience much more enjoyable for readers. The better the UX on the site, the longer users will remain on the page, clicking around and driving up ad impressions. Longer visits (lower bounce rates) and clicks through to other pages on a site are positive signals for Google, which could lead the site to rank higher in search engine page results (SERPs), leading to more traffic.

How to create visually appealing ads

If you’re using an ad network to place ads on your website, you probably won’t have much control over the actual design of the ad. However, you can control the ads' size, shape, and location, which helps you ensure they don’t overwhelm the website design and look as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

If you create ads for clients, make them visually appealing to ensure a higher ROI. Vendasta’s ad builder makes it easy to create attractive ads at scale. As a publisher, you could sell ad space on your site directly to businesses and use this tool to create beautiful ads on their behalf.

Instructions for how to put Google Ads on your website

Before you can put ads on your website, you need to select an ad network to work with. Here’s what to know when choosing an ad network.

What is an ad network?

Ad networks (sometimes called ad platforms) collect a large community of publishers and advertisers within their network. They then work to broker ad placements between these two parties (HubSpot).

Publishers install ad blocks on their sites, representing spaces for ad placement. Ad networks match publishers with relevant advertisers based on parameters like their target audience, content topics, budget, and more.

Publishers then earn money based on the number of impressions (views) these ads receive.

What is an ad exchange?

An ad exchange is a marketplace where publishers and advertisers can buy and sell ads directly. Ad placements are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is one of the most popular ad exchanges out there.

How does Google Ads work?

An advertiser uploads their ad creative and picks relevant keywords to bid on. If their bid wins, their ad will be displayed on a third-party website. Advertisers can select a maximum bid to ensure that ad spend stays within a reasonable budget.

There are several types of Google Ads campaigns to choose from, including search ads, display ads, shopping ads, YouTube ads, and app campaigns. The type of campaign selected will determine where the ad is displayed.

What’s the difference between Google Ads vs AdSense?

Google Ads and AdSense are two different advertising platforms Google provides to run and display online advertisements. Google Ads works as an ad exchange platform where advertisers can create and run search ads. Meanwhile, AdSense is an ad network where publishers (i.e., website owners) can display ads on their websites to earn revenue from advertisers.

Choosing the right ad network

Choosing the right ad network is essential for maximizing a site’s earning potential. Several ad networks exist, including AdThrive, PropellerAds, Media.net, and Google AdSense. Some ad networks specialize in certain niches (say, food or travel), while others have broader offerings. Google AdSense is a good example of an ad network covering many niches and industries.

Selecting a network that specializes in a niche relevant to the website you’re monetizing will help you earn more ad revenue than selecting a network with a more general offering.

When selecting an ad network, you should also consider the appearance of the ads, the level of support available from the ad network, and the different ad formats available. These factors all affect the website’s overall earnings and user experience, so careful consideration is essential, especially when choosing the right advertising tools to use for your SMB clients.

How to put ads on your website with Google AdSense: Step-by-step guide

These steps will guide you through applying to Google AdSense and verifying your account so you can put ads on your website.

1. Prepare the site

Before applying to Google AdSense, a website must be launched and live on the web. During the approval process, Google will review the website to ensure the content and design is appropriate and compatible with their program. The site must be live for Google to conduct this review.

2. Ensure the site is compliant with Google AdSense requirements

AdSense has strict guidelines around the type of sites they will admit into the program. Advertisers don’t want their businesses associated with inappropriate, harmful, or taboo content.

Before applying to AdSense, review your client’s site to ensure it is free of profanity and contains no illegal or adult content. Content must also be original or adequately attributed; otherwise, it may be considered intellectual property abuse, which goes against Google’s AdSense requirements and guidelines.

Once the site is accepted into the Google AdSense program, the publisher must continue to uphold the Google Publisher Policies. Failing to do so could result in termination from the program. Activity such as invalid traffic sources, invalid clicks and impressions, and deceptive site navigation all go against Google’s guidelines. Review the Google Publisher Policies thoroughly and ensure your client is aware of what is and isn’t allowed within the program.

3. Apply to Google AdSense

Once you’re confident that your client’s site is compliant with Google’s publisher policies, apply for Google AdSense on their behalf.

  • Visit the Google AdSense website and click “Get Started.”
  • You will then be prompted to sign into Google. Sign in using the account affiliated with your client’s website.
  • Follow the prompts and input the requested information to configure the AdSense account.

4. Insert the AdSense code on the website

Once you’ve entered the information, you’ll be taken to the Google AdSense dashboard. Click on the box on the right that says “Connect your site to AdSense.”

Next, you’ll be prompted to select a verification method so AdSense can link the account to your client’s website. There are two different methods to choose from:

  • AdSense code snippet
  • Ads.txt snippet


Follow the prompts to make the connection through whichever of these two methods you prefer. Once you have placed the code, click “Next” in the lower right corner. Then, click “Request review” to prompt Google to review the website and ensure it complies with the Google AdSense policies.

Google will review the site and email you when it has been approved. This may take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days. Once you receive this approval, you can configure ad preferences and place ads on your client’s website.

5. Configure ad preferences within Google AdSense

The next essential step in placing ads on your website is selecting your preferred placement parameters. This is how you ensure the ads do not impede the website's user experience.

Within the “Ads” tab of the Google AdSense dashboard, you can adjust the ad settings for your client’s site. You’ll see options to configure auto ads, customize each ad unit, and adjust the global ad settings for the site overall.

Before you move forward with placing ads, consider which ad placement option makes the most sense for your client’s site.

Auto Ads

If you opt for auto ads, all you need to do is insert the auto ads code snippet, and AdSense will automatically place ads on the website for you. With this placement method, Google determines the ideal ad locations, sizes, and styles based on analytical data.

This ad insertion method is extremely convenient because you don’t have to spend time tweaking and customizing each individual ad. However, it also means you have less control over the locations, density, and appearance of the ads on the site.

Customize by ad unit

Customizing each ad unit gives you the highest level of control over a user’s ad experience while visiting the site. You can choose from four different ad types and control the size and orientation of each ad unit, including whether you want fixed or responsive ad sizes.

Global ad settings

Under the Global ad settings tab, you can customize the size and type of ads across all sites controlled under the Google account in question. This feature makes it quick and easy to make universal changes to your client’s ad settings.

6. Insert the ads

Once you have the ad settings configured how you want them, it’s time to put them on your site. Unless you’ve opted for auto ads, you must manually create ad placements. When you make the ad units, you’ll be given a code snippet that you must insert on the site in the location where you’d like the ad to appear. Insert this code, and your ads will be live.

Best practices for choosing the right ad placement

Finding a balance between performance and user experience is the key to making the most of ad placements. It may take some testing and tweaking before you find the right settings and placement options.

Ad placement for performance

The best-performing ad placements will vary depending on the website design and user behavior. However, since ads require ad impressions (eyeballs) to generate revenue, placing them in sections of the website that people are most likely to see will inevitably boost your revenue. Ads placed above the fold will almost always perform better than those placed toward the bottom of the page.

Heatmap software is a powerful way to discover where users spend the most time on your website. You can use insights from these tools to determine where to place ads to achieve the highest number of impressions.

Ad placement for user experience

When websites become overrun with ads, it becomes difficult for users to read the content they are looking for, leading them to exit the site, ultimately resulting in a loss of revenue. This is why user experience (UX) is a key consideration when putting ads on your website.

While placing ads prominently increases impressions (and therefore revenue), it’s critical that they aren’t detrimental to the browsing experience. Full-page ads, pop-ups, and autoplay video ads are all popular designs for generating revenue, but they are also the most invasive in terms of UX. To maintain a positive browsing experience, ensure ads don’t infringe on users' ability to read content or access the website navigation.

You will have to do some testing to find the right balance between performance and UX. Experiment with different ad placements and levels of ad density (the number of ads on a page), and monitor the website’s bounce rate. If the bounce rate increases, scale back the ads and continue testing.

Popular ad placements and how they affect UX and performance

Ad position and ad density are important factors to keep in mind when placing ads on your website.

Above the fold (ATF)

ATF ads can be seen before users scroll down a webpage, meaning they have the best chance of receiving ad impressions. However, ad placements should be balanced to ensure they aren’t impacting the amount of ATF content.

Sites with a disproportionate amount of ATF ads could face penalties from Google (Search Engine Journal). Plus, if website visitors are greeted by a barrage of ads, they may not stick around long enough to read the site’s content, leading to higher bounce rates and lower ad impressions.

Below the fold (BTF)

BTF ads won’t be seen until users scroll down the page, meaning they receive fewer impressions. However, they are often less intrusive from a UX standpoint, meaning readers are more likely to tolerate them. Despite fewer impressions, BTF ads can still perform extremely well, especially when placed in sticky sidebar positions, because they’ll remain on the screen longer.

Sidebar banners

Sidebar banners balance UX and performance because they can be placed alongside content rather than interspersed. Sidebar banners can be made sticky, meaning they stay in place as a user scrolls down the page, racking up impressions. The downside to sidebar banners is that they may not be visible on mobile sites, where sidebar content is pushed to the bottom of the page.

Horizontal anchor ads

Anchor ads remain fixed at the bottom of the screen, so they are visible as a user scrolls. This high-performing ad location receives many impressions and remains visible unless a user opts to minimize it. These ads can be intrusive because they obstruct part of the screen, but in many cases, the viewing window is still large enough for users to read the content, even with the ads in place.

Guidelines for balancing UX and performance for ad placement

Ads should never over-saturate your content to the point where they hinder the user experience. Optimizing your ad placements and styles can boost ad revenue even with minimal ads on your site. Here’s what to keep in mind.

  • Determine which pages receive the most traffic. To maximize earnings, you should place ads on high-traffic pages. To preserve UX, start small and gradually increase the number of ads on the page until you see the bounce rate increase. Adjust accordingly.
  • Optimize ad placements for different devices. Users browsing a site from a mobile device will have a different experience than those visiting from a desktop computer or tablet. Test the ad layouts for each device and adjust placements to maximize impressions and maintain UX.

Examples of websites with good ad placement

The following sites have done an excellent job of balancing ad placements and maintaining a great user experience. While we may not have insight into how much their ads are earning, the fact that they don’t distract from the UX suggests that ad revenue is likely stable. Remember, you can always boost revenue by increasing traffic.

  • The Kitchn balances in-content ads with sticky sidebar ads and whitespace to create a seamless browsing experience. As you scroll the page, sticky sidebar ads and an anchor ad always remain on the screen. There are minimal ads placed within the content, ensuring recipes are still easy to read while the publisher maximizes ad impressions.
  • Search Engine Journal uses branded ATF and BTF ad placements for a cohesive browsing experience. A small branded ad in the navigation menu makes the above-the-fold ad experience very unintrusive. Below the fold, branded in-content ads and sidebar ads surrounded by whitespace do nothing to distract from the site’s content.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to advertise on a website?

The cost to advertise on a website varies based on several factors, including the target keywords, the niche, the location of the ad, and more. Establishing a maximum bid on your ad campaigns will ensure that your ads always remain within budget.

Can I run Google Ads on my website?

As long as your website complies with Google’s Publisher Policies, you can run Google Ads on your website and earn revenue.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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