Google AdSense Matched Content Review

It’s still early, but I’ve been checking out my AdSense performance reports for data regarding the new AdSense Matched Content offering that Google is rolling out. Here is my Google Matched Content review, so far.

First off, if you are wondering what Matched Content Ads from AdSense are, you need to read that article first.

Implementing Matched Ads

You put Matched Ads on your website the same way as you put any AdSense ads onto your site. You create an ad on the Google AdSense website, and then you copy the code it gives you and paste it into your webpage code. Unlike other ads, Google sort of tells you where to put your Matched Content ads. They go at the bottom of the page, underneath your content.

Once there, the matched content algorithm kicks in an posts one of those sets of images with links to other content on your website, kind of like the Outbrain advertisements, except all the non-ad links stay on your website.

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Google AdSense Matched Content Ad Performance

Of course, what you really want to know is do Matched Content ads make more money, or does Matched Content perform better than regular ads.

That question is a little bit tricky to answer.

First, as Google frequently points out, the point of Matched Content is to “increase user engagement.” They go so far as to include a message at the top your AdSense reports to remind you.

Check out this cropping! No personal info showing šŸ™‚

In other words, the Matched Content module is working just as well when it keeps people clicking around on your website, as it does when it gets someone to click on an ad. Theoretically, this will increase yourĀ overall AdSense performance since more traffic, equals more revenue. After all, if someone stays on your site long enough to click an ad on their fifth page, as opposed to leaving after reading their first page, you win. However, that might lower some of your metrics. In the above example, that user would normally register as one impression, no clicks. But, with the Matched Content, they would register as five impressions, one click.

To get a black and white answer about whether Matched Content is better, you would like to see more impressions and more page views, as well as higher overall earnings, even if you see lower click through rates, and lower RPM.

I’ve only been using Matched Content ad units for seven days, so of course, the data isn’t really that good yet. However, it does look like I have a bit higher impressions, and a bit higher earnings. Yea!

Of course, that could be based on a lot of other factors, as well. What I can say for sure is that it hasn’t hurt my earnings, so I won’t be pulling the plug on Matched Content just yet.

Matched Content Ad Units Performance

Considering the Matched Content ad units go at the bottom of your page, they are replacing the ad unit that offers the lowest performance on most websites. If you were running an A/B test, you would do it against whatever ad you have at the bottom now. (If you have no bottom ad now, then adding Matched Content certainly won’t hurt assuming you haven’t already used your max ads per page.)

So, how does the money making potential stack up?

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As always, my best performing ad is the one at the top. That is true across the board: total earnings, click thru rate, impressions, and RPM.

My second best performing ad is a responsive ad unit that I sometimes (but not always) put in the middle of certain content. Because I have the Managed Content unit set up on more pages, it has more impressions,Ā but, the Managed Content at the bottom and the Responsive ad in the middle, have similar click-thru rates. The cost-per-click, or CPC, is higher on the middle-place responsive ad, but with just 7 days worth of data, that may be more of just how the week went, than an actual look at performance.

The ad that was previously in the place where the Matched Content is now, was a 300×250 size at the bottom of the content. For the week before I implemented Matched Content it has a lower CTR, but higher CPC. Again, this isn’t really enough data to draw a useful conclusion.

Matched Content Ad Recommendation

At this point, I think that the Matched Content units are performing well enough to keep them in place. There is no obvious increase in earnings, or clicks out of line from the typical variation I see from week to week. However, I do like the way the numbers look and hope that they continue to improve.

That being said, if you aren’t using Matched Content, I certainly wouldn’t push you to do otherwise. For now, most things seem close enough. I’ll keep following the data though, and keep updating here.

New AdSense Matched Content Ads

I started getting emails from Google saying that my sites are eligible for “Matched content.”

According to Google, Matched content is “a free recommendation tool offering you a simple way to promote your content to your site visitors.”


By switching on the “Monetize with ads” feature you can also display targeted native-style ads.

Ah ha! Now, I understand what is going on.

New AdSense Ads Mimics Outbrain and Others

You have probably noticed at the bottom of many websites you visit there are some ads that are different than the others. Instead of advertising products, these ads suggest other stories or webpages you can read. Here is an example from the hyper-monetized Denver Post website.

matched content ads google adsense

I don’t know exactly how those ads work, or what kind of revenue they generate, but you can bet that Google, the king of all online advertising sees dollars that are getting away, and they aren’t going to stand for that. This new product offers a similar design and setup, but with a twist to make it more friendly for publishers.

How Google Matched Content Works

Unlike the Outbrain-type ads that send readers away from your page, the Matched content ads are pitched by AdSense as a way to keep readers on your site. The idea is that those “ad” spaces are filled up with links to other webpages on your own site. In fact, Google notes that it will ONLY match the same site, even if you have several websites on the same Google AdSense account.

Now, you can “opt-into” monetizing these matched content ads, in which case Google will replace one or more of your own site’s matches with an ad. The idea is that a particularly well-matched ad would draw more targeted visitors (Good for Google and advertisers), while a less well-matched ad would be ignored in favor of your own content (If they stick around maybe they’ll click a different ad later). Whether this is good or bad, depends on how you view your content.

Obviously, AdSense has no interest in people NOT clicking ads, so look for the whole don’t-monetize option to go away in favor of monetized, or nada.

How To Use Matched Content On Your Site

How to setup Matched content on your site is pretty much the same as for any ad. You create a new ad unit. You pick Matched content and then you name the ad and chose your options for how the ad is displayed. Then, you copy and paste the code onto your page where you want it to display.

Google recommends you insert the Matched content ad units directly below your content, or in the sidebar.

The matched content ads DO count as an ad slot toward your ad limit. After I pasted in the code on some pages, the last ad on pages that were at the maximum number of ads already the page went blank.

A Matched content example, or sample Matched content ad looks like this. The two things highlighted in yellow are the ads. The rest are links to my own articles, on that same site.

matched content sample example

How Well Does Matched Content Work?

What you really want to know is can I make more money with Matched content ads?

I don’t know yet, this is the first day I have them set up, but I’ll keep an eye on them and then post back when I have some data.

optimize google adsense experiments

Google AdSense Optimizations

Once you have started earning some money with Google AdSense, you may get some notifications about various optimizations that you can do to “improve your earnings.” Do the Google AdSense optimizations really work? It depends upon the optimization and how it applies to your website.

Google Optimize Suggestions

Remember, that Google works best for Google. Those search results that are scraped information from other websites that appear on the search results page? That helps Google. The ads above the fold, and links to Google properties. That helps Google.

That is true for optimizing AdSenseĀ as well.

optimize google adsense experiments

The good news is that as an AdSense publisher, you get a cut of what Google earns putting ads on your website, so that puts you on the same team. However, that doesn’t necessarily make what Google suggests the best for you. It doesn’t mean that they are trying to reduce your earnings either. Remember that Google has an enormous number of websites to fill with ads. They think in the aggregate. You, however, think about what is best for your specific website.

For example, I have a freelance writing blog that I publish with tips and information for both freelance writers, and clients of freelance writers. The people this website are directed at are people doing freelance writing — or wanting to do freelance writing —Ā now,Ā which means that ads for colleges or other writing programs aren’t very effective on this website. Unfortunately, ads for writing courses were essentially filling up every ad slot on that blog.

This isn’t Google’s fault. The website is an educational website for writers, after all. However, the kinds of people reading it, generally won’t be the people looking to go to school to be writers, especially at the sketchy kinds of institutions that often show up in those particular AdSense ads.

I turned those ads off. Google allows you to restrict certain ads, or even ads from certain domains. Ironically, they don’t really provide this opportunity in order to let you maximize profits, so much as to prevent competitors from advertising on your own websites. For example, if I ran writing school, I wouldn’t want other writing schools publishing ads on my website. However, you can use the blocked ad categories as you see fit, and I block theĀ Education & Training category. I blocked Ringtones and Downloads on my personal finance blog because those took a lot of impressions for little returns. (It makes sense that people looking to improve their finances aren’t dropping money on costly ringtones, right?)

This bugs Google AdSense because it knows that overall, on its millions of sites, that these ads make money. But, you know your website better than Google, so should you trust your gut, or go with Google’s non-specific data?

Google AdSense Experiments

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose blindly. AdSense allows you to run optimization experiments. What it does is run half your impressions with those ads blocked, and the other half with them unblocked, and then it reports back how it affects your earnings, including things like number of clicks and cost per click. It does take a few days to fully run an experiment, but you can usually tell which way the data is going pretty quickly.

In my case, blocking the Education and Training category performed much better (+48%) than not blocking it. So, I kept it blocked.

However, it turns out unblocking the other subcategory, Job Listings, actually improved my earnings. I’m not in this for purity, so the block for those ads came off.

Click the Optimization tab from time to time to see what, if anything Google suggests. When they do make a suggestion, click that Experiments link and check it out. You may even want to repeat the experiment later on, especially if you writing focus changes.

10,000,000 AdSense Impressions

Today, I got a fun little message from Google AdSense on my AdSense dashboard telling me that I had my 10,000,000th Lifetime Ad Impression last week. It doesn’t appear that I get anything for that feat (other than the accumulated earnings made along the way), but unlike other metrics I see from time to time, this one feels good.

However, it feels like I should have more money for all those ad impressions. šŸ™‚

10 million ad impressions

Somehow, I’ve never really noticed the “All Time” option on the Google AdSense reports, but this notification made me take a closer look. Those 10 million ad impressions came from around 3.8 million page views, and resulted in close to 85,000 clicks. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from that considering that the webpages that make up those statistics, and even the AdSense program itself, has changed quite a bit over the last two or three years, but even if it doesn’t affect any strategies or plans, it is still fun to look at.

Now, I know that 10 million impressions isn’t really much for a content company or other corporation, but considering my business is a one-man operation run from my basement home office while working as a freelance writer, freelance web developer, and work at home dad, well, I think 10 million impressions is pretty, well… impressive.

Of course, the goal is to get to $10 million in earnings, not 10 million impressions, so there is a lot of work to be done going forward. Blogs need update, websites need refreshed and expanded, apps need developed, newsletters need written, and services need sold, but for now, we’ll take a little bit of time to celebrate a job well done, so far.

confetti celebration


So, what’s next?

I’ve been revamping some of my online empire, and building up my freelancing business. I’m working from a new overall strategic vision that combines the two as a single business entity. From there we can move on from six-figures and start shooting for seven. Stick around, and we can take the ride together.

Happy 10,000,000 page views to me.