Where to place ads

Some of the readers of you asked me where to best place an ad. Here is what I know.

The app

We will look at an app that is a simple game it looks something like this:

It has childlike graphics and the hero is a red ball. In each level it has to reach the goal marked by a flag. It can be rolled to the left/right by touching the left/right side of the screen. A simplified heatmap of the clicks on the screen would probably look something like this:


Although I’m using a game for the visualization of the written word, everything I’m writing about ad placement here can be easily transferred to non-games or apps that run in portrait mode.

T he two ways

When optimizing your ad placement, there are two ways you can go: Optimizing for maximum visibility of the app or optimizing for the biggest amount of clicks, which can also be accidental.

Way one: Visibility

This is the first way. When taking it, you try to place your ad in a way that the user can see it well. When the user likes what he is seeing, he probably will click the ad.

So for our example game here, where the player has its hands placed on the bottom and most likely clicks to the left and the right half of the screen, the best position for an ad would be the centered top. When your app can be controlled by one hand and runs in portrait mode, the top left would also be a good place as most people are right handed. If you want to find the best place for maximum visibility of your ad, you can analyse the click behaviour of your user and adjust the ad placement accordingly or just use this little class I wrote to do so. For apps that run in portrait mode, the most times best place for visibility is on top.

The best placement when optimizing for visibility

Way two: Best CTR

The second way targets for both the wanted and the accidental clicks. Here, you place your ad in a way it is more likely that the user might click it by mistake. When applying this tactic, you should be aware of the TOS of your ad provider as most of them prohibit ad placements too close to often clicked areas.

For our example game, we would probably place our ad in the bottom right or bottom left because we can expect the most touch events there. Most portrait mode apps should place their ads on the bottom.

When optimizing for the best CTR, the ad should be placed like this

Which way you choose is up to you. While the latter might cause you to lose a couple of users, it will probably still generate you more money than the first one. When you want your ads to be clicked only when the user is really interested in its content, you should take the first way.

 

Do you have any best practices of ad placement, questions or criticism? Please feel free to share them in the comments.

6 Comments

  1. And once again a very interesting article!
    While using some apps, I noticed that that I look a lot more at ads, if they are not always at the same position.
    So I added this to one of my apps today. I can tell you if it increases my CTR in a few weeks.

  2. First i want to say i really like your blog you got here but this post i have to disagree with you a lot on.

    The number one thing you don’t want to do with ad’s is to disrupt the users playtime or usage and by placing ad’s while the user is actually playing or using your app takes away both from their usage of you app/game and also could disrupt the fun of the game, of course this depends a bit of your app though. A regular app could probably use ad’s in the main screen but a game should never ever ever do that.

    So what to do instead, well it’s pretty simple. Place the ad’s after a user has completed a level or such as to not interrupt their play. This also increases the visibility of the ad and the user has finished playing that level so now he can actually click it without interruption.

    • Hello Magnus,
      thank you for your comment.
      That’s of course the tradeoff a developer has to make: Interruption vs. potentially more clicks. Games like Angry Birds have shown that the concept of in-game ads can work, but once they took their ads from the top right to the bottom left, users started complaining. Personally I think its possible as long as the ad doesn’t overlay any critical elements of the game or forces the user to unwilling interruption.
      The way of placing ads after level completion also works of course, games like Stupid Zombies use this approach.

      Best regards
      Johannes

  3. That it does work i have nothing to say about cause i know it does work.

    And yes moving them down to the left i can understand why people started to complain about. However i think they would get even more clicks if they did place the ad’s after a level was completed. If you want to see how we did it you can take a look at our game Wisp (free version) Our users really liked how we implemented them.

  4. While bit late, agree with you Magnus… from an player perspective and you obviously never placed ads in an app before.

    Putting them only after the level is completed, will just lead that most people ignore it. That’s a simple fact. If you make them always visible but place them where people don’t touch it often, you will have incredibly low eCPM (0.10$-0.30$). That means for every 1000 impressions, you get 10-30 cent. So if you don’t have a game like Angry Birds which was downloaded 50.000.000+ times, this is probably gonna be an issue.

    In order to get enough money from an app, to
    a) pay your taxes
    b) pay your bills
    c) have some money left to buy yourself a few goodies
    d) have enough money left to keep developing for that platform

    you need at least 2500-3000$ of monthly income. A good 1/3 of that you have to pay for taxes, insurances etc. which leaves you with 1500-2000$ at best. Once you paid all your bills, you’re probably down to 750-1000$, maybe even less. With that that’s left you have to get food, buy yourself some nice stuff (i.e. new android phone for improved development and testing on difficult devices), maybe pay for some new assets of your game or get some vital licenses (i.e. photoshop).

    But 3000$ is a pretty high goal. In order to archive this, you either need one very successful app (500k+ downloads) or several mediocre successful ones (50-100k) with a high usage. So basically 1000 active users convert into ~5$ (active: Using your app at least 5 minutes a day, which is ~10 ads per user, 10000 ad requests (not impressions)), which results in 600.000 active (~6 mio impressions) users (in optimistic case) based on the average AdMob eCPM.

    However, having users accidentally click an add or not can make a difference between 0.50% click through rate and 1.00% click through rate. Speaking of active users, this means you can break even (read: Life with your apps income) from only 300.000 active users instead of 600.000.

    If you place your ads only at the end of a level, you probably need a way more than that. So well, as a large company or hobby developer you may place the ads at user-friendly places and accept lower click-through-rates, that’s fine. But if you autonomous and the Apps are your main and only income, you can’t live on charity.

    However, I do another attempt which is a mix of placement for max. CTR (incl. accidental clicks) and being nice to the users. Once a user clicks on an ad and watched it for a certain amount of seconds (~10), I disable the ads for them for a certain amount of time (varies from a few minutes, to a few hours or even a day or two).

    This way if they clicked on an add (accidentally or not), they get a little reward of having the app ad free for a moment. Of course, I never mention this to the description or somewhere else in the app, because that could be interpreted as encouraging users to click on the ads. But the users who do, get rewarded and they have to find it out by themselves how it works.

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