5 Bandit Tests to Increase AdSense Earnings

Our approach will be a 5 arm bandit test for these factors:

Left Side vs Right Side
Above the Fold vs. Below the Fold
Embedded vs Adjacent to Content
Different AdSizes
Mobile vs Desktop (Separate setup)
Before you go off Googling pictures of seniors who bodybuild, let me explain the analogy. Let’s start with why a bandit test gets its name, what it does, and how it will help increase your ad earnings.

Did you ever see the slot machines at a casino? You put in your money, pull a lever, and wait to see if you win something. Those handles are the “arms”. And the machine itself is the “bandit”. It’s not much of a secret that these machines rob you blind – unless you own them.

How is bandit testing different from A/B testing?

Let’s keep it simple. With A/B testing, you create two or more versions that you want to test. You send equal amounts of your traffic to each. At the end of the test, you pick a winner. From there, you direct all traffic to the winning version. They call that “exploring” and then “exploiting”.

There is a little problem in here though. During the course of the test, the losing variations are getting lots of your traffic too. That means they are wasting some of it.

So a bandit test still compares different versions. But it directs most of your traffic to the version performing best from the outset.

You get to test out new variations like a/b testing, but you reduce the amount of traffic sacrificed.

The eventual losers get less of it to waste, and the likely winners get more of it to turn into ad revenue.

“Exploring” is the testing variations part. “Exploiting” is a bit harsh perhaps. Because what it really means is leveraging your traffic in the best way possible.

Stand by for another negative label. They call the bandit algorithm a “greedy” approach. But that’s just an industry term. It means we want to focus our resources wherever we think we’re going to get the best results.

Bandit Arm 1 – Left Side vs Right Side

Many UI designers will talk about F and Z patterns. This relates to how a user reads your page. A lot of research happens here. Researchers want to know where they focus. And they use eye or mouse movement tracking to figure it out.

Many web design templates provide navigation or advertising on the left or right side of the page. So this also becomes a good testing opportunity for your ad units.

Where are they looking the most? Where are they clicking ads the most?

Bandit Arm 2 – Above the Fold vs. Below the Fold
You have heard the “above the fold” mantra for a long time now. It started out as an insistence:

Everything important on a page has to be visible without scrolling.

But we have gotten wiser. Being above the fold or not is now a meaningful testing opportunity.

So we’ll take that into consideration as well. How do your ad groups perform when positioned above or below the fold? Test it.

Bandit Arm 3 – Embedded vs Adjacent To Content

The traditional ad setup was to include advertising in vacant areas of the page. They could be within your header, footer, and side navigation. It was an attempt to keep them away from your main content. Beyond clutter, it also promotes a clear separation between content and ads.

Smart ad optimizers started to think more in depth than just F and Z patterns. If we expect the user to focus on the content, then why not bring our ad units within the content space? Embed them.

There is also adjacency. That is more like traditional advertising placement. But the key here to explore embedded content and other creative ways to place your ad units.

Bandit Arm 4 – Different Ad Sizes

Size might matter. But we just don’t quite know which size without testing. Almost every ad network has many different ad unit sizes and dimensions. There is quite a variation. Compare traditional banners to skyscraper formats or video embeds.

So the type, size, and dimension of ads are also important factors for testing.

Bandit Arm 5 – Mobile vs Desktop (Separate setup)

This is the hot zone here. Mobile versus Desktop. Mobile usage is exploding – as we all know. That means no serious web publisher can do well long term without factoring in mobile traffic.

Separate apps are a bit out of scope here. But we can focus in on testing either responsive or separate mobile versions of your site.

With responsive, the design and structure is built to recognize mobile devices. When the smaller screen sizes are in use, the page layout and content can change. The layout may change. Some content may even disappear.

By contrast, a separate mobile site setup is another version especially for mobile devices. With this method, you design a version that is only for target mobile devices. It’s not tethered to the responsible web version. It’s built specifically for mobile.

To implement these tests start using AdNgin today. Or get more info first.

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