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How we increased our mobile ads income by 445%

We recently discovered how to radically increase our income from our mobile ads that were served by Google AdSense. As a result, we not only multiplied our mobile income, but a single mobile ad on our web app now also outranks the performance of all of the other banners like Skyscrapers or Superbanners on the desktop version of the same site. In this article I am not only going to reveal the basic trick, but also share the ideas behind it, including the tests we conducted and the steps we took to multiply our income from our mobile ads with simple pay per click optimization.
Update: AdSense and Sticky Ads
As Fedor pointed out in the comments, AdSense is now clearer in its terms of services stating that “fixed” or “sticky” ads are not permitted. I decided to neither remove nor change the content of this post for two reasons.
1. AdSense is still testing their own implementation of sticky ads, called “anchor ads”. Hopefully, every publisher can use this method without coding skills and worrying about the TOS in a few months. Moreover, as a beta tester, I can say: they seem to work great!
2. You might still want to use sticky ads with ads from other ad networks with click based payments. Just ask them if they will allow you to use sticky ads.

Why even bother with mobile ads?

There was a lot of noise about mobile in 2012, but I didn’t have to listen to understand the importance of a mobile web app. I just had to look into the web statistics of our word game site to see the enormous growth in traffic that we achieved from mobile devices. Now, on both our German and English versions, the number of unique visitors from mobile devices is higher than from any other device.
I didn’t really bother with web app advertising until the first significant increase of mobile users before the holiday season in December 2011. I would have thought the increase might have happened AFTER the holidays, but it actually did so BEFORE. The same happened in December 2012, and so there must be a reasonable explanation. I always had Facebook’s more or less failed IPO in mind that analysts also saw as a result of a bad performance of their mobile ads. Anyway, Facebook managed to significantly increase its income from mobile ads, and so I felt that I had to give it a more serious try. It took me until fall 2012 to come up with a solution to include ads depending on the browser width so that I would be technically able to serve mobile ads as well.
Mobile Ads or Mobile Banners are 320 x 50 px and are designed to fit most smartphones. Google AdSense recently included them in their “normal” ad portfolio, and so, technically, there is no reason not to use this kind of ads for your desktop site.

Responsive ads

As a website owner, you probably know about responsive design. This means that the size of your site is adapting to the width of each visitor’s browser. When done right, your site just magically fits into every browser and device. Anyway, for a web developer this is quite easy to set up. The hard part is for any publisher to put ads on such a page and optimize these “responsive ads” properly. We use our own sites as sandboxes for testing different optimization methods. Whether you visit the pages with your desktop browser, tablet, or smartphone, you will always see the same content, but with a responsive layout and responsive ads that fit into the available space.
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