AdSense Strategy: No Borders, Mo’ Money

A couple of years ago, I conducted thorough, exhaustive testing – ok, “some” testing 😉 – on the following question: what works best – borders or no borders?

The short answer is: no borders.

The long answer is: using no borders should result in increased click-thru because visitors are less likely to think the links are advertisements. Off-line publications tend to keep editorial and advertising separate. The advertising is formatted in a bold, obvious way, often using thick borders and boxes. As a result, people often ignore these areas online. People who read publications aren’t looking for links – web visitors are.

If you’re using the default setting of Adsense, and leaving borders switched on – try turning them off by making the border color the same color as your background. Chances are, you’ll find your click-thru rate will soar, especially if you position the ad units as part of your content.

PS: From the same “exhaustive” research, I found that blue links on white backgrounds works particularly well, especially for non-web savvy subject topics.

  1. John ScottJohn Scott04-26-2006

    Very good tip there, Peter, and a great topic. Adsense pays a lot of people’s bills.

    I found something else that is also very effective. I don’t know if it is against AdSense rules though, so maybe somebody can help me out.

    I ran across this website a while back. Red and white, mostly. The top nav was laid out like this:

    Home Link Link Link

    Under each link, including the “Home” link, was a little bit of descriptive text.

    Here’s the catch: The second two links were Adsense, but it was so perfectly integrated into the site it appeared to be internal navigation. It ws so perfect that I clicked on it, and I NEVER click on Adsense.

    Just don’t know if it’s kosher.

  2. ToddWToddW04-27-2006

    Peter this is a great tip.

    I did the “thorough, exhaustive testing” as well!


    I tried a lot of different methods from insane colors and borders to blend with no borders and got the same results as you!

  3. Louis SavardLouis Savard04-27-2006

    Thanks for tip. I’ll keep this in mind.

  4. Bjorn SolstadBjorn Solstad04-29-2006

    Have a quick look at the site that my name links to.
    Now, take a look at the 2 tiny pictures over the AdSense unit at the top of the page. Reload the page and see the pictures change to some other random pictures.

    Also notice that the pictures are not clickable, and they left-align to the ads.

    The moment I changed my “normal” ads to using those with random pictures above the ads, the clickthrough rate went from typically 1 – 1,5% to 4 – 8% depending on the relevancy of the ads provided by AdSence.

    I don’t have ONE site now without those rotating pics over the ad-unit.

    I have also checked with the AdSense team if I am breaking their TOS, and they have confirmed that they have no problems with the pictures as long as the pictures are not suggesting to click the ads.

  5. Kitchen DesignerKitchen Designer04-30-2006

    I have the left the borders off as well. Also, change the URL colour to match your sites link colour.

  6. CormacCormac04-30-2006


    I see a lot of sites out there like you have described, some very popular sites that are sure to making some great payouts from that type of layout. I guess the only way to see if its kosher is to ask Google – I wouldnt mind trying it out with some of my content.

    Bjorn Solstad

    I find it difficult to see Adsense Support give the OK for images above those ads, usually support are very vague on how close you can have those images – they don’t give out suggested space size. Yours look borderline – but hey I do like them 😉

  7. Peter Da VanzoPeter Da Vanzo04-30-2006

    Images directly above the ads certainly works. People are drawn to the pictures, then look for a link.

  8. DustinDustin05-01-2006

    I switched my adsense to match the background a while back and noticed a small gain, and again by putting a picture next to it noticed a small gain. Just today switched over to links ads instead though and they dont’ blend as well as I’d like but we’ll see if it improves CTR.

  9. Bjorn SolstadBjorn Solstad05-18-2006


    What the AdSense team told me was that as long as the images have no connection to the ads – and are not suggesting people to click on the ads, they don’t mind if they are there.
    It was also asked if it had to be some text that would clearly state that the ads had no connection to the images, and they replied that it was not neccesary.

    As long as the images are random, and are not arrows pointing to the ads – I have gotten it confirmed from them that they are OK about them.

    The ads has been running with the images above for a few months now, and I have not gotten any mail from Google about removing them.

  10. Mason ShoesMason Shoes08-06-2006

    Its a very good tip, expecially for newbies. I discovered it myself about 12 months ago. and yes “No Borders, more Money ;)”

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