Adsense Policy

Avoid an Adsense Policy violation the easy way

Have you ever gotten a Google Adsense Policy violation? When you are first implementing ads on a site, everything sounds so easy! However, you quickly realize that it can very complicated to keep your site compliant with Adsense policy. Everything is not necessarily black and white. Continue reading “Adsense Policy”

What is Ad Blindness?

This is an issue that has developed into a topic of discussion for online publishers who have seen their online advertising revenue decline because their ads become ‘invisible’ to their users over time.  Google has written articles on the subject (*), so it’s obviously become a hot topic!   Continue reading “What is Ad Blindness?”

Ad Blocker Extensions & the Impact on Advertising Revenue

Apple recently announced that iPhones will now have an ad blocker extension on Safari, and if you’re like other publishers, you’re probably concerned that this will impact revenue for your site. This is a reasonable concern, but it’s likely that this won’t make a huge impact as you might expect. Continue reading “Ad Blocker Extensions & the Impact on Advertising Revenue”

RPM Is Not Meant to Optimize AdSense Revenue

Better Ways To Optimize AdSense Revenue

A lot of publishers worry about RPM — which is the Google AdSense measurement for revenue per mille (revenue per thousand page views). That’s normal because it’s a metric that everyone has been using for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s not really the best metric for publishers who want to optimize AdSense revenue. Let me explain… Continue reading “RPM Is Not Meant to Optimize AdSense Revenue”

Episode 7: Interview with Dave Taylor from

Listen to Episode 7.


John: Well hello everybody and welcome to another podcast from Ezoic. I’m here with Dave Taylor from Hi Dave.

Dave: Hello John.

John: How’s it going today?

Dave: It’s going very well and if we’re lucky we’ll be able to do this entire podcast without my cats attacking me or my computer. We’ll see how that plays out.

John: That’s good. I’m glad we just did a kind of little sound check now and I’m going to try not to bump the microphone. I think we’re all good, we’re all set. I’d love to hear about and I think the listeners would like to hear a little bit about your background. I know that you’ve been an AdSense testimonial client. There’s a whole bunch of background there. Just tell the listeners a bit more about yourself and your site.

Dave: Well, I have been online probably longer than many of the people who are listening to this actual podcast. I first connected to the Arpanet back in I want to say 81, maybe 80. Way back and actually have been around for a lot of the interesting evolutionary steps. I actually received the very first spam email, which was a green card application solicitation from an attorney in Arizona and I attended the Commercial Internet Exchange meetings where we debated whether the arpanet should allow commercial usage or not and of course the answer was yes and that’s how we got to where we are today. I was there. It’s been quite a journey.

John: Have you met Tim Berners- Lee?

Dave: I have met Tim, I have met a lot of the people who have helped create what we have today. It’s really been a cast of thousands. I know there’s two, three, four people who seem to get a lot of the credit, but there is a big, big evolution of all the technologies and all of the underlying infrastructure and it’s incrementally grown. Just as now we’re starting to see fiber to the office and fiber to the home, I have a friend who was showing me that he gets 100gb download speed at his house because he just paid for like the top tier of service. That’s unimaginable. Businesses couldn’t get that 20 years ago. Now here he is at home on his couch just absolutely trying to figure out what to do with all that bandwidth.

John: That’s a lot of movie watching, binge TV or whatever you’re going to do with that. Having fiber is something I’m looking forward to in moving office. Looking back at the very beginning, I’m trying to remember when I first went online, it was about sort of mid-90s when email started and by then it was already sort of beginning to take off. Isn’t the background of the internet to do with academic institutions connecting and wasn’t that from military connections?

Dave: The arpanet ARPA, is actually DARPA and DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and what they were really looking at back in, this is really almost the tail end of the Cold War sort of thing, but they were trying to figure out could you create widely distributed computer network such that any given piece of that network could be destroyed and the rest of the network would remain up because prior to that, what would happen is my computer would connect to Mike’s computer, Mike’s computer would connect to Sue’s computer, Sue’s computer would connect to Mary’s computer and so the only way Mary and I could communicate is if those two machines were online. One of the primary impetus for creating the ARPA net was to create this highly resilient computer network and they really accomplished an amazing task there because the internet keeps chugging along even if entire countries go out.

John: That’s amazing isn’t it? These days I suppose it’s come from the Cold War, which is interesting because I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie about them cracking the enigma code with Benedict Cumberbatch. I forget the name of it and how really computing came from mechanical computers, which then obviously came through silicon chips and they got rid of valves and so on, but it’s a bit of a shame all of these amazing things have come out of war, but also a fantastic thing because what was it? Twenty, thirty years ago nobody could have imagined where we are now with the connectivity that we have. So Dave, tell me. I interrupted you before, but tell me when you sort of were just getting started. When did you get into publishing and how did that happen?

Dave: So I have actually been writing way too long. I actually started publishing while I was still an under grad where I did some work. I had a degree in computer science and I did some work on compiler design, which is when you take your source code and you turn it into something the computer could actually execute and my professors thought that the design I had created was worthy of publication and I had no idea what that meant so I said “sure” and I wrote up an article and got it published in a professional journal and then I graduated and I still remember getting a call. I was in Colorado working for Hewlett Packard or as you might say Hewlett Packard.

John: I can’t help that.

Dave: I took it. I got a call from Computer Language Magazine and they had found that article and they asked me if I would be interested in rewriting it for them and I was like “maybe, I don’t know” and they said “we’ll pay you” and suddenly the light bulb went on over my head and I said “oh” and my very first published article in a real magazine was actually their cover story and it actually spanned two issues. That was a very nice way to start and I’ve been writing ever since. I have 22 books on Amazon and I’ve written weekly and monthly columns for a variety of different publications and now I’m a monthly columnist for the local newspaper here in Colorado and a monthly columnist for Linux Journal where I pretend to actually do programming.

John: So that is quite a journey. I mean are you still playing the guitar? I did notice that was a feature in the AdSense video.

Dave: Yes I still occasionally pick up the guitar and I do still occasionally wear shoes, which you didn’t get from that video. That was something where they’re like “do something really colorful and folk-sy” and I’m like “well I can play guitar as long as you don’t actually let people actually hear me play” so that’s the AdSense video that Google sent a team out and video taped. That was actually quite a fun day. We just drove all the heck over the place. They must have filmed six hours’ worth of video to get like 75 seconds worth of ad. That was something. So let me go back to my story. Doing all this writing and then I actually wrote an article for Sun Microsystems for their magazine on software internationalization and then I got a call from Springer Verlag publishing saying “loved the article. Want to turn it into a book” and not knowing any better, I said “sure, that sounds easy”. That was my first book called “Global Software” and since then, I’ve just done a whole variety of different books, mostly technical, but there’s some business stuff and there’s some books coming out in the next probably 12 months or so that I’m involved in, but what happened is I wrote all these technical books on things like HTML and CSS and Unix and Linux and got a lot of email from readers and I love that, but I kep getting the same questions. I figured I needed to come up with some sort of solution and that was really how Ask Dave Taylor was born and if you were to go back to the very original post, you would see that they were “I bought your book. I’m reading on page 47. I don’t understand this example” and then it just started to roll and somewhat, perhaps somewhat famously is my buddy actually told me #”you should put ads on your website” and I was just really resistant to that and he really insisted and he insisted that I do it as a test and the first month I had Google AdSense writing and this was the very beginning of this whole system and I made like $25 and I wasn’t very impressed, but then the second month I actually made more than the amount I was paying for hosting. At that moment, I had this truly ephanous realization that all of a sudden my online presence doesn’t have to be a cost center, it can actually be a profit center. That really just changed my approach to doing my business and I really started to put a lot more effort into it and at this point Ask Dave Taylor as you know, because you can see my stats, we have about I think just over 4,000 articles and somewhere in the order of about 75,000 comments and we see 10,000-25,000 people a day coming to the site.

John: The traffic is fantastic. From your point of view, why do you think the idea of layout testing and art testing is a good idea? Why did you want to give it a try I guess is the question I’m trying to ask.

Dave: Well the thing is, it is hard to AB test designs and you end up where you work with your designer or you are your own designer, which actually tends not to work very well and you’re sort of stuck with however you have things laid out and then you say “let’s put an ad on here” or “let’s do a banner” or let’s do some text ads” or something like that and you know, the amount of writing that you have, the number of options that you have are really small so it’s like testing different ways to row your boat without ever asking am I in the right river. So you know, I have to admit and you know this, I was very rediscent about trying Ezoic and it’s funny because there’s still a tension inside of me, the aesthetic part of me, the version of Dave that goes to museums, that hangs out with artists, I kind of dislike the whole system because there’s a lot of versions that are not very aesthetically pleasing, but the business side of me and the scientist side of me absolutely loves this just huge testing platform that you’ve created and I can utilize because it really is giving me a chance to pick what variables I want to optimize and to have your system somewhat magically create these weird different layouts and designs to test and constantly be testing dozens or hundreds of them and successfully refine it down to a design that might not be anything I would have ever dreamed of, but in fact is delivering better time on site, better stickiness, better number of page views per visit and greater revenue on a permanent basis.

John: It is interesting because we’ve been doing this business for quite a long time now and when we first started sort of testing our theories, I don’t know if when we first spoke I told you any of this, but we noticed that ad targeting can only get so far, sort of that thing of showing the right person the right ad at the right time and that has been chased by all it seems like most ad tech businesses that have been out there for a very long time and when we’re trying different ads in different locations, we were somewhat surprised that you can try ads in these front and center positions and not have the bounce rate go down and that if you were to ask people to do surveys, everyone says “I don’t like ads”, but everyone wants free content and it’s sort of this balancing act. I’m trying to do the balancing act by eye as trying to make yourself a new user is actually very, very difficult to do because there’s that emotional attachment like you just said. It’s sort of a string pulling you saying “I don’t personally like this” and I guess science does have the answer here and we are working on that. There is some new stuff that’s going to come out and is going to make you feel a whole lot better about it. That’s definitely been one of the main kind of annoyances of publishers that use the platform. They love the results, but they don’t personally like some of the tests so we’re kind of trying to iron that out. So when you, I mean I guess I should ask this. Are you overall happy with using the system and you know kind of reconciling that push and pull feeling that you get from science versus art I guess?

Dave: You know I’m glad you asked because actually I’m quitting today. I’m kidding.

John: Don’t do that to me on a podcast. I’ve been saving it up.

Dave: This is going to be a great podcast. People will be like “what”?

John: You need to have a big argument.

Dave: I’m very pleased. Revenue is up substantially. Visits are up and in fact even in the past two to three weeks it seems there’s been an additional boost in traffic and you know my assumption is that is because the goals we have set for the optimization through Ezoic are very congruent with Google’s latest rev of its algorithm because the fact is we’re all operating in the dark and I know that you guys are a partner with Google and everything, but I know the way that company works. They’re not giving you their internal documentation.

John: I wish.

Dave: We had a meeting and we decided these three things are most important to us so we wanted to make sure that you knew about that.

John: I actually don’t think there is a person at Google who knows all that. I just don’t think so.

Dave: It might have been, Matt Cutts might have been that guy, but he’s seen the writing on the wall and he’s moving on too, which is interesting.

John: Isn’t he taking a sabbatical at the moment, isn’t he?

Dave: Yeah, but he sort of posts sabbatical, but he’s saying that he’s really not planning on going back. I can see him going to a different group at Google, but you know being the chief anti-spam search evangelist was probably utterly exhausting because I remember going to places like Pub Con which is a conference for SEO people and you would have thought he was the next coming of Michael Jackson or something because he would just be mobbed nonstop by hundreds of people wanting to like get in his ear and sight.

John: I guess as well when some of the more famous algo (algorithm) updates came out, I bet he had a lot of angry people after him as well.

Dave: Yeah, which again sort of suggests that he’s in charge and that is not the case. The fact is that before we started we were joking about the Cold War and I think that this is kind of a mutually assured destruction really because you have companies like Google trying to figure out how to give the best possible results for every search, which is their bread and butter. If they can’t deliver that, everything else falls apart. Meanwhile you have all these SEO people and I’ll use the word ‘expert’ with air quotes and they’re trying to reverse engineering so they can game the system so they and their clients can actually bump up higher than they should so that they then end up creating bad search results so that the search company then has to change its algorithm so that they then have to reverse engineering again.

John: Yeah, like you said it’s like a Cold War.

Dave: There’s sort of some inherent level of idiocy about all this, but a lot of the people that are really respected in this space, they’ve really tried to stick with what I’ve stuck with, which is just keep producing good content and over the long run, that’s where they’re trying to get to so as long as you’re not doing anything stupid, then you should slowly but surely end up with more and more traffic.

John: Yeah and it’s having to discipline isn’t it and the patience because you know to post information for sometimes years without getting any reward is I guess why the sites that have been around for a long time they’re kind of authority sites. I don’t mean that in the SEO sense of the word, I mean it in the true sense of the word that they quite rightly are getting the kind of juice that they should get and I guess that’s why doing this type of platform is all about trying to level that playing field for people who don’t have the time to do all that stuff. I spend quite a bit of my time talking to bigger publishers, that sort of 10 million plus a month and they have exactly the same decisions to make. They just have more traffic and I’ve got to say that the same problems come up again and again. How do you genuinely improve user experience? It’s not a binary thing. Trying different things seems to be the only way to do it. How do you do that scale? Doing it in an automated way seems to be the only way to be able to do it. Manual testing takes an awful long time and those kinds of things. So asking you again if you had to describe Ezoic, how would you describe it? One thing we’re not fantastic at is marketing and I would love to get your take on how you explain it if you were describing it to other people.

Dave: Okay, so I think the important preface here is that I’m a film critic so I spend a lot of time watching movies. So Dr. Frankenstein. I see Ezoic as taking it into the laboratory and let the mad scientist work on and constantly be tinkering and monkeying with it so that at any given moment, you look in the window and you might not [unclear 18:55]. The goal of that mad scientist is to successfully refine, to constantly create a version of your girlfriend, your monster, your sweat site, that optimizes certain characteristics. Now I’m going to go back and actually take the word ‘girlfriend’ out of that because girlfriend and optimize certain characteristics is sure to get us into hot water here John.

John: Yes. Although I’m not sure that my wife is actually probably going to listen to this. I kind of like to think that she will, but I think we’re safe on my side.

Dave: Well she might say “oh well then John can you go into that laboratory because I’d like to optimize certain characteristics of yours”.

John: Quite right.

Dave: But you know, it is a little hard to explain and once in a blue moon I’ll get an email from someone with a screen shot and they’ll say “your site is really laying out weird” and I just say I’m going through a layout testing system and that there’s constant fluidity in my design as we try to optimize for different characteristics and if they’re finding a really weird design, they should clear their cookies and then come again and they’ll get a different design.

John: Yeah, and that’s the way to sort of explain it and some people are more emotional about that and you know, I think the reason you stuck around is you got that strong scientific bank where you’re looking at it and saying “okay rationally I can see. Let the bounce rates lower and the time on site is higher on this one. Even though I don’t like it, let’s see if it’s going to win longer term”. If you think about it, the fragmentation is so great now compared to what it was even five years ago. Operating systems, browsers, etc. It’s actually quite difficult to be operating in all of those environments at the same time. So tell me, between a little bit about Ezoic, tell me about Ask Dave Taylor. Have you got some plans? Are you going to be doing some podcasts for Ask Dave Taylor?

Dave: I do videos. I do a lot of video work and I actually do a lot of commercial video work for companies and I really enjoy that. There’s a lot of creativity, but I produce content on Ask Dave Taylor six days a week and have been for I don’t know, 13 years or something like that. It’s still paying the mortgage so I’m still motivated, but you know the thing is I feel like it’s again maybe this is why we have so much congruency between us, but it’s sort of my laboratory. It’s the reason that I can go talk to all these companies and I can try out different video techniques just by doing a review for my website or something and then if that comes out really well then I can go market it to some clients and actually make a few dollars doing it. In terms of big plans for Ask Dave Taylor, really nothing major on the horizon. I feel it’s just chugging along offering up really good information to my reader base and continually growing pool of content and that seems like a good trajectory to be on.

John: It’s growing user base as well. Certainly since we’ve been working together the site is doing very well. It’s great to see. So I guess we should probably wrap things up in a minute. Have you got any advice for people sort of wanting to put their website in the laboratory and get the mad scientist to work on it for them?

Dave: Yes you want to keep going. Don’t give up.

John: Have you got any advice?

Dave: I just gave you the advice. What’s up dude? Okay so seriously, so the first thing is keep your goals in mind. I think it’s really easy, particularly for us ADD entrepreneurs to get incredibly distracted and things like “does your picture on your home page look beautiful” really is kind of irrelevant unless there’s a business reason for that and you have data and I think that the real win with working with Ezoic is that it forces you to be data driven rather than emotion driven and that’s really, really hard for some business people and that’s why they have very small businesses because they’re all about love, which is great. God bless them, but for people who want to have their business grow, you really need to be dispassionate and you need to look at the data and in that spirit, letting the design be more fluid to try to attain specific goals is smart and just keep plugging away. This is something I say all the time to people is that there are no quick gigs. There are no short cuts. If you want to have a successful website, you just need to plug away at it. It might be months before you see any traction at all so if your plan is just to do this for two weeks and then you’ll be making your millions, then you might as well save yourself the wasted time and just go get a job at the local McDonalds because this is a long game. Everything to do with working online involves time and planning and effort and persistence and I think that that’s where people are hoping this is another get rich quick scheme and I just don’t see anything on the internet like that.

John: I guess that advice is exactly the same advice that I try to tell people, but of course when I’m saying it, people are saying “you’re going to be making money”, but honestly the most patient people are the ones that are the successful ones who can stick it out and that they just let the system do its job and they just keep doing content and the rest of it kind of all happens over time. I foresee a time when the actual process of designing is all going to happen like this. It’s all going to happen from the user reaction to things rather than all of this sort of “I’m going to go and buy a template and I’m going to try that”, which I guess has taken over from people sitting and paying people to create their website. They ask for them ten years ago or whenever it was.

Dave: Well if you remember MySpace, that’s the great example of what happens when you give people that have no clue about design and layout the power to create design and layout.

John: Yeah that’s a very good point. It was an ugly place, but the butterflies were very pretty to that person so that’s okay. Cool. Well Dave we should wrap things up here. I just want to say thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it and thanks for your patience as well and thanks for coming on the podcast and if there’s anything that you want to kind of sign off with the people that have been listening, I guess now is you final chance.

Dave: Alright, well I’ll just invite everyone to visit my website at and then reload or look in a different browser and see what you get because that’s Ezoic behind the scenes giving you strange, unusual, sometimes psychedelic and other times quite aesthetically pleasing layouts, but the content is all mine. As they say, any mistakes I have to own unfortunately. Anyway, it’s been great John. It’s been really a pleasure talking to you.

John: Thanks very much Dave.

Episode 6: Interview with Rob Spooner from

Listen to Episode 6


John: Well hello folks and welcome back for another podcast from Ezoic. I have Rob Spooner here. Hi Rob.

Rob: Hello John.

John: Rob runs a number of publishing entities online, the biggest of which is That’s U hyphen S hyphen So Rob, tell us a little bit more about yourself, your business, a bit of your background for the readers or listeners I should say.

Rob: Okay well I’ve been doing internet sites for the last almost exactly 20 years. It was July 4, 1995 or very close to it. I was coming back from a vacation and someone said, “there’s this really interesting thing happening. You have to stop in and talk to some people we know and talk with them on your way through,” so we did and out of that came our first website ever. We moved on to do online highways in a few years. It became quite large, but it sort of has seen its best days now. The main thing that we do now at, which has been developed over probably the last 12 years. It’s a fairly comprehensive site about US History, which is primarily as far as we can tell of interest to students. I’m guessing mostly college, I mean high school students, because if you watch our traffic, it very closely tracks public school schedules and dies off very much in the summer and in general we’re pretty sure the primary audience for it is high school students.

John: So you’ve been using the Ezoic platform since April. Tell everybody listening what you thought before you started and then what you found when you started using it. We’ve worked together for a long time now, over a year. Maybe can you share a few of your experiences? I mean the good and the bad, Rob. How do you find Ezoic?

Rob: Well the way we started, I got an email and it was of a type that I see quite frequently, somebody telling me if I’d paid attention to what they offered, that they would get me a lot more money, but as I was going through it, I saw something that said “we are doing this only on a small test group of people and you have been selected for this,” which sort of was vague, but I said, “this sounds interesting,” so I called the guy and he started talking to me about how you did testing on layouts. I’m a big fan of testing. Had not done very much and certainly haven’t done very well with the sites that we have, but it was intriguing so I said, “okay let’s give it a shot” so we did and it took a while for anything very much to happen, but after about a month and a half, traffic surged up and has stayed up and actually has continued. I think we’re extremely seasonal so it’s difficult to know exactly how we’re doing, but I think we’re probably doing about as well as we’ve ever done with traffic, which is good because there was a period in there when traffic was beginning to slide down. We now have a good stream of revenue. As you and I have discussed, there are bumps in it that we can’t really explain. You all tried to tell me what’s going on, maybe explaining more than you really were comfortable with, because I nagged so much trying to find out what in fact was going on. Whenever it goes down I want an explanation, and sometimes there isn’t any explanation. I think now the place that I’ve gotten to is that I just decided that I’m not going to know, the pattern doesn’t seem to be rational. I don’t know why a while later my eyeballs are worth so much less than they were before, but then it comes back again and it’s an unexplained cycle. Nothing I can do about it. I’m just leaving it basically to you guys to do the best you can in whatever circumstance we’re in.

John: Let’s have a little chat about that one because my explanation of it was the site has grown. I suppose we should first say do you think that traffic growth is due to using Ezoic?

Rob: Yes. I had this debate with my partner who said maybe it was just a cleanse and so forth, but there was a very long period in there, which I interpret mostly as Google becoming unhappy with something that I was doing on the site, which I’m not entirely sure about. I thought I was following rules, but I may have been pushing the envelope somewhere or other. They seemed to be unhappy and for a long period of time we were just gradually slipping down. For about three years this went on. Then it was just sort of magical, in the space of a few days, like in May of last year, we just suddenly doubled and it was all Google. Bing and Yahoo didn’t do very much. It was Google and something about the way you had redid our site pleased them and that was the first surge. We have continued to see surges, which I think are because users now see the site, they like what they see, more of them are linking to us so we do better with Google. More people see us, more people like us, more people link and so forth so I think I’m seeing now that cycle, but the original impetus I think clearly was that you cleaned up the site and I’m okay to Google and I’m okay to users at the same time, and since that time the down trend has turned into an up trend.

John: I want to make it clear to everybody listening that Ezoic isn’t an SEO business and we never approached you about being an SEO business and helping with your traffic. It’s really about the user experience and the income. We found that, and it is intriguing, we found that on the whole, sites do grow when they use Ezoic and the reason for that that we concluded is if we can get the bounce rates down by various devices, whether it’s mobile and tablet, desktop or whatever it might be, then that is a strong indication that the users are finding what they want and that seems to be something that Google likes and it’s certainly something that the people at Google talk about. They say if you look after the user and user experience is good, then you’re going to be okay by us. So that’s good. Let me, I know I’m interviewing you, but I’d like to cover that mention about revenue fluctuations because we have talked about it a little bit on email. I think the reason for, I mean you had traffic growth and your key word, the key words that your site was coming up with things like just off the top of my head were a tad offensive. I think that was one of them and when you win more key words, in other words when you start getting traffic to the site from Google for a different set of key words, they might be more generous. In other words, if you came up top for a whole bunch of very, very specific terms the user engagement might be very, very high when they come to the site. If people are coming up better for higher volume key words, which are more generalist, then that’s changing the intent of the visitor and they might be less intent on finding out their answers. I hope I haven’t lost you with that. That’s my assessment of why I think you could have a change of your average income per visitor, because over a period of time, your traffic sources are very slowly changing, because you’re growing in Google search engine. That’s just my theory and we don’t really spend any time digging into that kind of stuff because our technology is always about layout improvement, ad positioning, the speed of the site loading, does it work really well with a new handset that just came out last week, all of that kind of stuff. We don’t really spend any time looking at SEO subjects, but it is intriguing to me because we’re very interested in how things affect revenue. That’s an idea that I have and I can certainly do a little follow up for the listeners if anything else comes to mind after the podcast, but that was a good one. So Rob, if you could explain to the listeners what do you like about Ezoic and what do you not like about it?

Rob: Well, basically I think Ezoic has picked up the areas where I either thought I never was any good or probably was, but probably wasn’t such as laying out pages for the best revenue generation and selecting the people and that. The other great thing about using Ezoic is that I now know that we are friendly to mobile devices, which we were not before, which I might have been able to do with a great deal of effort, but I would have needed to constantly keep checking with new devices and new platforms and everything and now I’m not concerned with that. I know that whatever the public is going to be using, we’re going to be visible in the friendly way to those devices because that’s what Ezoic does for us. That is a great positive.

John: When you’re talking about revenue, we kind of covered the fact that this site’s done very well and increased its traffic since it’s used the platform. How are you doing for revenue? You don’t have to give me any numbers.

Rob: Okay the CPM I don’t think is that much higher than it was before, but there are two factors. One, something about the way I was getting my money was irritating Google, so I had to give up something and so I have given up something that was not working for me and replaced it with about the same amount of acceptable advertising. The other thing is that we have grown on the smart phones and the revenue on smart phones is not as good per view. We’re getting pretty close to the same per view by having more of those views coming on devices that are difficult to monetize. It’s understandable that we’re getting a little less than I had hoped we would get. We get so many more views that the total is fine.

John: The total is, if you could put a percentage on it, how are you doing compared to before you were using the platform?

Rob: Oh boy. As you know it goes up and down. In January we were getting less per view than we had before we switched and then in late April, it suddenly popped way up above what we’ve been seeing for six or eight months. It’s interesting. I tend to do better on Saturday. On Saturday we have fewer people, fewer students and the kind of people who are watching on Saturday tend to be, I’m guessing, more adult with interest in history and that’s where we make more money. The other thing that I just learned from one of your new services which is to rank out how we’re doing by country is that we do vastly better with our quite small number of people coming from overseas. The common wealth people are the ones outside of the US who are doing the most, and the common wealth folks are generating something like 4% of my traffic, probably something like 20%-30% of the regular, this is astonishingly a higher rate, which I think is because the people overseas are checking out the United States, because they have in mind they may be visiting and we’re getting some really high value advertising to those people, much more than I can with my bread and butter here in the United States so it’s quite remarkable. According to your statistics, I’m getting more per view from people in India than I am in the United States, which is bizarre to me.

John: That does seem strange, but it certainly is interesting. I’m looking at your overall kind of revenue curve. I’m not going to give the numbers, but from my calculations, it looks like you’re doing about 75% better per visitor than you were before you used the Ezoic platform, overall. That’s comparing earnings per thousand visits with earnings per thousand visits before so does that sound about right?

Rob: Seventy five percent more visits or overall?

John: Just your monthly income let’s say.

Rob: Yeah, I think we’re doing that.

John: It’s about 75%. I mean, overall and I always kind of think our system is for publishers just like you and we do a lot of work with Google and particularly AdSense publishers. Traffic and income are the two things people seem to be most interested in all the time because they are so well linked, but also it is giving you a continual score to see how you’re doing and if your site is growing, staying the same or going down. So I think we’ve covered most of the things. Did you have any questions for me Rob? Was there anything you wanted to find out because now is your chance even though it’s a bit of a public forum. Make it a nice one.

Rob: Actually, I don’t know. Things are moving right along if you can find some way to persuade schools in the United States to stay open 12 months out of the year, so I don’t have this sag in the middle of the summer I’d really appreciate it, but I think that’s outside of your skill set.

John: I’ll see what I can do.

Rob: Okay I appreciate it.

John: Actually you’re not alone. A lot of academic sites do have a slump in the summer, and it’s because people are away from their desktops and the basic fact is people are still buying, advertisers are still wanting to advertise when people are able to get their credit cards out and buy things and people are still not quite yet anyway, buying as much from their phones as they do when they’re sitting down in front of the PC. It’s the holidays that are always, I think the end of the month is a bad time because the ad tags will change over, public holidays, particularly in the US and then some holidays, full stop. We’re about to enter that domain unfortunately Rob. It’ll be that June/July is always the time, before the back to school advertising comes in the middle of August. I have to say, but the good thing is it always comes back and the whole industry is going up by about 15% so that’s good news at least.

Rob: Yep, we’re waiting.

John: Well Rob, thank you again. I really appreciate your time and thanks for sharing with all of the other publishers out there who want to find out about Ezoic. Okay guys, I’ll call it to a close here. Thanks again. Rob I’ll see you online.

Rob: Okay, thanks for having me on.

John: Thanks again. Bye.

Rob: Bye.

Episode 5: Interview with Bill Phelan from

Listen to Episode 5.


John: Well hello folks and welcome to another podcast from Ezoic. I’ve got Bill Fallon here. He’s from Brighthub. Hi Bill.

Bill: Hi there. How are you John?

John: Good thank you. We’re going to talk a little bit about Ezoic and things from the perspective of publishers. Maybe you can kick things off and introduce yourself to the listeners and tell them a little bit about yourself and your business.

Bill: Certainly. Hi my name is Bill Phelan and I’m the co-founder and president of Brighthub. We are located in upstate New York. We run a series of websites that add up to in total right about 6 million users and we have writers that contribute to our site from around the world. We look for deep end sites. We look for quite a bit of knowledge in each one of the verticals that we cover and we’re pretty happy with the way we’ve been able to work this business over the last five or six years.

John: Six years? That’s education, isn’t it? That’s the main vertical?

Bill: It’s a big education. There’s no question about it. No question about it.

John: We’ve known each other for a few months now. You’ve been using Ezoic. If people were to ask you what is Ezoic, how would you describe that in your own words?

Bill: I guess the way I think about Ezoic is, Ezoic is a great firm for helping my readers actually be served up an experience that is great for them and ultimately if it’s great for them it’s good for their viewing and reading, then ultimately it’s good for me. We’ve been pretty fortunate in that regard because the happier my readers are, the more money we make so we’re very pleased with that.

John: Was that a speaking clock in the background?

Bill: Yes, that is all courtesy of Apple Computer.

John: Right. It’s just reminding you it’s 4 o’clock. Well it’s 1 o’clock here in sunny San Diego. So Bill, if you had to say, what was it about Ezoic that you’ve enjoyed particularly that you’ve gotten the most out of, and why do you use it?

Bill: I’d say what attracted us the most to this was, for ourselves, a pretty deep understanding of what AB testing is all about. We went through a couple of years where our developers would talk about A/B testing. It was nice to talk about and then we dove into it. It was brutally hard at the time. Of course this was five or six years ago to build out the capability, to do A/B testing, but then once we got into it, we found out it was it’s own science, we found out that it wasn’t a question of A/B testing one page versus the other page. It was a question of A/B testing one small feature versus another feature and we were then down that path of testing feature to feature and then coming back and kind of testing collections of features and realizing that our business started evolving from being a publisher to an A/B tester and it was mind numbing after awhile and ultimately we kept asking ourselves how much actual gain or lift are we getting out of this slow arduous process called A/B testing.

John: It’s an interesting point, isn’t it? What were the sort of things you were testing at the time when you were doing it all basically manually?

Bill: When we’re doing it manually, we would be testing the position. For example, where we put the link to try to encourage the reader to read more than one page? Where do we introduced the second article to them? How do we maximize or kind of optimize around navigation? Where do we put the image inside of the article? Do we have an image at all? Where do we put the breadcrumbs? Is it best to put it at the top? At the bottom? At both locations? After a while, it’s numbing all of the details and what we learned through this whole process is there was never one single silver bullet, but there was just no question that we would be able to keep testing another day and it basically turned into a full time head count for us doing nothing but organizing these tests and then assembling the team to look at the end results. It became pretty consuming.

John: Yeah and I remember you saying your page views per visitor was sort of stubbornly at one level for a period of time. That must have been a bit frustrating when you’re trying so many different things. Was there anything that moved the bar for you when you were doing it yourself?

Bill: We couldn’t see anything that would move it in a material way. We would see a half point here, a half point there or we’d see for a while we would introduce something like a slider to bring in a new article. There were all sorts of things like that that we would do, but fundamentally what we kept realizing was that we had to keep in mind that for ourselves, we were dealing with search driven intent. Somebody coming to the site through search, particularly through Google and the better we were at answering the question, the more rapidly they would move on so the number was stuck pretty hard and pretty difficult to move around.

John: Yeah and usability testing is a difficult thing because for a lot of people I would say the conventional wisdom is to do what you’ve done, which is to look at single pages and say this one versus this one: which is best, rather than looking at the entire session for each visitor. So what have you found (we’re talking about Ezoic and obviously this is the business podcast, but you can be critical so don’t worry about that) – what have you found to be the advantages and disadvantages of using an automated system?

Bill: I would say the biggest advantage to us is first understanding that once we begin to understand the technology and realize that what we thought might be the right judgment to keep applying would take us years beyond our ability to count to do what Ezoic does today and to really use the analytics to drive that process and to test very large scale. AB testing really means taking, whether today or some period of time, aiming traffic at a page testing A over B and then moving on to effectively C and D. What we found, I think it was kind of embarrassing to realize that probably in a period of less than a day, there were more tests done with our content live than we had completed in a couple of years. We were humbled.

John: I didn’t know that.

Bill: I’m sorry?

John: I didn’t know that. That’s cool.

Bill: Yeah, because you just couldn’t hit the scale that Ezoic does with this. We could never come close. I remember all of those agonizing meetings in between, which took forever and of course it also means then you’ve got a development team tweaking those features, bringing it out again and trying it out all over again. I think we were humbled pretty quick and realized that the notion of AB testing was a pretty futile attempt, unless we were doing it the same scale that Ezoic can do it and that’s just not possible. We’re in the business of publishing. We’re not in the business of running a large scale testing platform.

John: The results, I mean I would say you’ve been going over the results yourself. What are the results that you’re seeing?

Bill: We’ve seen just about a 15% improvement in overall page views per visit and we’ve seen it come really from designs that we really would not have imagined had our usability people continued to drive the bus, because it was counter intuitive what really worked and I doubt we ever would have gotten there. We saw about a 15% lift, which for us is substantial. Again we’ve been at this a long, long time. One thinks that 15% might sound like a lot and let’s say after doing this for whatever, four or five months, and it’s stayed at that lifted level, we couldn’t be happier with that and it also means that we’re getting more on top of that. We’re attracting more traffic from search given the improvement we’ve gotten in page views per visit.

John: The page views per visit, how about a bounce rate? Have you been monitoring that as well?

Bill: We look at bounce rate like hawks and bounce rate has gone down also by just about 10%-15% as well. Extremely pleased with that and again pretty much the same kind of conclusion. I don’t think we would have gotten here because again we’re running on our sites, we’re running content on more than 100,000 articles. We just never would have gotten here.

John: So I guess the big question is, what about the money? Your user experience is doing better. How’s the money?

Bill: The dollars are much better. In our case, we have a full time person that does revenue monetization day in and day out, so again we’ve got dedicated people to this and we’ve got whatever that is, four or five different sources of revenues historically that we had used to generate our site revenues. What we found with Ezoic is a very consistent 50% plus lift in the revenues. Again, we thought we were good. We’ve been at this a long time. We thought we were good, but to get a 50% lift for us, given all our different sources is pretty amazing. It’s a substantial amount for us. I suspect other publishers will do quite a bit better and fortunately in their case they probably aren’t getting full time people to do this day in and day out. I’m excited it’s allowed me to recommit the person that had been doing revenue optimization is now back into the subject of content and enjoying it a heck of a lot more than trying to tweak every day.

John: Well that’s the thing that we found. People who don’t have a team, on average the system gets about 2x for them, which is obviously great. Fifty percent is excellent, but our average is about two times. So Bill, that’s actually very great to hear. I love hearing we’re saving you some time and making you some money. Looking on the down side, I always try to keep these podcasts at least somewhat balanced. What about the looks of the sites? How have you felt about the different layouts that have been tested? How do you feel about trying stuff that you or your designers wouldn’t have tried before?

Bill: We had of course, we had initial skepticism from the team as they looked at the site and started asking personnel, this didn’t look quite as pretty if you will as the previous one, but what we found is that as they really studied it, they basically said “gee, there’s more room for the reader to actually read the content as opposed to getting stuck in the graphics that were up there”. It’s a cleaner look. It’s a more open look and I think ultimately the devil of the details is right there in the analytics. Readers like it better and are proving it every day to us and we’ve also gone out and done our own testing. We’ve asked readers to look at it and give us their feedback and we’ve gotten very positive feedback. We should have been paying attention to it. If one thinks about Google, thinks about the plain simplicity of any Google site, it’s a pretty important lesson when we think about design and certainly I think Ezoic has taken advantage of that logic and made more room available for readers and the usability of it trumps really killing ourselves on design.

John: Okay, Bill, I didn’t know you’d done those surveys so that’s interesting for me to hear. Have you got anything else that you would say to publishers that are maybe a little bit nervous about trying the system and particularly if they’ve got a substantial revenue as you have in order to kind of get over those initial nerves?

Bill: I would say and again because we’ve gone out and we’ve done our own testing directly with users and we’ve always been consistent about that, I really, the only thing I probably would have to say is the longer you wait, you’re giving up paid views, you’re giving up revenues and we’re excited because now we can take that, the additional revenues, which are really substantial and we’re reinvesting in the content on our site rather than more testing and the like. What Ezoic has done for us, particularly in the mobile and tablet, our developers are all breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to go conquer that on their own also. So I couldn’t be higher on this and again, we’ve taken all those additional revenues and started plowing them aggressively into more content because the earnings equations, the overall earning equation between content and investing in content and deriving revenues is just improved by a substantial margin.

John: That’s good to hear. Bill, I’m going to wrap things up here and I wanted to say thanks again for your time and readers if you’ve got any more questions, please do keep them coming in. You can write to [email protected] and thanks very much for listening. Thanks Bill.

Bill: Thank you.

Episode 4: Ready for Take Off!

Listen to Episode 4.


John: Hi guys. Welcome another Ezoic podcast. I’m here with Piper Lofrano, Hi Piper!

Piper: Hi everyone.

John: So we are going to be going through ‘ready for takeoff’. What does this mean? This I would say is probably one of the most requested kind of things for us to cover on the podcast, people have gone to the site, they’ve investigated layout testing and they go: “Okay I’m going to try Ezoic. I’ve got my site set up and going through all the education on the tools, etc. What happens next? What can I expect in the first week or first couple of weeks?”
So, you’ve got a whole bunch of questions that publishers have sent us.

Piper: Yes, so this is what publishers call going live so it’s when we begin showing the new layouts and these are questions from some of our publishers so I’m going to ask as though I’m the publisher and John will answer. So: When will I see new layouts?

John: Okay, so you’ll start seeing new layouts when you’re ready. Nothing will change until then. When you’re going through the start-up process, it’s all happening effectively in a sandbox, it’s all going on off-line and when you’re ready to go, you say to your Ezoic representative “okay I’m ready to start new layouts.” Then once everything has been set live you can start to see them- and there’s some tools in the Ezoic user interface where you can actually generate and see the new layouts (either on desktop or in mobile). Also, you’ll get ‘cookied’ into a group just like all of your users, and of course don’t forget it’s all the same content, content is not changing and the system is trying different layouts of the same content to see what the users like best so there’s a lower bounce rate that’s trying to find, higher time on the site, higher page views per visit and of course it’s trying different ads and different ad positions to try to get the most money.

Piper: So is everyone seeing a different layout?

John: Not everyone. So, they’ll get ‘cookied’ into groups so let’s say for round figures we go to 100,000 visitors, 10,000 will see one, 10,000 will see another. There will be nine different, let’s just say you’ve got 100,000 visits on desktop so you’ve got nine different layouts with 10,000 each and obviously 10% goes to the original, which is the control. So not everyone is seeing a different one and they’re also not seeing a different one every time they come to the site. They get cookied.

Piper: I see. Okay: I just saw a new layout and I don’t like it.

John: Okay. I’m sorry to hear that Piper! That’s an important point because we go on the data, so by definition we say: if the bounce rate is going down or if the bounce rate is lower on that particular layout than it was on your original, or if the bounce rate is lower than on the other ones we’re trying, that one would be tried more and subjective opinion, (in other words ‘I personally don’t like that layout’) we think that that is not as important as the users’ response and the user response is if the data is telling us that the usability is improving, then that is a better layout. You can exclude them, you can go into the Ezoic dashboard and you can say: “That one! I can’t stand that. I’m not testing it. Take it out!” But I would suggest to everybody: stick with it. You’ll be surprised. Don’t forget, things like Facebook and IOS, when a new layout comes out, everyone is like: “Where’s the messaging area on Facebook? It’s changed,” and of course within a week everyone knows where it is and actually Facebook, the guys behind it, they’ve all been testing their users. Same thing with Amazon: when they are testing their process of getting people through to a shopping cart, they’re testing that all the way through and that’s what the system is doing for you, you’ve got an automated system that is making your content easier to navigate around and balancing increased income against that improved usability. So, a long answer to a short question as usual. Sorry!

Piper: I just noticed that I’m no longer generating any money in my AdSense account.

John: Okay, well that’s normal. The whole point of Ezoic is generating these ad tags and it’s producing them dynamically, so if you’ve got somebody on a mobile phone go to a site, it’s going to generate a mobile sized ad or set of ads and test those. There’s nothing to be alarmed about, the money is appearing in your Ezoic account so that’s something to bear in mind and obviously for big publishers who are making some of them are making $10,000 a day, that is a lot of money and of course that can feel a little bit unsettling. We are partners with Google, we do pay out on the same terms as Google and it’s only the Ezoic test layouts and the money from the test layouts is going into an Ezoic account. If you’re in the AdSense Certified Program, that money will still be showing for your original layout in your Ezoic account. So there’s quite a bit to take in there, but what I would say to you is that you are still in control. You can decide if you only want to test 10% of your traffic at the beginning, then only test 10%, but the idea of the system is you give it more traffic, you give it more users, you will get to that point of statistical confidence quicker, which will give you more money to your bottom line. That’s why people get to a point where they’re making two times what they used to make before, because they’ve given it enough data and time.

Piper: So I guess I’m just not clear on one thing. Why can’t you use my original ad tags for the new layouts?

John: Your original ad tags might be coming from a whole bunch of different ad networks. There is no way that our system can automatically generate and record the revenue from every single one of those ad networks. The second reason is that we use Google’s Ad Exchange and we use real time bidding. We have some great tools thatdo some clever stuff with things like bidding floors for real time bidding. The quality of the ads is on the whole going to be better than your original ads anyway, number one, but how the system is adding value is not better ads, It’s better ad positions in conjunction with the user experience so if we can get the page views per visit up, your overall income is going to go up as well as the users enjoying it more. I mean, I suppose the question behind that is: “I would like to keep my existing ad relationships going and why do I have to change my ad relationships when I want to test layouts.” I suppose that’s the sub-question. There’s no reason for you to drop your existing ad relationships. All you have to do is you integrate with Ezoic and you can just decide “I’m going to start with 25% of my traffic on mobile only,” or, “I’m going to do 50% and let’s see who wins,” and that’s the whole point of layout testing. We’re not doing that deliberately to be awkward. It’s just an incredibly difficult thing to be able to do, to be able to, let’s say for example, take a page that might have four different ads on it, though each ad in a different spot, all ads dilute each other. All of these calculations on yield have to happen super quickly and we can’t wait having discrepancy changes in ad networks have different revenue shared, like there are so many permutations that it’s much better for us to go through a solid reliable feed of ads like Google Ad Exchange for real time.

Piper: Alright. So:  I’ve been live for a day now and I’ve just checked my Ezoic dashboard and my revenue is less than half of what it normally is.

John: Okay, so it depends on when you went live yesterday. If you only went live six hours before the end of the day, not all of the money may be in there, number one. Number two: look in your AdSense account. That’s probably where the rest of the money is, especially early on in the first couple of days. They’ll take time for things to be dropping into your Ezoic account. Do not panic is what I would say. Just give it time because different layouts, I mean you’ve been working yourself for years. The system has only had a few hours, I mean literally only a few hours. If you don’t give it enough time, you’re going to stop the testing before you’ve got any idea of whether it was going to be better for your or not. So just stick in there and you’ll be fine. It will increase.

Piper: Okay. And are the stats I’m seeing in the dashboard for today accurate?

John: Depends on when you’re looking during the day. Head office is on California time, so Pacific Time, so it depends on where you are in the world and there is a delay sometimes from the ad partners. Some of the APIs get a little bit behind, so I wouldn’t look at today’s numbers. I would look at yesterdays or even the day before to make sure that everything comes through, but overall by the time it gets to lunch time in Pacific Time, all of the income will have landed in there and be correct. Same with the analytics, particularly for bigger sites. Sometimes we hit our bandwidth limits on our data feeds.

Piper: Alright. So I’ve seen a couple of layouts and there seem to be a lot of ads above the fold.

John: Oh, okay. That is a surprise, but I guess it depends on how many ads you had on your site before, but it might be a bit of a shock if you go “oh wow, why are there so many ads on that page?” So the system will be looking at things like that particular page will have a natural bounce rate from your organic search. Let’s say that somebody is typing something into Google and they come to that page, if that’s a naturally high bounce rate page, the system will begin to show more ads on it because you’re either losing the user to a back button press or they’re going to see an ad and click on the ad. It’s maybe better for you to show more ads on pages that have a higher bounce rate. The other, I think there’s a sub-question there as well, which is: “Are there too many ads above the fold and am I going to be penalized by Google?” The Google algorithm says if you put too many ads above the fold and you push the content down too far then we’re going to penalize you. The thing to remember with Ezoic is number one, it’s not doing that very, very often. Number two, if it does do that, it will be doing that maybe on one or two pages on your whole site. Like I said, to do the bounce rate on the site. So it will be doing it in a scientific way and it’s not doing it on every page. Google are quite clear. They talk about it’s a whole site basis that they judge the ad density above the fold, so you don’t need to worry. We have thought of that and it’s really all about balancing user experience and income. We want to get the most income for you. You don’t need to worry about it damaging your site.

Piper: Alright. I also just noticed that there’s five ads per page. Again, isn’t this against Google’s terms of service?

John: If you are an individual AdSense publisher, then you are allowed three ads. Three display ads, we’re talking about. Because we’re partnered with Google, we’re able to show up to five. It’s not an infringement on the terms of service.

Piper: Alright. Will I still be able to access my own Analytics account?

John: Yes you will. They’re getting easier!

Piper: I bet. Good to know. Here’s another one: I’m a few days in and I’m not making more than I was on my own.

John: Okay. It may be that… I don’t know this particular publisher… They may have too few visits for the system to be able to have already reached a decision on whether the tests are beating your original so, especially early on, I would say in the first two weeks there’s much more volatility and the reason for that is, if you think about it, the system is trying as I said, I gave that example earlier, let’s say nine different desktop layouts. In order for us to know whether one of those is absolutely beating or not beating your original, it must reach a point where it knows for sure, so it’s not just one user staying on the site for ten minutes and the aggregate time on site is high. We want to make sure it’s definitely beating it in all circumstances. So, for that reason, it could be that none of your experiments- go to the experiments area, look at the different confidence levels. If they’re still in sort of in the sort of red or amber and they haven’t gone to green yet, it’ll show you that’s the reason. The system may be can get unlucky as well. It can say “okay we’ve tried these ones” and maybe for your users those ones, let’s say some of those don’t work so they’ll drop down and get rid of and some new ones will come in. There is that time that it takes. It’s not magic, it is testing and it’s not a bunch of guys in a room trying designs. It is actually, it’s a system. It’s a platform, it’s testing in order to take that data and make the best use of it. So give it more time is what I would say.

Piper: A sub-question to that one is “how long should I expect to wait to see results”?

John: That is vastly dependent on how big your site is. Sites that are… let’s say they’re getting more than 10 million visits a month, you know, several hundred thousand a day and maybe several million a day, you’re going to run through a bunch of tests really quickly and it’s great to see because you are testing on average about 100 desktop layouts, about 30 tablet and probably about the same on mobile and those are the main categories of tests, and then you’ve got subcategories so there’s actually thousands of different layouts the system is going to try. When you have a lot of traffic, you’re going to get statistical confidence really quickly, you’re going to get bottom line improvements on revenue super quick so it’s going to be like a few days I would say. The minimum for a big site that you could expect is about five days. It takes about that time for the bid floors to be reached in the Ad Exchange, plus we obviously have to find ‘winners’. If it’s a more modest site- or let’s say it’s an average site, sort of 200,000-400,000 visits a month… That’ll take you about three to four weeks and then if it’s 100,000 visits a month or fewer, then I’d say four to six weeks.

Piper: Alright. So what happens once we find a winning layout?

John: Two things happen. The system will promote the current winner and that will get about 70% of the traffic for each of the screen sizes, so if it’s found a winner on tablet, it will give 70% of the traffic to that winner. Then it will take the rest and it will split that between the original, which we want to keep as the control, and then the rest goes to more tests so it’s not going to be the winner forever and sometimes that winner can last only a few days and then a new winner is found. And we look at Ezoic methodology, the idea behind the  Ezoic methodology is technology is changing. New handsets come out all of the time. We’ve got fragmentation of operating systems and browsers. There are so many permutations that we’ve got to cover and the system will keep you up to date and constant and never ending improvement is better than just saying “I’m going to declare a winner and then I’m not doing any work on my site for two years”. That’s what used to happen. “I’m doing a brand refresh” and then they’ll kind of suffer when it begins to look a bit old and eventually they go “okay” and actually most people who have followed that kind of old fashioned way, they’re doing that based on their own personal preference. They’re saying “this site looks old now. I should do something about it” and they’re not looking at user experience and they’re not looking at the efficiency of where the ads are. There’s a whole range of improvements that can be made so what could be a winner in April, 2015 is probably unlikely to be a winner in November, 2015. So we say use the system to deliver all of these results, but keep it going and better ourselves.

Piper: Alright. A couple more questions- I just noticed that a page is loading really slowly?

John: We’re talking early on aren’t we? So that can happen, particularly in the first few days. Don’t forget most publishers have one layout that they’ve been testing effectively on their own and they have that cached. They have that cached locally on their machine, local area network or wherever it is. That’s all been cached so when you’re randomly browsing around your site (as we publishers do) and going on pages just to see what they look like. You might be going to pages that are not frequently visited by your users, that have never been seen before in that particular layout, so before our system has the chance to cache it typically the first day, then it can appear slow for you, but what you’ve got to do is go to Google Analytics, look at the page loads feed. That’s one thing. The other thing to look at is the usability. You pull out your phone and you go to a normal page or a popular page. Our system is doing things like caching it, it’s lazy loading it. It’s trying to make sure the user experience is good. Page load speed scores and usability are not the same thing. We can talk about that again later. Anyway, don’t worry. I know there’s a lot of “don’t worry. It’s going to be fine”, but literally we’ve done this so many times now. The methodology is sound. I hope this is giving people enough reassurance.

Piper: Okay. Final question before we wrap up: I just added a new post and it’s not showing up on Ezoic’s layouts.

John: It’s because we’re caching. We actually are trying to get the site going as fast as it can all around the world so we’ve got all these data centers around the world. The only change in your routine when you use Ezoic, the only change you have to do is make sure you tell the system to go look for a page that you’ve amended. New posts will be found and discovered immediately. So I think that person is saying they’ve amended a page rather than posted a new page. All new pages are picked up immediately by the system. If you amend a page, you’ve got to do the little ‘Control Alt E’, which clears the cache in Ezoic and finds new layouts.

Piper: So if I’m updating or amending a page every day, do I have to do the Control Alt E every day?

John: No you can sent a rule. You can set a rule that it will go and that’s in caching rules and if you’re having problems with this, we have got Knowledge Base articles about it- and you should always be contacting your Ezoic rep. anyway if you’re having problems with this. You just set a caching rule and it will go look for new content. Let’s say you put something on your home page every day, just get it to do that every 12 hours and it’ll do that, but because you want to keep things fast for your users, there’s no point setting it for like one hour when you’re only posting once a day.

Piper: Alright. That’s all the questions from our publishers. Thanks for those you guys.

John: Yes, thank you guys. Keep them coming and thanks again for your time. Bye.

Episode 3: Website Looks and Usability

Listen to Episode 3.


John: Welcome folks. We are here to do our second podcast, I am here to introduce Piper Lofrano.

Piper: Hello.

John: Hey Piper. So your job this time is to ask questions on behalf of publishers. Take it away.

Piper: So today we’re going to be talking about how to evaluate looks and usability when it comes to testing layouts. One of the biggest hurdles our publishers face when testing is the shock of seeing a new look to their site. How would you respond to someone who is nervous about changing their layout?

John: About changing their layout? Yeah, this is something we found over the last few years to be, probably the number one thing that people are concerned about, and it is a counter-intuitive point, it’s something to get over. What you’ve got to look at is your site hasn’t always looked the way it is looking today. It hasn’t looked like that forever, it has changed over time. What you’ve done as a publisher is, you’ve changed your content according to what you think the users will like- so effectively you’ve been doing testing, you’ve been doing layout changes, it’s just you haven’t been doing it in a formalized way, and you’ve probably not been doing it in a very drastic way. I mean, people in WordPress do it quite often. I think the idea of changing your theme is relatively new for most publishers, but it’s certainly not unknown. People are nervous, but you’ve got to remember that everything is reversible, particularly if you’re using the Ezoic system, and let’s be honest:  unless you test something, you’re going to end up with the same site and looking exactly the same as it is now for the next… however long! So embracing change does take some guts, but you need to do that. Running a website is testing, that’s what people say. You’re trying different things. If you go to Amazon for example, you’re not going to it for its beautiful looks. You’re going there because the utility is better than other eCommerce sites. So do I only shop on beautiful looking eCommerce sites? No. I go to sites that work the best and have the best prices and help me find things and have got good feedback or good features. It’s the same with content; if you produce content you need to make sure that it’s usable, people can find all of the content that they need.

Piper: Mobile friendly.

John: Exactly. Mobile friendly. So I would say: use the controls in Ezoic, go through the previews, see a site, exclude the ones you don’t like, but bear in mind excluding ones you personally don’t like does restrict your testing to your own personal preference… So that does mean, you know, certain people say: “Oh a left menu site isn’t as good looking as a top menu site.” Is that the case? It’s hard to say because your particular set of key words are going to be producing different user experience results than another site that has a different set of key words.

Piper: So it’s all about looking at the data and that’s the most important thing for testing?

John: Yes, I would say concentrate on bounce rate, time on site, page views per visitor. If the bounce rate is going down, page views per visitor is going up, time on site is going up, that’s a good user experience and no matter which way you kind of cut it and say “well I personally don’t like it” you’ve got to go on the user data rather than the subjective data. Everybody who has owned a website for a long time is used to viewing their own site in the way that it is- and how can you instantly make yourself a new user? I think you were saying that anyway. When you go browse online for a recipe let’s say, you don’t necessarily remember the layout.

Piper: No. No. I remember the content and the recipe I found.

John: Is it displayed well? Can I see it on my phone.

Piper: Yeah, much more important.

John: Does it load quickly? Can I find other recipes easily?

Piper: Definitely. So what about return visitors who are used to seeing the site as it is? Will they be shocked when they see it? Do you guys do something to protect them from that shock?

John: Well we ‘cookie’ all the visitors so when you’re using Ezoic, Ezoic is an automated page layout testing platform, tests ad positions and page layouts. New users are treated differently to existing users. So people who are coming back to the site and that’s Google Analytics, people who have been to the site within the last 30 days get cookied and they get a different, we bring them into our system, or the system brings them in much more slowly. So anybody who is a brand new visitor who hasn’t been to the site within 30 days will be ‘cookied’ into a user group, which becomes an experimental set and then the return visitors are cookied into the old site for longer. So, particularly in the early days, a lot of your older visitors won’t be seeing the new layouts.

Piper: Alright. So what if a publisher starts testing and they get an email or a comment from a visitor saying that they don’t like the new layout? This is probably a return visitor saying they don’t like the new layout. What would you say to them?

John: I would say if you make any changes to your layout you’re going to get reaction. Quite often it’s skewed towards negative reaction because human nature is that people don’t like change. They genuinely don’t like change. You look at any update, whether it’s IOS update of your iPhone, Facebook has got a new layout that they rolled out, whatever it is. People love to say that they don’t like anything that’s changing, but again it’s going back to the numbers. If usability metrics are improving, you’re doing the right thing by the users. The majority of the users who will not write to you and say: “Hey thanks for that great user experience on the cooking site that I visited today. I really enjoyed navigating the new menus!” People don’t do that, people very rarely get in contact for positive reasons so again I would say try to be brave. If you were doing this yourself you would be making changes. It’s just you’re accelerating the number of complaints that you’re getting because you’re accelerating the changes that you’re making. You’re sort of compounding what would be (for you on your own doing your own tests) months and months and months of work into a few days so that means that you’re compounding all of your complaints into a few days. Of course, if there’s something wrong you should go and check out what they’ve got to say, but on the whole, it’s to do with subjective preference rather than a genuine usability complaint.

Piper: That’s what I think the biggest thing is is separating this subjective opinion from the actual data. For example, when someone goes into WordPress and chooses a theme, how are they choosing that theme? It’s because it’s pretty, but you don’t know how well it works and so I think that’s why what we’re doing here testing is the best way to find a new layout because you know it works based off the data.

John: Exactly and it is a funny thing to get your head around isn’t it, that different people are going to be seeing different layouts on your site and it’s not the same as you are looking at. I think that is an odd thing.

Piper: Definitely and when you’re working on it everyday or years at a time and you’ve seen it in this one layout and all of a sudden it changes. It can be shocking, but we know the methodology works.

John: Yes we do, and before we start ego stroking ourselves too much, we’ve got to try to be objective. We’ve got to be able to see it for what it is, that layout testing is a really important thing to do. If you’re serious about improving your usability, the only way of doing it is not doing it by eye or using a designer usability expert. It’s really by testing the theories with your real users and not having group things, which to be honest, a lot of sites that I have seen that have been built by usability experts or whatever have the same flaws as people who have built them themselves. I think the thing to remember about Ezoic is this isn’t us saying that we can produce a better looking website or a better site. It’s actually the users. The user data is what drives the testing and that is what everybody should be going for when they’re trying to change their site.

Piper: Alright.

John: Good enough?

Piper: Yeah, I think so.

John: Thanks Piper.

Episode 2: Does Ezoic Affect SEO?

Listen to Episode 2.


John: Welcome folks. Welcome back again to another Ezoic podcast. This time, well I’ve got Piper here again.

Piper: Hello again.

John: Hello Piper. So Piper, what are we talking about today?

Piper: This is one of the most important questions we get asked and it’s “how does Ezoic affect SEO”?

John: A-ha. So search engine optimization.


John: How does it affect SEO? Well depends on how you view SEO. I don’t want to be slightly awkward about it. I mean, for most people SEO is “will it affect my rankings in the search engine” and search engine optimization came about when people discovered that they could get up the rankings by doing certain things that would get them up the rankings. It always used to be content, navigation and back clicks and so people would go out and say “you’ve got a high page ranked site. Can you give me a back link and let’s do a little deal. I’ll give you $500 and you give me a deal” and then a few years later people found that that was a bad idea because Google found them out and so then they had to go back to that site and say “hey, can you un-SEO that link for me. I’ll give you $500” so it’s been a really lucrative industry for people SEO-ing and un-SEO-ing their sites, but for how Ezoic affects your rankings, well primarily it improves your rankings and we have built a platform of usability testing and income improvement testing based on if you look after the users and you have good quality content and it works really well on mobile, those three things will all improve your rankings. Now can I prove it? I don’t think anyone can prove these sort of things, but the vast majority of sites that have been with us for over three months have seen positive improvements in the search rankings and it’s because all the big search engines, let’s be honest, Google is the number one thing, can’t think of any others. There are some others, like probably before your time, but bounce rate is a really important factor so you’re looking at one term. They will monitor how many people come back to this search engine within a few seconds of going to that site and Google very recently have brought out the mobile friendly moniker that goes next to a search engine result. That means you can see is this going to be easy to see on the phone or not and I am forecasting, not that I do that very much, that it’s sites that do not go down the road of making the usability a priority for mobile users are going to get punished and such in the rankings. So to kind of un-pickle that, layout testing improves usability and it improves it by reducing bounce rate and improving time on site and improving the page views visited. It does that by testing different layouts and trying for many styles. It will try content recommendation. It will do things, the Ezoic system will try to improve page load speed and user experience, particularly mobile hand sets that have weaker CPUs. Those are all really important things and if you can for the same content, the exact same content, improve the ability and you will gain ground. Do we change the content? No. We, it’s actually the system. The system, all it’s doing, all of the measured data is the same, the back links the same, the navigation will change, but in terms of spiral-ability, it’s exactly the same. Big long answer to a short question. That is the John Cole way. There’s a lot of upside to usability improvement. There isn’t any down side because the original content is still indexed in the same way by Google as it always has been.

Piper: So if you guys are testing a bunch of layouts at once, won’t that have some sort of negative affect on SEO because undoubtedly there’s going to be some that perform really well in terms of usability and there might be some that don’t perform as well?

John: I think everybody understands that SEO or rankings, let’s call it rankings, is a long game. Everyone knows. You can’t instantly go to the top of Google for a key word. You have to prove over time that your site is dependable for that kind of content. Is it good quality content? Do people like it? Do they look up lots of pages? Let’s be honest. Nobody knows exactly how Google ranks a site. You don’t know that. What you’ve got to do is try to produce the best quality original content you can, make it useful, make it easy to find and you’ll do that. If some of the layout experiments produce a worse bounce rate and that’s what you’re saying, then those get dropped from the testing process. So you’ve only used up a small proportion of your traffic on the poorer performing versions and overall, when the poor performing version gets dropped from the testing and another one gets tried, then over time it improves. So if you match just the bounce rate and I’ve seen this on loads of sites, bounce rate coming down 1% in a month. Another 1%, another 1% and sometimes it’s much more drastic than that, but bounce rate is probably one of the hardest things to move and you’ve got to be good at it and that means trying lots of different layouts, using that user data and just over time chipping away at it. If you can get 5% change in bounce rate for a particular key word, you’ll get more traffic. It kind of stands to reason really.

Piper:Right. So I know that most publishers integrate using the name server method. Ezoic sits in between My Content and My Users so it’s adding a third party and is that going to affect SEO at all? Is that going to slow things down? It just seems like there’s another jump.

John: Good point. Good question actually. Well look on content delivery networks like CloudFlare. They have like a proxy as well so content delivery networks that know about it, it basically sits in exactly the same way as Ezoic does between the original content and the user and serves them the content that is cached for that page. That means that you can get a faster load time and better user experience. Everybody, the world needs more CDNs. Let’s put it that way, good things. Does Ezoic produce a negative reaction with search engines? No it doesn’t because we’re acting the same as CloudFlare and in fact we are a certified partner with CloudFlare. We use CloudFlare. We also use CloudFront, which is Amazon’s CDN. We try to speed up, the system tries to speed up the load times and improve the user experience on mobile particularly so we do some really cool stuff like some domain sharding and keeping [unclear 7:56] and lazy loading for mobile, which means that you’ve got an icon at the bottom of the page that will be loaded last. It’s better to have all the content load and the ads, get everything in the order of loading that it should be because CPU’s on phones are still weak and they can’t load a page super quick unless they have help, so that’s what the Ezoic system does. Does having lots of different layouts of the same content, does that in any way produce some sort of negative reaction from Google. The answer is no and we have nearly over four years and many thousands of sites with 100,000 million visits a month. We’ve got loads of evidence to show that Google does not penalize websites for testing their layouts. They just don’t. There would be no reason for Google to do that. I mean, it’s actually in line with what they keep saying, which is improve your usability, refresh your site, make it better.

Piper: So speaking of Google, what about the GoogleBot? Will it still be able to crawl my site the same way?

John: Yes it does and we try to give it all the help it can get. GoogleBot, we give it what it needs.

Piper:You feed it.

John: Yeah, each site gets a certain number of milliseconds of crawl time and the bigger the site the more times you refresh your page, the more times it’s going to get crawled. For most sites it happens sporadically, sometimes six weeks, but most sites it’s quite a bit less than that. Big sites that refresh all the time, like Amazon, they get it all the time. We try to make the GoogleBot crawl rate the highest that it can be. For many sites that comes a lot higher than it used to be when they ran it themselves using their own dedicated servers and that’s one of the benefits of cloud serving. There are no down sides to the whole testing of layouts and particularly there are no down sides to technology with regards to our SEO. We are dealing with the users to try to improve things. We’re not changing any of your original content. The original content is exactly the same as it always has been. It remains the same.

Piper: So I noticed that on some of the layouts, there’s a lot of ads above the fold. I know that Google in particular has said that that’s a negative thing and can affect SEO. How do you guys deal with that?

John: That’s a good question. So we have done a little testing on this. The first thing is to remember what Google has actually said are the rules on this. They’re saying “we don’t want content pushed down below the fold because it’s a bad user experience”. They grade this on a whole site basis so they’re not looking at one page and saying “hey, you’ve got two ads above the fold. You’re going down in rankings”. They’re not doing that. They’re saying if you’ve got every single page of your site pushes content down, then you’re going down in rankings. That stands to reason. You shouldn’t be doing that anyway even if you didn’t mean to, but you should be taking care. What the Ezoic system does is it takes away all that headache and worry about what is the right ad density I want to make as much money as I can, but also I don’t want to spam the users out. How do I balance this thing, the monetization? That’s exactly what the Ezoic system is doing. It’s trying to bring the bounce rate down, it’s trying to bring the bounce rate down and time on site and page visits up and you’re monitoring how many ads there are on a page. Let’s say you’ve got an unnatural high bounce rate page. You should take advantage of having an ad that is front and center because people are naturally bouncing from that page anyway so let’s say a reference site. You look something up, you get your answer and you go. Now they’re either going the back button or they’re going to be clicking over the ad. That is the answer really. If you’re only doing it on certain pages of the site, it’s absolutely fine and we’re doing it only on the nature of the fact that the system is splitting the user base into segments of testing segments. We’re not doing it on every page of the site number one and then number two, if the usability is improving over time, then you’re giving Google what they want. The reason behind all of these updates is that it’s to do with we want you to look after the users. We do not want you spamming the users out on the search returns that we give them. So, go back to basics. The basics are great original content, great usability and it works well on the mobile device. You do those three things, which is what Ezoic is trying to do, actually you’re doing the best thing by the users and you will be rewarded by Google.

Piper: Okay. That leads to one more question. I noticed that I’m now showing five ads per page instead of three, which is what AdSense say

John: Terms and conditions, yeah

Piper: Won’t I get in trouble for having five ads?

John: Well that’s a good one. It’s because it’s to do with our relationship with Google. We’re a certified AdSense partner and we’re also partnered with them for ad exchange products. That means we have the right or we’re allowed to show five ads on the page when the pages are long enough. No you won’t get into trouble for that. It’s really a rule that they have. They only allow partners to handle five ads per page because AdSense, so many publishers are policing people putting five ads on the page. I guess it’s harder, but it’s really just their rules. We always keep within the rules. The system is designed and has been engineered to always stay within Google’s terms of service and AdSense on that exchange is really important. Obviously as we’re partners. It’s really important that we stay within those and that means that we can try or the system can try lots of different things like ad colors, ad positions, ad sizes. The permeatations that are available are huge and if you’re trying to do this yourself manually it would be really difficult. Also you could run into trouble if you were trying to put too many ads in. You can run afoul if either like you said an SEO update or being in breach of terms of their service. So the whole idea behind Ezoic is to make all of this easy and less of a headache and not to force publishers to make too many decisions. That’s the whole idea behind automated tests.

Piper: Perfect. That’s the end of my questions.

John: Okay. Thanks Piper. Please do email us at [email protected] and we will be pleased to add your questions to these lists. Thanks very much.