Do you publish a website or blog that you monetize using Google AdSense? Then Google has a self-help training course just for you.
Introduced last month, the Optimizing AdSense course  provides a:
- Self-assessment tool to determine holes in your AdSense knowledge today;
- Series of videos, along with a list of additional reading resources, so you can learn at your own pace online;
- Certificate of completion for those who finish the course.
This article will give you an overview of what you can find and whether the course is worthwhile for entrepreneurs, small business owners and their staff.
Getting Started: The Assessment Tool
Here at Small Business Trends , we have used Google AdSense since March of 2004 — for over 10 years. Our first earning day was March 30, 2004. We were still on a blogspot-hosted domain back then. That day back in 2004, the site earned a grand total of 48 cents!
Woo-hoo, we made some money!
But then reality set in. At that rate, it would be fine for extra side income, but hardly be enough to run a business and pay salaries on. I knew we’d have to do better if this was to become a real business.
Fast forward 10 years. A lot has changed. Today, Google AdSense is one of several revenue streams we use. Our traffic has grown dramatically since then. And now one of our team members handles more of the AdSense day to day than I do — yet I still have my fingers in the pie.
But you’d think that after 10 years, we’d be experts at AdSense — or at least that I personally, as the CEO of a Web publishing business, would be an expert and know everything there is to know.
Fact is, I don’t know everything — not by a long shot. That’s in spite of 10 years of experience using AdSense in our websites.
That was driven home when I took the initial assessment.
To get started with the Optimizing AdSense course, you must register. You tell Google your AdSense publisher number (an individual ID assigned to those who display AdSense in their websites). Then you are presented with an assessment tool — 15 multiple choice questions.
It only took me about two minutes to test my knowledge. The good news is that for each question I answered, I was correct. But for 5 of the questions, I had to choose “I don’t know” as the answer. So my score was 10 out of 15. Not so great.
For each question where I said, “I don’t know” the tool was intelligent enough to direct me to which section of the course I should review. That way, I could find the answer for that question.
That’s a big plus. You get a to-do list of exactly what you need to work on. You don’t have to wade through information you already know. Instead, you can focus on the knowledge holes you need to fill.
Optimizing AdSense Course Organizes Your Knowledge
One of the best things about this course is the way it is organized — and I’ll explain why that’s important in a moment.
The course starts with an introduction, and then it is set up in three sections (“units”) covering areas that have the potential to increase your site’s earnings:
- Unit 1: How to attract higher paying ads to your site.
- Unit 2: How to increase your click-through rate from readers and get more clicks. This is mainly about where your ads are placed on the page, sizes of ads, and the colors and styles you use.
- Unit 3: Showing more ads on your site, including adding ad units and fixing technical issues that can lead to more ad impressions.
Each unit consists of a group of videos. Most of the videos are short and snackable — 2 to 4 minutes long. That means you can fit them into your schedule when you have a little extra time.
Online advertising is complex. There are a lot of technical concepts and terminology, and more than a few acronyms. Do you know what RPM, CPC, CPM and CTR mean? If you don’t, you’re not alone.
All of these concepts and acronyms can quickly confuse newbies, or those who don’t have a lot of time to spend on AdSense. There are plenty of blogs and other places online to find information. But it’s hit or miss. There’s so much to learn, that without good structure it quickly becomes a disorganized jumble of information. You can end up more confused than when you started.
Having an organized structure for how to think about your revenue from AdSense, and which elements to tweak and experiment with, is extremely valuable. When information is organized logically, you feel less overwhelmed.
In case you prefer to read instead of watch, there’s also a text version of each video. The text version makes for good notes to refer back to later, also.
After each video there are a few questions to test your comprehension and knowledge of the material covered. There are also links to additional resources in the form of blog posts on the official Google AdSense blog  or help topics, to drill down for more information.
Optimizing AdSense Can Help With Your Staff
The Optimizing AdSense course not only helps the business owner or website owner, but if you have staff, it’s a terrific tool to train your team. By encouraging your employee to take the course during work hours, you’ll be investing in the person. And it won’t cost you a dime in pricey conferences.
And, of course, the better your team is at generating AdSense revenue, the better for your company and everyone in it.
Who should take the course? Employees who are responsible for generating AdSense revenue, those responsible for content, and even those responsible for Web design — all can benefit. Ask each employee to demonstrate he or she has earned the certificate of completion at the end (pictured above).
And if you are looking to hire a contractor or employee and want to verify that he or she understands AdSense, you have two choices. Ask to see the person’s certificate of completion for Optimizing AdSense. Google stresses that this is a “certificate of completion” only. The other option is to find a Certified AdSense Partner  under Google’s official Certified Partner program, and engage their services.
Can Optimizing AdSense Make a Difference?
Optimizing AdSense is great for beginners, and useful for intermediates. As my personal experience above shows, being “intermediate” isn’t necessarily about how many years of AdSense experience you have. Rather, it’s about how deep your existing knowledge goes. The course held a lot of value for me personally, and I could see benefits for my team who are all beginners or intermediates.
The key, though, is to not stop with the videos. To get the most out of this course, read through all of the material you are pointed toward. The videos should be considered only the beginning of your learning journey.
Let me give an example of why that’s important. I learned from reading the “additional resources” that there’s a report that will show how ads are targeted to a site — and for me it was eye-opening. To back up for a moment, ads can be one of three types:
- Contextual (based on your content – the Google AdSense spider crawls your site and delivers ads that are related to your content);
- interest-based (based on the interests a user demonstrates from other sites he or she has visited);
- placement (ads that an advertiser specifically places on your site).
There’s a report in your AdSense dashboard that will tell you which types of ads run on your site, and how much each type earns. Prior to watching the video and drilling down into additional readings, I never paid attention to that report. It’s called the “Targeting Types” report.
When I ran the report I learned that a decent percentage of our AdSense ads were placement ads, i.e., placed specifically by advertisers who wanted to be on our sites. But one thing caught my attention. Those “placed” ads did better than other ads — by a substantial margin. (By policy, publishers are not allowed to disclose statistics about earnings, so that’s as specific as I can get.) Now that I know those placement ads do so much better, we are motivated to create more custom zones to help advertisers better target where on the site they wish to appear — and “sell” our ad inventory better.
That’s exactly the kind of golden nugget that can make a difference in your AdSense revenue. Here’s a sample video in the course, about creating custom channels to help you attract more of those valuable placement ads:
Optimizing AdSense is a well-structured course for you and your staff. It organizes material in a logical progression. That way you do not waste time on what you already know.
It presents the information in small chunks so that you can learn at your own pace. The course helps train your team on basic concepts, so you don’t have to spend the time. The certificate of completion is a way to assess that your staff digested the information and understood it.
Over the past year Google has made a number of changes to the AdSense program. The Help materials have gotten easier to understand. The dashboard has been improved. Google is now delivering more advance-warning messages to publishers about violations of AdSense Terms and allowing a period of time (usually 3 days) to correct the violation, instead of just bringing the hammer down with no warning.
Together with the Optimizing AdSense  course, the improvements are positive steps for the entrepreneurs and small businesses that rely on Google AdSense revenue.