Manual vs Auto Ads in AdSense: Which Earns You More?

As an online publisher, maximizing your ad revenue is crucial to running a successful business. One of the biggest decisions you have to make is how … As an online publisher, maximizing your ad revenue is crucial to running a successful business. One of the biggest decisions you have to make is how t…

As an online publisher, maximizing your ad revenue is crucial to running a successful business.

One of the biggest decisions you have to make is how to place ads on your site - manually selecting placements or using Google AdSense's auto ads feature.

I have been using AdSense for over five years and have tested both manual and auto ad placements extensively.

Through trial and error, I have found auto ads to consistently outperform manual placements in terms of revenue and user experience.

In this article, I will share data and insights from my own experiments with manual versus auto ads to help you determine the best approach for your website.

The results may surprise you.

What are AdSense auto ads?

AdSense auto ads are ad units that Google Ads creates and optimizes for you.

As the name suggests, these ad units are automated - Google Ads will determine the size, type, and number of ads to display on your site to maximize revenue.

This saves you time and effort in manually creating and optimizing ad units.

How do auto ads work?

Auto ads use machine learning to analyze your website content and audience to determine optimal ad types, sizes, and placements.

Google Ads will start by testing different options to see how they perform.

Over time, the options that lead to the highest revenue and engagement will be shown more frequently.

Some benefits of using auto ads include:

  • Time saved in manually creating and optimizing ad units.

    Google Ads handles this for you.

  • Potentially higher revenue.

    Google Ads is able to test many different options to determine the most optimal setup for your site.

  • Responsive ad units.

    Auto ads will display differently depending on the device, ensuring a good experience for visitors on all screen sizes.

  • Easy to set up.

    All you need to do is place a single auto ads code on your pages.

    Google Ads will then determine how to display the ads.

If at any point you're not satisfied with how the auto ads are performing, you can switch back to manually placing and optimizing your ad units.

However, for most site owners auto ads are an easy way to maximize revenue from Google AdSense without a significant time investment.

Over time, auto ads have the potential to outperform manual ad placements through constant optimization.

Pros of Letting AdSense Place Ads Automatically

As an AdSense publisher, allowing the AdSense algorithm to automatically place ads on my site has significant advantages over manually placing ads.

Increased revenue potential

By enabling auto ads, I open my site up to AdSense finding and filling any available ad slots with relevant ads.

AdSense can detect ad spaces I may have missed or not utilized and fill them to maximize my earnings potential.

Auto ads have the potential to increase my overall ad coverage and revenue.

Optimized ad placement

The AdSense system is highly sophisticated, using machine learning and historical data to determine optimal ad placements.

Auto ads leverage this technology to place ads in spots on my pages where they are most likely to be viewed and clicked by visitors.

This optimized placement can lead to higher click-through rates (CTRs), impressions and revenue.

Time savings

Manually placing ads on my site requires an investment of my valuable time.

Auto ads free up this time by handling the entire ad placement process for me.

The AdSense system does the work of analyzing my content, determining the best ad types and placements, and automatically placing and optimizing ads to maximize my earnings.

This allows me to focus on creating great content and growing my site traffic rather than on ad operations.

Cons of Auto Ad Placement in AdSense

As an AdSense publisher, I have tested both manual and auto ad placement in my content.

While auto ads do have some benefits in terms of convenience and optimization, there are a few downsides to consider:

Loss of Control

With auto ads enabled, you lose control over where ads appear on your page.

The AdSense algorithm determines placement based on a variety of factors like content, page layout, and ad sizes.

As the publisher, you have no say in the final ad layout.

For some, this loss of control can be frustrating.

Ads May Appear in Poor Locations

Since the algorithm controls ad placement with auto ads, ads can sometimes appear in less-than-ideal locations, like in the middle of a paragraph or right next to another ad.

These poorly placed ads create a cluttered experience for visitors and can negatively impact user experience and click-through rates.

Limited Customization

Auto ads offer virtually no customization options.

You can’t specify preferred ad sizes, types, or locations.

The algorithm makes these decisions for you.

For publishers who want more control and customization over the look and feel of ads, auto ads may feel too restrictive.

Revenue May Be Lower

Some studies show that manual ad placement tends to generate higher click-through rates and revenue compared to auto ads.

As the publisher, you have a better sense of where ads will perform well on your site.

The algorithm can’t fully replicate your knowledge and intuition about your content and audience.

For maximum revenue, manual ads are often the better choice.

What are AdSense Manual ads?

With AdSense manual ads, I have full control over the ad placements on my site.

I can choose the ad sizes, styles, and locations that work best for my content and design.

Manual ads provide flexibility to match ads to my site's look and feel.

To implement manual ads, I first select an ad size and style that complements my site's layout.

The most common options are leaderboards, large rectangles, medium rectangles, and squares in sizes like 728x90, 300x250, and 300x600 pixels.

I then specify the exact location, or ad slot, where I want the ad to appear.

This could be in my sidebar, content, header, or footer.

Once I've determined the ideal ad slots, I generate the manual ad code through the AdSense interface.

This code contains details like the ad size and slot ID.

I then paste this code directly into my site's HTML at the desired location.

The ad will start serving immediately.

Compared to auto-ads which Google places on my behalf, manual ads provide me with more control and potentially higher earnings.

I can optimize the ad placements and sizes for the best user experience and click-through rates.

Well-placed ads tend to result in higher impressions and clicks, which translate into more revenue for me.

However, manual ads do require time and testing to implement properly.

I have to make sure the ad slots do not negatively impact my site's layout or user experience.

It can take a while to determine the optimal combination of ad sizes and placements.

Auto-ads save me this time and effort, though the trade-off is less control and potentially lower earnings.

Pros of Using Manual Ad Placement in AdSense

As an AdSense publisher, manually placing ads on your site allows for greater control and optimization.

Personally selecting ad sizes, styles, and placements means you can customize the ad experience for your visitors and potentially increase your earnings.

One benefit of manual ad placement is choosing the sizes and formats that complement your content and site design.

Large leaderboards and medium rectangles, for example, pair well with text-heavy content, while smaller banners and buttons may suit space-constrained sidebars.

Selecting harmonious ad sizes and styles creates an uncluttered user experience, keeping visitors engaged with your content and ads.

Manually placing ads also means strategic positioning for the best results.

Ads located within content or at natural pause points, such as between paragraphs, tend to have higher visibility and click-through rates.

Placing an ad near the top of a page, known as "above the fold", also leads to more impressions and clicks.

Google recommends trying different ad positions and styles to determine what works best for your particular content and audience.

Cons of Manual Ad Placement in AdSense

While manual ad placement in AdSense can provide publishers with more control over ad types and placement, there are some downsides to consider.

Limited Optimization

As a human, I have a limited ability to determine the optimal ad types, sizes and placements for maximum revenue and user experience.

Google's machine learning algorithms have analyzed data from over 2 million websites to determine high-performing ad combinations.

Relying solely on manual ad placement means missing out on the benefits of those insights.


Manually placing ads requires an ongoing time commitment to reviewing and optimizing your ad units.

This can take away from time better spent creating content or promoting your site.

In contrast, AdSense auto ads require minimal management once implemented.

Difficulty Keeping Up with Changes

The types of ads, ad sizes and best practices for placement are constantly evolving as user behavior and technology changes.

Manual ad placement requires manually updating your ad units to keep up with these changes, whereas AdSense auto ads optimize automatically based on the latest recommendations.

Risk of Policy Violations

It can be difficult to keep up with AdSense policies around ad types, content, placement and user experience.

Manually placing ads increases the risk of policy violations, which can result in lower revenue or even account suspension.

AdSense auto ads follow policy requirements by default to minimize risk.

What Is the Difference Between Manual and Auto Ads in AdSense?

As an AdSense publisher, I have the option to place ads on my site either manually or by using the auto-ads feature.

With manual ads, I handpick the sizes and locations of text and display ads on each page.

This gives me maximum control and flexibility over how ads appear on my site.

However, it can be time-consuming to setup and optimize.

Auto-ads, on the other hand, use machine learning to automatically place ads in available ad spaces on my pages.

AdSense analyzes my content and audience to determine optimal ad types, sizes and positions.

This saves me a lot of time and hassle.

The downside is that I lose some control over ad placement.

In my experience, both manual and auto-ads can generate good revenue.

Manual ads may have a slight edge since I can optimize ad sizes and locations based on what I know works best for my content and audience.

However, auto-ads perform nearly as well and are far more convenient.

For most publishers, a combination of manual and auto-ads is ideal.

I place manual ads in prime locations where I know they will achieve maximum visibility and let auto-ads fill in the remaining spaces.

Overall, whether you choose to go fully manual, fully automated or somewhere in between depends on your priorities and how much time you want to spend optimizing your ad units.

The good news is AdSense's machine learning and optimization technologies have advanced to the point where auto-ads can be quite effective.

For many publishers, a balanced approach is the most profitable.

But with some testing, you can determine what works best for your own site.

Tips for Optimizing Manual AdSense Ads

To optimize your manual AdSense ads, here are a few tips:

Place ads above the fold

Place at least one ad within the first 600 pixels of your page for maximum visibility.

Readers tend to focus their attention at the top of the page, so an ad in this prime real estate is more likely to be seen and clicked.

Use text ads over display ads

Text ads, with an average CTR of 5-10%, generally outperform display ads.

Text ads are less intrusive but still prominently featured, so visitors are more inclined to click on them.

Display ads can be distracting and are often confused for site content.

Match ads to content

Choose ad topics and placements that are highly relevant to your page content.

If your content is about gardening, for example, choose ads related to gardening supplies, tools, and information.

Visitors will click on ads tailored to their interests.

Limit the number of ads

Too many ads clutter your page and reduce visibility, so limit the number to 3 or fewer per page.

Focus on placing one prominent ad within the first few paragraphs, and a maximum of two additional ads further down the page.

Track and optimize

Analyze your ad performance regularly to determine which types, topics, placements, and numbers of ads generate the most clicks and revenue.

Make changes accordingly to ensure maximum earnings over time.

Small tweaks can lead to big improvements.

Optimizing your manual AdSense ads with these tips will increase your click-through and conversion rates, generating more revenue from your website content.

While auto ads provide a set-it-and-forget-it solution, manual ads give you more control and optimization opportunities to maximize your AdSense earnings.

Tips for Getting the Most From Auto Ads

Manual ad placement in the AdSense program requires the publisher to hand-pick ad units and place them on their website.

This method allows for ultimate control and optimization of ad placements.

However, manual placement also requires ongoing management to evaluate performance and make changes.

For smaller websites with only a few ad units, this approach may work fine.

But for larger websites, the time required can become burdensome.

Auto ads in AdSense, on the other hand, use Google's machine learning algorithms to determine optimal ad placements on your website automatically.

This frees up your time and allows the system to test different combinations to maximize your earnings.

Some tips for getting the most out of auto ads:

Choose a layout you like

You can select from a variety of auto ad layouts like responsive ads, anchor ads, and matched content ads.

Choose a layout that fits your content and brand.

You can always change the layout later if needed.

Exclude ads from certain pages

There may be some pages on your site where you do not want ads to appear.

You can exclude auto ads from up to 100 page URLs.

Be sure to update your exclusions if you add or remove pages from your site.

Review performance reports

Check your performance reports regularly to see how your auto ads are doing.

Look at metrics like page RPM, CPC, impressions, and click-through rate.

Make adjustments as needed to improve performance, such as changing your budget, ad layout, or page exclusions.

Optimize for the best results

Continue tweaking auto ad settings and optimizing your content to achieve the best results.

It can take time for the machine learning algorithms to determine the optimal configuration for your unique website.

With ongoing optimization, auto ads can become a great source of ad revenue with minimal management time required.

Can I use auto and manual AdSense ads at the same time?

Yes, you can use both auto and manual AdSense ads on your site.

Using a combination of both ad types can help maximize your earnings.

When I first started using AdSense, I relied entirely on auto ads.

This allowed Google to automatically place text and display ads on my site based on an analysis of my content and traffic.

The advantage of auto ads is that they’re easy to set up and require no maintenance.

However, I found that auto ads didn’t always match my content perfectly or place ads in the most strategic locations.

To gain more control over ad placements, I began experimenting with manual ads.

With manual ads, I handpick the ad sizes, types, and locations on my pages.

This allows me to put text ads next to relevant content and place image ads in more prominent positions.

Manual ads do require more work to set up and optimize, but I’ve found they tend to earn higher click-through rates and revenue.

For the best results, I recommend using a combination of auto and manual ads.

Let auto ads handle the bulk of ad placements on your site, but also designate some premium ad spaces for manual ads.

Monitor your metrics to see which ad types and locations perform best, then make adjustments accordingly.

You may find that manual ads work better on some pages while auto ads are more effective on others.

With some testing, you can achieve an optimal balance of auto and manual AdSense ads.

Combining the ease of auto ads with the precision of manual ads will maximize your earnings potential over the long run.

AdSense offers a lot of flexibility, so take advantage of all the options to build an ad solution that works for your site and audience.

Case Studies: Manual vs Auto Ad Performance

In my experience managing AdSense accounts, I have found that manual and automatic ad placements each have their pros and cons in terms of revenue generation.

Overall, auto ads may have a slight advantage due to their dynamic nature and machine learning capabilities.

However, a combination of manual and auto ads is often the most effective approach.

Case Study 1: Niche Blog

For my niche technology blog, I have found that manually placing responsive ads above the fold and in strategic positions within content works well.

These placements generate the majority of my earnings from AdSense.

Auto ads fill in the remaining spaces on the page, but contribute little revenue in comparison.

The highly targeted nature of my content allows for very specific ad targeting, so manual ads are ideal.

Case Study 2: General Interest Website

On my general interest website covering a variety of evergreen topics, auto ads significantly outperform manual placements.

The wide range of content makes it difficult to manually target ads as effectively as AdSense's machine learning algorithms can.

Auto ads are able to dynamically match ads to each page's content in real-time based on their performance data from across the web.


In conclusion, after reviewing the pros and cons of both manual and automatic ad placement in AdSense, I would recommend starting with auto ads.

They provide an easy way to get started and often perform better as Google's algorithms can optimize based on a website's content and traffic patterns.

However, for more advanced users and those with a strong understanding of their audience and content, manually placing ads may provide an opportunity to increase revenue over time through optimization and testing.

The ideal approach is likely a hybrid one—letting auto ads run on some parts of your site while manually optimizing high-traffic or high-value areas.

With regular monitoring of performance metrics and some experimentation, webmasters can determine the right mix of manual and automatic ads to maximize their AdSense earnings.

For niche content, manual ad targeting may be best to achieve high relevance.

For more general websites, auto ads can leverage sophisticated machine learning to optimize ad placements at scale.

However, using a combination of manual and auto ads allows you to benefit from the strengths of each while mitigating their weaknesses.

Manual ads provide control and high relevance, while auto ads fill in the gaps and scale as your content and traffic grow over time.

With regular optimization of placements and ad types based on performance, you can achieve the best of both worlds.

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