How to earn money with your website's search result pages

In this guide we will look at the different methods that can be used to boost your site revenue by monetizing your site search results.

Earning revenue from your site content also means monetizing your website’s own search results. Oftentimes publishers don’t realize that their website could generate a lot more revenue if only they would monetize their search result pages, and not just their content pages.

Types of search pages

What do we actually mean when we talk about a search result? There are generally five different kind of search pages that we can find on websites, and which can be monetized:

  • Search Box type-in user query
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Category browsing
  • Site Filters
  • Tags & other links

Search Box type-in user queries are exactly what you would generally picture when you think of a search result page. Exactly what you see when you perform a query on Google.com by inputting a keyword or phrase into the Google search box and hitting enter.

Google Search Result from user type-in query

Breadcrumbs are most often seen on content details pages. Breadcrumbs and similar navigational elements make it easier for a user to track back in their browsing to an ever larger cub-category or category. Clicking on a breadcrumb will take the user to another search result page .

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Category browsing is often a component that allows the user to dig deeper and deeper into a sites content by simply clicking on ever more specific categories.

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Filters are usually find in the sidebars of many sites and allow you to filter your current search results down to a more precise result.

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The reason the different types of search results are important to be aware of is because they all offer search results that can be monetized. It is not only the user type-in query that can be monetized, but also the actual browsing behavior a user goes through in their journey to the content they’ve been looking for.

How to monetize search results?

The ad types that work best on search result pages are contextual ads. Ads that closely correlate in context to the actual content that is on the page. Since a search result page is usually displayed because a user clicked on a specific link or breadcrumb or category, the level of intent is extremely high. That is why people are much more likely to click on a contextual ad within a search result, as opposed to a display ad on an article. Since the degree of intent is highest on search ads that users click on, advertisers are willing to pay the most per click on having their ads appear on search result pages.

There are five Google ad products that dominate the search page monetization landscape. Tier 5 > Tier 1. From lowest ability to monetize to highest ability to monetize search result pages on your site.

  • Tier 5: Google AdSense
  • Tier 4: Google Ad Manager (AdX)
  • Tier 3: AdSense Custom Search Ads (CSA) & AdSense for Shopping Ads (AFSh)
  • Tier 2: AdSense Native Search Ads (AFS Native)
  • Tier 1: AdSense Native Search Ads with ASQ Permissions (ASQ=Alternative Search Queries)
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Tier 5: AdSense

AdSense is the most basic method of monetizing search result pages. Lots of great ad formats are available that are contextual and allow you to match the look and feel of your own website’s search result. However, the big problem with AdSense is that the CPCs are much lower than the ad choices from Tier 4 to tier 1. AdSense advertisers are made up of the Google Ads Network pool of advertisers. Auction pressure can be extremely low with low CPC bidders winning the ad spots on your search result. This results in relatively modest revenues per click. AdSense is still a solid choice in comparison to other ad networks, however unless your site has content in a particularly profitable niche, RPMs will be low for plain AdSense ads.

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Tier 4: Google Ad Manager

Google Ad Manager is one of the best ways to monetize nearly all content on your website or app. Ad Manager, formerly Doubleclick AdExchange and DFP for Publishers, offers all ad formats including responsive native ad formats. The reason Ad Manager is only Tier 4 in terms of search page monetization is because ads can not be customized as much as dedicated Search Ads and Ad Manager earns you revenue based on CPM, per 1,000 impressions, and not on a CPC basis. This is important since contextual Search Ads naturally have higher click-through rates than other ad unit types.

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Tier 3: AdSense Custom Search Ads (CSA) & AdSense for Shopping (AFSh)

AdSense CSA and AdSense for Shopping Ads are part of the AdSense product family but might as well be considered completely separate products. AdSense Custom Search Ads require their own application process. Most manual application get unsuccessful with most publishers who do have CSA or AFS approval, having recieved it because they already have their own AdSense Account Manager who guided them through the process with the AdSense Policy Team.

Google has every reason to be selective and very conservative when it comes to AdSense Custom Search Ads. AdSense CSAs are the crown jewel of online ads. Advertisers who appear in CSAs are the ones who specifically target Google Search & Google Search Partners when advertising on Google Ads. Advertisers are willing to bid far more on the Google Search Network in comparison to the entire ad network. Ultimately what this means is that any website that has access to AdSense Custom Search Ads (ie. AdSense for Search) can run the same ads that people see when performing a search on Google.com. Just like the Search Ads on Google.com, CSAs can be styled to match the look and feel of your site’s own search results. AFSh are very similar to CSA ads, with the difference being that AFSh ads are specifically geared towards Shopping Websites since the ads return product listings just like the ads you would see on Google Shopping.

One other major drawback of basic Custom Search ads is that the default AdSense policy permissions only allow for the ads to be shown when a user performs a manual search query on your website.

earn more with your website's search result page using AFS native ads

Tier 4: AFS Native

In a way AdSense Custom Search Ads is the same as AdSense for Search Native. However, they are actually the same ad product but with one crucial difference. AFS Native requires additional permissions from AdSense in order to be allowed to style the search ads even further to better match your own search results and boost CTR of your search ads. The crucial difference is that AFS Native can also contain a designated image that you, the publisher, submits to the AdSense team.

AFS Native ads are an incremental step up from CSA ads, with the ability to significantly boost RPMs even higher.

This ad format is also only permitted to appear on a website’s search result page in direct response to a user’s manual search query.

Make money from your search result pages with Alternative Search Queries

Tier 5: AFS Native + ASQ Permissions

This ad format is the same as the previous one, with one major difference being that this unit has the permission to show not only when a user performs a manual search query on your site, but also on pages considered ‘Alternate Search Queries’ aka ASQs.

ASQs come in four different flavors:

  • Popular Searches
  • Suggested Searches
  • Related Searches
  • Category Browsing

Alternate Search Queries allow you to not only monetize your user’s type in search query, but also more natural browsing and searching behaviour that takes place on your website. For that reason, there is no other ad product in the world capable of generating higher website revenues than AdSense for Search Native with Alternate Search Query permissions.

Pubprime AdSense Custom Search Ads site monetization banner

How to get access to get access to AdSense, Ad Manager & Custom Search Ads?

You probably knew that there was going to be a big BUT coming! Getting access to AdSense is a fairly straight forward process with most high quality websites easily meeting the requirements. Google Ad Manager generally requires your site to have a significant amount of traffic, however that too is manageable over time. The one ad product that is perhaps the most exclusive and difficult to apply for and get approval is AdSense Custom Search Ads. And even if you have CSA approval, it is still a long way off from being able to use the native version of AdSense Search Ads on all your search result pages.

At Pubprime it is our mission to enable sites with quality traffic and content to monetize their site like many of the biggest websites in the world. If you feel your site would be a natural fit for AdSense Custom Search Ads or AdSense for Search, let us know! We’d be thrilled to get to know you and your website and walk you through the process of applying for AdSense Search Ads as a Pubprime Channel Partner. We welcome you to submit your site and apply for AdSense Custom Search Ads.

Learn more about Google AdSense for Search:

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