This was written before Google Analytics added Adsense information.
About a week ago, I reviewed Asrep, the third party tool that provides details about Google Adsense™ on your site. That review was just initial impressions of the product itself; here we'll get into what it has shown me.
First, we already know that Google is clumpy. Their reports will stick at a certain point and then jump suddenly to much higher numbers. That's to be expected just because of the incredible amount of data they are processing. But it's interesting to see how steady and predictable click trough's really are (assuming, of course, that your traffic is also steady and predicable). The distribution of ad clicks very closely follows the CTR percentage - you'd expect that too, given large enough samples, but I was a little surprised just the same. It's a heartbeat: X number of page hits, and the magic percentages distribute the clicks amazingly evenly.
The clicks are distributed evenly across pages, too. Sure, some get more than others, but those are the extreme high volume pages where I'd expect to get more. Other than those, almost all pages get a click or two. I had thought that this might have been bunched into a small set of pages, but no, it's spread out across the site.
Finally, it's search, it's search, it's search. Just about every click through came from search (Google, Yahoo, whatever) rather than another page URL. That's understandable too: somebody's trying to find something. They probably haven't found it yet, they aren't reading about it and clicking a reference. Maybe the page they hit here was close; it must have been to have a contextual ad that they were curious enough to follow, but it wasn't necessarily what they wanted.
How would you know whether visitors are even reading the page at all? You can't really know, but Asrep does include the time spend on a page before clicking on an ad, which might indicate reading activity.. or distraction. For my pages, apparently some people found just what they wanted and then clicked on an ad; others just clicked almost instantly. Most of the time there was a 30 second or more delay before the click through; it averaged out to about 100 seconds. That would seem to indicate reading before clicking.
Asrep can tell you quite a bit about your visitors activity. Now that Yahoo advertising is available, I'd like to see it track those ads also. Perhaps they'll add that capability soon.
I disabled Asrep after my tests because it took too much disk space and too much CPU for my site, but it would probably be fine on a smaller or less active site.
See Using Google Channels to test layouts also.
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