Earn more from your website with automated A/B testing – An honest Ezoic review

Disclaimer: the Ezoic links in this article are affiliate links. However, the review (and recommendation) below to earn more from your website is genuine and I’m trying to not hide any of the bad points of the system. If you try Ezoic through my links, I get a small commission and you don’t have to pay anything: Ezoic is free.

In July last year I was approached by a company named Ezoic, to offer their help with Adsense on my main side gig which is a blog (not this one).

That blog is a huge part of my Financial Independence goals, as it will be one of my main sources of income (with my investments) once I pull the plug from my 9 to 5 job. Because of this, when a company contacts me and tells me they can double my advertising revenue within 3 months, at no cost for me, I tend to listen carefully.

“Carefully” doesn’t mean I’m clueless. I have tried many, many online advertisers on my site, but at the end of the day I always come back to Google Adsense, which in my experience has always paid better than the competition, and is way, way more professional. The few exceptions when the competition would pay better would usually mean a degraded user experience (potentially offensive or very disruptive ads come to mind).

So, although I listen carefully to all offers, I usually delete the emails from adsense’s competition, because they all do the same as adsense, except not as good.

But from Ezoic, the pitch was slightly different. What Ezoic does is automated A/B testing of different layouts and designs on your website. They don’t increase the number of ads or show offensive ones. They just reorganize your site’s design endlessly, comparing dozens of designs until their systems automatically finds the one that gives you the best result. Ezoic emphasized that they focus on the user experience, and the revenue follows. That plus the machine-based monitoring concept got me interested.

“Result” here depends on your own preferences: you have control on the metrics that the system will use to measure its performance: bounce rate, number of page views per customers, time spent on the site, or, of course, revenue. Ezoic’s approach is that if you improve the user’s experience, customers will keep coming, and this will increase revenue over time. As such, their default performance metric is a mix of “user experience” and “revenue”, that they call “performance”.

Earn more from your Website - Ezoic review

My site’s dashboard on Ezoic – actual screenshot – details below

Ezoic – How it works

The Ezoic system basically gets the content of your site and renders it with a different layout. It does that with dozens of layouts, and serves each specific layout to a percentage of your visitors. If you’re using WordPress, think of it as a system that lets you test 60 different templates constantly, and measure which one is the best for your users.

A given customer will in general only see one template, it’s not like the template changes every time they visit your site. But your overall audience is served different layouts. Once a “better performing” layout is found by the system, that layout is progressively being served to a larger share of your audience, while underperforming layouts are being shown to less and less people.

On the paper, Ezoic is a terrific idea: it puts the “human” out of the equation of figuring out where to put your ads. It tests hundreds of combinations for ads positions for you, keeping only the best. As a software engineer, I truly believe that an automated A/B testing system like Ezoic can only give improved results in the long run, just like going with low cost ETFs is the right solution for my portfolio.

A visualization of Ezoic testing various templates on my site. The big blue chunk is my choice to keep 50% of my visitors to get my "old" template. The growing green one is a template that is being tested right now and outperforms the others in terms of experience/revenue so far. Testing is constantly ongoing to ensure growing revenue

A visualization of Ezoic testing various templates on my site. The big blue chunk is my recent choice to keep 50% of my visitors on my “old” template with my regular adsense/Amazon CPM revenue. The growing green one is a template that is being tested right now and outperforms the others in terms of experience/revenue so far. Testing is constantly ongoing to ensure growing revenue.

Overall I’m satisfied with Ezoic but I want to discuss some of its issues here. I’ll leave the “pros” for the section after that

Ezoic – The cons

Below are the issues I have encountered running Ezoic. Please stay till the “Pros” section as I promise it will be worth it.

The first big issue with Ezoic is that to get the maximum performance out of it, you have to go “all in”, and point your site’s DNS to their DNS server. Not only is it a pretty tough technical thing to do, it puts their company in a “powerful” position regarding your content. This is necessary for them to ensure reasonable speed and better caching of the content, but in my case it still required a leap of faith (see more on that in the “pros” below). However Ezoic have a “light” version of their system that only requires you to run some javascript on the pages you want to use with them. I would recommend that to anyone who just want to give Ezoic a try initially. It will not perform “as well” in terms of speed but gives you more control.

Similarly, in order to be able to compare their performance to your initial adsense website, Ezoic need to get access to your adsense account. This is done directly in adsense and is endorsed by google. Here again, a leap of faith is required, but Ezoic are a google Certified Publishing Partner, which to me was one of the main reasons I onboarded with them and put my trust in their systems.

Also, if you have more advertising systems than “only” adsense, it might be difficult for the Ezoic systems to compare your revenue apples to apples. I use Amazon CPM Ads in addition to Adsense, but Ezoic is only able to compare my revenue to the Adsense portion. I have to do additional math to understand how much more it is actually generating for me.

Not in control of your design anymore: by going with the Ezoic automated ad optimization framework, you give up a lot of control on your site’s design. This can be sometimes frustrating, to downright nerve racking. When my followers on twitter tell me “the new design sucks”, and I can’t even tell for sure which design that specific person is getting, the only thing I can say is apologize and tell them I’m looking into a solution. Of course, given how Ezoic works, a bad design probably won’t survive more than a week so in general it’s not that big a deal. A couple times though, I’ve had people telling me the design was completely broken for them (e.g. having to scroll horizontally on a mobile template, etc… ). This is the kind of moment where the engineer in me tells me to stay rational: one person complaining is not necessarily representative of the overall experience. If you’re a number guys like I am, you’ll see that the overall numbers get better with time (both from a revenue and user experience perspective) and that is what matters.

It takes a while for Ezoic to perform at its full power, sometimes months. Because of the automated nature of the testing, the Ezoic system will initially try templates that do not work well for your audience, and it might take a while to earn more from your website. This could impact revenue in the short term. In my case it took roughly 6 weeks for the Ezoic revenue to match, then go over, my adsense revenue. I think this is the main issue with Ezoic today, probably the main reason some clients leave before they even see the actual results. I’m glad I stuck with them.

Last but not least, in many occasions I’ve had issues with Ezoic’s cache and/or speed: google pagespeed and Alexa are both telling me that my pages are much slower since I moved to Ezoic, despite the Ezoic representative telling me that it’s not what they see on their dashboard. The jury is still out for that, and your mileage might vary: I had optimized my template quite a lot for performance, but anyone who’s not tech-savvy might actually see positive results from using Ezoic. They are, after all, using CDNs to host images, and other cool stuff that I couldn’t afford to do myself. At some point their cache was caching my homepage too agressively, and people complained that I wasn’t posting any new articles. Ezoic offers a feature to cache specific pages less often, so I used that for my homepage and it now works fine. I wish I didn’t have to do that kind of fine tweaking, although the Ezoic staff have told me that with time, their algorithms learn which pages to cache and how often to refresh them.

You can Earn More from your website: Ezoic – The pros

I’ll start with the most obvious benefit of using Ezoic: revenue. Ezoic does let you earn more from your website. My global revenue so far is up 50% on Desktop, 63% on Tablets, and 80% on Mobile. On average, I make roughly 60% more through Ezoic than with Adsense. You read that right, a site making $100 a month from Adsense would make $160 a month from Ezoic in a situation similar to mine. Since my website had already gone through lots of A/B testing over the past 8 years, it’s fair to assume that other websites, where the owner didn’t have time to spend on optimizing advertising, could easily multiply their ads revenue by 2 through Ezoic. Although to be honest, Ezoic initially lured me by saying that their average client increases their earning by 100% to 200% (i.e. 2 to 3 times revenue). As such, the 60% number is a bit disappointing, but that was because I had high expectations. In absolute, it’s an awesome number. Ezoic say that all their partners experience at least a 50% boost in revenue, and for me I can confirm that this has been the case. This is why I think every blog owner should at least give Ezoic a try, to see how it fares for them.

Earn more from your Website - Ezoic review

In the image above you might see that Ezoic tells me my numbers are much higher than what I mentioned in the previous paragraph. For example they say that “Tuna” and “Crossbill”, two of the mobile templates, increase my revenue by 138% and 152% respectively. For Crossbill, this is because is still in “testing phase” and they show on one column that it is still not statistically accurate yet. Tuna, on the other hand, is. But because Ezoic is mixing it with other experiments constantly, I am also getting some experiments that generate less. Also, as I mentioned above, I am also using Amazon CPM Ads in addition to adsense, and the Ezoic tool is not making accurate comparisons here (please note that the Ezoic staff have contacted me to tell me that they now have an option to compare their revenue with all my alternate sources. I still have to put that in place for my site)

I also want to mention the professionalism and availability of the Ezoic staff. I’ve asked them countless questions, and they always reply accurately and within 2 business days, often much more faster than that. It’s refreshing that both their product and engineering teams are available to answer questions. I don’t know if this will last forever as their organization grows, but this is definitely a great bonus.

Another important point is that Ezoic are a google certified publishing partner. This brings loads of benefits. First of all, the peace of mind that I deal with a company that is not going to put any shady ads on my site, given that their are endorsed by google. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, this shields me from adsense policy violations. If you’ve ever ran into one of these (where google basically tells you you have 3 days to fix a problem that they won’t even describe to you fully), you’ll know that not having to deal with this is a blessing. Once, Adsense banned my account for one week until I massively removed some content from a discussion forum. I didn’t even know what I was supposed to remove, adsense just gives you one url and tells you “there might be others, please review your website”. It was extremely stressful to have my entire ads revenue down to zero for an entire week, and I’m glad Ezoic is now shielding me from that.

Ezoic provides you with a Mobile optimized and tablet optimized layouts, at no additional effort or cost. It’s just part of how they optimize the site. If you already had a mobile template, then this might not matter that much to you. It’s very likely though that your tablet template is either your mobile or your desktop template. In my case, I had a fully responsive template that was working great for Desktops, and was subpar for tablets and for mobile. Ezoic’s automated system helped here.

You control how many people see your “old” template. I recently chose to keep 50% of my visitors on my old template. This means I still get a chunk of revenue from adsense and Amazon CPM Ads directly. Today this is suboptimal (Ezoic brings me more than those on average so I should give it more than 50% traffic), but I like to not have all my eggs in one basket.

Ezoic is free. They do put a tiny link to their site on some of their pages, but I have yet to see that link being disrupting. Alternatively, they offer a paid plan that I found to be extremely reasonable given how much more I’m making thanks to their service. The only reason I haven’t moved to the paid plan is that I don’t see any reason to complain with the free plan so far.

Ezoic is legit. They pay on time, and support at least checks and paypal. I receive a check at the end of every month from them.

Is Ezoic right for you?

If you own a website and are using adsense, then you should give Ezoic a try to earn more from your website. One reason you would not want to try ezoic is if you are a designer and know for certain that your site’s design is the best you can get from a user experience and revenue perspective. Even so, you should give it a try and the results will most likely surprise you.

Conversely, if optimizing your ads revenue or finding the perfect design is the last thing you’d rather do on your site, and you’d rather focus on writing good content instead, then Ezoic is probably ideal for you. Did I mention that it works flawlessly with WordPress blogs?

Maybe don’t jump into the full “reroute my DNS” craziness initially, but give their “light” javascript method a try. Make your “old” template show up for 50% of your users to mitigate the risk on your revenue, and see how it goes. Understand that you’ll need some patience, as it can take up to 12 weeks for the Ezoic system to find the best template for your audience, depending on your traffic. If within 3 months you are not seeing any significant improvement, then it’s time to regroup.

Please let me know in the comments below if you tried ezoic, and if it worked well for you. Would appreciate feedback and tips!

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