Some publishers forced to display CPA referrals ads

It would seem that the Google AdSense Referrals CPA program must not be generating the levels of impressions and clicks that they had hoped for, since now some publishers are being opted into a new test that would force display CPA ads, despite those publishers not selecting any CPA deals to display. Over the past few weeks, select publshers have been informed that their ad units will display CPA ads mixed with their regular contextual and site-targeted ads… without being able to select the specific CPA ads. Publishers can opt-out of the program, but you have to wonder how many publishers won’t opt-out simply to avoid annoying the company that gives them the highest % of their income…

The variety of current CPA offerings is pretty slim, and when the program launched, it seemed to be filled with mainly lower quality affiliate ads. And many publishers just aren’t getting enough revenue from CPA for those who are giving them ad space, raising concerns if the tracking is working as well as it should, or if advertisers are skimming both Google and the publishers. However, this problem is certainly not unique to Google, it is a problem that is a big concern in any affiliate network . And it would seem that Google is forcing CPA ads on publishers because they haven’t been able to meet the neccessary traffic for those advertisers using CPA.

And no word on exactly how the referral ads are being selected for publishers. It could be contextual-based or category-based, or perhaps someone within AdSense is selecting them as the new publishers get added this test.

They will be shown based on the regular AdSense auction system, meaning that the ads will only display when they are expected to perform better that regular CPC or CPM ads. But they haven’t said what performance data they are using for those CPA deals, since obviously some CPA ads will perform far better than others. If it is based on the publisher account or site, it would be good, but if AdSense is using network-wide data, this could definitely skew a site to display more CPA ads, even when they aren’t performing well on that particular site or account. Fortunately, only 5% of impressions will be given to CPA ads, because you know if suddenly Google implemented a far higher percent, publishers would be screaming about lower earnings since CPA ad earnings will show up days, weeks or even a month or two after that initial click.

But aside from these issues, the actual implementation is pretty clunky. Publishers were required to do generate and upload entirely new javascript in order to display CPA ads, and this is after having to sift through all the available referrals and select which ones the publisher wants to display. A far easier implementation would have been to allow publishers the option to do in within the control panel – perhaps by selecting channels to display specific CPA ads on – that would mean advertisers would not need to go to the trouble of generating and uploading any new javascript. An on-the-fly solution would have been far easier for the many publishers we know tend to be on the lazy side ;)
I have tested Google AdSense CPA, and sending them significant impressions over several months but earned $0 so I eventually removed them, since I was giving valuable ad space and branding to those CPA advertisers without being compensated for it.

Here is the letter publishers have been receiving:

Dear Publisher,

Your account has been selected to participate in a limited test of an exciting new targeting feature for AdSense. In the next few days we will enable cost-per-action (CPA) ads to compete in your AdSense for content ad units on a limited portion of your traffic, 5% or less of all ad impressions. These ads will look identical to your current AdSense ads, so there will be no visible changes to you or your users.

Your account has been selected because we believe that you’ll earn more by having these additional targeted, high-quality ads competing in your ad units .

Rather than generating earnings for a click or impression, you’ll be paid a larger amount for each conversion with these new ads. A user who clicks on your ad must complete an advertiser-specified action, such as a purchase or a lead, in order for you to be paid. Remember that these ads do compete with cost-per-click and cost-per-thousand impression ads, so a CPA ad will only win in an auction when we expect it to perform better than a CPC or CPM ad.

You won’t notice any change to the way that your earnings are reported. Revenue from CPA ads will appear just as any other contextually targeted ad revenue is reported.

As a reminder, all information about this test is Google Confidential Information under the applicable Google AdSense terms and conditions.

If you have any questions about this test or would like to opt out of this experiment, please email us at


The Google AdSense Team

I haven’t seen anything on the forums about this test yet since publishers who receive it are being told it is confidential for their account, but I have not received an email as of yet to be included :)
From a business perspective, I can understand why they are doing this. But from a user perspective, I think they could have handled this a lot easier. I would be willing to bet that some publishers would have been willing to opt-in to this if there was an option in the control panel that would have allowed them to easily display CPA ads within their regular ad units without requiring them to pick and chose the deals and have to generate new AdSense code. Or even select the deals they want and be able to display them automatically into the ad units. And we all know publishers can be lazy, so I am sure some just couldn’t be bothered to do the work required to get CPA deals up and running.

It will be interesting to see if this is something that becomes standard for all publishers. After all, we know many of these limited tests end up becoming a normal feature. However, I am not all that thrilled with this prospect being done the way it is now, give us some options in the control panel to handle this and many publishers will be much happier to give more impressions to those CPA referral ads.

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