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March 28, 2005

New look for AdSense checks

Google AdSense earnings checks have a whole new look this month. And some have already mistaken them for being junk mail. So if you receive a larger-sized 6"x10" white envelope, from a Buffalo, NY PO Box number but with a Brooklyn, NY postmark, have a closer look... it just might be your AdSense check you are eagerly waiting for ;)

And if you nearly threw it away, you are not alone.

Posted by Jenstar at 02:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Google AdSense withholds 28% of February earnings for tax purposes

Depending on how AdSense publishers filled out their tax information, they might discover 28% of their earnings missing when they receive their check this week. This is because the new payment system upgrades also included the ability to withhold federal taxes.

The email from Google support regarding this issue:

According to the tax information submitted in your Google AdSense account on Form W-9, your earnings are subject to tax withholding. As a result, we are required by the IRS to withhold 28% of your Google AdSense income. Although we were unable to automatically withhold federal taxes from your Google AdSense payments in the past, this functionality was added as part of recent enhancements to our payment system.
If you are one of the publishers affected, you can log in to your AdSense account look in your payment history. If you indicated you were subject to tax withholding when you last submitted your tax information to Google, there will be a line in your payment history stating "Tax Withholding" with the dollar figure being withheld.

This caught many publishers by surprise, and many receiving checks are suddenly finding themselves with checks issued for 28% less than they were expecting.

There is a lengthy discussion at WebmasterWorld on the issue.

Posted by Jenstar at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Flickr, Google AdSense & Yahoo Publisher Network

It has finally been confirmed that Flickr has been bought by Yahoo!, after a month or so of endless speculation. Caterina confirms this on the Flickr blog today.

The interesting part of this new relationship is that Flickr features Google AdSense ads on their site. It will be interesting to see if Flickr becomes a beta test site for the new Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN), as it would obviously not make sense for a Yahoo! owned property to continue running Google AdSense ads when they have their own competitive program available.

Posted by Jenstar at 03:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Google AdSense Bay Area Forum – March 16, 2005

The Google AdSense team held their first ever AdSense publisher forum on March 16, 2005 at the Googleplex. A group of publishers local to the Bay Area were invited to attend the evening event, and I was one of three speakers sharing their experiences with AdSense.

It kicked off with arrival in the lobby of the brand new Google Building 43, which only opened a few weeks ago. The lobby had the requisite Google lava lamps, and everyone got their own Google nametag to wear with their name and company emblazoned on it. And as you mingled in the lobby, you could watch the real time Google search queries as they were projectioned onto the wall.

The evening got off to a great start with a half hour of socializing, which allowed all the Googlers in their blue or green shirts to show off some of the new offerings on demo computers set up in the room, as well as answering questions and swapping business cards. They were quite a social bunch, listening to publisher concerns and answering plenty of questions about not only AdSense but the other products such as Blogger and Froogle as well. There were fabulously trendy munchies, even including sushi and artistically created appetizers, along with veggies and dip for the slightly less adventurous (like me!)

Kim Malone, Director of AdSense, kicked off the speaking portion of the event, going through the AdSense timeline and some of the major events along the way. She also enthusiastically discussed the new changes released the day before, particularly the new Ad Links, and showing how they worked. She also shared that many AdSense team members are also publishers as well, so they experience both sides of the program... and that she was turned down for excessive profanity the first time she applied. This obviously brought a lot of laughs from the crowd that even a top AdSense Team member can apply through the normal route and get turned down.

Next, she introduced Dr. Cheng Wu of Efunda.com, a website with mechanical engineers as the target market. “Utilizing Color and Placement to Enhance the Google AdSense Revenue Stream” was the subject of his presentation, and he illustrated the point well, sharing testing results he found while in search of the best placement for monetiziation. He discussed the many problems he had with monetizing the site before AdSense, particularly with such a tiny audience (under half a million, I believe he said). He integrated AdSense within the site, using the borderless blended technique. He is a strong believer in blending the ads into content, so when readers finish an article, the natural inclination is to click one of the links suggested by AdSense.

Next up was the wonderfully entertaining Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome (and the upcoming Gnomedex 5.0) fame. The memorable quote that stuck in my mind the most was that he plans to name his firstborn AdSense, because the program has changed his life that much. Like Dr. Cheng Wu, he also talked about how hard it can be to monetize a website and how poorly affiliate programs convert on content sites. “AdSense as Content: Structuring your Site Around Google Ads” was his presentation, and he gave plenty of examples of how he designed the layout specifically to maximize revenue with the AdSense placement. And yes, he really does look the like picture on his site, and it was even on all of his powerpoint slides.

I was last up, and instead of talking about my own sites, I chose to instead focus it on what the attending publishers could do in order to make more money with AdSense. “Increasing Your AdSense Income Through Content Creation and Testing” was my presentation, and I went through different ways to make content specifically for AdSense, primarily by expanding the sites you currently run AdSense on, with plenty of examples and practical tips on doing it. Then I jumped into testing, detailing how useful the AdSense custom channels can be to increasing your monetization, and advice on how to use the AdSense filter properly so you don’t inadvertently cost yourself a significant portion of your earnings. I saw people scribbling notes as I was speaking, and several people asked for the PowerPoint I used, saying they couldn’t write fast enough for all the ideas and tips I was suggesting.

At the end, publishers got to ask questions to the AdSense team. Of course, the revenue share question was one of the first questions to be asked. And not surprisingly, the answer was that they likely will not be sharing that information. But as each question was asked, the AdSense team member with the expertise in that area would respond, so it really gave publishers the opportunity to not only ask their AdSense questions, but also get the answer from the right person.

Many publishers were raving about the ability to be able to do electronic fund transfers (EFT) for their earnings. Kim revealed an interesting tidbit that publishers in France were ready to boycott AdSense if alternative payment options were not introduced. With non-US publishers facing huge banking fees for depositing US dollar checks, direct deposit – as well as checks in home country currencies – has made a huge difference for many publishers.

Someone brought up Ads by Goooooooooooogle and wanted it back to straight Ads by Google again. They took a show of hands, and it seemed to be evenly split. In my opinion, the extra long Gooooooooogle seems to draw the eye to the ads. And I am convinced they must have done enough testing to know that it increased CTR enough to make it a widespread AdSense feature. So really, I think the best question to ask would be if publishers would be willing to lose some of their CTR % along with those extra oooooooooo’s. Is it the right theory? Some publishers swear their CTR went up the day oooooooooo became standard.

Ad Links were also discussed, as it had just been launched, and Google confirmed that adding a custom channel to the Ad Links javascript will properly track it in your stats. It was also suggested that a format be created which could be used as an alternate ad for the regular AdSense ad units.

It was also nice to see AdSense team members scribbling down notes during the Q&A, so they were taking the feedback seriously.

All attendees got a Google goodie bag – yes, even the bag was an official Google bag. Inside the bag was, you guessed it, really cool swag. There was a black zip Google case, which unzipped to reveal many USB/techy goodies, complete with the official logo. It seems to be more of an exclusive item, as it isn’t available for sale Included were headphones, 4-port USB hub, a USB laptop light and an Ethernet extension cable. Also in the bag was a bright blue Google notebook and pen, along with some handouts.

The handouts were very well done, including one titled “How to maximize your Google AdSense revenue”, complete with a heat map to show where they found the best placement areas on a webpage are for AdSense ad unit implementation. We also received the official AdSense timeline. For those who don’t know, AdSense just celebrated its second birthday a few weeks ago. There was also a handout with bios on all three panelists – it is very flattering to read that even the AdSense Team refers to me as an “authority on Google AdSense”.

There was also a draw for an iPod Mini if you filled out a feedback form on the event. I did wonder if it had the Google logo on it too ;)

The event was officially over between 8 and 8:30, but it was closer to 9:30 by the time I left (I had been up since 5am for my early flight) and there were still publishers chatting with Google reps when I did.

In all, it was an absolutely wonderful experience to fly down to get to visit the Googleplex, and it was an honor to be asked to present to a group of publishers. If AdSense decides to host more of these, I definitely recommend attending if you score an invite. You don’t get many opportunities like this, especially with the kind of ratio of AdSense publisher to AdSense Team member that there was at the Bay Area Forum. Kim, Mike and the rest of the AdSense Team pulled off a great event.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:25 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

AdSense offers direct deposit and payment in different currencies

Google AdSense has gone a long way in making plenty of publishers extremely happy, coming hot on the heels of the announcement of the Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN). The new changes could be enough to keep some publishers from trying out the new YPN, that might have considered trying it otherwise.

If you are in one of 15 countries, you now have the option to join the beta payment option of direct deposit. If you reside in one of the supported countries, you just need to login to your AdSense account, and enter your banking information. Currently Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States are the countries supported by this.

Also, AdSense is now offering payments in home currencies to 43 different companies, which include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States.

This will save many publishers the high fees they were faced with paying for cashing US dollar checks in their home countries. If you would like your checks in your home currency, you just need to login to your account and specify it.

For the complete run down of all the changes (including the Terms of Service), you can read it here. Other assorted changes include Ad Links, which is a new ad format for publishers, and the fact that Google now allows you to disclose your check amounts. Who wants to go first by announcing how much they made last month ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 04:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005

First sighting of the AdSense / Adwords affiliate program

RustyBrick of SERoundtable (and also the writer of all the recent SES New York session overviews - including my What is Content? session) is the first person I have seen using the new Google Adwords & AdSense referral affiliate program in action.

Click here to see the two banners for the program, and the text link version.

This program was originally an invite only program, but once the URL became public knowledge, I suspect they were inundated with many more applications for the affiliate program than they ever expected. I know I am still waiting for my approval, along with most of the others ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 10:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Overture / Yahoo's contextual advertising program getting closer to reality

Over the past week, everyone has been abuzz about the possibility of Overture / Yahoo! launching a product to compete with Google AdSense. The Silicon Valley Watcher confirms this, as well as the name YPN - Yahoo Publisher Network.

I have confirmation from a manager at Overture that they are in their beginning test phase, and more information will be available after that time. In the meantime, anyone interested in getting more information as it becomes available, you can fill out an information request form at http://publisher.yahoo.com.

Anyone wanting to see it in action can go to The Ink Stained Wench, the blog of Ken Rudman, a product manager with Overture.

It is interesting to see how similar the javascript is to the well-known AdSense javascript. Here is the leaderboard script (with ID #s removed).

<script language="JavaScript">
ctxt_ad_partner = '0000000000';
ctxt_ad_section = '00';
ctxt_ad_bg = '';
ctxt_ad_width = 728;
ctxt_ad_height = 90;
ctxt_ad_bc = '9C999F';
ctxt_ad_cc = 'F8F4E8';
ctxt_ad_lc = '597646';
ctxt_ad_tc = '747475';
ctxt_ad_uc = '516482';
// -->
<script language="JavaScript" src="http://ypn-js.overture.com/partner/js/ypn.js">
It will be interesting to see how long YPN is in the testing phase, with all eyes on it at this time. And one wonders how quickly MSN will be to step up to the plate with their own AdSense competitor as well. While many other networks have tried to be a true competitor to Google, no one has come anywhere close to getting any kind of significant marketshare from those publishers.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack