August 31, 2005
Womens-Finance.com - a case study comparing AdSense & YPN
It has been just under a month that I have been running YPN on Womens-Finance.com (I swapped out AdSense for YPN when they opened their beta on August 2, 2005) so I have some pretty good data now to compare the two programs in terms of CTR, eCPM, and overall earnings. And the similarity in overall earnings is so close, I couldn't quite believe it.
So, here is what I can share, while still working within the realms of the terms and policies of both programs. So I talk in a lot of generalities of what is higher or lower, but I cannot give specific metrics.
I ran AdSense on Womens-Finance for July, and YPN for the month of August. Impressions were a little bit higher for August, the majority of those impressions coming in the two days after I first placed YPN on the site, primarily wannnabe YPN publisher "lookyloos" who racked up impressions but not didn't click the ads. So not exactly scientific, but it does give a good idea when comparing the two.
They were extremely close - less than $20 apart when comparing monthly earnings. Advantage YPN.
CTR rate of AdSense was double that of YPN. CTR creeped up as the month progressed with YPN, but still no where near the CTR of AdSense. I noticed a YPN CTR spike mid-month for this site, and I thought things were going to turn around, but it settled back down to previous levels. Advantage AdSense.
Both fluctuated in terms of eCPM. However, YPN fluctuated much greater than AdSense did, and to such a degree I am guessing it is an issue between loosely themed ads and tightly targeted ads. The days of the highest eCPM were also the days with the highest CTR for YPN. AdSense was about 20% higher overall when comparing the two months. Advantage AdSense.
YPN had the highest EPC by far, when averaged out over the entire month. Not quite double, but not far off either. However, when considering this, you also need to take into account that AdSense CPM "site targeted" ads could skew this data. And there is less competition for the highest earning ads when you compare the number of YPN publishers versus the number of AdSense publishers, something which could easily change once the program opens to the general public, in fact, I would expect YPN's EPC to drop as a result. And if publishers move from AdSense to YPN, it could also result in AdSense eCPM getting higher for publishers. But for face value, YPN is high enough I will give them Advantage YPN.
AdSense had significantly more number of clicks, as it would with such a higher CTR. Advantage AdSense.
Just based on my own personal observations, AdSense is tops here. Their ads are much more relevant to specific pages, while YPN is more general to the overall site. This is definitely a contributing factor to the drastic difference in overall CTR between the two programs. Advantage AdSense.
AdSense clearly comes out on top when comparing the metrics, so I will declare them the winner for this set ;) And yes, I have been watching the US Open ;)
But if the YPN engineers work to get their relevancy up to AdSense levels, the resulting increase in CTR could be a definite driving point for publishers to make the switch.
However, the majority of publishers care primarily about what will make them the most money, regardless of whether it is Google, YPN or Jenstar's Really Cool Contextual Ad Program. And the bottom line will be the reason for their switch.
$20 one way or the other isn't really that much to make a publisher jump the AdSense ship and hop aboard YPN instead. Even 10% might not be enough, unless it is someone in the $10k+ range. There will definitely be loyalty to Google and the AdSense program - after all, Google has been sending them nice checks each and every month like clockwork. And YPN is limited to 2,000 US-based beta testers, which means there really are not that many publishers in the grand scheme of things who could consider making the leap. But once it opens to more publishers at the end of the year, including international publishers, it will be an interesting thing to watch.
If YPN manages to improve their ad relevancy and get their CTRs up before they open it up to the general public, there could definitely be some major movement from publishers. It is something I am sure the AdSense & YPN teams will be watching closely.
Up next for testing - 50/50 ad rotation between AdSense and YPN on JenSense for the month of September. I have been asked why I added YPN to my blog as I always kept it ad-free (with the exception of accepting donations for the Run for the Cure I am doing in just over a month). And the primary motive was the fact I was under NDA by YPN, but I was allowed to add it to my sites, so it was how I was able to show it off while I couldn't talk about it ;) I admit being surprised at the earnings YPN brought... well, shocked, actually, because I never expected anyone to click contextual ads on a blog about contextual advertising. As I frequent AdSense-related sites, I often see the same AdSense ads over and over again. I don't believe I saw any overlap between the ads AdSense serves on similar sites and the ads that YPN shows here on JenSense. And the AdSense Preview Tool also shows no overlap either. So it is very likely that "new" ads contributed to visitors clicking. I am also guessing there will be more than a couple advertisers who will plan to site target JenSense as well, which will be interesting to watch. I just need to figure out how to use phpAdsNew to start testing the two together ;)
And in the theme of this entry, GO AGASSI! :)
Group of educators demanding the end to "academic fraud" ads on education sites
A group of educators is hoping to see an end to advertisers who are in the business of selling term papers and essays by launching an online petition.
Please help us encourage Google to stop undermining education through their policy of displaying ads that encourage plagiarism and academic fraud through the sale of pre-written and made to order term papers and essays especially when these ads are displayed on web sites that promote education.They are also suggesting that people submit their feedback about why these ads should not be allowed in Adwords.
The Google AdWords program works by matching approved ads to content using algorithms and Google permits hosting web sites to block ads only by excluding certain domain names; businesses that sell term papers and essays (e.g. DirectEssays.com and MonsterPapers.com) simply use a large number of domain names to get around this minor restriction which allows them to promote academic fraud even on web sites that promote education.
What do I think? Well, first of all, these types of advertisers don't sell plaigarized work, they have reprint rights from the authors of the papers. And using DirectEssays.com, one of the sites named in the petition, their terms state:
You acknowledge and agree that the license granted under these Terms does not permit you to utilize any Essay for any commercial or for-profit purpose. The papers contained within our web site are for research purposes only! You may not turn in our papers as your own work! You must cite our website as your source! Turning in a paper from our web site as your own is plagiarism and is illegal!So while students may hand in unedited papers as their own, these advertisers aren't promoting "academic dishonesty" by telling students to purchasing these papers for anything other than research purposes only.
And will this stop plagairism? Definitely not. Students don't decide to buy a term paper and call it their own simply because they saw an ad for a site selling papers. Cheaters are going to cheat regardless of whether they see the ad on an AdSense site, in the natural search results, or as a recommendation from a friend who also bought a paper. The only thing an Adwords or AdSense ad will change is possibly what company he or she buys the term paper from.
On the flip side, there are also many Adwords advertisers who offer services to spot plagairized work, such as turnitin.com.
I would also be willing to bet that many publishers of educational sites are making good money from displaying these kinds of ads. It would be interesting to know the number of non-AdSense-publishers versus AdSense publishers of educational sites who are signing the petition. Many publishers displaying these ads may have a completely different opinion on this.
When viewing the petition page, I do find it amusing to see a site selling essays as one of the AdSense ads (click to view full-sized).
Spotted via Threadwatch
August 25, 2005
ScienceDaily.com is the latest AdSense case study
Publishers can't seem to get enough of the AdSense case studies, and they released another one today - a case study on ScienceDaily.com, a content-rich site owned by Dan Hogan.
To add to this positive outcome, Hogan is making money. "All revenue for ScienceDaily comes from online advertising, with AdSense generating 66 percent of total revenue." In addition, the effectiveness of Hogan's cost-per-click ads on AdSense is four to five times that of the other ad networks. Once money started rolling in, Hogan began looking for ways to optimize the performance of Google ads on his site. Based on Google's recommendations and his own testing, he moved ads from the bottom of pages to the directly below articles. Average eCPM immediately jumped by 10 percent. "Google provided great suggestions for ad format and placement, helping us optimize our results," says Hogan.
This case study also talks about the success Hogan has with AdSense for Search, something most of the other case studies don't even mention.
Impressed with the initial results of AdSense for content, Hogan recently augmented his efforts by adding AdSense for search, another variety of AdSense that enables publishers to expand their revenue options. With AdSense for search, Hogan can provide readers with the power of Google search, and at the same time generate additional revenue to support his site.
"AdSense for search performs extremely well. It gives us an exceptional click-through rate of 10 percent and generates 10 to 20 times the clicks of a job search service we've tried," he says. "Plus, by using Google site search, I can now drive traffic to content on ScienceDaily that visitors might not find otherwise."
Something that jumped out at me about the latest site review is this is the first case study to feature a direct hyperlink to the site being studied. All of the others have unlinked URLs. However, in terms of search engine boost, the case studies are on a https page, and with a PR8, ScienceDaily isn't lacking for PageRank juice ;)
August 24, 2005
The AdSense for Search keyword tracking workaround
Since I talked about the new "Top Queries" report for AdSense for Search (AFS), I have had people asking me about how to implement the logo workaround I discussed, so all searches can be tracked (beyond the top 25 as well as single searches).
Here are the instructions on how to start tracking, and how to extract the data you need to get those keywords.
First, you need to create a custom logo, with these specifications:
Logo dimensions are limited to 50 pixels by 50 pixels for logos that are placed above the search box, and 100 pixels by 100 pixels for logos placed to the left of the search box. Any images that exceed these limits will be scaled. Supported file types are: JPG, GIF, PNG.
This image should have a unique filename that is used only for AFS.
Then, you will need to go log hunting to extract the search information. The easiest thing is to find all the referrals for your AFS logo - I used googlelogo.gif in the graphics directory as an example below - which will show you the horrendously long URL which has your keywords hidden in it (I have bolded the keywords below, so you can spot them a bit easier).
"GET /graphics/googlelogo.gif HTTP/1.1" 200 "http://www.google.com/custom?domains=www.example.com%3Bwww.example2.com&q=green+widgets&sa=Search&sitesearch=+www.example.com&client=pub-000000000000000&forid=1&channel=000000&ie=ISO-8859-1&oe=ISO-8859-1&safe=active&cof=GALT%3A%23008000%3BGL%3A1%3BDIV%3A%23FFFFFF%3BVLC%3A663399%3BAH%3Acenter%3BBGC%3AFFFFFF%3BLBGC%3AFFFFF0%3BALC%3A0000FF%3BLC%3A0000FF%3BT%3A000000%3BGFNT%3A0000FF%3BGIMP%3A0000FF%3BLH%3A47%3BLW%3A330%3BL%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.example.com%2Fgraphics%2Fgooglelogo.gif%3BS%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.example.com%3BFORID%3A1%3B&hl=en"
Most of that code is for how the search results page appears to the visitor. Another part worth noting is the "domains=www.example.com%3Bwww.example2.com" which tells you the visitor was searching two of your specified domains.
It is not the easiest or prettiest way to get specifics on all the searches performed, but it works ;)
5 questions with YPN's David Zito
Search Views has a short 5 questions interview with David Zito, whose official title is Sr. Manager, Development for Yahoo! Publisher Network Online. Dave is one of the YPN team members I recently met and talked to while I was at SES San Jose.
A few nice tidbits in there, including some YPN feedback on the scraper situation.
The beta participants we are initially inviting have been pre-screened for content and site quality. In addition, we have built proprietary quality systems and processes to monitor offensive and inappropriate sites. We will continue to monitor and enhance these systems and processes during the beta period to develop a full set of quality criteria to be used when we open the program to all interested publishers.I did have to chuckle at one of Dave's answers: "I wish I could tell you more but our PR team would not be happy with me."
Read the full interview here.
August 23, 2005
AdSense policies change made for blog spam crackdown?
AdSense updated their Policies today, and one of the changes made to the incentives section of the policies states:
In addition, publishers may not bring unnatural attention to sites displaying ads through unsolicited mass emails or unwanted advertisements on third-party websites. These activities are strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.
The wording of this statement is interesting - what exactly is considered an unwanted advertisement on a third party website? Three things immediately come to mind - blog spam, guestbook spam and message board spam. I suspect, however, that the main target of this addition to the policies is blog spam.
Blog spam (leaving comments on blogs that are essentially keyword and URL rich messages that have nothing to do with the content of the blog entry; also trackback spam, leaving trackbacks to URLs where there is no mention of the blog) has been getting a lot of press lately, and the timing fits perfectly with other measures Google has been taking in an attempt to stop blog spam on the Blogger network.
The second new feature that has been introduced to hopefully reduce blog comment spam is an option for a Blogger user to require word verification for comments people post on a Blogger powered blog. In other words, a person who leaves a comment will need to enter a word or letters into a box to get the comments to post.It is also worth noting that the spam does not even have to incite clicks in any way - simply placing an unwanted advertisement on a third-party site is enough to make it a policy violation.
Will this help the blog spam issue? There are many publishers promoting websites running AdSense via blog spam. And when there is a lot of earnings at stake, it could push some publishers to cease blog spam... at least for their AdSense sites.
It will be interesting to see if AdSense will be targeting those promoting their AdSense sites via blog spam only when the dates of the comments/trackbacks are from today onwards, and not anything dont prior to now.
However, a side effect of this is that AdSense will need to be careful that the publisher is the one responsible for the blog spam. If they are suspending publishers for this, it could end up being a quick and easy way to get a publisher suspended from AdSense by those with blog spamming tools.
And it is also worth noting that YPN does not have a policy that targets this kind of spam issue specifically. So YPN could inadvertantly result in being a "safe haven" for this kind of activity unless they also make a similar change to their own terms and policies.
August 22, 2005
Google AdSense updates their Policies with the new changes
They almost got this passed me, because it hadn't been updated when I checked earlier today when the changes first began going live ;) Remember that when you agree to the AdSense terms, you have also agreed to follow the policies, even when they are updated.
Let's get started :)
The policies continue to state that No Google ad may be placed on any non-content-based pages. However, they have removed the sentence that followed that statement that previously said This includes error, login, registration, "thank you" or welcome pages.
An interesting change. Does this mean that they will be allowing AdSense on these types of pages at their own descretion? Were they getting too many spam reports about publishers who ran AdSense on all message board pages, for example, which included the login and registration pages? Or is this to further clarify that these are not the only pages that are considered non-content, and there was confusion previously that the stated pages were the only ones AdSense had a problem with.
Updated: I checked with the AdSense powers that be, and you are now allowed to put AdSense on these kinds of pages.
This section has been considerably beefed up from its former version.
A site or third party cannot display our ads, search box, or search results as a result of the actions of any software application such as a toolbar. No Google ad or search box code may be pasted into any software application. We may not accept sites that are associated with some types of client-side software or offer these types of client-side software.
Now, the section reads:
A site or third party cannot display our ads, search box, or search results as a result of the actions of any software application such as a toolbar. Web pages displaying our ads, search box, or search results may not be loaded by any software that can trigger pop-ups, redirect users to unwanted websites, modify browser settings, or otherwise interfere with site navigation. It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct traffic to pages that contain your AdSense code. Accounts involved in this type of activity may be permanently disabled.
They seem to be making it very clear that this is not acceptable behavior and are emphasizing that this is definitely a situation that could result in an account being suspended. Several publishers have reported being suspended for participating in programs that sent poor quality traffic to pages, so this addition to the policies seems to be in response to that, so it is clearly spelled out that this practice is not acceptable.
Some additions have been made to this section of the policies.
In addition, publishers may not bring unnatural attention to sites displaying ads through unsolicited mass emails or unwanted advertisements on third-party websites. These activities are strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.
This seems to be addressing the problem of publishers sending out emails asking visitors to click ads, as well as online advertisements asking people to click ads. I have been coming across these kinds of click incitements more frequently, so it is good to see this clarified to prevent the "I didn't know I couldn't advertise my site on Fark.com and ask them to click my ads". This must be a problem for AdSense as well, because a quality check of the site would show no problems, since the problem resided in an email or on another site completely.
Prohibited Clicks and Impressions
This section has been beefed up as well, to cover the eCPM ads.
Any method that artificially generates clicks or impressions is strictly prohibited. These prohibited methods include but are not limited to: repeated manual clicks or impressions, incentives to click or to generate impressions, using robots, automated click- and impression- generating clicking tools, or other deceptive software. Please note that clicking on your own ads for any reason is prohibited, to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.
Site Content... Site may not include
The section on incentives has been given more detail about what is not allowed:
Incentives (monetary or point-based) to users or third-party beneficiaries for online activity including, but not limited to, clicking on ads or links, performing searches, surfing websites, reading emails, or completing surveys.
Overall, nothing earth shattering if you are a terms and policies abiding publisher. However, if you are doing some deceptive promotion of your AdSense sites, you should carefully read over the changes and make sure you get into compliance as soon as possible.
Save your top ten custom reports in AdSense
If you are an AdSense reports junkie, you are going to love the new Custom Reports feature released today.
Custom reports are advanced reports that you can save for future use. Any advanced report you generate can be saved as a custom report with the same date range and channel settings you've chosen. You can quickly access custom reports from your Overview page or the drop-down on your Advanced Reports page.
A nice feature for those who have a series of channels you like to check regularly, without having to scroll through the teeny tiny channel selector box.
Section Targeting for AdSense allows you to ignore on-page content
A new Google AdSense feature, section targeting, is an extremely useful tool for publishers. Section targeting allows you to essentially declare certain parts of the on-page content as off-limits to the mediapartners bot, effectively allowing you to target the mediabot with only the content you want it to. This will also allow you to set certain sections on a page - such as navigational menus and header/footer areas - as not being considered for ad targeting by the bot.
Section targeting allows you to suggest sections of your text and HTML content that you'd like us to emphasize or downplay when matching ads to your site's content. By providing us with your suggestions, you can assist us in improving your ad targeting. We recommend that only those familiar with HTML attempt to implement section targeting.
In order to implement section targeting, you will need to add some special AdSense tags into your html code, in order to designate which areas should and shouldn't be used for targeting the ads.
The section targeting works as follows:
The HTML tags to emphasize a page section take the following format:It would also appear that AdSense has taken into account that this could be used by spammers to target keyword rich areas of the content, even if it isn't the primary content on the page. They state the tags can only be used to "emphasize or downplay" various parts of the page, so it seems that other parts of the page are taken into account to check for further relevancy.
<!-- google_ad_section_start -->
<!-- google_ad_section_end -->
You can also designate sections you'd like to have ignored by adding a (weight=ignore)
to the starting tag:
<!-- google_ad_section_start(weight=ignore) -->
With these tags added to your HTML code, your final code may look like the following:
<!-- google_ad_section_start -->
This is the text of your web page. Most of your content resides here.
<!-- google_ad_section_end -->
I am guessing if a page that has mesothelioma content set for targeting, but content on dogs set to ignore, there will be some relevancy checking to see why there is such differences between the two sections. It could even get flagged for a quality review because of differences, which could reveal that dogs is the true content while mesothelioma was a hidden keyword spamfest.
For those with large sites, and hence larger navigation systems, this feature will help those publishers have much more relevant ads. Navigation menus tend to skew ads, meaning publishers have problems with displaying ads that are either focsing on one aspect of the navigation menu, or themed to the site in general, rather than ads targeted specifically to the "true" unique content of the page.
I suspect we will see many publisher implementing this new feature soon. Do be aware that the mediabot generally indexes a page once a month or so, although it can be as frequent as every week or two. But chances are you won't see differences in the ads on the first page view after implementing the change, but rather see the difference a couple of weeks after adding the new section targeting.
Updated: A couple of people are having problems with the link to Google, if you are one, try this link instead.
AdSense increases the number of channels to 200
AdSense has listened to publisher feedback and has bumped up the number of active content channels from 100 to 200.
If you weren't sure how you were going to track the performance of all of your new pages, your worries are over! We've increased the number of AdSense channels available to you, up to 200 active channels at any one time. Use your extra channels to compare the performance of your different ad units, of various page layouts, or to track the results of your optimization experiments.For those who use channels, they are an extremely useful tool for optimizing and tracking AdSense pages, so you can increase your earnings right down to a per directory or per page level.
And for those of you who aren't using your channels for testing way to increase your earnings, get started now :)
AdSense for Search now offers keyword reporting
If you are utilizing AdSense for Search and tracked exactly what people were searching for, you know it was a workaround tracking system that enabled you to see exactly what people were searching for. You would have to enable a custom logo at the top of the AdSense for Search results, and then go log hunting to see the referral string of what page called your custom logo image. Then you would have to extract the keywords from the Google search URL. Now, AdSense for Search makes it easy with a brand new "Top Keywords" report in your AdSense control panel.
Wondering what your users are searching for on your site? There's now an AdSense for search Top Queries report that will let you do just that. This new report shows you what your users are looking for, by listing the 25 most common searches conducted through your AdSense for search boxes. Use this report to identify additional topics to add to your site, or to keep track of your most sought-after information. Visit our support center to learn more about AdSense for search.
The report will only track those search queries where at least two searches were performed. And it will only display the top 25 results for your chosen date range. But it is definitely a step in the right direction and an extremely helpful tool for those publishers who found the custom logo image workaround too much work to bother with.
To view your Top Queries report, you can click on the "Top Queries" link in the Quick Reports of the AdSense overview page, or you can access them by clicking on the link to "Advanced Reports - Search Performance".
If you want to track unique searches (those searches performed only once) or searches beyond the top 25 threshold, you will still need to track the referral URLs from where your custom image is called. But for those who want a quick overview, this tool is a great addition to AdSense for Search, and the first major change to AFS since it originally launched.
Google Desktop features AdSense stats update plugin
View earnings information from your Google Adsense account in the Google Desktop sidebar. Available information: page impressions, clicks, page CTR, page eCPM, and your earnings.
You can keep track of your updated AdSense stats via the new enhanced desktop. This is a feature (either integrated with desktop or the toolbar) that I have been requesting for some time, and it is nice to see it available with the new desktop release.
Update: AdSense changed their interface today, causing connection problems for users utilizing this plug in. A fix will be available very shortly.
August 19, 2005
YPN experiments with fluctuating number of ads per ad unit
Hot on the heels of AdSense announcing they will fluctuate the number of ads per ad unit if it will pay the publisher more money, rustybrick has noticed that YPN is now fluctuating the number of ads appearing in the YPN leaderboard. I have also noticed it in banner ad units as well.
Here are examples of the fluctuating ad units (click on each image to see full-sized example).
I have only seen this behavior in leaderboards and banners so far. And there has been no announcement on why the change in the number of ads per unit, although the speculation is something similar to what Google is doing with fluctuating ads per ad unit.
August 18, 2005
Archive MP3 of SEO Rockstars with Jenstar now available
Enjoy, and please comment on any feedback you may have on the show :)
How to ensure your AdSense account will not be cancelled
Since more and more publishers are worried about being suspended from AdSense, and it seems like even more publishers claim they "didn't know" the rules because they didn't read the terms and/or policies, the AdSense team has created a brand new top ten list of what to do (and not to do!) to ensure your AdSense account remains in good standing.
The quick rundown of the top ten, as well as some of my personal comments in italics with each:
- Don't click your own ads
I have been saying this ever since AdSense launched. It is amazing how many people don't realize this is a problem even if they are "truly interested" in what is being advertised.
- Don’t ask others to click on Google ads
Again, you'd think this was obvious, but not the the publisher I saw a few months ago with a huge 250x500 pixel image reminding visitors to click at least three ads a day, or else their free access to the site might be gone the following day.
- Don’t employ pop-up prompts or automatic software installations
Sneaky pop-ups containing AdSense or reminders to click the ads have been hitting the radar recently.
- Be aware of how your site is promoted
This seems to be reminding those publishers who are utlizing spyware to promote their site with AdSense ads as being against the AdSense terms and policies.
- Don’t place Google ads on sites that contain prohibited content
I still see AdSense showing up on adult or gambling sites these days.
- Respect Google trademarks
Reminding publishers who are utlizing Google logos etc about their brand guidelines.
- Don’t tamper with the AdSense code
- Provide a positive user experience
Someone should remind the publisher who bombaded me with eight popups, a full complement of Google ads and about two sentences of keyword spam content on the page.
- Provide a good environment for advertisers
About creating pages advertisers would be happy to see their ads appearing on.
- Be responsive
If Google emails you with an account or policy issue, respond ASAP :)
You can read the full What can I do to ensure that my account won't be disabled? including clarifications about each of these top ten items, so you can ensure you are following the most important terms and policies, since these are the ones that publishers most commonly run afoul with which result in suspended AdSense accounts.
August 17, 2005
iVillage drops Google for Yahoo sponsored listings
iVillage will replace its existing Web search listings with results generated by Yahoo! Search, enabling iVillage visitors to benefit from access to the billions of Web pages in the Yahoo! search index. The Web search results will be accompanied by relevant advertising served by Yahoo! Search Marketing, which will deliver highly targeted sponsored search results to users searching online as well contextually-relevant Content Match(TM) advertising across the iVillage Network. iVillage will share in the revenue generated when visitors click on a Yahoo!-served listing.
Douglas W. McCormick, Chairman and CEO, iVillage Inc., said, "Search and contextual advertising are both very important growth areas on the Internet and of increasing importance to iVillage. We are pleased to partner with Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions to provide our visitors with the relevant and current information they seek. We are in a great position to expand iVillage's brand equity as we look forward to working with partners, such as Yahoo!, to further customize our users' experience."
It is a high profile move, and it will be interesting to watch and see if any of the other higher profile sites follow suit and make a switch from Google to Yahoo or vice versa.
August 16, 2005
Inside AdSense blog launched by the AdSense team
Following in the footsteps of Inside AdWords, the AdSense team just launched their very own blog, so you read it here first :)
You can look forward to posts around 2-3 times a week from an assortment of Googlers involved in the operation of AdSense – engineers, product managers, product marketing managers, and operations staff. We hope you'll visit often.
The Inside AdWords blog has been full of tips and insights since it launched in May 2005. The Inside AdSense blog should be no exception!
Don't worry, the content is a little sparse right now, but more will be added before they officially announce it later this week :)
Added: Forum discussion at Digital Point.
Talking YPN & AdSense on SEO Rockstars today
I will be appearing on SEO Rockstars on Webmasterradio.fm later today to talk about anything and everything exciting with the new Yahoo Publisher Network & Google AdSense.
You can listen to the live radio feed here. The radio show starts at 4pm PST / 7pm EST. And be sure to join the chat as well, either via the online chat room or via IRC at irc.webmasterradio.fm #webmasterradio.
We will also be doing at least one AdSense placement site review, so if you want specific AdSense placement advice for your site with my recommended layout, colors and ad unit sizes, be sure to have your URLs ready when Todd asks for them :)
I am feeling a bit under the weather with my traditional post-conference cold, so my voice is sounding a little on the raspy side, I am just hoping it won't sound too horrible on the radio ;) I'll see you all on SEO Rockstars shortly.
August 15, 2005
How many publishers are really being suspended from AdSense?
At SES San Jose last week, I watched the Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues panel, but this time, there was a twist - both Yahoo & Google were represented on the panel to discuss the issue of click fraud from the point of view of the search engine, and what they are doing to combat and prevent click fraud.
The panel was excellent this time around, with it being much more balanced than in previous years when neither Google not Yahoo (then Overture) were on the panel to talk about how they were handling the issue. And kudos to both Google and Yahoo for taking the step of having people on the panel (and in the hot seat!) to address the issues. And there were very few times that either of them didn't answer the questions, except when it came to the pending litigation. The panel was much more balanced this time, and a lot more useful for those attending... as well as not nearly as anti-Google/Yahoo/Overture as it has been in the past.
The discussion of click fraud by publishers came up during the Q&A, and Shuman Ghosemajumder from Google commented that publishers are suspended from AdSense for click fraud every day. I found this an interesting comment - and I admit, I had been curious to know just how frequently publishers were suspended from AdSense, whether it was one a week, one a day or one an hour. Of course, the fact that at least one publisher is suspended a day is meaningless without knowing just how many AdSense publishers there are, but it is an interesting stat nonetheless.
Jessie Stricchiola of Alchemist Media told an anecdote during the same panel about someone she knows with an AdSense account who is earning between $10,000 and $30,000 a month with purely autogenerated traffic and clicks. However, when she also revealed that this same publisher has not cashed a single AdSense earnings check, she outted the fraudulent publisher... I can't see that there are many publishers who have multiple uncashed checks earning that kind of money a month.
I am frequently asked about whether I feel there are many publishers being suspended who are completely innocent of doing anything in violation of the terms and/or policies. I know at least one publisher who was suspended for click fraud and then reinstated when she provided copies of her logs to the AdSense team to look at, after they determined she was not at fault. And I know publishers who are well deserving of being suspended.
What should you do if you are guilty and get caught? First, don't claim that you are innocent - they know why you were suspended, and you will have a better shot if you confess your sins and promise to be a law abiding AdSense publisher. If they know you made a habit of clicking an ad or two every single morning, thinking they would never notice the odd click here and there, trying to deny it will get you nowhere.
And if you happen to get suspended and you really are innocent? Offer to provide any raw logs to aid in their investigation, although it may take a couple of tries once you are suspended to get them to respond about it.
And if you are suspended, be extremely polite, don't fire off a nasty email accusing Google of being evil. The Google team members are people too. And I know I am a lot less likely to help someone if they send me a nasty email than if I got the identical request worded politely. So be nice :)
"Publisher Paranoia" is pretty common of late, as suspended publishers are very vocal about the fact they have been suspended from AdSense on the various webmaster forums. But I honestly tell publishers that if they are not doing anything wrong that it isn't something to spend time worrying about.
Talking AdSense with Larry and Sergey
I spent last week in San Jose for Search Engine Strategies, where one of the most popular after-hours events is the yearly Google Dance hosted by Google right at the 'Plex. This year Google also hosted "Meet the Engineers" at the Dance where guests would get the chance to corner their favorite Google team engineer and ask specific questions, whether it was the AdSense engineer on a targeting issue, or the ever-popular 302 redirect engineer. And all these engineers were mobbed right until their meet-and-greet ended at 10pm. And that was when Matt Cutts offered DaveN, Chris_R and myself a private tour of the plex.
After the private behind-the-scenes tour, we ended up sitting outside a microkitchen chatting on some sofas. After sitting for a few hours chatting about anything and everything Google, who wandered down to join us at 1:30am but the original Google Guys themselves, Larry and Sergey. Larry stayed for about half an hour, while Sergey chatted with us for well over an hour.
Yes, AdSense was one of the many subjects discussed, but the entire conversation was off-the-record, so I can't go into specifics. But it was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!
Larry and Sergey are very much the down-to-earth kind of guys you read about in articles. It is obvious they are still very much hands-on when it comes to Google, and are extremely passionate about what they do.
It is also very obvious why people love working for Google. Whether it is the killer smoothies at breakfast (yum!), leather massage chairs positioned conveniently in every building (I tried them out a few times!) or simply the fact you can bring your dog with you to work if you want, it is easy to see why it is such a hot place for people to work... if you manage to pass all the tests to get hired!
Thank you to Matt & Aaron for our tour, as well as the many other Googler's I met and chatted with earlier Tuesday evening. And a special thanks to the AdSense optimization team & other AdSense team members I had the opportunity to speak with on Thursday too! And of course, thank you to Danny Sullivan, for if it hadn't been for his SES San Jose, none of this would have happened!
Want to read more? DaveN's blog talks about our evening at the Google Dance as well (I also attended the Tim Mayer Yahoo! campus tour he talks about as well).
All in all, the best conference I have ever attended.
August 13, 2005
Recap of Earning from Search & Contextual Ads from SES San Jose
RustyBrick as always has a nice recap of my Earning from Search and Contextual Ads session from SES San Jose. My presentation consisted of YPN versus AdSense; a look at 8 other contextual ad providers; optimization tips and techniques.
Jennifer Slegg, JenSense.com, Jenstar. She said she will talk about YPN versus Google AdSense. Both are very similar in terms of real time stats, similar ad formats, similar tos, and so on. She showed YPN versus Google side by side. Google AdSense international publishers can apply, YPN you currently can not. Google offers additional tools and services, YPN only offers traditional ad units. Google AdSense more competition for highest paying ads, YPN has fewer publishers right now. Google allows Multiple ad units per page, YPN you can do it but you might not see different ad units. Google has smart pricing, YPN does not at the moment.
To read the entire session review, please visit SERoundtable
August 06, 2005
Images above ad units & complying with the AdSense terms
It has become popular over the last few months to place images above or next to ad units, with individual images lining up with each invidiual ad in an ad unit. For example, a leaderboard would have four small images above it. But some publishers have received compliance warnings about using images, since they are making them appear to be a part of the ad unit, and being asked to make changes to comply with the AdSense terms and policies.
So what exactly is within the terms and what isn't? I went straight to Google for the scoop.
Publishers are still welcome to place images above the ads. The only exception is if it's in such a way that it looks like the images are part of the ads.
When something like that comes to our attention, we'll ask that the publisher place a visible border between the ads and the images, to make it clear that the images are not being served by Google on behalf of the advertisers. We generally do not ask publishers to remove the images completely, we just ask that they add borders to avoid confusion.
So it seems the complaint is that the images appear to be trigger by the individual ads and are reflecting on the individual ad itself. This could potentially cause problems when a user clicks an ad expecting it to be about the image, even if they didn't fully read the ad text they happened to be clicking. And this could result in a lot of unqualified clicks to advertisers ads.
So to be fully complaint with the AdSense terms and policies while using the added images technique, you must have a border between the ads and the images, whether it be a bordered ad unit, or an on-page border you add yourself.
August 05, 2005
Look inside my YPN beta account with control panel screenshots
Yahoo has given me permission to show off some of the control panel features, so live vicariously through me and you can get a peek of what exactly is behind the login, even if you don't have a YPN account.
Here is the screen you see when you login (click all thumbnails to see the true to live screenshot size - this one you will need to scroll down on the screenshot to see the entire thing). You see your daily balance, your running totals, as well as various announcements. See the handy "Estimated as of..." under the daily total. Sorry, I have removed all my specific earnings data to be in compliance with the YPN terms.
And you will see this at the top of all your control panel pages, you can see the various tabs. I didn't include this in most of the screenshots to keep the size down.
If you are a new publisher, your next stop is going to be the Ad Setup tab. You can see how I ended up with two color templates named "jensense" that I mentioned in my first review of the YPN beta.
And this is what you see when you click "Customize Color Palette". You can see the radio buttons I mentioned that have to be selected before modifying that particular color.
And of course you can create channels - although only 50 active at a time. YPN offers both "tracking categories" (ala the custom channels that AdSense offers) and URL channels.
And if you are so included to block any of your competitor's ads.
Here is the reporting page, you can see exactly what metrics are included in your reporting page, and note the "Download Performance Report". Again, in compliance with the terms, I can't show you data, but all that is missing is the specific dates and figures.
Here is payment screen, where it shows another of the unique features to YPN, the ability to transfer from YPN to the search marketing account. My login is different with the two programs, so you won't see specific details for transfering.
Lastly, is the Content Setup tab, which shows some of the other product offerings from Yahoo! that publishers can utilize on their sites (albiet without any monetary compensation).
The account information & tax information tabs are pretty standard, but I didn't include them since they have all my personal info.
I hope you enjoyed your tour of the YPN control panel :)
August 04, 2005
AdSense will fluctuate number of ads in an ad unit if it will make publishers more money
A new change was added to AdSense tonight, regarding the number of ad appearing in an ad unit. If the AdSense algo believes showing fewer ads is more advantageous to you, it will drop an ad and expand the remaining ads to cover the entire ad unit. So an under-performing or lower paying ad could be removed from an ad unit under this new change.
To increase monetization on your site and improve the relevance of ads, AdSense now varies the number of text ads that appear in a given ad unit. In cases where we determine that increasing the size of the most relevant ads will improve performance, we'll drop the lowest-performing ad or ads and expand the remaining ones to fill the entire unit. Showing fewer ads works to your advantage, allowing the better-performing ads to draw more user attention and click-throughs. Google AdSense technology will automatically determine the optimal number of ads to display on any page and will only show fewer ads when doing so will make you more money!https://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/answer.py?answer=22506
The biggest impact this change will have is to those publishers utilizing images above or beside ad units to draw attention to and showcase the ads. Because the images are generally lined up to appear with each individual ads in an ad unit, this new change will mean that the images no longer line up with the ads, if the number of ads in an ad unit changes.
Interview with the AdSense million dollar man, Jason Calacanis
When Jason Calacanis wrote in his blog that he was on schedule to make a million dollars with Google AdSense over the next twelve months, he created a phenomenal buzz about the financial possibilities of running AdSense on blogs, as he does on his Weblogs Inc. network.
If back in September when we started playing with Google Adsense someone told me it would turn into a $1M a year business I would have laughed. A million bucks without a sales person? Give me a break!
However, yesterday we broke our $2,100 record with a $2,335 day. That’s an impressive number I know, because if we can take that number to $2,739.72 we’re at—wait for it—$1M a year.
I asked Jason if he'd care to answer some questions on how he does it, he graciously did just that, sharing his thoughts, ideas and advice on AdSense.
Why did you decide to try out AdSense back in September?
We were launching blogs quicker then we could sell advertising, so we figured we could either give the ad space away (like magazines do) or we could try to make a little money from it with 3rd party ad networks like AdSense, Tribal Fusion, Fast Click, and Burst.
Did you initially place AdSense on all pages, or did you gradually add it over time? Do all pages on Weblogs Inc now run AdSense?
We started with a couple of blogs and then quickly put it all over the network.
What single change do you think made the biggest leap in your AdSense income?
1. Taking off the borders around the advertisement
2. Making the links the same color as the links on the blog
Why did you select the ad unit location that you did? (Curious because it is not generally a high CTR position).
We were sold out of leaderboards on our big blogs, so we figured we could slip the thin horizontal banner without it feeling like too much advertising. People tend to like--or not care about--Google Adsense ads. Which is great compared to graphical banners which people sometimes hate.
How successful have you found rotating the ad unit colors to combat banner blindness?
Never tried that... thanks for the tip!
You use channels on your sites, do you also check your channel reports on a regular basis? Have they helped you with making decisions regarding AdSense?
We do channels for each blog, and now we are doing channels for each position on each blog. This is a lot of work because we have seven positions across 80 blogs. I wish Google Adsense would automatically do reports by format (anyone listening over there?!).
How do you balance the user experience versus advertising revenue? Do you deliberately chose the less intrusive AdSense ad formats on Weblogs Inc?
We don't like to abuse our users. We like to give a lot of content on one page (15 stories), and keep the heavy advertising up top. So, after the first page down your past most of the advertising.
You mention that your AdSense revenue would be higher if it wasn't for advertising commitments already made on blogs such as Engadget. Is AdSense successful enough that you plan to place AdSense in those more prominent ad spaces when they become available, or is the current secondary placement on those blogs working well enough?
AdSense doesn't reach the level of display advertising ($3-12 CPM) and it never will--unless Google started selling display advertising! Wait a second... that's a really good idea!
Do you ever worry about someone attempting to target you for click fraud?
Not at all. Google has the issue totally under control. Besides, the advertisers correct click fraud by lowering the price of each click by what they think the cost of fraud is. So, if people were paying $1 per click, and they thought 5% were fake they would move their bid to .95. This is why the whole issue of click fraud is overblown: the advertisers look at the results and bid accordingly! People who bring up this issue--like the press--don't understand that Google Adword buyers are very, very smart and take into account a certain level of fraud.
Every system has fraud, look at credit cards! Should we stop using credit cards just because there is massive fraud? No, because on a percentage basis it is manageable. There is an acceptable fraud level in any economic system and we balance the freedom of having a credit card with the fact that someone could scam the system.
Do you plan to test Yahoo Publisher Network when it becomes available? What will be your deciding factor when choosing between the two - strictly revenue or something beyond that? What about some of the other contextual ad networks on the market?
This is all about performance. If Yahoo Publisher Network makes us more money we will give them the inventory. However, we don't have all the time in the world to swap out these networks all day long, so we can't try every ad network out there.
In fact, I've been telling the smaller ad networks that come to us now that they have to give us a "floor CPM." They would pay that floor rate in advance in order for us to even test their network. Out of the 10 ad networks I've told this to 8 think I'm crazy and two are considering doing it. So, I'm making some progress. :-)
In another year large publishers with quality products are going to be able to demand a minimum "floor CPM." Some folks might be getting this already. I would love to see Google or Yahoo say "we're gonna pay you at least a .25 CPM for your traffic, or 65% of the value of the clicks--whichever is greater." They could give you a report each month with both results.
If someone is going to beat Google at this game that is how they will do it, with a guaranteed minimum CPM. If I were trying to beat Google I would do three things: 1. disclose the % of the split, 2. give a floor CPM, and 3. direct sell CPM based advertising on top websites. In other words, add the direct selling that BlogAds or Tribal Fusion does to what Google already does. Then an advertisers could say "I'll pay a $5 CPM for the top leaderboard on your site, and .50 for ever other click you can get on your site."
That is the future: blended buys through one ad network.
I'm sure Google and Yahoo will offer this in the next year.
What is the best piece of advice you have for a publisher brand new to AdSense? What would you have done differently when you started with AdSense, knowing what you do now.
I would have run four ads per page, taken off the borders, and made the links the same color as the links on the blog. I would have also made channels for each position and blog so I could track things better.
How many times do you login to AdSense a day? Are you a stats junkie who checks every ten minutes? Or do you check only once or twice a day?
I have about 50 saved Adsense reports in a folder on my Opera browser. Every day I click on it and autoload the 50 pages. I then scan and look for trends. Sometimes I find a CTR spike or an eCPM of note. However, it's pretty steady at this point.
The best thing you can do to make more money is produce world-class content. That's what I spend my time on: finding people who can make world-class content... and pay them!
How successful have the AdSense for Feeds ads in your RSS been? Have you had a problem with readers not wanting ads in their feeds from you?
Like three folks were upset about RSS ads. Now, we have millions of people coming to our sites every month so we're not going to stop the revenue for three freaks who want free content without advertising (don't we all want that?!?!).
If you did a survey and asked people watching Desperate Housewives if they would consider paying to have it without commercials people would say yes. You could ask the same group if they would like to save money by watching the Sopranos for free with ads in it and they would say they would consider it!
Ads in RSS are no big deal. They are just like banners or text links on a web page. If you produce great content people will deal with the ads, and if you produce really great content a certain percentage of those folks will pay for the content (if you want to go that route). So, it's important that when you're running a business you ignore the freaks and listen to the real fans. Real fans of the site understand you need to make money in order to produce free content, and those real fans even visit the advertisers and buy their products knowing that it will support the product they love.
Thank you Jason for the interview!
Meet the Google Engineers at SES - including AdSense engineers
If you are making the trip to Search Engine Strategies San Jose next week, chances are you will be going to the Google Dance event on Tuesday night, which has always been one of the most popular after-hours events in SES history. Google has decided to host a second edition of the popular Meet the Engineers event that was held at the WebmasterWorld Search Conference held in New Orleans in June.
Due to the success of the "Meet the Google Engineers" event at the Webmaster World Conference, we have decided to repeat the event during the upcoming Search Engine Strategies Conference next week. We have decided to host the event as a component of the Google Dance which is being held at the Googleplex on Tuesday August 9th. Here are the details:So bring your burning questions to pepper the Google engineers with, there will be representatives from many of the teams. AdSense engineers will definitely be in attendance.
Bldg 40 Temp Tech Talk
August 03, 2005
Did you miss the Google AdSense Reports Webinar? See it now!
Now, AdSense has put the Reports Webinar slides and voiceover online. It doesn't include the Q&A unfortunately, but even I learned a couple things from this section of the webinar about the new things the reporting interface does. Enjoy!
August 02, 2005
Inside the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta
It is officially 12:01 EST, so I can talk all about being inside the Yahoo! Publisher Network beta (I know some of you wondered why I was suspiciously silent when the rumors broke today). And it was worth the wait.
YPN has launched beta testing of their contextual ads for a small group of non-employee publishers. If you would like to check out ad relevancy, I have placed it on two non-blog sites - Womens Finance and Moms Budget.
They do allow custom tracking channels (similar to AdSense channels) and URL channels. There is a current limit of 50 active tracking channels, which I hope to see raised. I currently run more than that many channels on AdSense at the moment.
There is nothing set up for alternatives to PSA ads other than changing the ad unit to a single color. It would be good to see an alternative ad option, where publishers could subsititute an ad or ad network if YPN is unable to deliver targeted ads, or see something similar to the collapsing ad unit that AdSense offers. I saw a lot of PSA ads when I placed it online, and it can be a short while before targeted ads are showing.
All the obsessive stat checkers will love a feature that YPN has implemented into their control panel. When you login, under the daily balance, it states "* Estimated as of Aug 2, 2005 at 7:45 PM PST" This will give publishers a very definitive look as to what time the stats are current until.
Ad unit customization is also a little clunky, but could easily be changed to make it better. You need to select radio buttons before you can select colors from the color picker, and you couldn't edit the # color in a text box without first selecting the appropriate radio button.
Ad unit colors seem to be much more limited in YPN - I tried to simply use my AdSense ad colors on my Womens-Finance site for YPN, and it rejected some of the colors, and used black instead. So I had to try and hunt out the closest color in the color picker instead. I also ended up with two copies of an ad style with the identical name "jensense", each looking different. Hopefully an edit or delete option will be available once it is out of beta.
It offers the same ten ad unit sizes that AdSense offers, although some of them offer a different number of ads (such as YPN's large rectangle showing only three ads).
Something that is very cool about payment options is that it appears publishers have the option of transfering their YPN earnings over to their Yahoo search marketing account, if they use the same login username for both accounts. This is something AdSense/AdWords customers have requested since the launch of AdSense, so it is nice to see this as a feature YPN is implementing for their publishers.
You can also block up to 200 advertisers from showing up by adding their URLs into the ad blocking tab.
Reporting is very similar to AdSense, with stats for all the same information between the two competing programs. You can also download reports as well.
There are also terms and policies, which includes a lot of what you'd expect to see ;) And yes, they include that you cannot run YPN with another contextual ad program on the same page. So there goes my idea of running AdSense & YPN side by side for relevancy checking ;) And stats cannot be disclosed either, which is inline with the AdSense terms.
They also market other aspects of the Yahoo network, including Y!Q, adding your feed to My Yahoo! and getting links for Yahoo! Maps.
Now there is the nitty gritty of YPN, now for my personal thoughts on the program so far.
Comparing AdSense to YPN ad units, I prefer the AdSense ad units. The large rectange only contains 3 ads with a larger font, while AdSense has four ads. Math says that the odds are better with four choices than three.
Some targeting is a little off, but I am hoping it will get better over time. I guess it will really depend on whether people are clicking the ads or not to really decide whether the off-targeting is an issue or not. If they have a good CTR and the ads are paying well, then there is no real issue then.
No, I haven't dropped AdSense, because I know people are wondering that. I am doing limited YPN testing (limited in comparison to all the sites I run contextual advertising on at the moment). So you could say I am beta testing the YPN beta ;)
This beta is by invitation only, and I am not sure if there will be more beta testers added right away or not. But it can't hurt to fill out http://publisher.yahoo.com if you haven't already, and you may be lucky enough to be contacted as a beta tester. They plan to launch out of beta by the end of the year.
I am sure I have forgotten some details in my insider's look into YPN, so please leave comments.
Updated: You can apply for becoming a YPN beta tester here.
If you're interested in being considered for the Yahoo! Publisher Network beta program, please enter your information below. Participants of the program must be a resident of the U.S., with valid U.S. Social Security number or Tax ID.Good luck!