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November 30, 2005

Using your AdSense & YPN filter lists with caution

Since publishers can block advertisers from appearing on their sites for whatever reason they wish, many have gone to town blocking ads they believe to be low paying, slightly off-target, or in an attempt to block one type of widget ads in hopes of getting a more profitable type of widget ads appearing instead. But the problem with going filter happy is you could also inevitably be blocking the best targeted - and best paying - ads from appearing on any of your AdSense & YPN sites as well.

If you are blocking for competitors, or companies whose ethics you do not agree with, there is not a problem with using the filter - that is what it was intended for.

The problem with the filter is not only are you filtering a specific ad, but you are theoretically blocking hundreds of other ads associated with that advertiser's URL - ads that could be completely relevant and pay well. Advertisers aren't just running that single ad you just blocked - most run hundreds or thousands of unique ads. So while you could believe that you are blocking a single irrelevant ad from appearing on your site, it actually goes well beyond that. You could also be blocking thousands of other ads that are not only completely targeted and relevant to your site, but that could also be the top paying ads for those keywords among the advertisers who have turned content targeting on and are bidding in their Adwords account or are bidding on content in Overture. In short, by blocking that single URL, you could have cost yourself a larger piece of the AdSense & YPN pie.

Here is a sample case study to explain what happens a little better:

Jane sees an ad for "green spotted widgets" on her site. She thinks, well, my site is on widgets, but green spotted widgets aren't really that profitable a keyword phrase, so I am going to block that one, in hopes of showing better targeted and higher paying ads. So Jane goes and enters the URL of the ad for "green spotted widgets". A few hours later, that pesky "green spotted widgets" ad disappears.

Good? Not neccessarily.

Her CTR drops. Her EPC/CPM drops. Her earnings drop. She comes to one of the AdSense forums asking if people are noticing a drop in earnings lately. She is earning less and concludes that AdSense or YPN must be to blame. After all, it is them who decides what ads to show.

If she is paying attention to the ads appearing on her site, she may notice that suddenly, ads for many of the top paying "widget" keyword phrases - "purple striped widgets"; "orange polkadot widgets" and "blue pinstripe widgets" - not to mention the highly coveted "widget" ads - have also vanished from her site. She writes it off as being fluctuations in ad inventory that is beyond her control. Or perhaps AdSense/YPN is mistargeting her ads and thinks her pages are actually about something else - when in actuality they are showing less relevant or themed ads because all the relevant ones are blocked.

But not once does she think about the impact of the URL filter. In actuality, the drop could be attributed to any of those URLs she recently added to her filter list to block those green striped widgets - because the advertiser is also advertising all the profitible and targeted widgets as well.

Unfortunately, she doesn't put two and two together, and will continue to suffer with a lower CTR/EPC and earnings while those URLs are on the filter, or new advertisers enter the contextual ad space for her market.

A similar case study could be John who blocked an ad geo-targeted to his specific area, doing so because he thinks everyone across the US is seeing the ad for a store in his city. But in reality, he sees the local NYC ad, while someone in Los Angeles would not see that same NYC ad, but either a geo-specific one to LA or an ad that is targeted USA-wide. And there is the double whammy that he blocks the advertiser, yet thar advertiser could have set up individual ads to geotarget every specific area in the US, while still paying high bids for those ads. And they could also have other high paying non-geotargeted ads as well. But as we have seen, blocking one geo-targeted ad can have a much larger impact on reducing the availability of relevant and high paying ads for your account. Not to mention that if a geo-specific ad is showing on your site, it would have to be more valuable EPC-wise than any other ad available, whether it is a geotargeted ad or not.

What can you do to see if your filter list is actually hurting your bottom line?

First, take your filter list and paste it into a text file and save it. Then go and delete the entire thing out of your filter URL list in your account. Yes, the entire thing. You can go add selected URLs back into it, but ONLY the ones you are using to block competitors or unethical companies.

After a few hours, you should begin to see some new ads show up on your site. For AdSense you can use the AdSense ad viewing tool if you are outside of the geotargeted area the majority of your audience is in, since the tool also takes into account the filter list. Try and resist the knee jerk reaction to automatically go and put those "irrelevant" ad URLs back into the filter, because that one URL could also be responsible for higher paying ads that appear on your site.

Don't forget AdSense & YPN are in it to make money too - they are going to show the highest paying ads available for the keywords it has selected for each individual page. The more the advertiser pays, the more both you and AdSense/YPN earn. It doesn't benefit them to show the ads worth the least amount of money, so blocking ads because you think they pay too low is a mistake (especially since again, you could be blocking all their highly targeted and high paying ads from your site as well.)

Watch your stats over the next several days - preferably over weekdays and over a non-holiday week, since other factors (such as advertisers lowering bids for weekends and holidays, or pausing campaigns all together) can have an impact that is not related to your filter list at all.

Did your CTR go up?

Did your CPM go up?

And most importantly, did your bottom line increase?
Hopefully, you should see your earnings increase with the reduction of URLs on your filter list.

If you saw a dip that can't be attributed to anything else, start adding URLs back to your filter list, starting with the URLs you believe to be so unrelevant that there is no way that advertiser could be advertising anything that is targeted to your site. But be sure to take into account your network of sites - it could be irrelevant for one particular site, but could that advertiser be advertising something completely relevant for one of your other sites? Any URL you block with your filter list will be blocked from showing any site you have on that AdSense or YPN account, not just the particular one you happen to see it on at the moment. And keep watching your CTR, CPM and earnings to see if you hit a balance where you have filtered the ones that really do need to be filtered, while leaving the ones that could be showing those profitable ads.

Hopefully, some of you will be able to reduce the number of URLs on your filter list, while getting more profitable ads to appear and earning even more money.

And yes, I do practice what I preach. In AdSense, I only have 9 sites on my filter list - 7 sites are either my own or direct competitors, 2 are advertisers who are showing relevant themed ads, but their target market is not the same as mine. And in YPN, I have nary a URL filtered.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:36 AM | Comments (5)

November 28, 2005

Firefox Referrals now available for international AdSense publishers

I admit, I was disappointed that the Firefox referrals program was limited to US publishers only when it launched on November 4th. But looks like they have listened to publisher feedback and have now rolled it out to all international publishers.

International publishers can now refer users to Firefox plus Google Toolbar through the AdSense referrals feature. As you connect your users with Firefox to improve their web browsing experience, you can generate earnings - up to US$1 for each new Firefox user who downloads and runs the product for the first time. To add a Firefox referral button to your site today, visit the 'Referrals' tab in your account.

Many international publishers were upset that AdSense originally restricted it to only US publishers, regardless of where the site's traffic was from. So it is nice to see AdSense make it available to all.

Posted by Jenstar at 05:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Chitika launches eMiniMalls UK

Chitika has now launched a UK specific version of eMiniMalls.

eMiniMalls UK is now live!

Geo-targeting is on, so visitors from UK can now expect to see merchandising offers from UK merchants, while visitors from US will continue to see US offers and promotions.

They have also announced future geotargeted versions which will go live within the week.

Next stop Paris. We are ready with offers and promotions feeds from several other European countries. Over the next week we will be expanding the service to the following countries: France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Netherlands.

I guess Canada isn't high up on the priority list for new countries.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

Animated background ad units in AdSense

I saw these ad units a few days ago on SERoundtable, but I didn't want to draw more undue attention to them. But now SearchEngineJournal and ThreadWatch have both picked it up.

The ad unit is a custom sized ad unit, but instead of a normal static background, these ad units have an animated arrow in the background, drawing a visitor's attention to the ads.

Here is screenshots of how they cycle through with the animated arrow pointing out the ads.

seroundtable1.gif
seroundtable2.gif

ThreadWatch points out these are "Made by Barry" of SERoundtable, using this image:
seroundtablebackground.gif

There are custom style ad units available to premium publishers and on a very limited case-by-case basis for regular publishers. But since all publishers must receive permission and approval from AdSense for each custom ad style before they put them live on a site, this means that this animated background ad unit style must have received the AdSense stamp of approval.

AdSense has done some testing with images in the background of ad units before, primarily special edition single day runs around holidays, such as the Hallowe'en themed ads and the US Thanksgiving ads. But I have never seen animated background images in ad units before.

What do I think of them? Personally, I am not a fan of this. As an advertiser, I would worry that it would unfairly draw attention to the ads and result in an increase in clicks from that particular site. Depending on the site, I would consider going as far as blocking my ads from appearing on publisher sites that would use this style of ad unit. I suspect publishers would be unhappy to see such unfair attention drawn to ads... after all, it is against the terms to have an animated arrow next to the ads pointing to them.

One of the ads I saw happened to be for SEOBook.com, so I asked Aaron Wall how he felt about his ads appearing in this style of ad unit:

I don't like the idea of click incentivizing on ads that I pay for by the click. It can increase ad spend and lower ROI. I don't think it is fair to charge advertisers by the click and then use various techniques that encourage people to click on them.

Yes, many people are using various techniques to entice clicks, both tricks that are against the AdSense terms and techniques I think should be disallowed. I would prefer if my ads did not appear on pages that did.


While I did love the themed ad units with images in the background, I do not like animated gifs in the background of ad units. And to keep advertisers opted into the content network, I hope this ad unit style gets pulled quickly by AdSense, even though it did get initially approved.

I do think custom ad units are a good thing for premium publishers and the high end regular publishers that need to utilize custom ad units for specific placement issues. But I think some of the flexibility allowed with custom ad units needs to be trimmed back a bit if publishers are receiving permission to use these kinds of click enticing background images in their custom ad units. If not, it could end up affecting more publishers than just those using it.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:44 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

Tracking your AdSense clicks with Google Analytics

Shawn Hogan from DigitalPoint has created a handy script for those using Google Analytics who want to track their AdSense clicks as well.

You can get the javascript and all the implementation details here.

I have not tested it out yet, when I got back from PubCon, they had closed it to new users :( So I will not be able to do any testing with this until it reopens for new users.

Forum discussion at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Advertise on this site" finally goes live on AdSense ad units

While the new "Advertise on this site" feature was officially launched on Friday, the feature wasn't actually seen live until late yesterday. So if you were opted in but didn't see it, you should be seeing it now.

AdSense has a demo here. On the second screenshot of the demo, two company names are listed - epicurean.com information in the header, but the body of the text says PetPlace.com. Perhaps PetPlace was one of the original testers of this feature before it was removed as a case study.

If you are so inclined, you can opt-out of this program in your control panel - this feature was turned on in all accounts when it launched. Some publishers are concerned about losing their own advertising sales to this link, so do not want it to show. Personally, I also sell advertising directly to advertisers, and I plan on remaining opted into the "advertise on this site" feature. You also have to opt-in or opt-out of this feature completely, so you cannot choose to opt-out of only those sites you also accept advertising on while leaving this feature turned on in the rest of the accounts.

Some publishers have also turned off this feature unless they get a "bounty" for bringing in those advertisers. But this works off the premise that most advertisers who would click that link do not yet have an AdWords account. But advertisers who click the link would be site targeting that publisher, which means more ad inventory and revenue in that publisher's pocket, regardless of whether there was a bounty involved or not.

This feature should definitely result in more advertisers site targeting your ads with CPM ads, which can be particularly profitable for those sites with high page views. And it makes it an easier process for a potential advertiser to site target you with their advertising, or sign up for an entirely new account.

You can customize your own landing page - the page potential advertisers would see when they click on an "advertise on this site" link from one of your ad units, even adding your own logo. But unfortunately, you can only customize one landing page for the entire account, so you cannot customize on a site-by-site basis.

Curiously, I have not seen this feature on any of my own sites, although I am definitely opted into it. It does seem to be live on other sites though. Perhaps it is part of a rolling release where all publisher sites will begin seeing it at the same time.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

YPN to introduce direct deposit for payments in Q01

Good news for publishers who prefer direct deposit payments rather than mailed checks. Will Johnson, VP & General Manager of YPN announced in the Contextual Advertising Program Issues at PubCon that they plan to offer direct deposit in Q01 of 2006.

Hopefully when they make the change to direct deposit that they will also make the change to payments being sent net 30 to bring it in line with AdSense, rather than the current 45 days a publisher must wait for payment.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:19 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

eMiniMalls ad unit redesign sparks controversy

Since I was away at PubCon, I didn't get a chance to talk about this until now. eMiniMalls blogged about a change made to their ad units to remove the hyperlinks on product names, to combat what they refer to as "curiosity clicks".

To help filter out so-called “curiosity clicks” that typically do not lead to conversions on the merchants’ side, we updated the eMiniMalls units to drive qualified clicks. Hence, eMiniMalls users will notice a dip in the overall click through rate (and hence the overall revenue).

While we do strongly believe that in the long run everyone will benefit from our efforts to optimize this eMiniMalls (beta) service, we do recognize that in the short term this might lead to potential drops in revenue for some of our publishers. To best compensate for any potential revenue loss, we are issuing a network-wide 10% bonus through the end of November.

When I think of curiosity clicks, I think of clicks made of the "hmmm, what kind of advertising is this?" variety. I generally do not think of curiosity clicks as clicks made by someone who is genuinely interested in the product but who may lack the intention of buying at the exact moment. Those kinds of clicks are completely legitimate in my eyes.

A high percentage of clicks do not convert, regardless of the ad unit style or ad network - and some of those reasons have absolutely nothing to do with the publisher, traffic quality or the person who clicked an ad, such as a poorly converting landing page or other problems with the end advertiser's website. But when an ad network deliberately attempts to change an ad unit to reduce the ability for a publisher to earn income, it is a dangerous line to walk.

And the ad unit redesign means it makes it more difficult for a potential conversion to convert, because the link is not in the obvious place. The natural surfer habit would be to click the product name or product image, but neither are now linked. Instead, one must click on the store name to get to the product landing page.

Many will be watching to see how this is all going to spin out, especially since many publishers are talking about removing eMiniMalls completely, or not giving it the prominent placement they once were. My best advice? Compare earnings before the change and after the change, and see if the ad space still monetizes well enough to remain with eMiniMalls or if the ad space could make more money with another ad program. It is unfortunate that the change comes right before the Thanksgiving long weekend in the US, though.

Plenty of forum discussion on this one at WebmasterWorld and DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:37 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Separate bidding on content network introduced by AdWords

Yahoo Search Marketing has long supported the model of allowing separate bidding on the content and search networks, which enabled advertisers to decide how much they were willing to pay dependent on whether it showed up on the Yahoo search results or on one of the content partner networks. Now Google AdWords has finally decided to allow separate bidding between the two, something advertisers have been requesting since AdSense launched.

Content bids let AdWords advertisers set one price when their ads run on search sites and a separate price when their ads run on content sites. If you find that you receive better business leads or a higher ROI from ads on content sites than on search sites (or vice versa), you can now bid more for one kind of site and less for the other. Content bids let you set the prices that are best for your own business.

What will the impact of this change be on publishers? It is a situation where it could go either way in how it impacts publisher earnings. And it might not affect all publishers the same.

On one hand, you might see advertisers finally deciding to run their advertising on the content network, since they can bid at different prices. If they decide a search click is more valuable than a content click, they can adjust their bidding accordingly when they start bidding. So this would inject ad inventory and earnings into the content network.

On the flip side, you might have advertisers who were always quite content to bid the same price across both content and search, who might now suddenly bargain basement their bids on the content network while leaving search bids at their current levels. So suddenly there is a loss of potential earnings revenue from that one advertiser, multiplied across the number of advertisers who chose this route.

So overall, ad inventory would increase, since the likelihood of advertisers opting out of content since they can now bid separately would be pretty slim. But it is the revenue aspect of it that people will be watching closely, and that could drop, rise, or remain the same, depending on what advertisers do.

The timing of the change is good. Advertisers might be encouraged to test out the content network during the busy holiday season, especially with the busiest shopping day of the year occurring this week. There is a lot more incentive for advertisers to try out the content network at this time of year than if this feature was launched at the beginning of the year.

I think this is a good decision for the long term integrity of the AdSense program, even though it could potentially lead to a drop in earnings. By allowing the separate bidding option, I am confident that new advertisers will try out the content network, even with bargain basement bids. And they may discover that their content network ROI is good and will then adjust bids higher to take further advantage of it.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

Yahoo Publisher Network launches RSS ads at PubCon

If you haven't signed up for the JenSense feed, you might not have noticed that I have been beta testing the Yahoo Publisher Network RSS ads for the last couple of months. And the big announcement at Tuesday's YPN lunch at PubCon was the launch of RSS ads for YPN publishers.

The YPN RSS ads look quite different from the Google AdSense RSS ads that many are already familiar with. The YPN RSS ad units are stylized to look quite similar to the traditional ad units.

ypnrss.gif

One advantage to YPN RSS ads is that you do not have to apply for them separately, like you must do with AdSense for Feeds. If you are a beta tester for YPN, you will see it live in your account when you login.

The Ads in RSS Setup Guide is also a nice (and much needed!) feature. When I first began running AdSense for Feeds, it took some work to figure out exactly where the ad code went in the tags and html that make up the various RSS feeds on a blog. This guide will tell you exactly where to paste your YPN code.

The ad units cannot be customized with different colored borders or text, they only come in the standard grey/blue/green as above. I do really like the look of these ad units, when compared to the few other RSS ad programs on the market currently.

Right now, they only support WordPress and MovableType blogs.

I have definitely noticed targeting on RSS ads on this blog seem to be more tightly targeted than when I ran AdSense RSS ads, although because I had been site targeted via AdWords by an advertiser, I was only seeing that one advertiser in my RSS feeds for a few weeks prior to switching to YPN RSS ads. It will be interesting to see what others report back on the RSS targeting comparison as well.

So if you have a YPN account and a blog in WP or MT, you can start activating ads in your YPN control panel right away, without waiting for approval.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

Moderating the YPN Lunch at PubCon

If you are attending WebmasterWorld's PubCon this week, be sure to attend the YPN Lunch at 12:45 Tuesday.

Learn how Yahoo! is extending its advertising network and content to help small and medium size publishers to enhance their own sites. Several key Yahoo! Publisher Network team members will be on hand to provide an overview and answer questions about this new beta product. Moderated by Jennifer Slegg.

Four YPN team members will be talking about the Yahoo! Publisher Network and the end will be capped off with audience Q&A. You can register here. Be sure to bring business cards, I am sure there will be some team members taking cards if you are trying to get a beta YPN account. If you have any questions you would like me to ask the YPN team during the Q&A, be sure to leave me a comment to this entry, and I will be sure to check before the event.

And don't forget the big Yahoo! party Tueday night at PURE, you can register for that here.

You do need to have a your PubCon conference badge to attend these events, it is not too late to register.

I will also be speaking Wednesday morning on Search Engine Copywriting.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 12, 2005

Correlation between AdSense earnings & holiday weekends

Since AdSense launched, it seems that every major holiday weekend that hits the US causes a panic over lowered earnings. Now, since most sites experience reduced traffic over long weekends (notable exceptions include sites about the particular holiday - ie. a turkey recipe website at Thanksgiving; a craft website at Easter) seeing reduced earnings is expected. However, the majority of publisher panic surrounds lowered EPC. And with all the smart pricing brouhaha, it seems the first thing people think is that they have been smart priced.

But there are several common reasons why publishers see not only reduced earnings (directly related to reduced traffic) but also a lower-than-usual EPC as well. And none of them have anything to do with smart pricing whatsoever.

So when will this most affect you? Any of the long weekends. And don't forget the same thing can happen when a holiday occurs mid-week. If a holiday falls on a Thursday, people could "make a long weekend" by taking Friday off as well, which would result in lower traffic, earnings and EPC. And you will see a similar pattern begin to occur shortly before Christmas that will last into the New Year. Also consider the source of your traffic - I am Canadian, yet my sites have a majority of traffic from the US, so I need to watch US specific holidays, not just those in my own country.

First, traffic will very likely be reduced to your site. So you will see a reduction not only of impressions, but also in the number of clicks. So this is the first part of why your income is reduced over holiday weekends.

The second reason to consider is geotargeting. For example, yesterday (Friday, November 11th) was Veteran's Day in the US. And since the amount of US traffic to your site is reduced, it is very likely you are then serving a higher percentage of your ads to non-US visitors. And because of geotargeting, an advertiser might be bidding $1 a click for US traffic, but only $.50 for anywhere outside of the US. So if you have a higher percentage of non-US visitors on Friday, even the identical ad being displayed to visitors could yield quite different earnings for that click. Or there might not be as much ad inventory outside of the US (or whichever country your traffic is primarily from) which could also mean a higher percentage of PSAs. But again, this has nothing to do with smart pricing.

The third reason to consider is advertiser patterns. And advertisers frequently lower bids or even pause campaigns over long weekends. Since many of them are taking a long weekend off, or even traveling away from home for that weekend, they cannot watch and manage their campaigns as well as they can when they are available during "work hours". So advertisers often pause or lower bids on their AdWords campaigns for holidays. So this will result in lower paying ads appearing in their regular spots, meaning lower earnings per click because of it. But after the holiday weekend, you should see your EPC jump back up again.

Obviously, a site with primarily UK traffic will notice similar patterns for bank holidays in the UK. And likewise for other sites that have traffic predominantly from one region or country.

Does the same affect the Yahoo Publisher Network? Likely, but there obviously has not been the same history available to evaluate any changes. But I would be surprised if YPN does not have the same pattern as AdSense when it comes to earnings over holiday weekends and weeks.

So when you see your earnings take a nose-dive, consider the possibility it is a holiday weekend, before jumping off the deep end and blaming smart pricing, CPM ads, Google being evil, or any of the other varied reasons for it. There has been a recognizable pattern to holidays weekends and AdSense earnings that can be tracked back to when AdSense first launched, so it is not a new phenomenon. But definitely something you need to take into account when you see a dip in earnings and EPC on a holiday.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

Consolidated Google accounts causes problems for AdSense publishers

After the AdSense updates last week, some publishers experienced problems logging into their AdSense accounts while their AdWords account logins were working correctly. But as of this afternoon, the bug has been fixed, and all publishers should be able to login.

If you were an affected publisher, you should be able to login at http://www.google.com/adsense using your new Google account login information.

It should be noted that only a small number of publishers are affected, as it is being rolled out to accounts, rather than all accounts being asked at once. So if you use the same info for both AdWords and AdSense but haven't been asked to consolidate your account, you don't need to worry.

Also, the new login interface also requires you to have javascript enabled, so if you are still having problems, make sure you have your javascript (and cookies!) turned on, and your password is correct.

And if you are still having login problems, you can always contact Google AdSense Support here or at adsense-support@google.com.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 04, 2005

Full rundown on new AdSense Terms changes

No earth shattering changes to the AdSense terms this time, which all publishers will be required to accept when you login to your account next, if you haven't already. Also, be sure to check the updated policies, released last night.

Most of the changes this time were made to accomodate the brand new AdSense referral feature.

1. Program Participation

Slight changes made to include reference:
Google referral Ads ('Referral Buttons')

2. Implementation and Operation of Ads, Search Results, and Referrals

This now has "Referrals" added to the section title. They have also split this section into different paragraphs, one for ad units, one for search results and one for referrals.

The following section has been added:
Referrals. If You have elected to use the Google AdSense Referrals feature, You will implement any Referral Buttons on Your Site(s) in accordance with the specifications provided by Google. Each Web page(s) that contains a Referral Button must also contain other content related to Your Site. End users who click on a Referral Button will be directed to a Web page hosted by Google (“Referral Page”), the format, look and feel of which may be modified by Google from time to time. A “Referral Event” will be initiated when an end user clicks on a Referral Button from the Site and will be completed when the referral requirements for the relevant Google product are satisfied in accordance with this Agreement. Such referral requirements, along with the payment amount applicable to the Referral Event, are located at [ https://www.google.com/adsense/referrals], or such other URL as Google may provide from time to time. You agree to comply with the specifications provided by Google from time to time to enable proper tracking and reporting of Referral Events in connection with Your Site. You shall not promote or facilitate a Referral Event by any means other than displaying a Referral Button on the Site, unless expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail).

4. Parties' Responsibilities.

Small changes added to reference the referral program.

5. Prohibited Uses.

More minor changes to reference the referral program.

6. Termination

More changes for the referral program.

8. No Guarantee

You guessed it, more minor changes for the referral program.

9. No Warranty

More minor changes for the referral program

11. Payment

Finally, some not-so-minor changes ;)

The following has been added to what Google is not liable to make payments on.
(iii) solicited by payment of money, false representation, or any illegal or otherwise invalid request for end users to complete Referral Events;

And more minor changes to reference the referral program.

12. Publicity

The bolded section has been added:
You agree that Google may use Your name and logo in presentations, marketing materials, customer lists, financial reports, Web site listings of customers, Search Results Pages, and Referral Pages.

13. Representations and Warranties.

Wow, some big changes here.

You represent and warrant that....(d) You have complied and will continue to comply with all applicable laws, statutes, ordinances, and regulations (including without limitation the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and any relevant data protection or privacy laws) in Your performance of any acts hereunder.

I have heard recently of more spammers directing spam emails to pages containing AdSense, so this could be their way of being able to take action on that. This could also require publishers to have posted privacy policies for collected data on pages running AdSense. I will see if I can get further clarification on what exactly this covers.

15. Google Rights

Change is in bold:

You will not remove, obscure, or alter Google's copyright notice, Brand Features, or other proprietary rights notices affixed to or contained within any Google services, software, or documentation (including without limitation the display of Google’s Brand Features with Ads, Links, Search Boxes, Search Results, and/or Search Buttons, as applicable).

That's all! Overall, fairly minor change to reflect the new AdSense referral program.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:44 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

New AdSense referral feature launched

If you have wanted to make money by referring publishers to AdSense, yet haven't been accepted into the AdSense & AdWords referral program, you are in luck! You can now earn $100 per new publisher, when they sign up for AdSense and earn $100 in revenue.

When you login to your AdSense account, you will see a new tab for the referral program, which you will need to opt-in to if you plan to promote it. You have official buttons you can place on your website, and you need to use the code exactly as it is given to you. There are no options for text links at this time.

When you refer a new publisher and that publisher is approved and has earned $100 in AdSense revenue, you will receive a $100 publisher bonus for that successful referral.

adsensereferral.gif

This button will be handy for publishers wishing to comment on how their site is monetized without drawing attention to the ads.

If you are a US publisher, you also have an option to refer visitors to download Firefox with the Google AdSense toolbar installed. For every visitor who installs, you will earn $1. This is one of those times I wish I lived in the US! It is unfortunate this isn't available outside of the US, especially for those publishers (like myself!) whose traffic is 90-95% US based. I could have done well with that one.

Here is an example of the Firefox referral button.

firefoxreferral.gif

You can check your referral earnings by clicking on the arrow next to Referrals, and it is split for new publisher and Firefox referrals.

There currently is not an option for referring new advertisers, but I would love to see this option added in the future, particularly if it is tied to the "Advertise on this site" links that some special beta tester websites are displaying.

It is worth knowing that the former invitation-only referral program is now exclusively for AdWords referrals only, so there are no competing services.

Now publishers will need to decide which is the better program to promote... AdSense or the often publicized Chitika referral program that is getting heavy rotation these past few weeks.

More info can be found on the AdSense What's New page, and the How do I implement a referral button?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld, SearchEngineWatch and Digital-Point.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:05 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 03, 2005

AdSense Policies update time again!

When AdSense is down or there are login problems, it often means there is something new and shiny to keep us publishers amused with. And sure enough, we have a brand new Google AdSense Policies available.

So, it is updated Google AdSense Policies time - although the new policies are dated October 25, 2005, they didn't go live until about 9pm PST on November 3, 2005. Don't forget that when you agreed to the terms, you agreed to comply to the policies, even when they changed. So make sure you are in compliance!

Ad Placement

The following has been added:
A single referral button per product may be placed on a page, in addition to the ad units, search boxes, and link units specified above. Referral buttons are considered to be ‘Google ads’ for purposes of these program policies.

Code Modification

The part in bold has been added to the following:

Any AdSense ad code, search box code, or referral code must be pasted directly into Web pages without modification.

Incentives

Some of this section has been reworded to include "referral buttons", and the following has been added:

Publishers are also not permitted to use deceptive or unnatural means to draw attention to or incite clicks on referral buttons.

Language

Warning to those using AdSense on pages in unsupported languages. Previously, AdSense would allow ads to be run on unsupported language pages although stating ads would likely be untargeted or heavy on PSAs. However, a change in the new policies now prohibits this by publishers. Added to the language clause:

Ads must not be displayed on any page with content primarily in an unsupported language.

Prohibited clicks and impressions

A very small change was made to this section, detailing activity publishers are not permitted to participate in. Previously, one of the prohibited activities was "automated click- and impression- generating clicking tools" but now reads "automated click and impression generating tools".

You will also notice a slight change to the login pattern. When you login, you will notice the login box switches to a red text "Loading..." message before loading the main control panel page within the account. This is similar to what happens when you login to AdWords accounts. However, there are no notations within the account (at least not yet) that shows AdSense requiring Google account logins in the future, as AdWords advertisers will be required to do.

Now for the question everyone is asking, just what are these referral buttons the new policies refers to? Well, unfortunately, you have to wait ;) But I do promise the full scoop very soon!

Added: Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld

Posted by Jenstar at 10:10 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Ask and you shall receive... new login button added to main YPN page

Exactly two weeks ago, I finally remembered to comment to the YPN team that it was one of those annoying quirks of YPN that I had to remember the https://publisher.yahoo.com/portal/login.php login URL because there was no login button or link from the main http://publisher.yahoo.com page.

Well, lo and behold when I logged into YPN earlier today, and planned to click the YPN logo workaround to get to the login page, I noticed a brand spanking new "Manage my account" button.

ypnlogin.gif

Thank you YPN for taking my suggestion, it will make many publisher's lives easier :)

Posted by Jenstar at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brand new AdSense Case Studies added!

A new selection of Google AdSense case studies has been added to Google's case study page... and one has been removed.

The latest entries included on the official AdSense case study page include:

Ask the Builder - a publisher featured on one of the AdSense webinars

Weblogs Inc - recently featured on Inside AdSense, and a publisher I interviewed a few months ago.

CamcorderInfo.com - A site in the same network as the popular DigitalCameraInfo.com by Robin Liss.

The AdSense case studies have also been split into beginner and Advanced, with the three newly added case studies joining ScienceDaily as advanced. The remainder now appear as beginner. It is nice to see AdSense now offering case studies that go far beyond the general case studies that appeal to beginners. The recent EngineeringTalk case study is an excellent example as well, primarily discussing how designing a site around the AdSense ads can work well.

Also, PetPlace.com is noted to now be missing from the lineup. I recently noticed that it was no longer running AdSense prominently, so it isn't surprising that is is no longer featured. Hopefully AdSense will change the small screenshot on the main AdSense page to a different site now.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MSN & AOL referrers are most likely to click AdSense

I have often said that MSN traffic seems to me much more AdSense click happy than either Yahoo or Google traffic, based on my own sampling. And Jeremy Zawodny comments that the same is true in his own findings.

Whose users click most? Digging a bit deeper, it's intereting to look at the click through rate (CTR) for various sources. Here's where the numbers get interesting. It seems that AOL and MSN users are more likely to click. Ask.com users aren't far behind. Yahoo is in third place with Google trailing by a fair amount.

He also comments that his MSN traffic is still fairly low at this time, but that an increase in traffic could result in an upsurge of earnings.

MSN users are clearly the most valuable on an indivudal basis, but as a whole they don't respresent much of my income. If more of my traffic came from MSN, that's surely change. They're followed by AOL, Yahoo, Ask.com, and then Google.

You can get all the details here. And while he doesn't include earning specifics, there are some fancy charts to analyze instead.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Interview with Chris Rand of EngineeringTalk, the latest AdSense case study

Inside AdSense featured a new case study with Chris Rand of EngineeringTalk, who completely redesigned his site around AdSense.

Engineeringtalk has been a successful AdSense publisher since June 2003. When the site's old design needed a rethink, the team went back to basics on the site navigation and structure. Realizing that the vast majority of visitors reached the site through search engines, editor Chris Rand wondered: "Why are we prioritizing on helping visitors find their way around the site when they've already come straight in to what they're looking for?" Moving site navigation from the prime ad positions - across the top and down the side - to a more logical place gave the team more options for ad placement.

Next, the team experimented with AdSense designs, focusing on optimization through typography and placement. They found the biggest influence on CTR was the similarity between the AdSense type (size and font), and the main body text of the page. The more similar the type, the higher the CTR.

I was fortunate enough to ask him more detail about his redesign decisions, as well as the question so many want to know... exactly how someone is chosen to be one of the featured Google AdSense case studies.

How were you chosen as a case study? Was it out of the blue or were you already working with someone from the AdSense Team?

The Google AdSense team contacted us several months ago (out of the blue) to assure us that they were always there to help us and to provide suggestions and support. Whilst we don't qualify for the Google AdSense Premium Service, there seems to be a level of activity below this where you still get personal support from the Google AdSense team. I should point out that although we're in the UK, we were contacted by phone and email from a named representative (and a well-known one :-) ) in California. Our initial conversations didn't actually result in any changes to the way we used AdSense, they were more to make sure we'd tested all the sensible alternatives (we had). They must have been impressed with our results, and all the testing we did, because a few months later, they got back in touch to ask if we would consider being an AdSense case study.

Why did you design your layout the way you did? Did you do research first? Or work through a few designs before settling on what we see at Engineeringtalk today?

The case study shows what we did, but to summarise, we made optimised AdSense a key part of the site's design. This sounds obvious, but I see very few sites out there which have struck a good balance between making the ads integrate into the site while keeping them obviously advertisements. Most sites go for one or the other. We tried dozens of combinations, but what worked best was when the AdSense ads were the same font, font size, font colour and leading as the copy next to them, yet clearly separate items. When the font, font size, font colour and leading varied from the main body text, response went down. However, if we "buried" the ads in our body text or in our links (as some sites do so "cleverly"), the response went down too. The optimum results were achieved by keeping the ads separate, but having the body copy alongside match them. Of course, that means if you're using Skyscraper ads your body copy will be 13px/17px Arial, and if you're using Leaderboards it'll be Verdana, but that was quite acceptable to us.

Anything else you would like to add :)

One item I mentioned which the AdSense folks chose not to include in the case study is that we found Leaderboard ads did not perform as well as Skyscraper ads. Had these performed as well, there'd have been an argument for us to have majored on those and designed our site around the Verdana font. But they didn't perform as well. And to be honest, that was lucky, because we couldn't have used Leaderboard ads anyway, as it happens! We have 90-100 manufacturers taking out banner advertising at any one time, and almost all want 728x90 ads across the top. That represents US$400,000 - $500,000 a year (who said banner advertising is dead?) so they get what they want. If we're to run AdSense too, then AdSense gets the space that remains, and that space is the Skyscraper slot. The fact that the Skyscraper slot turns out to be the best for AdSense is a real bonus, as you can imagine.

Thank you to Chris for doing this interview and giving us some more behind-the-scenes detail on his optimization techniques as well as how he was chosen!

Posted by Jenstar at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack