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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 November 30, 2005 06:36 AM


hello, so you dont block vonage on YPN.

The vonage ads are everywhere and who has a website about voice over internet? nobody...

The real question is is vonage paying a lot??? ha ha!

also if you use 3 of the half banner texts right together, you get 3 vonage repeats...

Posted by: hello at November 30, 2005 10:12 AM

jen, dont you think you should block these which have nonething to do with your site but are appearing!? i copy/pasted this from your main page.

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Posted by: hello again at November 30, 2005 10:14 AM

I was just bellyaching on this very topic the other day as some off topic ads just about blitzed half my income for a day before Google's notoriously slow filter finally engaged.

I understand your side of the issue, I also understand ads that don't convert and a bad advertiser is just bad business.

Posted by: Bill at November 30, 2005 10:44 AM


i just noticed something from this site and some others:

YPN seems to show vonage, lowermy bills, nextag, etc in one page view and then show ads that match content in the next page view; like they are rotating matching and nonmatching ads...

Posted by: hello3 at November 30, 2005 10:55 AM


i tried your advice but then i found out if i blocked vonage, etc i get more plus maximizing keywords works very well@!!!!


Posted by: hello4 at December 2, 2005 03:36 AM