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December 29, 2005

AdSense will be down for maintenance on Friday night

Just incase you discover you are unable to login to your account on Friday evening, don't worry, we will all be seeing the same thing. It seems the engineers on the AdSense Team are taking advantage of the slower time to do some maintenance.

While many of you may be on vacation this week, some of our engineers are working hard to ensure the performance and stability of AdSense. Occasionally this means taking down the main AdSense site (http://www.google.com/adsense) for updates. At 8PM PST this Friday (12/30), it will be unavailable for up to 6 hours while we complete some engineering work. Of course, all your AdSense ads will still serve properly and all your stats and earnings will be recorded as usual. We'll bring the site back up as soon as we can.

I wonder if there will be something nice and shiny for us to play with when the maintenance is complete ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 07:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

Malicious software targets Google AdSense ads

It was only a matter of time before a trojan or virus targeted AdSense or YPM for malicious activity, and the time has come. A new trojan horse discovered by an Indian publisher replaces Google AdSense ads with their own ads, advertising sites including dating, sex, viagra and weight loss. This trojan is very recent, because it not only converts regular AdSense ad units, but also the Google AdSense and Firefox referrer buttons into text links.

Techshout.com reports that a new, deceptive Trojan Horse program has surfaced. The program is engineered to produce fake Google ads that are formatted to look like legitimate ones. The ads are incorporated in Google AdSense, the program that lets website owners display ads from Google’s list of advertisers. The Trojan Horse apparently downloads itself onto an unsuspecting computer through a web page and then replaces the original ads with its own set of malicious ads.

Techshout, which broke the story and also has quotes from Raoul Bangera who discovered the new trojan, does not reveal the website that the computer was originally infected from, nor the name of the trojan horse. A quick scan of several security sites does not have any details on this particular threat. However, there have been previous cases of spyware which would overwrite AdSense ads.

The Google AdSense team did not confirm it was specifically a trojan, but did state they believed it was malicious software that Bangera had discovered.

Since the Trojan Horse makes the deceptive ads look like normal Google ads, the program was nearly impossible to detect by the general public. However, Raoul Bangera, an Indian web publisher, discovered the bogus program and contacted the Google AdSense team. Bangera emailed the team a number of cases, including various screenshots, log files of an infected computer and system files as proof. The AdSense team validated the news saying, “We can confirm from the screenshots that these are fake Google ads, formatted to look like legitimate ads. We agree that this phenomenon is likely the result of malicious software installed on your computer.”

There was no mention if YPN or other contextual ads on websites were being overwritten with this as well.

The ad units themselves look extremely similar to regular AdSense ad units, complete with the "Ads by Google", which has replaced the "Ads by Goooooogle" which appears on the majority of regular publisher sites. And looking at the screenshots available at techshout, it appears that it even utilizes the site's own ad unit color theme when it overrides the ads with their own.

More details should emerge over the next few days, particularly how widespread this threat actually is, or if it is a more isolated threat infecting few users. And a note to surfers that if you see types of ads (such as adult ads) appearing in AdSense ad units - that are even branded as Ads by Google - that you could be a victim of this malicious software and that Google isn't actually serving up these types of ads to you.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:38 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 22, 2005

AdSense new features webinar now online

AdSense has made their most recent webinar available for download.

Satya Patel from product management, Mohammed Abdoolcarim from product marketing, and Phoebe Ho from account management were on hand to provide information about their areas of expertise. Their presentations concluded with a live Q&A session you might also find useful.
It is only available for Internet Explorer (WebEx is a third-party provider), so if you are an avid Firefox user, you will need to dust off your IE in order to view it.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

JenSense wins best blog award from Search Engine Journal

I woke up this morning with congrats awaiting me with IMs from SEW's Danny Sullivan and Yahoo's Tim Mayer for winning a best blog award from SearchEngineJournal. Then I spotted DaveN's blog entry about it, aptly titled "Go Jenstar"

I won for the Search Engine Marketing and Contextual Advertising Blogs category.

And the winner is : JenSense Authored by Jen Star and filled with insider Google AdWords, AdSense & Yahoo Publisher Network information along with interviews and case studies useful for any search engine marketer or web publisher.

Rankings were as follows (ranked on a scale of 1-5):
JenSense : 3.20
Marketing Vox : 2.93
Google AdWords & AdSense blogs : 2.89
Traffick : 2.86
AdRants : 2.73
ProBlogger : 2.73
Did It Blog : 2.53
Got Ads? : 2.53

Thank you to everyone who voted for me! It is nice to see my hard work is appreciated :)

Posted by Jenstar at 09:49 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

New Christmas seasonal ads go live

Shortly after the new features webinar and the following Inside AdSense blog post about Christmas themed ads, they started going live on publisher's accounts who had opted into the themed ads.

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Something worth noting is that the new seasonal ad units will override your custom ad unit colors, most noticeably with a border in light blue, so there is the potential that the seasonal ads will affect CTR rates. You can see above two examples taken from this blog, so you can see how the seasonal design overrides your usual ad unit colors.

Dennis Hwang, the famous Google Doodler is the artist behind the new Christmas ad unit images. And if you haven't noticed, Google is also doing their annual holiday Google doodle.

This is the first widespread usage of seasonal ad units and they will be running through December 26th.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005

AdSense Webinar for new features review

The AdSense Webinar hit maximum capacity less than 24 hours after the invitations were sent out last week (that will teach me to blog about it before registering, lol). But I managed to snag myself a spot in the webinar after pulling some strings. It is good to see that this webinar was attended by so many!

There was nothing really earth shattering this time, but for a publisher who wasn't up on the latest changes and added features, it was a surprisingly extensive overview. There were lots of comments about possible features or adjustments that publishers have made or requested that might be integrated at a later date. It was mentioned that there will be some more color schemes added to the referral buttons, which will be nice to see.

For those of you that weren't able to attend or didn't register before it hit capacity, AdSense recorded the event and will make it available within 24 hours for all. It lasted the full hour with the powerpoint presentations by several AdSense team members, and was followed up with the extensive Q&A. When they finally wrapped it up, it still sounded as though there were still many more questions they were unable to get to.

As a bonus, WebEx now has sound integrated into the webinar room, so you could listen through your speakers directly within the WebEx program, which was much nicer than having to phone in or use Skype to connect, as you did with previous AdSense webinars.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 15, 2005

Webinar on latest AdSense features December 21st

AdSense is hosting yet another webinar, which is great to hear since there have not been any scheduled over the past few months. This one is on the latest AdSense features that were released this week.

Want to learn about new AdSense features? Join our AdSense publisher webinar. Our experts will take you through AdSense referrals, Onsite Advertiser Sign-up, new reporting features and more. We'll also leave time for members of our team to answer your AdSense questions.

This event will be hosted by four Google AdSense Team members:

Satya Patel, Business Product Management (who was on the recent SES panel with me in Chicago)
Mohammed Abdoolcarim, Product Marketing
Cherie Yu, Product Marketing
Phoebe Ho, Account Management

You can sign up here. It is being held on Wednesday December 21st at 9:00 A.M. PST - 12:00 PM EST - 5:00 P.M. GMT. I hope to see some of you there!

Posted by Jenstar at 11:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

Google logo no more - AdSense for Search available logo-free

Google took a huge step when they released new AdSense for Search options today, some which no longer show the branded Google logo in the search unit implementation but instead uses the words "Google Search" in the button.

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I have never had much luck with AdSense for Search (in fact, I only know a handful of publishers - mostly with similar types of sites - that have had much success with this product from AdSense), and part of the problem was the bulky implementation of the search box that publishers are required to use. I will have to start testing this one again.

Other features added to AdSense for Search inclue the ability to choose the country/territory that will be used for results (ie. using Google.ca or Google.co.uk instead of Google.com, for example)

Posted by Jenstar at 12:50 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Email AdSense reports for getting your stats to go

AdSense released a new feature today for something I periodically heard publishers asking for... the ability to receive their AdSense stats via email.

Now, new emailable reports offer you even more freedom: the ability to have your AdSense earnings reports sent straight to you. You select where and when you want your reports sent. Up to ten custom reports can be delivered daily, weekly, or monthly to the inbox of your choice.

One of the drawbacks is that you can only receive each email report once per day, so bad news for chronic stat checkers who would be happy with nothing less than stats emailed every 15 minutes! That does open the door for reports available with a higher frequency for larger publishers or perhaps on a paid subscription basis - a couple of people have already expressed that they would be willing to pay a small amount for the convenience of frequent stats update but who chose not to use one of the available commercial stat trackers. Right now there is also a limit of ten reports being available via email.

The best feature of the new emailed reports is that you can specify alternate email addresses, which make it easy to share reporting information with others, while not sharing your entire AdSense account access at the same time.

They will also come in handy while publishers are out of time and uneasy about logging into their AdSense accounts while at an internet cafe or while using any other less-secure internet access... particularly those who are worried about the possibility of logging in using a contaminated IP address while traveling.

Full instructions are available in the AdSense Support area.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Publishers can now opt-in to seasonal AdSense ad unit designs

When logging into your account today, publishers saw a new "What's New" notice with a small candy cane logo (you may need to refresh a few times to see it).

NEW We've added seasonal spirit to our ad units - you now have the option of displaying themed colors and graphics in your ads during holidays and special events. Visit our What's New page for details.

Seasonal ads are themed ads to various holidays. They were first spotted for Hallowe'en earlier this year.

We're always striving to provide designs for text and image ads that will have the best results for advertisers and publishers. As part of this effort, we're now offering themed ad units. These ad units will display themed colors and graphics during holidays and special events - you can view examples on our Ad Formats page.

They have some more example ad units here.

Seasonal ad units can be opted into easily in the control panel. Click here once you have logged in, or you can select the "My Account" tab and then the edit link next to "Ad Type Preference".

It is not exactly clear what will determine when these ad units will appear. Geotargeting will certainly be a factor, as I assume ad unit size will be as well.

Discussion on DigitalPoint and WebmasterWorld.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

New referral buttons added to AdSense Referrals

I recently commented when AdSense added new Firefox referral buttons that I would love to see some new colors added to the AdSense referral buttons as well. Lo and behold, I recieved an email from one of the Google AdSense Team members letting me know he had read my comments and they added some new colored referral buttons for AdSense now too.

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The new ones stand out so much more than the previous white buttons with green accents. Thank you AdSense for listening :)

Posted by Jenstar at 08:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

MSN AdCenter soliciting publishers for their new contextual ad program?

While I am not such a big fan of blogging things that have been overheard, Barry Schwartz (aka RustyBrick) from SERoundtable is reporting a conversation he overheard of MSN soliciting a potential publisher.

Just overheard Jed Nahum from MSN Search trying to pick up a beta tester for its contextual advertising program - picking up a publisher for the program. That is all I know right now.

I find it interesting they are already soliciting publishers when their US AdCenter product is still so new. And I am a little disappointed I wasn't the one being solicited as a beta publisher too ;)

This will definitely be interesting to watch and see what happens with MSN's new contextual program, especially since very little has been publicly acknowledged about the program to date.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Earning from Contextual Advertising at SES Chicago

I spoke yesterday at SES Chicago on contextual advertising, comparing Google AdSense & YPN, looking at a few alternatives to AdSense/YPN, as well as talked about optimizing for contextual advertising and how to test to ensure you are making the most money.

Both the Online Marketing Blog and SERoundtable covered the session, titled Earning from Search & Contextual Advertising. which also included YPN's Will Johnson, Google's Satya Patel and Scott Meyer of About.com.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

New firefox referral buttons released

AdSense quietly released two new background colors for their referral buttons - blue and orange.

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Now if only they will release some Google referral buttons in a color combination other than the white/green that is currently available ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 08:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

Chitika publishers see drastically reduced earnings in audited reports

When publishers first joined Chitika's eMiniMalls and saw the fact that Chitika would be auditing revenue, many publishers were not alarmed. AdSense has this as well, and I only know of a handful of publishers who have ever had their monthly income audited, and they were mainly for obvious click attacks. So I saw no reason to worry over audited income, and if I expected to see audited income, I would expect a drop in the 2% or maybe as high as 5% range.

In a thread at DigitialPoint, it didn't take long to see the full extent of just how significant these audits actually were. One publisher saw one day's income drop from $28.02 to $3.05 and saw similar drops on other days. Publishers are reporting drops anywhere from 10% to as high as 60% of revenue cut.

And over at SitePoint, the news gets even worse. In a thread there, several publishers report their income being audited by 70% or more... with one publisher reporting he lost 90% of his income in the audit.

I saw a cut in my earnings from my own ad displays of about 15%. And I lost well over HALF of my referral revenue for the month of October. And since I was running the referral program for nearly all of October (instead of just since the 18th, like most publishers) it isn't just 14 days I saw half my revenue cut but rather it was 26 days of promoting Chitika in October that I lost over half my income on. And I suspect I will see the same for November as well.

You also have to wonder exactly what they are auditing for? Did they drop every click that didn't convert into a sale? If so, that is definitely not what publishers signed up for. But with so many publishers reporting such high % of revenue being audited, it is a possibility.

I also suspect it is likely that Chitika knew audits were going to be this drastic when they released the newly designed ad units on November 16th. They should have started to release audited figures then, even if they were unable to release the entire month's audits. This would have given publishers more time to prepare for the fact that the payments they were expecting to be issued yesterday (as per net 30 terms) would be less than expected, rather than finding out last night when the updated figures were finally released.

The other thing that hurt publishers with this is that they took a full 30 days after the end of the month of October to release audited revenue numbers. And I suspect many publishers would have removed Chitika from their sites if they had known that ad space would only be worth half as much as what they expected. And now publishers are looking at the fact they have promoted Chitika (both for referrals and by running ad units) for the entire month of November without knowing the true impact of the audits and wondering just how much of that effort will be wasted when audits are finally completed on November earnings at the end of December.

And it is also the holiday season, I suspect that many publishers were counting on that income for holiday spending. And for some publishers, losing 50 or even 90 percent of their expected earnings could add up to some pretty significant dollars for some publishers.

Also, I have not heard of any publisher being paid yet. And since most publishers receive payments via PayPal and on net 30 terms, publishers should have been receiving PayPal payments already. So one also has to wonder if there is a delay in getting those audited earnings to customers. But when I double checked on the net 30 terms in the Chitika Terms, I was reminded of this clause:

Chitika will not be responsible for any payments to Client until payment has been collected from Chitika's advertisers.

Could this be the reason no one has received a payment yet?

All in all, this audited income fiasco is a huge disappointment for publishers. And I have to wonder if the many people who dropped AdSense for Chitika now find that Chitika really was the more profitable one now that audits have been done. And more than a few publishers on the forums are already stating they are dropping Chitika after seeing these drasticly reduced audited income reports. And I don't blame them. Seeing half my income go is giving me second thoughts as well.

Posted by Jenstar at 05:59 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack