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March 30, 2006

CTR now shows two decimal places in AdSense

A fairly minor change, but AdSense changed the control panel today to display CTR to two decimal places instead of the previous format of just one decimal place. This means instead of 15.8% for your CTR you would see 15.82%, for example.

A minor change, but one I am sure the stat junkies will love :)

Posted by Jenstar at 06:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

No more unsecure warnings for YPN & AdSense

I am pleased to report that both YPN and AdSense have corrected the errors that caused browsers to display unsecure warnings. YPN's publishers faced the warning on every page view of the control panel, related to their upgrade of control panel. The warning in AdSense was less apparent, only affecting the main page of the AdSense support section, and not in any of the areas where publishers need to be logged into the account. But both are now fixed and publishers should no longer receive warnings.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006

YPN adds message center & more to account interface

Yahoo! Publisher Network has just completed a three hour maintenance session and there are some new features that have been added for publishers.

First, a new messaging system has been integrated into the control panel. Not only can YPN communicate changes or news for all publishers, they also have the option to display tips and info that is specific to each individual publisher.

As you can see, we've added a new messaging feature! As part of our ongoing effort to communicate directly with you, we can now send tips and information to you that are specific to your account. In addition, you'll also find messages here that are general to all members of the Yahoo! Publisher Network such as announcements and notifications of new features (just like this one). We look forward to being in touch!

I have long requested this as a feature for AdSense, so it is nice to see that YPN has jumped on this feature and included it into their control panel. With emails from both publisher programs being blocked by overzealous ISPs or spam filtering programs, this is an added step to ensure that publishers receive any account alerts (such as policy violations or scheduled downtime notices) without there being the concern about emails not being received.

Second, the date range selector for reports now includes a pop-up calendar to select start and finish dates, similar to how travel sites utilize date selectors.

Third, publishers can now edit and remove reporting categories and URLs.

To help you better manage your Reports, we have added the ability to edit and delete your existing Reporting Categories. So edit away!

Not major, but nice nonetheless.

Unfortunately, these new goodies are overshadowed by the fact a nonsecure warning pops up on every single page view in IE and an unencrypted warning in Mozilla/Firefox.



It seems several small triangle/arrow images that are on http:// instead of https:// are causing the error. But it is quite annoying because a publisher must confirm the connection is not completely secure before viewing each page view, and definitely encourages publishers to do the least amount of page views within the account interface as possible. If that problem remains, it will definitely affect usability. I would hope this will be fixed very shortly, although I am surprised that it wasn't caught earlier.

However, to be fair, Google AdSense has been annoying me (and other publishers, I am sure!) for months with the same unsecure error in the AdSense Help Section... in their case, it is the printer icon that is causing the error by being located on http:// instead of https:// However, in that case, it only affects the main page of the help section and not pages within the account control panel.

Overall, the changes are excellent, especially the messaging system they have added. And hopefully by the time you read this, the unsecure error will be fixed, as I would believe this would be a priority to rectify.

Forum discussion so far is only at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

AdSense launches new AdSense Help Group

AdSense has finally announced their new AdSense Help Group at Google Groups. It is a community driven help forum, with an AdSense representative also posting helpful advice and answers for publishers.

We're excited to announce that the new AdSense Help Group has launched. In this community, you can discuss all things AdSense with people who'll understand exactly where you're coming from -- i.e., other AdSense publishers.

Whether you want to share AdSense expertise, bounce your ideas for improving referrals off your peers, or just want sympathy about your latest bout of G.A.S.S., the AdSense Help Group is the place for you.

Join today and start sharing all your stories, advice, questions and feedback with fellow AdSense publishers.

I signed up to the group last week (I was one of the first ten or so members) and less than six hours after being announced today, there are already over one hundred members.

Of course, like with any public discussion group, there are already threads from suspended publishers grumbling over being suspended for "no reason". It will be interesting to see if this type of discussion will be moderated at all.

It is nice to see another way for publishers to get support on any issues or problems they are having.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Complete rundown of the Yahoo Publisher Network Terms & Conditions changes

Well, this is the first time that Yahoo! Publisher Network has updated their terms and conditions since the YPN launch, and as I have done with Google AdSense, I will be doing detailed breakdowns of all the YPN changes as well. I will note that I did receive permission from YPN to do the changes, as those who know the T&Cs well will know that this is covered under the confidential part of the agreement.

First things first, some publishers received a 404 error when viewing the changed terms & conditions. You can find the page here.

Now, on to the changes :)

4. Implementation
This clause has been added:

You agree that you will not distribute from or promote on Your Sites or Your RSS Feeds any software application that is (or may reasonably be construed as) spyware, adware or trackware.

No real surprise here. I was actally surprised that this was something that wasn't included in the terms and conditions originally. I had heard of a few isolated cases of ads being shown in some various software based programs, so this was definitely needed to have an official reason to not allow it.

9. Your Representations, Warranties and Ongoing Obligations.

A new clause has been added to this section "As of the date that you enter into this Agreement and for as long as you participate in the Beta Program, you represent warrant and covenant that: "

if you are a sole proprietor, you are not an employee of Yahoo! Search Marketing; if you are an entity, you are not owned by an employee(s) of Yahoo! Search Marketing.

This is an interesting addition, and likely to prevent any suspicion about employees using inside knowledge learned from Yahoo Search Marketing / Yahoo Publisher Network to game the system to earn as much money as possible from YPN, or even though YSM/YPN click arbitrage. I do notice a couple of employee blogs using YPN still, however I expect there will be some exceptions to the rule ;)

That's all folks ;) Just those two small changes were made to the agreement this time. And neither of these changes will affect most publishers, unless you happen to be running ads within software or happen to work for YSM/YPN.

Posted by Jenstar at 04:26 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 18, 2006

More channels and color palette changes made in YPN

Yahoo! Publisher Network made some changes last night during their Friday night maintenance downtime.

First, the number of channels has been increased from 50 to 100 for each of the reporting URLs and reporting categories.

They have also made it possible to remove ad style palettes as well as rename them. This will be great, as I will finally be able to remove one of the two channels I inadvertantly named JenSense back before YPN was in public beta.

There are also some cosmetic changes that avid YPN stat checkers should notice immediately.

The only forum discussion so far is at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

St. Patrick's Day themed ads from AdSense

New St. Patricks Day themed ads have arrived from AdSense. The ads keep the borderless style if you have seemlessly integrated them with your background (if you use borders, they will stay the same), but they have added green text and a Google Doodle of shamrocks on the right side of the background. They are geotargeted (for example, I cannot see them in Canada, I had to use a proxy) and they do not show on every page view, but here are some screenshots of the ads.



Not all ad units seem to be St. Patrick-cized though. And remember, sites must be opted into the themed ad units in order to show the ads. A nie follow-up to the previous themed ad units.

Forum thread at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Google hiring AdWords Seminar Leaders

If you are a Google Advertising Professional for AdWords based in the US, you may have received an invitation to apply to be an AdWords Seminar Leader. This program is looking for leaders to conduct day-long seminars in various locations across the US.

Those who have been asked to apply will need to submit their resume, a two minute long video where the applicant talks about an aspect of AdWords of their own choosing, as well as an application form that AdWords supplies.

Those who are accepted will be paid (although the amount is not specified) and they will also be granted an AdWords contact to keep the leaders up to date on the latest and greatest in AdWords.

This is an interesting approach by Google, but I suspect that applicants will probably be more interested in the contacts and perks of the job, as opposed to the pay. And it will be something to watch if becoming a Seminar Leader working for Google will hurt advertisers and agencies relations with Yahoo! Search Marketing and other PPC providers. I am sure more details will be known once leaders are selected and the first seminars are held.

Also, other Google teams are likely watching this experiment to see if it is something that could be expanded to other Google products, such as "AdSense Optimization Seminars" (similar to the Bay Area Forum I participated in at the Googleplex) or "Sitemaps & Analytics Seminars".

Via ThreadWatch.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

AdWords Starter Accounts includes contextual targeting

Google AdWords has launched "Starter Accounts", a simple interface setup to meant to attract new advertisers who are overwhelmed with the current sign up process. Starter Edition accounts are automatically opted in content and search networks.

Your ad may also appear on the search and content sites and products in the Google Network. The Google Network is made up of sites and products who partner with Google to publish targeted AdWords ads via their site or product. On search sites in the Google Network, your ads could appear alongside or above search results, or as a part of a results page found through a site's directory.

You can compare Standard and Starter editions. And the help section for Starter accounts is here.

While these accounts are small (one ad with multiple keywords), advertisers can then graduate to full-fledged Standard account, meaning publishers could slowly see an influx of new advertisers into the content network.

Forum discussion at Search Engine Watch.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006

Everybody's got a story... what's your AdSense story?

Once again, AdSense is looking for feedback from their publishers, this time they want to know how AdSense has impacted your life.

They are asking publishers to submit the following:

1) Describe your website. What makes it useful or unique? 2) Give us some background on your business and website. How did you get started? Has your business grown or changed? How has AdSense impacted your business? 3) Tell us about your AdSense experience. How did you learn about the product? Why was AdSense of interest to you? What features do you use? How satisfied are you with AdSense? How has the way you use AdSense changed over time?

4) How do you make your AdSense earnings work for you? Quit your day job? Pay the rent? Finally buy those dancing shoes?

5) Do you use other Google products to help your business? (for example, Google Analytics, AdWords, Froogle, Google Local, to name a few) If so, describe how...

I am a little disappointed to see there is no "What kind of features would you like to see us add?" on this feedback survey, publishers are never shy about suggesting potential new features in the forums, especially as it applies to their own sites and this would have been a good opportunity to really see what shiny new things publishers would like to play with in AdSense.

I have heard some amazing stories from publishers myself, so I know there are some great stories out there waiting to be told. To submit your story, click here. And when you submit your story, you can let AdSense know if you are interested in being featured in a future case study! So get ready to step up on your soap box and tell AdSense your story :)

AdSenseAdvisor has started a thread about this on DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 01:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

Determining how much AdSense site targeting earns you

One of the mysteries of site targeting is just how much it earns you. One way is if you happen to see earnings without any associated clicks, simply impressions. But when Google serves up both site targeted ads as well as ads that are earning publishers revenue on a per click basis, it can be very difficult to determine how much money is being earned from each. However, this has now changed with last week's control panel update, although it is hidden quite well and has gone unnoticed by many, so I thought I would point it out.

First, you need to go into your "Advanced Settings" section of the Reporting tab. Select "AdSense for Content" from the drop down, then select "show data by individual ad unit". Once you select that from the drop down, a check box will appear that says "Show data by targeting type - contextual or site" which you will need to check. Then when you generate your reports - and it does support channels - you will see it splits into content and site for each date.

When I looked at one of my sites overall that has been targeted heavily for site targeted ads, I noticed my site wide eCPM with contextual was 4-5 times that of the site targeted eCPM. While I expected some differences, it was a much greater difference than I expected. However, AdSense support must have been receiving the same questions, as they then released a blog entry Why the Lower eCPM? I can definitely see how this impression - especially for those publishers that might not pay close attention to the Inside AdSense blog - might make publishers want to opt out of site targeting.

It is also interesting to note the the consistent CTR rate on site targeted ads is about half that of contextually targeted ad units. Perhaps a redesign of the site targeted ad unit is needed to keep it consistent with the other.

It is good to see Google offer more detailed data on their site targeting (they also added support for detailed referral stats), something I was honestly surprised to see them add.

What are you seeing as differences for both eCPM and CTR when comparing site targeted with contextual ads?

Also, forum discussion at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 05:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 09, 2006

AdSense launches AdWords referral program... but only for selected countries

If you are an English-language publisher, chances are you probably would not have heard that AdSense launched a new AdWords referral program today... because it is not available most countries. But if you are a publisher in one of the lucky few countries, you can now earn $20 when you refer a new AdWords advertiser, once they have spent $100 on advertising within 90 days of signing up.

Currently, publishers residing in the following countries are eligible for this new AdWords referral program.

It is a shame this program isn't available to more countries, although AdSense hopes to offer additional countries in the future. but obviously AdWords is trying to expand their advertiser base in the above countries, and are hoping a publisher referral program for AdWords - something that has been long requested as an option by publishers - will bring in many new advertisers.

You heard it here first ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2006

Demographic profiling used on AdSense publisher sites for site targeting

Google AdWords released demographic profiling for site targeted campaigns today, meaning that AdSense publisher sites are now profiled based on a specific set of demographic criteria with data provided by comScore Networks.

When selecting a site targeted campaign, advertisers have the option of specifying a demographic profile, then selecting to view which publisher sites match that profile. The current demographic profile options are:

They also offer advanced options for demographics, which includes:

It will be interesting to see if advertisers find that the profiles are matching the resulting traffic from those sites. And I am sure some publishers will reverse engineer an AdWords campaign to see what demographic profile their own site is, and if it matches what they believe their traffic to be. And feel free to post comments if you check this.

I could also see publishers being potentially upset if their demographic profile doesn't match what they believe their traffic actually is.

There is more detail on the demographic site targeting from an advertiser perspective in an entry I wrote on Search Engine Watch "Google AdWords Launches Demographic Site Targeting"

Posted by Jenstar at 05:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

What Google's Analyst Day Slides Said About AdSense

While Google's Analyst Day seemed to go off without a hitch on March 2, 2006, word began leaking out today about some inadvertantly released notes on Google's Analyst Day powerpoint slides, prompting Google to release a Form 8-K to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

It began noting that some information was included on notes within the Powerpoint presentation.

On March 2, 2006, Google Inc. posted its Analyst Day presentations on its Investor Relations website, http://investor.google.com/. The initial posting inadvertently contained certain annotated comments not intended to be presented at Analyst Day, including the following statements

One of the statements was notably a mention about AdSense, which the 8-K states as follows:

But strong competitors are attempting to aggregate traffic
  • AdSense margins will be squeezed in 2006 and beyond;

Of course, full text of these notes was released on absolutevalue.blogspot.com. An easier-to-read version was then included on ZDNet blog. A total of 12 slides included notes, 2 of which mentioned AdSense specifically.

Here is what was said specifically about AdSense (I have included the entire text from a slide where AdSense was mentioned because it is relevant, although I have bolded the specific AdSense):

Slide #9 - More Complete Ads System

Now let’s look at another core element of our business: advertising. Consider that today, 1 in 4 retail dollars is spent online, and you’ll immediately understand the tremendous opportunity before us.
Our ads business for the moment is healthy and growing and we’re on a strong trajectory

  • projected to grow from $6bn this year to $9.5bn next year based purely on trends in traffic and monetization growth

But strong competitors are attempting to aggregate traffic
  • AdSense margins will be squeezed in 2006 and beyond
  • Y! and MSN will do un-economic things to grow share
  • The ad network will be commoditized over time

So, we need to build a more complete ads system that is characterized by two words: wider and deeper. That is, cast the net wider to attract new customer types) and deeper to enhance our relationship with existing customers.

The quote about AdSense margins is the one that has been most quoted in the media news reports, and is specifically mentioned in the 8-K.

Slide #11 - More Complete Ads System (continued)

By Wider, we mean:

  • Simplifying the experience and streamline advertiser acquisition for small and medium-sized businesses
  • Developing a great branding product for large online advertisers and for offline advertisers of all sizes
  • Expanding offerings to include print, radio, TV, and direct mails

By Deeper, we mean:
  • Providing Advanced Tools & Reporting for sophisticated advertisers (e.g., API, bid management, ad scheduling)
  • Expanding AdWords from clicks to conversions (e.g., Landing Page Optimization, Google Analytics integration)
  • Tightening integration with other Google products (e.g., SiteMaps, GoogleBase, Local)

To really get down to brass tacks, we’re going to:
  • Execute well on our core ads projects to help us exceed the $9.5bn target (and backfill any AdSense partner loss) and drive advertiser satisfaction
  • Simplification
  • Quality initiatives (e.g. landing page quality)
  • Fight hard to maintain share in the AdSense network
  • Aggressive guarantees
  • Increased monetization on existing pages
  • Expand inventory rapidly through:
  • Support for new ad formats
  • Targeting other types of media
  • Developing market-leading/”hit” Google properties and consumer applications
  • Extend into adjacent SMB services (CBG is only a first step)
  • Treat advertisers as full-fledged businesses with a broad set of needs (not just advertising)
  • Ensure that we are not supplanted in the consumer buying cycle by eBay, AMZN, Yahoo in their effort to become one-stop shops in the full buying cycle
  • By bringing more product information to Google (e.g. via Base)
  • By providing users with a richer search experience (e.g. attribute search, vertical search, and richer product information and reviews)
  • By leveraging CCC apps to provide users with the product/service information they care about when they want it

New ad formats will be great for publishers, since it has been a while since there has been something new. Ad Links were the last, which were first launched a year ago, although the horizonal style was launched more recently. And I don't consider the referrals program to be a new ad unit style per se.

With the other types of media, we have seen the rich media beta test as well as Google's expansion into print ads, radio ads and click-to-call. They slide also mentions television advertising as well as direct mail.

Fighting for their AdSense publisher share is an obvious goal... and one that Yahoo Publisher Network (and in the future, MSN ContentAds) are working hard towards taking over some of that share. AdSense seems to still be doing a good job on that front for regular publishers - although some of that is definitely because of the lack of competition. Once YPN expands from their limited beta and begins accepting many more publishers - particularly from outside of the US - AdSense could see their market share strength weaken.

Another very important AdSense publisher share to consider is the role of the larger scale "premium" publishers. It seems that other companies (such as Kanoodle, Quigo, Industry Brains, ContextWeb... most which cater to large size publishers) are securing some of the former AdSense partners for their own programs over the last six months or so. However, this general impression could also be due to the fact that oftentimes these larger newly-formed partnerships are announced through press releases.

The news of these notes has gotten plenty of coverage today, although there seemed to be very little mention of this in the initial days following the Analyst Day, although a few mentions about slides being changed during Analyst Day regarding the Google GDrive, although no one was able to save a copy of the powerpoint at the time. The first major story to break from the inadvertant disclosure was about the Google GDrive, although since the SEC notice, the focus has been more on the financial implications of the leak.

For more on the other things disclosed in the slides, read my article TeraGoogle, Google's Social Search Aspirations & More From Accidentally Released Analyst Day Notes on the Search Engine Watch Blog.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

TopicAds by CafePress launched today

CafePress has launched their own pseudo-contextual advertising program TopicAds today, where publishers specify keywords related to their content, and TopicAds will serve relevant products from their CafePress product inventory.

The ad units, which are not technically contextual ads since the program isn't selecting ads based on content, but relying on publishers to specify keywords, are similar to what you would expect in a publisher ad unit, except that instead of text ads, you are seeing images.

Here are some sample ad units. This one is for keyword "espresso".


And for fun, the keyword AdSense, just incase you ever wanted to wear a shirt with an ad unit across the chest ;)


And because I just finished listening to the Daily Searchcast where Danny Sullivan was talking about Matt Cutts and the Cuttlets, here is an ad unit for "Matt Cutts":


I talked with Brad Meinert, the Director of Online Marketing at CafePress about their new TopicAds program, and asked a few questions about the program.

Is everyone who has a Cafe Press store included in this program? Or does each store owner need to sign up?

Shopkeepers must sign up for the affiliate program separately (basically sign the T&A etc. w/in their account area). Once they do, they can grab the code for a TopicAd and place it within their shops. What's interesting is that shopkeepers are tagging their designs w/ their shop name, and then promoting their shops by getting others to run TopicAds using the shop name as the primary tag. This is an interim solution because eventually they'll be able to filter the TopicAds by shops...

Are only t-shirts included? Or other products?

The ads shows designs - and when a user clicks on the design, they land on a page w/ a larger graphic of that design, and a few products w/ that design. What products are available is up to the shopkeeper. They determine what designs go on what products.

Are products screened for sensitive/off-color/sexual designs prior to being shown on publisher sites?

Ultimately, content is the responsibility of our Shopkeepers, but we do have content usage policy which outlines what is acceptable, and what is not. Images that show up in TopicAds are based on tags, and it is the responsibility of Shopkeepers to ensure that their images are tagged properly so inappropriate material does not show up where it doesn't belong. In the future, we hope to provide additional filters - negative keywords, kid-friendly, specific shops, specific products, etc.

Can you release any conversion stats of what people are seeing so far (ie. how many impressions and/or clicks convert to a sale?)

I have some stats on CTRs, but probably not enough to be statistically significant. But currently, they are much better than static banner ads that we're used to (0.1% CTR), and closer to contextual CTRs (for 336x280 definitely over 1%) and conv rates. Once I have some good stats I can pass them on. But it's something I'm obviously tracking daily...

One of the most appealing things about TopicAds for publishers is that I have checked with the AdSense team, and these ads are fine to run alongside AdSense on the same page. So it could be a good compliment for publishers looking for a secondary program, or even something to run as an alternate ad.

The obvious drawback, however, is that this runs like a regular affiliate program... because publishers are NOT getting paid on a per click basis (such as with AdSense & YPN), but rather publishers are only paid a commission if one of the clicks converts into a sale.

When I went to grab screen shots for webmaster and SEO terms, the ad units were very much filled with logos for various search engine and optimization companies, so it gave the impression of fairly spammy ad units. But if you are a company who has logowear through CafePress, it would make sense to make sure your logos are enabled into TopicAds for free branding purposes. But unfortunately, this would definitely drop down the chance of conversions for publishers displaying the ads.

It will be interesting to watch this program grow, and see if they do get a following by publishers looking for programs to co-exists with AdSense & YPN. You can signup for TopicAds here or by logging into an existing CafePress account.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The AdSense Referrals Team is Listening....

The AdSense Referrals Team is looking for feedback on their referrals program.

One of our goals on the referrals team is to continually give you new and improved features. Now we'd like to hear more of your feedback.

Anything and everything is welcome -- this is your chance to tell us if there's a new button design you want us to create or a cool new feature idea you've been dying to tell us about. So, whether you simply want to share your success story or you have suggestions to help us improve your 'referrals experience', please feel free to send us a note!

You can give them feedback by emailing the support team.

I was chatting with AdSenseAdvisor, and I am assured that all feedback on the referrals program received over the next few days is being given priority, so if you have any feedback or suggestions of what you would like to see, be sure to send the AdSense team your email.

One feature I would really like to see added is the ability to track referrals by channel or URL. Since most publishers have more than one site, it is impossible to know what sites or pages are converting best - or even which format is working best.

Another request I have heard of is the ability to use text links for AdSense referrals. However, from a quality perspective (and watching how the Chitika eMiniMalls text link referrals went spam crazy so quickly), I cannot see AdSense offering any kind of real text link referral ads - much less one where the publisher could specify the anchor text. If AdSense decided to do any kind of text links, I would guess it would be a button stylized to look like text, so they would still have full control over it.

So if you have your own ideas of what you would like to see, be sure to send your feedback.

AdSenseAdvisor has also started a thread Your Feedback on Referrals on DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

Open call for MSN AdCenter accounts

If you are wanting an AdCenter account, yet haven't received an invite yet, they are having a three hour open call period today where you will be guaranteed a shiny new account.

The sign up period has just opened up and will be open until noon PST (3pm EST).

Sign up here.

Of course, I am a little sad I will soon have more competition on my 5 cent clicks I have been receiving ;)

Update: It has been extended to 5pm PST.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:08 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 05, 2006

Safeguarding yourself when purchasing a site for AdSense

When you are buying a website from someone for the sole purpose of putting AdSense on, it can be a catch-22 about whether to ask the site owner if he or she has ever used AdSense on the site, and if the site has been banned from AdSense. But you don't exactly want to outlay the cash and then discover the site has been permanently banned from ever running AdSense.

On the one hand, you don't want to invest in a site that you can never show ads on. But on the other hand, you don't want to give a struggling hobby webmaster who might have never heard of AdSense think about signing up and trying AdSense before he goes ahead and sells it to you... because you want the best possible deal on buying the site. And yes, there are still publishers scooping up websites for a song and making back the purchase amount within days after putting on AdSense.

So what can you do to protect yourself against purchasing a website that has been banned? There are a few ways.

Use the AdSense Preview Tool

When you go to the website, use the AdSense Preview Tool on a few different pages. If you see no ads and an error message such as "e:-2146697208" then the site has been banned from showing ads for some reason.

This is what it will look like in the Preview Tool:


However, if you don't see this error code, the site may still be banned - it seems to take about a week (possibly two) after a site has been suspended for this error code to show up in the preview tool.

Sometimes ads will not display in the preview tool and show this message instead:

We are unable to show ads on this page. Possible reasons include:
  • No ads are currently available for the selected geographic region.
  • Page has not been crawled. Please try again later.
  • This page contains sensitive content. Google AdSense filters ads from pages containing sensitive news items or content.
This is not neccessarily a bad sign, although some people believe it is a sign that a website has been suspended. It is generally exactly what the message says. When it comes to serving ads, the preview tool doesn't seem to have the same priority as those ads being viewed live on the page (and rightly so). You can often check back and see ads a few hours later, if the issue isn't a robots.txt or stop word filter issue.

You are not authorized to view this page

When a site has been suspended from AdSense, yet the AdSense code is still live on the site, instead of ads or PSAs, you will instead see an error of "You are not authorized to view this page". This is actually an "HTTP Error 403 - Forbidden" error page that will show up in Internet Explorer. It shows within the iframe, so you may only see a portion of the message, but here is what it looks like full screen:


It is worth noting that you will NOT see this error message if you are using Firefox or Mozilla (at least not in its normal configuration), you will simply see a blank space instead. You would need to use IE or set up your browser to display an error message for any 403 errors generated.

However, if the site owner has already removed AdSense from all the pages, you will not be able to detect a suspended AdSense account through this method.

Google / Yahoo / MSN Cache

If you catch someone as they are trying to offload sites quickly, check the cache in various search engines to see if there are any iframes showing "You are not authorized to view this page", especially on internal pages that might have not had the cache updated recently (Google includes the date of the cache on the cached page).

Internet Wayback Machine

The Internet Wayback Machine is a tool many webmasters use when purchasing a site, to make sure it hasn't been used for anything that might have flagged it for future ranking within Google or Yahoo. But it is also a great tool for checking for suspended AdSense accounts.

Even if an AdSense account was active during the time the archive.org archived copy of the site was taken, it will display (in IE) the "You are not authorized to view this page" error when viewed in archive.org after the account has been suspended. So this is another big way to discover about a site's wrongdoings in AdSense. However, a webmaster can easily exclude their site from archive.org by using robots.txt, even if they allowed their site to be included before.

While none of these methods are foolproof, they will definitely enable you to try and safeguard yourself against purchasing a site that has been previously been suspended from AdSense.

What if you have purchased the site and then discovered it has been suspended? In a few cases, contacting AdSense will help and the site will be unblocked depending on the nature of the original suspension. However, few people have been able to get accounts unblocked using this method, because it could so easily be abused by unscrupulous publishers looking to get their money making sites re-enabled into AdSense after committing fraud.

Alternatively, some are including clauses in website purchasing contracts where the seller swears that the site has never been suspended by AdSense. Of course, unless the seller is already using AdSense, you could run the risk of alerting the seller to the AdSense program, if they are not already aware of it... and yes, especially with hobby-type sites, there are still webmasters who do not know AdSense exists ;)

Following these steps can help prevent buyer's remorse when it comes to purchasing websites that would be perfect for putting AdSense on.

Posted by Jenstar at 08:41 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 04, 2006

Recap of SES NYC's Earning from Search & Contextual Ads

I was in New York City all last week for Search Engine Strategies, and spoke on the "Earning from Search & Contextual Ads" panel.

Barry of Search Engine Roundtable has his usual session by session rundown of the conference, including my session.

Jennifer Slegg from JenSense.com is up first.

Cute slides, at the top it has the typical blue border, with "Ads by Jenstar" underlined at the top.

The theme of my presentation was the competitive landscape of contextual advertising, and how publishers can use this to their advantage to maximize earnings.

Up next for me, I will be in Las Vegas in a few weeks (March 20-22), speaking on "Beyond the Banner Ad" at Microsoft's Mix06. Heading to Mix06? Let me know!

Posted by Jenstar at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

AdSense changes the referrals from 90 days to 180

Following the many rumors of AdSense changing the time frame of AdSense referrals eligibility from 90 days to 180 days, the new interface change on Google AdSense has also included the date change many publishers were hoping to see. AdSense silently changed it from an unlimited signup referral period to a 90 day time limit at the end of January.

AdSense has now officially changed it from the silent 90 days they added recently to 180 days.

You may have noticed today that the time limit for AdSense referrals is now 180 days. Based on the feedback we heard, we agreed that 90 days may not provide enough time for your referred publishers to complete earning $100. Therefore, we decided to double the window. This change is retroactive, so it will also apply to AdSense signups that occurred more than 90 days but less than 180 days ago.

The change is now noted in the control panel for referrals.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack