« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

July 31, 2006

Reporting YPN publishers gone bad just got easier

The Yahoo Publisher Network now has an easier way to report publishers doing things that violate the terms and policies of YPN.

Report abuses

Today, we’re pleased to announce that the blog will now feature a permanent link to our feedback email box that anyone can use, located under “Network Feedback” in the right-hand column. If you, our network’s volunteer hall monitors, catch someone placing images next to ads, splattering ads willy-nilly all over their pages, nicking other sites’ content, or running with scissors, let us know and they’ll be sent to the Virtual Principal’s Office.

Or you can save the reporting email to your address book at ypn-feedback@cc.yahoo-inc.com

They also remind publishers they can report others through your account control panel, although if you prefer to do it anonymously, the email address is the way to go.

While this isn't quite as easy as reporting AdSense publishers (via the "Ads by Google" link), this will allow those who aren't in the program (but might like to be!) an avenue to report violators. Now if only they also announced that those who report abusers get bumped up the waiting list for a coveted YPN beta account invite ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 05:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

Yes, AdSense is down today

Yes, AdSense is down for system maintenance for six hours today, starting at 10am PST. If you try and access AdSense, you will get an error message that it is down for maintenance.

This Saturday (7/29), we’ll be performing routine system maintenance at 10 am PDT. Although you won’t be able to access your account for approximately 6 hours, ads will still be served to your pages, and your account stats and earnings will continue to be recorded.

And yes, AdWords is down too.

But as usual, ads will contiuned to be served and stats will be tracked, although those of you who regularly check sats every fifteen minutes will be suffering from severe withdrawl when AdSense comes back up at 4pm PST.

Since both are down for such an extended period, when this happens there is usually something shiny and new for publishers or advertisers to play with when it comes back online, so there could be something new and cool at 4pm today.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Unbranded AdSense ads being tested

For a couple of weeks, mack has occassionally seen AdSense ad units on Ranx.co.uk that are unbranded, without showing the "Ads by Goooooogle" or the "Advertise on this site" that normally displays in his ad units. He was able to grab a screenshot of it the last time he saw it show up:

unbrandedadsense.jpg

These are appearing in both banner sized ad units as well as the large rectangle ad unit.

Back in the early days of AdSense, publishers had the ability to "hide" the Ads by Google branding on the ad units, and most people definitely saw a higher CTR when the branding was gone. The primary reason for this was very simply that the ad units weren't branded as advertising, and people seemed to give them a second look. However, advertisers weren't quite as happy about the situation, especially when publishers then tried to disguise these unbranded ad units as links within the webpage or article, hoping visitors would click them and not realize they were actually ads.

I know many publishers would welcome the ability to run ad units without the Google branding. Currently, only premium publishers can display their ad units without the Google reference. So it is interesting that this is something AdSense is testing once again, albiet on a very limited basis.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:47 AM | Comments (15)

AdSense testing new style of vertical images in ad units

AdSense launched Vertical Images at the end of June, where they would replace one ad within an ad unit with a related inage instead, and if a visitor clicked on an image instead of one of the other ads within the ad unit, they would then lead to an Ad Links landing page.

While I was doing site placement reviews at BlogHer, a site came up where I noticed a new variation Google is testing of these vertical images. Now, the vertical image has been changed slightly to include "See more sponsored links > >" Whether you click the image or that text, they both lead to the traditional ad links landing page, where all the listings are paid links.

Here is an example of what the new style of vertical images looks like (was shown on a political site)

verticalimagestext.gif

Since I have seen this, I have also seen these vertical images without the accompanying text as well, so it appears to be something AdSense is testing to determine if the added text results in a higher click through on the image. They are still likely also testing to determine if the ad units with these vertical images are overall increasing revenues versus ad units without these images.

Google definitely is testing new formats within ad units, often with slight variations, so it is always interesting to see if it is going to find its way as a permanent addition to the Google AdSense program.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Google confirms use of AdSense bot for regular search results cache

While Matt Cutts confirmed the use of the AdSense mediapartners bot for the natural search results cache at both WebmasterWorld Pubcon and on his blog, there still had not been anything official about it on the Google website itself (although Matt is just about as official as you can get without it being on Google.com!) But with some new additions to the Google AdSense help pages to coincide with the new Site Diagnostics tab, the link has now been officially confirmed.

From the "How do your crawler and site diagnostic reports work?" support page:

The AdSense crawler is different from the Google crawler

The two crawlers are separate, but they do share a cache. We do this to avoid both crawlers requesting the same pages, thereby helping publishers conserve their bandwidth. Similarly, the Sitemaps crawler is separate.

There still doesn't seem to be any mention of this in the regular Google webmaster guidelines, although this could be updated in the future.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:26 AM | Comments (3)

Site Diagnostics tab returns to Google AdSense control panel

It's back! The "Site Diagnostics" tab, which appears to be an extension of Google Sitemaps, has returned to the AdSense control panel after it showed up several weeks ago for a couple of days. There still has been no word from Google on the new addition, but this time, information on site diagnostics made it into the help documents this time.

The feature will show publishers if the mediapartners bot is having trouble accessing any pages on their site, and showing the specific reason why the page is blocked. This will allow publishers to track down targeting issues that could be caused by others, such as a hack into the server where the robots.txt was changed, or if a rogue host has decided to block bots to save bandwidth. And yes, both of these situations have happened to publishers, and with this tool, the problem could have been isolated much sooner.

The crawl report will be updated for publishers once a week and they do not allow frequent updates. It does not state what day of the week it is updated, and I haven't heard of anyone showing any errors in their report yet, so I am not sure if the feature is live for showing errors yet.

I have had many conversations with Vanessa Fox from Google Sitemaps about features within sitemaps that would be useful for AdSense publishers, and this was one feature I had requested multiple times, especially as more and more reports came out from publishers who had been sabotaged by hosting companies gone bad or from hackers. So this addition will definitely help many publishers, so long as they remember to check the Site Diagnostics tab once a week! A nice supplement to this would be a warning alert that would show on the overview page, in the same place where regular news alerts are shown, alerting publishers that they have some information in the site diagnostic tab they should be aware of.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Google AdSense for Domains partners with GoDaddy to offer domain parking

GoDaddy has placed a domain parking page on all parked domains that are registered by GoDaddy customers, with GoDaddy earning all the revenue from the Google AdSense program (specifically, AdSense for Domains) running on all those many parked pages. Now, GoDaddy is offering customers the ability to run AdSense for Domains on their parked pages - for a fee - and those customers can then make money from the ads on the parked pages. Essentially, GoDaddy will share a cut of the click revenue with their customers, but will charge customers a fee for the privelege.

The program is called CashParking. And the monthly fee is scaled depending on what percentage of GoDaddy's revenue you want to keep. It is worth noting that GoDaddy is sharing the revenue they earn from Google, so Google will still be earning money from each click on a parked domain page.

The current fee structure for CashParking is as follows:

Basic: Earn 60% of the advertising revenue on your parked domain

1 month: Just $3.99/mo

12 months: Just $3.59/mo Save 10%!

24 months: Just $3.19/mo Save 20%!

Deluxe: Earn 70% of the advertising revenue on your parked domain
1 month: Just $14.99/mo

12 months: Just $13.49/mo Save 10%!

24 months: Just $11.99/mo Save 20%!

Premium: Earn 80% of the advertising revenue on your parked domain
1 month: Just $29.99/mo

12 months: Just $26.99/mo Save 10%!

24 months: Just $23.99/mo Save 20%!

For those with a small number of domains in their portfolio who do not qualify themselves for AdSense for Domains (former requirements were 750,000 page views on parked pages per month; now they ask potential partners to submit their domain portfolio) this gives webmasters the opportunity to dabble their toes in the business of domain parking. And it is win-win for GoDaddy, since the not only get the monthly fee, but also a cut of the click revenue. They are reporting a 15% CTR rate in the CashParking program in their example stats.

An example of a site in this program (URL taken from a screenshot on the CashParking pages) is fishinginia.com.

This is definitely an interesting program that GoDaddy is offering, and they would seemingly be partnered with AdSense in this kind of a deal. The advertisements are definitely coming through pagead2.googlesyndication.com, which is the AdSense content network.

However, AdSense for Domains (formerly known as Domain Park) is a program that many AdWords advertisers despise, and one that results in many advertisers pulling their ads from the content network completely. And now, essentially everyone can now join this program, whereas before it was restricted to those whose domain portfolios exceeded 750,000 page views per month.

I would guess that many advertisers will be pretty cranky to see that now anyone can be a domain parker, whereas before it was much more limited. It does make me wonder if more advertisers will continue opting out of content network in an attempt to remove their ads from these types of sites.

I still wish AdWords offered an option to advertisers - even if it was an option you had to contact your AdWords rep for - that would allow advertisers to opt-out of the AdSense for Domains program, while still advertising on the rest of the content network if they choose. It would increase the numbers of advertisers on the content network if they were assured that their ads wouldn't appear on parked domains. And while I am sure some advertisers find their ROI on domain parked pages to be profitable, I definitely hear from many more advertisers who are getting near zero or zero ROI from domain parked pages and want their ads no where near a parked domain.

AdSense for Domains is definitely an area to watch, both for advertisers and publishers alike. And it will be interesting to see if any other publishers develop their own revenue sharing program for parked domains using the AdSense for Domains program, ala GoDaddy.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:21 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Talking shop on Click This! with DaveN

Monday's show of Click This! aired live and featured David Naylor as a guest for an open discussion format where we discussed everything from arbitrage to high paying keywords, MSN deranking AdSense sites to premium publisher's custom AdSense ads.

And because we didn't get time to cover everything we wanted to, DaveN is coming back next Monday (July 17th) for Talking Shop Part Two. So if you have anything you'd like to hear us discuss, please leave a comment.

You can download this week's show here.

And here are some links and screenshots of some of the things we discussed:

We talked about the Digg ads, and that most people see a very faint "Ads by Google" on the leaderboard. However, I have never seen it on the leaderboard, so here's a screenshot (click for full sized)

digg.gif

And a few links on topics we discussed:
AdWords new landing page algo affecting PPC arbitrage sites
Digital Point Spy Tool (shows real time posting)
Matt Cutts joining DigitalPoint
MSN deranking sites using AdSense
SES San Jose (Search Engine Strategies)

If I forgot any links, let me know, and don't forget to suggest topics for Monday's open discussion show.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Owners of AdSense.com are fed-up and sell off domain

In an interview with Wired Magazine, AdSense.com owner Alexis Garrett has revealed not only is he fed up with Google and all the phone calls he receives from people who want Google AdSense support, but also he has sold off the AdSense.com name for an undisclosed amount.

The domain sale was made in September 2005, just slightly under a year after Google declined an offer to purchase the AdSense.com domain from Garrett. While she will not disclose the purchaser of the domain, the purchaser takes control in September 2006. Interesting, though, she claims she sold the domain for a price that "covers expenses incurred from having to replace things like company stationery, brochures and business cards". She states she sold it through a broker, but I am quite certain she could have sold it for many times more than that figure by selling on the open market.

It also raises the point of trademark. Google owns the AdSense trademark. If a new business sets up shop on AdSense.com with something that works off of the Google trademark, whether it is a resource site or competing against Google, there is the possibility that the new owner could lose the domain.

The article also mentions that AdSense.com's application for AdSense was denied, which could be for several reasons, including the trademark policy (disallowing AdSense from appearing on a domain with a Google trademarked term) or because the site had a definite lack of content.

AdSense.com is still currently in Garrett's control, although she is in the process of converting it all over to her new domain... AdSense2.com. And AdSense.com sports the following "If you think you can get rich quick placing other people's ads on your site or blog, please contact Google who has taken and used our business name without permission or compensation."

And it will be interesting to watch in September to see just what shows up at AdSense.com and how Google will handle the new owner with whatever the end purpose of the domain becomes. While Garrett stated a clause in the domain sale stated the domain could not show "gambling, adult content or actions that are "questionably ethical"", that remains to be seen.

Forum thread at DigitalPoint.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

YPN hosting local focus groups for publishers

Yahoo Publisher Network will be hosting a local focus group in San Francisco for invited publishers. And as a bonus, publishers appear to be receiving $200 to cover daily allowance expenses while attending.

DigitalPoint member krjewellers was phoned today and invited to the focus group, and posted about it in this thread today.

I just got a call from YPN. They are holding a focus group in my area in August. I am going to attend. What types of improvements who you most like me to bring up at the focus group? ... When I agreed to do it, I was told YPN is paying a $200 per diem (An allowance for daily expenses). I would have done it for free, seriously.

Cheers,
krjewellers

No word on how many publishers will be attending, but since it is in August, I wonder if it will be sometime during the week of SES San Jose, since many team members will already be in the area for the conference. The YPN team is actually located in Burbank, CA, not in Sunnyvale like many Yahoo'ers.

Anyone else fortunate enough to get invited to the focus group?

Update: They are going to be busy, tlainevool reports that they are hosting one in the Los Angeles area in mid-August. Wonder if they will be going any further afield than California? Anyone else been invited to San Francisco, Los Angeles or beyond?

Posted by Jenstar at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oops! AdSense fails to track conversions for Google Pack referrals

If you are a US publisher, you may have been using the Google Pack referrals. Unfortunately for those publishers, Google also failed to track those conversions for 24 hours.

Dear Publisher,

We wanted to let you know that Google Pack Referral conversions were not recorded for a 24 hour window beginning early July 5th and ending mid-day July 6, Pacific Time. Conversions from this period won't appear correctly in your reports and you won't have received the related earnings.

Please know we're working hard to reimburse you for the lost revenue in the coming weeks. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

This is quite a tremendous error that Google made, and could lower the trust that some publisher's have on the entire program. It will be interesting to watch and see how they rectify this. They could track down some of the data (do they really not have backups and backups of those backups of these stats?) or maybe give publishers money based on the average conversions they might have had on a given day for Google Pack. Fortunately for publishers, it did come on a day that many saw lower traffic due to it being the day after the Fourth of July in the US.

Forum discussion at DigitalPoint

Posted by Jenstar at 08:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Publishers can finally change their YPN password

I was one of those publishers granted my YPN password, and it took me months to memorize the darn thing, primarily because I was not able to change the password to anything else. There had been a workaround (involving the "password forgotten" feature) although by the time I learned about it, I had already (finally!) memorized it.

To change your password, you can login to your account, click "Account information" then "change password" in the options underneath.

The newly designed help files still do not include this new information about changing your password. However, while looking for it, I did notice something about the new design I can't quite believe. There is no way to search the help files for information! I wanted to quickly find the FAQ/support search box and type in "password" and hit search. But considering Yahoo is a search engine, I was pretty surprised to find this oversight. Hopefully this is something they plan to add in the future, since it is a feature that publishers would find handy, and would help save some of the support team's time if publishers can do a quick search on their issue rather than having to click around and hunt the information down.

And if you missed the update on all the changes, I interviewed Cody Simms, the YPN product manager for the update on Click This, you can download it here.

But back on the password, if you had a pressing desire to change your password, you can do it now :)

Posted by Jenstar at 10:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Google AdSense finally stops leaking details in "Advertise on this site" link

Late last year I noticed that when you clicked on the "Advertise on this site" link on an AdSense ad unit, if the person had not customized their site targeting landing page, it would reveal either the personal name or the company name attached to the AdSense account.

At the beginning of the year, I blogged about how you could spy on AdSense sites to find out the personal details of the person behind a site's AdSense account, even when the "Advertise on this site" was not active on an ad unit. It was an interesting way to find out who was behind a site, even with hidden whois details.

Today, however, I noticed that this privacy loophole has been finally closed. I happened to view a Google cache version of a webpage, and clicked on "Advertise on this site" to see if who I thought was behind the site really was. And instead of seeing a company/personal name or a customized site name, I saw the large Google cache URL in its place. A screenshot is below (click for full size) although I removed the actual URL of the site I was looking at.

advertiseoncache.gif

If you have previously customized your name that appears on the site targeted landing page, it would appear as you customized. The new cases of showing the actual URLs of the page you clicked "Advertise on this site" from are the ones where the publisher left the landing page at the default one supplied by Google.

This change was a long time coming, although I am surprised it took them this long to fix what I first noticed in November of 2005. And those who were using it as a sneaky way to find out who was behind an AdSense account are not going to have that nice loophole to work with anymore.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2006

Where's my check? YPN releases payment schedule for 2006

Yahoo Publisher Network has released a nice little chart showing when checks and EFTs will be sent out for the rest of 2006.

Payment dates for 2006 are:

July 25th
August 25th
September 26th
October 25th
November 28th
December 27th

I guess there won't be any speculation about whether YPN will send December checks early as a pre-Christmas present, since they won't be sent until the 27th.

This always comes up every December since the very first year AdSense went and sent out their December checks early enough that we all got them before the 25th hit... of course, this was in response to the fact they sent their previous checks a couple of weeks late which many publishers were waiting on for Christmas shopping (October earnings weren't sent until December 9th, and November earnings were sent December 17th). AdSense kept up early December payments for 2004 and 2005, although 2005 wasn't quite early enough for most to receive before Christmas.

But if you are a YPN publisher, you now know the dates you will be receiving your payments from Yahoo :)

Posted by Jenstar at 11:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 07, 2006

New landing page quality score could affect click aribtrage publishers

The official AdWords blog just updated to include new information about their landing page quality scoring system, where advertisers whose ads lead to a "poor user experience" on the landing page could see their minimum bid prices hiked up in the coming days. The goal is to provide a better user experience for those who click the ads, with Google saying there will only be a "small number" of advertisers who will be affected.

Who will be the small number affected? I suspect the first to be targeted will be those whose landing pages consist of nothing but ads (or very little other than the ads), whether they are running Yahoo Content Match, YPN, or AdSense. These pages - also known as "Made for AdSense" or "MFA"s, even though AdSense is not the only advertising network used by these types of sites - have long been discussed as providing a poor user experience when a visitor ends up on the landing page. As well, these advertisers often bid minimum bids for their ads, as well as advertising on the Content Network, leading other quality publishers to complain about these poor quality advertisers.

From the AdWords blog:

As you may recall, we began incorporating advertiser landing page quality into the Quality Score back in December 2005. Following that change, advertisers who are not providing useful landing pages to our users will have lower Quality Scores that in turn result in higher minimum bid requirements for their keywords. We realize that some minimum bids may be too high to be cost-effective -- indeed, these high minimum bids are our way of motivating advertisers to either improve their landing pages or to simply stop using AdWords for those pages, while still giving some control over which keywords to advertise on. Although it is counter-intuitive to some who hear it, we'd rather show one less ad than to show an ad which leads to a poor user experience -- since long-term user trust in AdWords is of overarching importance.

From time-to-time, we improve our algorithms for evaluating landing page quality (often based on feedback from our end-users), and next week we're launching another such improvement. Thus, over the coming days a small number of advertisers who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages will see increases in their minimum bids. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of advertisers will not be affected at all by this change, as they link to quality landing pages.

If you do see an increase in minimum bids and you feel that your landing page is providing a great user experience, please contact AdWords support and we'll take a look. Also, for useful guidelines which will help to define what users look for in a high quality site, we hope you'll take a look at the landing page and site quality guidelines, from the AdWords Help Center.

So, if you are a quality publisher, how will this affect you? Well, if you tend to see an abundance of "Made for AdSense" sites appearing in your ad units, you just might start earning more money for those clicks. And if you have amassed a collection of 200 URLs in your filter list, you might want to consider removing some of them you added because they were MFAs, if many publishers report a rise in EPC.

On the flip side, however, many of those low quality advertisers might pull their ad campaigns completely, if the new minimum bid price for each keyword phrase does not make it profitable to continue advertising based upon the ROI of their own landing pages. And then they could start using more Yahoo or Microsoft for their ads, meaning YPN publishers could see an influx of these types of ads, and it could plague Microsoft ContentAds when it launches their publisher program.

What about publishers who are using AdWords for click arbitrage to their AdSense landing pages? Well, many of these publishers who had AdSense on their landing pages had to deal with the impact smart pricing was suspected to have on their EPC. Now, a raised minimum bid price on each clickthrough to their site could also result in lower profits, and might make it completely unprofitable for some arbitragers, depending how just how high that minimum bid could be raised from where it currently is for those in this market area. And some could see their entire marketing plan go out the window if a significant portion of their profits are tied to Google through click arbitrage.

As these minimum bids start to rise, it will be interesting to learn just how much they will be rising for those with lower quality landing pages. And depending on where you sit on the issue, this decision could be the best thing AdWords could have done, or the worst thing they could have done to your profits.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:25 PM | Comments (10)

July 04, 2006

Looking for a few good guests

I have spaces to fill for publishers who would like to come on Click This! and talk about contextual advertising issues. Don't worry if you feel you can only fill up 15 to 20 minutes and not an hour, because I can have a couple different guests on a show about a specific topic.

Because some of these are "hot topics" I can keep your true identity under wraps from everyone so I will ensure your confidentiality as a guest :) You can use your first name only or a forum handle, for example. Or you can share your name and URL with the world, or at least the world that listens to Click This! if you want the promotion ;)

I am looking for:

Think you fit the bill? Send me an email (or a PM on Digital Point)! And yes, international publishers are welcome, I am not only looking for US publishers :)

Posted by Jenstar at 06:55 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack