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September 28, 2006

Low AdSense impressions? Maybe your publisher ID has been changed by a hacker

Usually when a publisher logs into his or her AdSense account and notices impressions have dropped significantly, there is a list of potential problems you look at for the reason. These include things like checking if there is a PSA issue as a result of the stop word filter or robots.txt issue, a significant drop in traffic, a problem with the server being down or a database problem. But pretty far down on the list - if it makes the list at all - is checking to see if the publisher ID on the site has been changed. But unfortunately, this should be one of the first things publishers check for, as this problem is becoming rampant, especially in the last month or so.

In various webmaster forums, more and more publishers are reporting that they have seen their publisher IDs changed on their AdSense accounts, and a couple cases of it happening to Yahoo Publisher Network accounts.

If your site was hacked and that person changed the publisher ID on a single high-earning page, such as the index page, or a high ranking sub-directory index page, would you notice? Most publishers probably would not, because it would be a drop in earnings and impressions, but probably not enough of a drop to prompt looking into the on-site publisher IDs, but rather just enough of a drop that could be written off to traffic or EPC fluctuations. And unfortunately, some hackers are using exploits on scripts or programs running on websites to only change one or two pages, which is far harder to notice, than if they had changed the publisher ID on every AdSense code on an entire site.

And even more unfortunate, AdSense does not offer publishers any tools whatsoever that would alert them to any problem with there being an AdSense publisher ID switcheroo.

What are some ways that AdSense could help publishers with this problem? There are several ways.

One could be to use the Google Sitemaps verification process. If I verify my SiteA.com through sitemaps using the same Google ID that I use for Google AdSense, they could then offer a "Only use this AdSense publisher ID on this site" where I could then submit my publisher ID. So if another publisher ID showed up on a page on that site that was not the one I submitted, it could either override it or could raise an alert either in the AdSense control panel or the Sitemaps control panel that another publisher ID was placed on that site. And while a hacker hacking into a website could change the publisher ID appearing on the site, the hacker would still not have access to login using the Google account ID used by that publisher.

Another way could simply be through the Google AdSense account alone, although it could potentially be less secure than going the site verification way, because AdSense would not be able to verify site ownership. In this case, you could submit the URLs associated with your AdSense account and ask to be alerted if any other publisher IDs appear on those sites. But, not all publishers would likely do this, and it could result in the hackers adding those URLs into their own accounts, and use it to be alerted to when the original publisher discovers the swapped publisher IDs. This would be an option that the Yahoo Publisher Network could implement as well.

And along those same lines, a "white list" of URLs would be useful as well, where publishers submit the only URLs where their AdSense code should be appearing. That way, publishers who are worried about someone putting their AdSense code on a site they do not control would be alerted when their publisher ID suddenly starts appearing on SuperSpammySite.com. This has been a feature I have been requesting for about two years now, especially as publishers are becoming more and more paranoid of being suspended for someone doing something completely out of their control.

What is happening to publishers who are hacking into sites to change publisher IDs? It is not really known, but i can only assume they are being suspended for doing it.

What can you do to protect yourself? Ensure that any scripts or programs you have running on your website are up-to-date with the latest versions and patches. Likewise, if you run your own server, ensure that your patches are all up-to-date. This will prevent hackers from taking advantage of any exploits that would enable them to gain access into your server and change your publisher ID.

Likewise, use secure passwords that cannot be easily guessed, and do not save your passwords (including your AdSense and/or Google accounts password in plain text on your server.

Know and trust anyone who has access to your server, whether it is employees or someone installing a script. If you give your login to someone installing a script, immediately change your password after and check to see if any pages were updated in the process.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:08 AM | Comments (6)

September 25, 2006

Talking about suspended AdSense accounts on Click This!

The Click This! show you probably thought would never happen. On today's show I brought in everyone's favorite blackhat spammer DaveN to talk about suspended AdSense accounts, including how he would go about getting someone suspended from AdSense for click fraud. We also talk how to prevent being suspended from AdSense if you suspect someone is click botting you, the ways some people are getting around to rules to get another AdSense account and some things we wish AdSense would release to publishers to make our lives easier and keep our accounts safer.

After Click This, Dave & I continued our discussion on his show StrikePoint, namely because Dave didn't want to worry about accidently swearing on my family-friendly Click This ;) The show isn't exclusively about AdSense, although primarily about Google & the SEORoadShow held on the weekend, and Dave outlines the plan for a big contextual advertising test we will do on a future show.

Download the first part on Click This! here.

Download the second part on Strikepoint here.

Also, a heads up on my previous episode of Click This with the Google AdSense optimization team giving their top optimization tips for publishers, as well as Vanessa Fox of Google Webmaster Tools (formerly Google Sitemaps) talking about the tools available that are useful for AdSense publishers. Download here.

And see you next week on Click This!

Posted by Jenstar at 01:50 PM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2006

AdSense for Audio is the official name for Google's latest addition to AdSense

When Google bought dMarc, it was immediately speculated that it was to facilitate AdWords advertisers to purchase ads on leading radio networks. Well, now it seems that the "publisher" side of this business is now officially called "AdSense for Audio", as I noticed while poking around the Google jobs site today. This is the first time Google has referred to it as being AdSense for Audio.

Google is looking to hire a Strategic Partner Development Manager for AdSense for Audio, which is based out of Newport Beach, CA (the home of dMarc).

Google seeks a Strategic Partner Development professional who can bring his/her partner/business development experience to assist us in structuring and negotiating significant and complex advertising-based partnerships with leading radio broadcasters. Ideal candidates must be extremely partner focused, proactive, and self-sufficient, yet work effectively within a cross-functional team environment. The candidate must also be comfortable presenting to Google senior management and negotiating with the senior-most executives at our partners.

Now that we have a name to go along with their dMarc program, and they are actively recruiting strategists for it, it will be interested to watch and see how this publisher program progresses under the "AdSense for Audio" banner.

You heard it here first ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

New AdSense languages being added soon?

The AdSense team is looking to add some new team members fluent in languages that are not yet on the list of approved languages for AdSense for Content or AdSense for Search. So if you are awaiting the arrival of AdSense in a language they currently do not support, you could be in luck!

Currently, they are looking to hire AdSense Coordinators who are fluent in:

While the addition of these languages will not impact me, I am sure some publishers will be happy to see that the AdSense team is looking to hire those who are fluent in those languages, as it is a step to seeing them added as supported languages.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

New line of code in AdSense javascript reveals channel name in plain text

When AdSense came back up from their maintenaince Saturday night, they have added a brand new line into the AdSense javascript, one which reveals the custom channel name in plain text, along with the date the javascript was generated.

So, this javascript generated today with the channel name "adsensechannel" now includes the new line below (bolding by me).

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-123456789123456";
google_ad_width = 728;
google_ad_height = 90;
google_ad_format = "728x90_as";
google_ad_type = "text";
//2006-09-24: adsensechannel
google_ad_channel ="3646665071";
google_color_border = "FFFFFF";
google_color_bg = "FFFFFF";
google_color_link = "0033FF";
google_color_text = "800080";
google_color_url = "800080";
<script type="text/javascript"

I am not exactly sure how I feel about this. If I was generating it for a site today, I would be very tempted to remove that line because sometimes what I name my channels can be pretty revealing to competitors, namely because those channels were always encoded before and I didn't have to worry about what they said. It will now also be a lot easier for a competitor to track down what pages I am tracking together for testing purposes, since before it was a lot more difficut not to mention time consuming to do this when working with the string of numbers alone.

However, technically, you are not permitted to remove this single line as per the AdSense terms, since you are not permitted to change the javascript from what is generated within the AdSense control panel.

Also, I noted when generating that new channel, it didn't take me to a new page to add a new channel name, it prompted a script box to open where I could type the new channel name, and then it updated the javascript with the new name immediately after hitting OK.

And the new channels reporting page is set up so you can easily toggle between the AdSense for content, AdSense for search and AdSense referrals tabs of channel names, which they announced on the Inside AdSense blog on Thursday night.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2006

Ooops! YPN error causes low impression reporting

Members on WebmasterWorld reported seeing significantly lower impression data (and thus lowered CTR, CPM and RPC reporting as well) since September 19th on their Yahoo Publisher Network stats. OvertureRep confirms that there was an error in their reporting, although all earnings and clicks stats were correct.

Today, we found an error in our YPN portal that caused inaccurate reporting of Ad Unit Impressions, CTR, CPM and Average RPC data for some of our publishers.

Number of clicks and Revenue reporting for all publishers is accurate and was not impacted by this error. We have issued a fix for this error and you will see accurate data going forward within the next 24 hrs.

So affected publishers should see their data updated within the next 24 hours with the correct impression stats.

Clarification: Older data will not be corrected but publishers will now see the correct data going forward.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:28 PM | Comments (4)

AdSense adds a new 200x200 ad unit size

Google AdSense has just added a brand new 200x200 "Small Square" ad unit size to their regular ad unit line up. So new, in fact, that AdSense hasn't announced it yet, and it hasn't yet made it into their ad format page yet.

Here is an example of the ad unit:


It is available for both text ads and images ads, so it is very likely that they could also be utilizing them for videos as well.

You will find it in your AdSense control panel in the drop down menu when selecting your ad unit size for a new ad.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:18 PM | Comments (6)

September 19, 2006

AdWords doesn't want Canadian Qualified Companies in Google Advertising Professionals

When I saw this thread at Search Engine Watch forums, my first response was "no way, this can't be true".

We recently tried to apply to be a Qualified Company in the Google Advertising Professionals program. According to their site, and the rep who emailed us, you have to be in the U.S. or in a EMEA country. We were informed, very politely, that we can't qualify because we are located in Canada.

Yes, despite the fact that I could literally leave my desk right now and walk to Google's Toronto sales office, we don't really exist in Google's eyes.

Perhaps we should consider relocating to Azerbaijan, Botswana, Eritrea, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, or Iran, where Google would be happy to have us as a Qualified Company. Perhaps we should join with the thriving online community in Nigeria, from where Google would also welcome us.

With all the countries that AdWords supports in their Google Advertising Professionals (GAP) program for becoming a Qualified Company, could Canadians be excluded from joining?

The answer is - unbelievably - yes. If you are Canadian, you cannot become a Qualfied Company in the Google Advertising Professionals program. The list of acceptable countries is here... there are 130 supported countries, including several countries I hadn't even heard of before. But definitely no Canada. Canadians are only able to become qualified individuals.

And it definitely is not an oversight, as the quote from the thread above shows, Google AdWords support was contacted about it, and she received the same response from Google.

When looking at it closer, only US and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) countries are permitted. This means Mexico as well as South American countries are also excluded from becoming a Qualified Company with AdWords.

Why are non-US and non-EMEA countries excluded from becoming a Qualfied Company? I have no idea, but for whatever reason, it wasn't simply an oversight. I wouldn't have thought that Canadian advertisers would have been considered small enough fish that they'd chose to ignore all of them!

Posted by Jenstar at 09:07 AM | Comments (7)

September 08, 2006

Google announces AdWords Seminars & seminar leaders

Back in March, Google AdWords began advertising that they were looking to hire some AdWords seminar leaders to lead day-long seminars actoss the US. They have now hired two leaders, one to lead beginner and the other to lead advanced advertisers, and they are know known as Google AdWords Seminars for Success.

Anastasia Holdren, vice president for Sitening is leading the beginner series. Brad Geddes, of the recently acquired LocalLaunch and well known on the forum and conference circuit as eWhisper, is leading the advanced series.

Full day sessions are $249 while afternoon-only sessions are $149. Price includes "Google goodies" and a $50 AdWords voucher to use on self-service accounts.

Google does make it clear that they are not running these sessions in their FAQ:

Is Google running these seminars?

No. AdWords Seminars for Success are being conducted by independent search marketing professionals who are not affiliated with or employed by Google. The seminars aren't a sales pitch; leaders were chosen for their ability to candidly discuss and train on AdWords and search marketing, their extensive experience in the industry and their proven success in managing AdWords accounts. In addition, all Seminar Leaders are Qualified Individuals in the Google Advertising Professionals Program.

You can see the full topics covered for both beginner and advanced sessions here. You cannot register for the advanced sessions yet, but you can register now for the beginner ones.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

Google Pack referrals go international

When Google originally launched Google Pack into the AdSense Referrals program, it was only available to US publishers. It has now gone international, at least to Canada & the UK.

It is nice to see they have taken Google Pack internationally. As a Canadian, it annoys me when something AdSense-related is US only ;) So international publishers will now find Google Pack available in the Referral setup in their AdSense control panel.

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

September 07, 2006

Woman suing Google also claims they deleted her AdSense correspondence in Gmail

The woman who is suing Google is also filing an amended complaint (she sent me a copy of it) which also accuses Google of going into her Gmail account to delete all her correspondence she had with Google regarding her suspension from AdSense.

In her email to me, she voiced several complaints.

Google, Inc. provided me no means or method to reveiw advertisers placed on my site

Well, that is the sole purpose of the AdSense Preview Tool, which allows publishers the ability to see up to 12 ads that would appear on their site for all AdSense geolocations.

Google, Inc. failed to remove advertisers to whom I provided objections to Google, Inc. via their objections method

All publishers are able to block their own advertisers whenever they want. And they have plenty of documentation of just how you can do this.

All communications between Google, Inc. including the contract, were removed by electronic intrusion into my e-Mail account. In addition to all Google, Inc. communications removed, Google, Inc. removed all other third parties' communications to me that occurred during the same time period.

She claims that Google deleted her email from her Google GMail account, including all correspondence she had with Google AdSense team regarding her suspension from AdSense. Now, I am not familiar with the GMail team at Google, but I'd have a hard time believing this one. I have heard of GMail accounts being removed for TOS violations, but never emails within the account deleted by Google while the account remains active.

Steve Bryant has another good look at the new complaint as well, including the fact she also sued Yahoo because she claims they deleted her Geocities account (her former home of BravaCorp was at Geocities), as well as all her associated email accounts.

The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in damages to recoup 1,000 hours spent over 15 months designing bravacorp.com, which Bradley claims has 500 pages and graphics files in nine languages

I still don't think she has a leg to stand on if this goes to court. And it does show that Google is not always the "bad guy" when it comes to lawsuits being filed against them. This one is definitely without merit in my eyes.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:19 AM | Comments (9)