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February 26, 2007

Google to begin sharing URLs where AdWords advertiser's ads are being run

The New York Times ran an article about Quigo, a contextual advertising company that targets premium sized publishers. In the story, comments from both Yahoo & Google were included. But one quote by Kim Malone, director of online sales and operations for Google AdSense, jumped out... the fact that Google will begin listing all publisher websites where AdWords advertiser's ads are being run.

In response to further questions about Quigo, though, Google said it was prepared to make changes to its AdSense service that mimicked Quigo’s approach, an unusual step for a company accustomed to mapping the terrain in every aspect of its business.

In the next few months, Google’s advertiser reports will begin listing the sites where each ad runs, Ms. Malone said. She added that advertisers on the Google networks would soon be able to bid on contextual ads on particular Web sites rather than simply buying keywords that appeared across Google’s entire network.

Still, Ms. Malone said she did not see much of consequence coming from the changes. “We don’t expect a lot of demand for that placement targeting,” she said. “It’s the brand, the display advertisers who care where they run.”

This is something I have pushed for for quite some time, although not from the point of view of seeking out specific sites. Rather, this tool could be extremely useful for advertisers wanting to opt-in to the content network, but not having the time to go log hunting to see what URLs their ads are running on in the content network... URLs which are always disguised in nasty long URLs.

There was a comment Kim made that didn't make sense to me. She stated that advertisers will soon be able to bid on contextual ad placements on specific sites, however this has been available with a CPM pricing model for quite some time, and as a CPC model more recently.

So from an advertiser perspective, what does this mean? This means that opting into the content network while having the transparency of knowing where your ads of being displayed just got easier. You will now be able to easily filter any URLs you don't want your ads showing up on (such as for competitive or quality reasons) without having to opt-out of the entire network.

From a publisher perspective, if you have good quality sites in the content network, you have nothing to worry about and a lot to gain. If you have sites that are less-than-stellar, the kinds of sites that advertisers wouldn't be so happy that their ads are appearing on, you might want to worry, or improve the quality of those sites ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 06:07 AM | Comments (18)

February 23, 2007

MyBlogLog tracking AdSense & YPN ad clicks on your site

If you pay attention to the blogosphere, there has been a ton of buzz about MyBlogLog (Shoemoney's MyBlogLog category is a great place to start). One of the things that caught my attention was the comment someone made that MyBlogLog was actually shopping the user data that their script collected, not just looking to sell the MyBlogLog product (that Yahoo eventually bought).

But now comes word that MyBlogLog is not only tracking who comes to your site, but also any clicks made to both your Google AdSense and your Yahoo Publisher Network ads. The javascript used by MyBlogLog specifically mentions http://ypn-js.overture.com, where Yahoo Publisher Network is served from, as well as http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com where Google AdSense is served from. Now granted, MyBlogLog is a Yahoo company now, so I supposed it could be conceivable that they track YPN clicks. But tracking Google AdSense clicks?

Now consider the data they have. They know the source of all the traffic to your page, but also how often an AdSense or YPN ad was clicked, and which specific ad was clicked (similar to how an AdSense tracker script can track specifics about the AdSense ads clicked on your page). And since MyBlogLog is now a Yahoo company, that is a lot of information Yahoo now knows about their biggest competitor and their ad serving and just how many people are clicking on AdSense ads. They can easily compare and contrast the relevancy of ads on the page (arguably, YPN's biggest problem at the moment) not to mention CTR data and even ad specifics, such as which Adwords advertiser ads on a page are being clicked the most.

And what is worse is that the code in question seems to have been lifted from a well known AdSense tracker plugin. This seems to confirm that this part of the MyBlogLog javascript was included for the sole purpose of tracking who is clicking on which AdSense & YPN ads.

The MyBlogLog privacy policy is a bit murky as well:

Generally, MyBlogLog does not share personal information about you with other people or nonaffiliated companies

Does this mean that if a company is affiliated, they will share that crucial ad click data with them? There is no mention of what companies are considered to be an affiliated company, however. Couldn't they decide to make everyone an affiliated company if they wished to share their ad click data? At this time, I do not know what they are using this data for, but they definitely are keeping track of your ad clicks.

In light of this information, all YPN & AdSense publishers should be aware that the MyBlogLog script is tracking all your ad clicks on your site. If you are fine with that, leave it on your site, but if you are concerned about what this data could be used for (what if your competitor became an affiliated company and got a hold of all your AdSense and/or YPN data?) you should remove MyBlogLog from your site.

Are they using your ad clicks data for evil? Obviously no one knows the answer to this question except the MyBlogLog team. But they certainly have not been forthcoming over the fact they are tracking your AdSense & YPN clicks either.

For all the nitty gritty, including all the technical evidence that backs it up can be found here.

Added: I just want to make it crystal clear that I don't believe Yahoo added this ad tracking script themselves, for several reasons. First of all, I know many, many Yahoo people and I would have a hard time believing they'd do this. Second, knowing many engineers at Yahoo as well, I know they definitely wouldn't steal code - especially so blatantly - from another source.

I would be willing to bet that this was in place since the beginning or at the very least, the early days of MyBlogLog. And it is quite possible that Yahoo did not know the MyBlogLog team was even tracking this, much less using this data for nefarious reasons. The responsibility lies solely with the MyBlogLog team, and the only connection with Yahoo is they happened to have bought it.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:36 PM | Comments (18)

February 22, 2007

Introducing Seodays conferences & training

I am pleased to announce the launching of Seodays, an intimate conference series on all aspects of search engine optimization & marketing, which I am partnered in, along with two well known industry personalities (and good friends of mine) Dave Naylor and Greg Boser. This was something that Dave and I had started talking about well over two years ago, but we finally sat down several times over the past few months at various conferences to start the true planning phase, not to mention numerous IM sessions at all hours of the day and night.

We see these conferences more as training, providing a lot of useful tips, advice, tools and knowledge that attendees can immediately turn around and use on their own websites and various types of online projects. We currently plan to hold them in London, US, Canada and Europe. Each Seodays will be tailored to what attendees want to learn with some also having a set theme. They will feature one or more guest speakers from the industry who are experts in those specific topic areas (if you are interested in being an expert presenter at Seodays, please submit a proposal here)

We also do on-site training for those with a larger in-house team where it makes sense for us to come to you rather than vice versa, as our exclusive Seodays. Again, these exclusive Seodays will be tailored to the exact needs of your company, so we will train specifically in what you need. These also include detailed health-checks, where we go over your site with a fine-tooth comb and find any issues that could cause problems in the search engines or things that should be changed to ensure better rankings. You can request more information on exclusive Seodays here.

I am pretty happy to finally be launching Seodays with Dave and Greg, turning from one of those "we should do..." ideas into something we actually are doing. We are finalizing details for locations for the Seodays, so be sure to sign up for the Seodays blog RSS, so you can be among the first to know all the details to sign up.

Posted by Jenstar at 04:20 AM | Comments (4)

February 02, 2007

Google drops Picassa referral to roll into Google Pack referrals

With the new change to the AdSense referrals, it would seem the AdSense team also did some cleaning house and dropped the Picassa referral program for publishers. Previously, publishers could refer potential Picassa users to the program and earn up to $1 for a first-time install on Windows. But now, to refer someone to Picassa, you need to use the all-encompassing Google Pack buttons or text links to promote it.

I am not sure why this change was made, although I had heard it was being done. Perhaps the program just wasn't converting very well for publishers, so rolling it into a multiple-program download was the answer. If you go into your control panel now, Picassa is missing from the product lineup. A few of the Google Pack buttons and links have been updated with photo related text, but they aren't available in all of the sizes offered for referral buttons.

Right now with Google Pack, you earn up to $2 when someone downloads and installs. But no word yet if that is being increased to $3 to take into account the $1 a publisher could have earned with the addition of Picassa.

When I initially heard from Google that Picassa was being dropped, I had hoped that the change would mean that there would be an open slot for a new Google product that publishers could promote and earn commission from. But there doesn't seem to be anything new, at least not yet.

No word as of yet what happens to the old Picassa buttons or links publishers were using before the change. They could remain Picassa for now, or perhaps they have been changed by Google to the new Google Pack referrals instead.

Posted by Jenstar at 05:34 AM | Comments (3)

AdSense increases publisher earnings to $250 for new AdSense referrals

Have you noticed many $5 AdSense or AdWords referral popping up on your AdSense reports yesterday? Don't worry, you aren't losing out on the potential $100 you could earn when that referred publisher earns his or her first $100 with AdSense... in fact, you can now earn up to $255 for a single AdSense referral with the change made to the referral structure yesterday.

The new structure is two tiered, so publishers will no longer have to wait until their referral publishers to earn money from that referral. The first commission earned is only $5, but the publisher you refer only needs to earn $5 within 180 days for you to earn it. But it is with the followup commission that can really earn publishers some good money. Once that publisher then earns $100, you now will get a commission of $250, much higher than the previous commission of $100.

This is nice for publishers on a couple levels, and I was looking forward to this being implemented as soon as I initially heard the change was on its way (although I wasn't told just how much the commission was increasing to). First, you will get a conversion even if that publisher doesn't make $100 within 180 days... it is hard for a publisher not to earn $5 within the same time frame. And they have more than doubled what you can earn when those publishers do hit the $100 threshold, meaning those who are active in promoting the Google AdSense referral program can earn significantly more money.

The changes seem to apply to previous transactions as well, perhaps everything in the previous 180 days, judging from the stats showing up in the AdSense control panel.

The help files have not yet been updated, but we should see the help files and likely an announcement on the AdSense blog shortly.

Posted by Jenstar at 04:03 AM | Comments (3)