« Introducing Seodays conferences & training | Main | Google to begin sharing URLs where AdWords advertiser's ads are being run »

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 February 23, 2007 12:36 PM

Comments

Hi Jen - you have a typo in the a tag for the last link: "gref" instead of "href". Interesting entry this... I've been thinking of taking down the MyBlogLog stuff because a) it's slow to load and b) everyone there seem to be "webmarketers" of some sort.

Posted by: Juha at February 23, 2007 03:34 PM

Great post Jen once again. The problem is that when yahoo bought this they became solely responsible for what it does.

What I am worried about is this:
I used until today both YPN and MyBlogLog. I have noticed over the past week or so a big discrepancy. MyBlogLog would show clicks on YPN ads and YPN wouldn't credit my account with the clicks.

I am now switching back to Adsense and MyBlog Log is gone.

Posted by: More M at February 23, 2007 05:23 PM

why would it matter to me what they are using it for?

Posted by: Brady at February 23, 2007 06:37 PM

While I can understand that people would be concerned about what might be done with the data, it is not like MyBlogLog has been hiding the fact that they track ad clicks. As soon as you install the widget and look at the stats on MyBlogLog it clearly shows what links people clicked, ads and all other links. From what I recall this is a feature of the pro version that you can download this data and analyze it for yourself.

Posted by: LGR at February 23, 2007 07:32 PM

Trackback:

On MyBlogLog's ad tracking...

There have been a number of recent posts 'round the blogosphere about our ads tracking and we'd like to make a few clarifications:

http://mybloglogb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/02/on_mybloglogs_a.html

Posted by: Eric Marcoullier at February 23, 2007 11:26 PM

In the stats it has been available for ages. The thing that irritates me is that they want me to pay to view all the stats that I give them.

ATM you can only view the top 10. This is the reason why i might be removing it.

Posted by: infonote at February 24, 2007 12:26 AM

Excellent info. Didnt think of how Y! can now have stats on Adsense clicks on most blogs !

Would Y! use this data to manipulate their methods of displaying ads ?

Posted by: Anjanesh Lekshminarayanan at February 24, 2007 02:46 AM

When you travel the Internet, you always leave your footprints. Anyone can look at those footprints. MBL says Google doesn't have a problem with this, nor do I see how they could. It seems to me to be a storm in a teacup (so many of them are).

Get over it, people. If you're one of the folk like me who finds the MBL concept most intriguing, then you'll continue to enjoy it. Even the free version gives a great deal of value.

Posted by: Barry Welford at February 24, 2007 04:26 AM

Amen Barry! Some people get all up in arms over the simplest crap. On the internet it seems to go overboard quickly. Take a pill!

Posted by: Brady at February 24, 2007 04:44 AM

I don't get the whole fuss about this ad click tracking at all. I've known they track my AdSense clicks ever since I installed the MBL code and it's not as if they've been hiding the fact, so why Shoemoney etc. are suddenly up in arms about it doesn't make sense, except for the whole Shoemoney being banned thing and I thought that would happend when I read his initial post.

Fuss about nothing, IMHO.

Posted by: Ian Feavearyear at February 24, 2007 05:03 AM

Great post on this and definitely a level-headed one, I find it hard to believe that a company like Yahoo would steal code like that but it does speak of the carelessness of it, shouldn't they have taken a look at it all and reviewed it? I'm not blaming them for collecting this data but they should've known about it, Yahoo doesn't have THAT much money. :)

Posted by: jim at February 24, 2007 05:38 AM

The language of Shoemoney (who HATES MyBlogLog and is in all-out war with them) uses as well as your follow up are quite inflammatory.

Shoemoney quietly mentions in his post that you get stats on your ad clicks when you use MyBlogLog Pro. How do you think they get those stats? They don't turn this off with the free version because the moment you turn on Pro, you can access that data.

Looking at this with an unbiased view really makes a difference.

Posted by: Doug Karr at February 24, 2007 07:04 AM

Come on Jen you can do better than that. There are so many versions of the same code floating around.

With that code you have been able to track YPN clicks in Google Analytics, surely that is a problem as well.

If you are going to trust a service to track your adsense, would you prefer it to be a potential competitor of yourself (another marketer) or Yahoo.
Tracking should be mandatory, and Google should provide an easy solution for every Adsense publisher without using 3rd party code.

Posted by: Andy Beard at February 24, 2007 07:31 AM

Interesting--my concern has primarily the superficiality of it all. As you say, it is loaded with marketers (and primarily people telling, usually selling, how to optimize traffic.

I did a post on this and one of the founders did comment.

These guys are now affiated with Yahoo, an outfit I don't trust--but do I trust any of them?

~Becky

Posted by: Becky at February 24, 2007 03:05 PM

"...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..."

Sure, but this is a good thing - Publishers should want Yahoo to more effectively compete with Adsense to force a higher revenue share and more innovation.

I don't understand why you care if Yahoo (finally) has a little piece of valuable info about big G's superior contextual matching routines.

Posted by: Joe Duck at February 25, 2007 12:00 PM

"Shoemoney quietly mentions in his post that you get stats on your ad clicks when you use MyBlogLog Pro. How do you think they get those stats? They don't turn this off with the free version because the moment you turn on Pro, you can access that data."

Um, the vast majority of MBL users do NOT have the pro version and are NOT interested in stat tracking -- they use it for the little avatars on other people's sites. Unfortunately, even for people who use MBL only for that purpose, their ads are still being tracked because the ad-tracking code is in the widget no matter what. So what about those people? Where did they click "Yes" in agreement to this policy?

Posted by: Mike Rundle at February 25, 2007 12:45 PM

Personally, I have totally no issues with them tracking whatever they want. As Joe Duck says, it might help to toughen up the competition and we might just benefit from it ultimately.

Posted by: Low Hang Wei at February 25, 2007 07:39 PM

Very nice site! Good work.

Posted by: Antonio at February 27, 2007 09:03 PM