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January 09, 2008

Google AdSense referral changes on the fly mean huge loss of earnings for publishers

Have you made a Google AdSense referral in the last month or two? If you have, chances are pretty good that instead of that nice $250 commission you thought you'd be earning, you will instead be getting only $100 for that new publisher.

Google has severely cut back not only on the payments they are offering for new signups, but also just how many people will be able to even offer these referral products to their visitors.

First, Google is dropping back the earnings that publishers can get from referring new AdSense publishers. While you could earn $250 when a publisher earned $100 within 180 days, now AdSense has decided to drop that by over half, down to only $100 for that same referral. Google is making the change in the last week of January. And that $5 bonus for new initial signups? It is now gone, as is the $2000 bonus for referring 25 new publishers who do meet the $100 in 180 days.

But in what is an even worse move, is that it is going to affect all those referrals initially made prior to their announcement on their blog and prior to their last week of January change. What does this mean for publishers? If you made a referral in December, but that publisher doesn't earn their first $100 until February, instead of earning that expected $250 referral amount - the amount stated when the referral was initially made to Google, that publisher will now only earn $100. So through no fault of the publisher who in good faith got a new AdSense publisher for Google, Google has just dropped the expected $250 to $100, despite there being no notice at the time the referral was initially generated that Google would be dropping the earnings on the referral so drastically.

Then to top if off, AdSense had decided to drop nearly all foreign webmasters from the program as well. If you live in North America, Latin America or Japan, you are in the clear. But Google has excluded some major countries out of the program, including the UK as well as Australia. According to Google, the program has not performed well in those regions, but I would be clearly surprised if bloggers such as Australia-based Darren Rowse (AKA ProBlogger) didn't refer enough new publishers to the program to keep it alive there, as he states he personally has referred thousands of new publishers who met the $100 in 180 days criteria.

And what is worse, is publishers such as Darren who have conversions in progress (meaning someone has already signed up but is still working on the $100 in 180 days) will lose ALL commissions if those in progress don't manage to reach the $100 mark by the time the change occurs sometime in the end of January.

Like most of Google AdSense decisions regarding the use of their products and features outside of the US, it isn't based on where the majority of your traffic is based, but rather where the publisher is physically based. So a publisher in the UK with 99.9% US traffic would be excluded from promoting Google AdSense.

This is a very poor decision by Google. I can appreciate that they may not want to offer AdSense signups in specific countries, whether it is a fraud issue, lack of conversions or simple overabundance. But they are in the wrong to make this change without honoring their committment to publishers who have already sent those new publishers to Google. And they could have avoided the major media firestorm they are now experiencing by going about the change in a different way.

So, what should Google AdSense have done so that while some publishers might not have been happy with the decision but would at least not feel cheated over expected earnings either being dropped or cut entirely? They should have honored all the new AdSense signups made up until they make the official change at the end of January, even if the conversion is made after the change. So if an AdSense publisher referred a new publisher to AdSense last week, even if the conversion of $100 in 180 days isn't made until March, that publisher should still get the $250, as that is what the amount was when the publisher - in good faith - sent that new referral to Google. And likewise, if the publisher is outside the new "chosen areas" and referred a new publisher last week, they should still get $250 even if the $100 in 180 days isn't reached until March, because again, that publisher sent the new publisher to Google AdSense in good faith. And what Google is doing here is definitely in bad faith for all publishers promoting AdSense.

Posted by Jenstar at January 9, 2008 10:35 AM


It should have been a phase out for the foreign publishers, not just a cutoff. I don't do the referral thing myself -- not enough traffic -- but I can sympathize with those who are not getting what they are expecting. Google's abrupt changes in recent weeks in various areas have got to have a lot of people losing what trust they had in Google.

Posted by: Mike Goad at January 9, 2008 12:56 PM

Well, this is the first I've heard of the cut back, I'm new to Adsense and I have placed a number of referral ads. After reading this article however, I believe I may remove most of them and use that "real estate" for something else.

Thanks for the info.


Posted by: donssite.com at January 9, 2008 05:00 PM

I am kind of stunned and shocked after reading this. I guess people are getting the Google slap again. I think this wasn't a good decision on their part and they should honour the $250 commission. People are gonna feel cheated here big time and I wouldn't be surprised if Google publishers remove the referral box from their sites after this really. What's gonna happen next?

And the $5 bonus for sign ups that was nice. If you look on the internet almost over 80% of people are making less then $10 a month with Adsense. Sure you'll get some good people that will make a lot of money with it and you'll get your commission check but most are making peanuts. So if you think of it, if people only make $10 a month it will take them 10 months to reach $100. So you earn nothing. At least before you would pretty much rest assured you would get $5 per person for the sign up.

For some people getting the traffic to their blog is the problem. I can see many publishers being mad over this decision especially people in Australia who have sent so many referrals their way. In cases like these there should be exceptions but when do you draw the line is the question.


Jamie Boyle

Posted by: Jamie Boyle at January 10, 2008 06:05 PM

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