Jenstar

Google allowing publishers to block 3 more categories

If you were among the many people who loves Google’s Category Filters option, which allows publishers to automatically block all ads in a specific category (ie. blocking all weight loss ads), you will be happy to know that Google will be allowing publishers to block three more categories per account.  So as soon as it goes live, publishers will be able to block a total of eight categories, up from the current five.

It also made me realize that since the category filter feature was launched back in April at ADSPACE (now called Content Revenue Strategies), they haven’t added any new categories to filter.  Are there any more current pain point ad areas that aren’t covered by the filter that you would love to see added?  Right now the categories are:  costmetic procedures & body modification; dating; drugs & supplements; get rich quick; politics; religion; ringtones and downloadables; sexual & reproductive health; sexually suggestive; video games (casual and online); weight loss.  It is pretty wide sweeping and covers all the major publisher pain points prior to the feature launch (remember all those “rules” diet ads that were plaguing publisher’s AdSense ads?)  What other categories would you love to see available for blocking?

And it also makes me wonder if Google will be launching anything at CRS next week 😉

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How to get one-on-one time with an AdSense account rep

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is how to get an AdSense account rep, especially from those publishers who are stuck in a generic support loop.  And at many conferences there might be one or two AdSense reps on hand to answer standard AdSense related questions, there is a definite desire by many publishers to get face time with an account rep to discuss their specific accounts, whether it be account related questions, site related questions or even to get optimization suggestions.

One of the most popular features from ADSPACE in April was the one-on-one time that publishers can get with an AdSense account rep, but unfortunately it wasn’t very well publicized  The good news is that the one-on-one with an AdSense rep will be back for Content Revenue Strategies!.  This means you can have a sit down with an AdSense rep to discuss your AdSense account and any questions you may have about your account or your sites that you are running (or want to run) AdSense on.  So if you have been envious of those high level publishers with their own account reps, CRS is the perfect opportunity to talk to a rep about any issues or concerns you may have, or even just reassurance that your AdSense account is in good standing.

And of course I will be putting the AdSense team in the hot seat again during the closing keynote AdSense Publisher Forum.  I will be asking some of my own questions… and yes, I will be asking the infamous questions about publishers and suspended accounts, so you definitely don’t want to miss it 😉    Attendees will be receiving an email a few days before the event starts so you can also submit questions for me to ask the AdSense team, or you can submit them on-site via the URL that will be published in the sessions.

If you haven’t registered for CRS yet, you can register here.  And if you use the code CRSJensense, you will get $100 off the registration fee.  CRS attendees will be able to get one-on-one time with an AdSense rep, and there will also be reps on hand from both Google AdWords and Google Ad Manager.   It is hard to put a price on a one-on-one consult with an AdSense Rep, but $350 (including the CRSJensense discount) for that plus an entire day filled with AdSense and website monetization advice, tips and case studies is a pretty wicked deal :) 

CRS is November 5th at the Javits Center in New York City.  It is also being held at the same time as ad-tech, so you can register for both events if you would like to attend ad-tech as well.

I will be around for the day (as well as the entire ad-tech conference) so feel free to grab me if you have any questions during the conference.

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Google AdSense Publisher Forum at Content Revenue Strategies

logo_crs

In April I had the opportunity to put members of the Google AdSense team in the hot seat during the Google AdSense Publishers Forum at ADSPACE.  ADSPACE has now rebranded to Content Revenue Strategies, and once again I get the chance to ask the AdSense team all your burning questions about their publisher network at CRS in New York City on November 5th.  I will be asking all the usual burning questions that publishers have (and the ones I hear from publishers frequently!) as well as plenty of higher level questions for advanced publishers.  If you have a need for high level AdSense advice, this is definitely the conference for you! 

 Here are the AdSense team members who will be on the panel with me:

Christian Ashlock, Associate Manager, Online Sales & Operations, Google
Gavin Bishop, Head of Publisher Solutions, Google
Tim Evans, Product Manager, Google
Atul Bhandari, AdSense Product Manager, Google  

If you do not already have an AdSense account rep, there will be account reps on hand at CRS as well, to give you personal advice based on your account.  So if you have been eagerly awaiting the time you could get one-on-one personal time with an AdSense rep, CRS is definitely the place to do it at… I heard plenty of great feedback in April from publishers who felt the one-on-one time with an account rep was worth the price of admission alone.

And speaking of admission, I also have a special CRS code that is good for $100 off the conference pass… simply use the code CRSJensense when you register to automatically get your discount… this means your pass will be $350 instead of the current $450.  The conference is being held with ad-tech (there is special pricing if you would like to attend both ad-tech and CRS) at the Javits Center in New York City.  The full schedule is here, and the speaker list is here.

I hope many of my readers will be able to attend, and I am looking forward to seeing some of you there!

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Presenting a free webinar on Content Creation for SEO

If you have an hour to spare on Sunday, I am doing an online webinar on Content Creation for SEO on Sunday August 23 at 3pm EST (12pm PST).  While it isn’t AdSense-specific, obviously great quality content is a major stepping stone in getting traffic, repeat visitors and monetization for a website.  I will be presenting for half an hour, complete with slides, examples and many great take-aways so you can put a refreshed content creation plan into action immediately.  There will be Q&A afterwards, so bring all your burning content creation questions :)

Here is the description for my session:

Content Creation for SEO
Anyone can create content, but what about content creation specifically for SEO? It isn’t as easy as slapping up those freebie or cheapie articles and hoping they bring in the traffic. Learn about quality content creation, from finding the ideas to write about (which is often the hardest part) to executing keyword rich content that reads well AND ranks well.

 It is part of a two day webinar series at New Life Event.  All of the webinars are free (it has already started!) and I am sure you will recognize many presenters from various industry conferences, and there are a ton of other SEO related sessions as well.

Registration is free, so I hope to see many of you there.  Click here to register!

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Google AdSense updating ad unit font styles once again

If you haven’t chosen to select your font style within your account because you were happy with the default, you might want to rethink that.  AdSense is changing the default font used in the different ad units, based on which ad font performs best in each ad unit.  The new defaults will be:

Arial: 728×90, 336×280, 120×600, 120×240
Verdana: 300×250, 160×600, 468×60, 250×250, 234×60, 125×125, 180×150
Times New Roman: 200×200

This will go live within the next couple of days, so you will have a bit of time before the new fonts come into play, incase you want to double check what your default fonts are.

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Google AdSense accidentally sends duplicate payments to some publishers

If you were one of the publishers who discovered two AdSense checks in your mailbox instead of the usual one, don’t get too excited, the AdSense fairy didn’t suddenly decide your website was so awesome it was worthy double the amount of expected earnings.  An error with the bank that processes checks printed and mailed duplicate checks to some Google AdSense publishers (including me!)

It seems the problem is isolated to Canadian publishers (or at least no non-Canadian publishers have reported it yet).  But because the checks are exact duplicates, the bank will (unfortunately!) only honor one of them.  Some publishers received both checks in a single envelope, while others received them in two separate envelopes, as much as a week apart.

Here is the email sent to affected publishers.

Hello,

We’re writing to let you know about an issue with your July AdSense
payment. Due to a Citibank processing error, we recently mailed you a
duplicate AdSense check.

Because Citibank only honors the deposit of checks with unique check
numbers, you’ll only be able to successfully deposit one of these checks.
Please destroy the other check.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. To help
ensure smooth payment processing in the future, we recommend that you sign
up for Electronics Funds Transfer (EFT).  You can learn more about this
form of payment at
https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=15918 .

Sincerely,
The Google AdSense Team

Although one publisher did have a much better idea than simply destroying it, Lame_wolf suggests framing it!

Forum discussion at Webmasterworld and Digital Point.

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How to protect your AdSense account from invalid clicks

After uniQlicks began spamming AdSense publishers with fake Google AdSense termination emails in an attempt to scare publishers into signing up for their “invalid click protection”, a lot of people asked me what they can do themselves to protect their AdSense account.  The AdSense team contacted me and said they have a list of tips for publishers, and yes, they are all free :) 

It is also worth noting that they do not recommend using any third party software or custom ad implementations.

Here are the tips from the AdSense team:

We’ve provided some points below to help address and clarify some invalid clicks issues:

  • We understand that it’s not always possible to control the behavior of your users, but you can be proactive about monitoring your traffic, and you can take steps to ensure that your site provides a helpful and safe environment for users and advertisers. Here are some top tips for keeping your account in good standing (which you may have seen before): https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=23921
     
  • Expanding on the tip “Be aware of how your site is promoted.”, we’d like to remind you that, should you purchase traffic to promote your site, you do so at your own risk. There are many site promotion services out there that appear to be legitimate PPC advertising companies or search engines, but actually may be sending artificial traffic to your site for their own gain. (For legal reasons, we’re not allowed to disclose the names of such services.)To combat this, we highly recommend that you use channels to segment your traffic by source (e.g. a channel for your site’s Google AdWords traffic only). If one channel’s reports look particularly suspicious, you may want to consider unsubscribing from that traffic service. We also recommend using Analytics to slice and dice your traffic reports further to ensure that you’re receiving clicks from users who are genuinely interested in your ads. 
  • Though we encourage you to be proactive about monitoring your site and ad traffic, we highly discourage the use of click tracking via third-party software or custom ad implementations. These methods may:
    • inadvertently disclose sensitive information about you or your site to a third-party
    • disrupt Google’s ad delivery or click logging in a way that violates our Terms and Conditions

In addition, click tracking may not provide you with significantly more information than you can already find in your AdSense or Analytics reports. We believe that the creative use of channels can help you gain detailed insights into your account.

  • If you see unusual activity on your account, feel free to submit this form to let us know: https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/request.py?contact=invalid_clicks_contact Please note that we will only respond if we find a significant issue with your account.
  • Invalid clicks can come from many sources, as described at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=16737. While we’re unable to go into the details of our monitoring system, you should know that invalid clicks don’t always mean clicking on your own ads or using click bots. Our Ad Traffic Quality Team looks for numerous types of activity that may inflate advertiser costs, then takes the necessary actions to protect our advertisers.
  • That said, we still find that many publishers are clicking on their own ads, possibly because they feel that Google is disregarding those clicks. Keep in mind that even though we filter the revenue from an invalid click, we don’t ignore it completely. If we detect significant invalid activity on your AdSense ads, we may take action on your account to protect our advertisers from inflated costs. Here are some examples of situations in which clicking your own ads is prohibited:
    • Clicking out of interest in the ad content
    • Clicking to see an ad’s destination URL, such as for filtering purposes (we recommend trying the AdSense Preview Tool, available at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=10005)
    • Clicking to ensure that Google is properly registering clicks on your ads (we log all ad clicks, but it can sometimes take up to 24 hours before your reports are finalized)
    • Clicking to test your website
  • For general invalid click questions, you can find more information at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/topic.py?topic=8426
  • For questions about AdSense accounts disabled for invalid clicks, you can find more information at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153

Followup from Jen: Anyone have any additional tips they use to protect their accounts?  I think this pretty much covers most of what I do or advise clients to do in order to protect their AdSense accounts.  The most important tip, in my opinion, is the one about being cautious when buying traffic (well, aside from the obvious one of never clicking your own ads!)  Too many people get tempted with offers of cheap traffic, but always keep in mind you will never be sure if the traffic is legitimate or artificial.  So while you are pretty safe buying PPC ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing/adCenter, definitely avoid third tier networks where you cannot judge the traffic quality first.  Anyone had any horror stories with buying bad traffic? 

And thank you to Google for providing this!

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uniQlicks spamming AdSense publishers with fake AdSense termination emails

It is probably the worst feeling for a publisher… checking your email only to discover a “Google AdSense Account Disabled” email from Google.  That is what happened to an AdSense publisher Steve this morning (and presumably to others as well)… and it turns out that it was a fake termination letter done by a company that sells invalid click prevention services.  And even worse, the company – uniQlicks – used a Google.com address as the From address, to fool even more publishers into thinking they’ve been terminated. If you haven’t received one, I am sure you can imagine your reaction thinking your account has been terminated, only to discover it is a bait and switch technique designed to sell their service to “protect” your AdSense account.

The company using this sleazy spam scare tactic is uniQlicks, a company that has been popping up recently with a bunch of paid blog posts / “guest blog posts” on a variety of making money online blogs.

Here is the complete letter Steve received this morning, with a subject line of “Google AdSense Account Disabled”:

From: Google AdSense [mailto:adsense-adclicks-noreply@google.com]
Sent: June-17-09 7:31 AM
To: info@example.com (publisher prefers to remain anonymous)
Subject: Google AdSense Account Disabled

Hello,

While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense
account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since
keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our
advertisers in the future, we’ve decided to disable your account.

Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect the
interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We
realize the inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you in advance
for your understanding and cooperation.

If you have any questions about your account or the actions we’ve taken,
please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by
visiting
https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Our apologies for scaring you. Your AdSense account is 
fine, and we are not affiliated in any way with Google. 

But the above email could very well land in your inbox
one day – this time sent not by us, but by Google.

We checked out your cool <keyword> <keyword> resource.
<2 keyword specifics removed as per Steve’s request>

You are using AdSense, but apparently haven’t installed
any script to protect your site from invalid clicks.

This means that your AdSense account is at risk of
termination due to invalid clicks. AdSense bans are for
life, so your income would be wiped out forever.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we can help
safeguard your site and your AdSense income from
invalid clicks. A basic account is free, why not try
it out?

   http://www.uniQlicks.com/

Again, I’m sorry if I shocked you with this email. No
harm was intended. Our job is to help protect
livelihoods – and sometimes extreme measures are needed
to do just that.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you!

Valerie Kryie
Sales Manager

uniQlicks
http://www.uniQlicks.com/

So not only is uniQlicks sending unsolicited spam, they are doing it by impersonating Google as well.  You have to wonder how many publishers don’t even bother reading down past what appears to be the end of the email to actually get the message as well.  There have been some phishing click fraud warning emails sent out recently, but nothing to the effect where it was done by a company selling services.

This particular email was not send to the same email address associated with Steve’s AdSense account, so it is clearly not in any way associated with AdSense.

So if you receive an AdSense suspended email, first scroll to the end to make sure it isn’t a uniQlicks spam email.  Second, go to login to your AdSense account, but by entering in the address manually – NEVER click the link from an email in case it is a phishing attempt.  If your account is suspended, you will NOT be able to login to your account.   Or you can check ad serving on any of your sites, if ads are running normally, there isn’t a problem with an account being suspended.

I would also NOT RECOMMEND using uniQlicks, since this is the type of spam scare tactics they are using on publishers.  If unsolicited spam sent from “Google” with this kind of message is how they promote their company and service, you have to wonder if their invalid click protection is just as bad.

Update: Daniel Tsieh of UniQlicks has posted a comment claiming the emails aren’t spam since they are sent to a publisher’s site they visit (obviously a different definition of spam than the rest of us have!) and defends the “shock tactic” of sending an email impersonating Google AdSense.  You can read my response below  it.  I would have expected to hear an apology or a “my bad”, instead of accusing publishers for not using their services since many were scared by the email.  And not surprisingly, I still will not recommend it.

Update 2: Daniel from uniQlicks responds again, this time insulting bloggers, who make up a good portion of his target customer base.

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Google News showing inappropriate ads on embedded YouTube videos

I have been on the road for most of the last two weeks, so I have been getting current events news on both CNN.com and Google News, particularly about the Air France plane crash.  A couple of days ago I noticed Google News was now embedding videos from (what I believe are) “trusted video news sources”, such as the Associated Press.  If you see a tiny YouTube icon, you click the news link, and the video pops up underneath and begins playing.  Sunday morning I noticed that one of the news videos about the Air France plane crash was showing ads for a travel site, which popped up overlaying the bottom of the video, after the video ran for about 15-3o seconds.

Inappropriate?  Yes, it is a plane crash and people are sensitive to the issue.  As an advertiser?  Well, I can’t speak for all advertisers, but I am pretty sure most would be extremely ticked off to discover their advertisement for a travel site were showing up on a video about a major air disaster.

Here are screenshots from Google News showing the ads on the disaster videos, the first advertising charter flights, the second advertising a Brazil photo gallery, targeted since the flight took off from Brazil.  Click each for the full size version.

googlenews3sm2

googlenews2sm

Now, it has been a week since the Air France crash, why hasn’t Google added that phrase to a stop word filter on YouTube when showing through Google News, similar to the AdSense stop word filter (which words pretty well).  And it isn’t exclusive just to the Air France disaster either.  Other world current events with human tragedy have also been showing inappropriate ads as well.

googlenews4sm

googlenews1sm

In my mind, news videos that have anything to do with disasters, loss of life, terrorism, etc, should never show ads… PERIOD.  It doesn’t take much to know that inappropriate ads will appear on these videos.  And since many do seem targeted, such as the Brazil photo gallery ad on the Air France crash video and solar panels on the collapsed roof explosion, why isn’t it being stopped?  And for that matter, why don’t these video uploaders – particularly the major news organizations – have the ability to click a button or check off a checkbox stating that the video contains content that might be disturbing or upsetting to others, and that advertising should not be displayed.

Perhaps when they launched this feature, no one thought about the fact that both viewers and advertisers might be offended by ads overlaying on inappropriate videos.  It is far better for Google to lose a bit of income with an over-excessive stop word filter (one that would trigger for any news stories featuring words such as bomb, crash, kills, deaths, explosion, terrorism, etc).  But in my opinion, there is no excuse for this kind of situation to be happening period, especially when shown on Google News, and particularly when they want to be considered a trusted source of news information.

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Chitika’s SearchAppalooza re-cap video from SES New York

In March at SES New York, I was one of the guest judges for Chitika’s SearchAppalooza, to find the best new search app for 2009 (and there was also a pretty hysterical Oreo cookie eating contest at the end). Chitika has put up a montage video of some of my comments on the featured search apps on their blog.

It was done American Idol style, where each person had a few minutes to demo and describe their search app, and we got to put on our best Simon Cowell with our comments… but I think my style was much more Paula :)

You can view the video here.

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