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New AdSense privacy policy with interest based targeting included

With the new interest based targeting available through Google AdSense, all publishers must update their privacy policies to reflect this by April 8, 2009. With the popularity of the previous privacy policy by JenSense (used on more than 68,000 websites and counting), we now have a newly updated privacy policy for publishers with the new changes made.

JenSense readers are welcome to use this privacy policy on their own sites. Obviously, replace ___.com with your own website name and/or URL. And you may need to tailor bits of it to suit your site – if your site targets a specific country, you can change the ISP and city examples with ones in your own country.

Privacy Policy for ____.com

The privacy of our visitors to ____.com is important to us.

At _____.com, we recognize that privacy of your personal information is important. Here is information on what types of personal information we receive and collect when you use and visit _____.com, and how we safeguard your information. We never sell your personal information to third parties.

Log Files
As with most other websites, we collect and use the data contained in log files. The information in the log files include your IP (internet protocol) address, your ISP (internet service provider, such as AOL or Shaw Cable), the browser you used to visit our site (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox), the time you visited our site and which pages you visited throughout our site.

Cookies and Web Beacons
We do use cookies to store information, such as your personal preferences when you visit our site. This could include only showing you a popup once in your visit, or the ability to login to some of our features, such as forums.

We also use third party advertisements on ____.com to support our site. Some of these advertisers may use technology such as cookies and web beacons when they advertise on our site, which will also send these advertisers (such as Google through the Google AdSense program) information including your IP address, your ISP , the browser you used to visit our site, and in some cases, whether you have Flash installed. This is generally used for geotargeting purposes (showing New York real estate ads to someone in New York, for example) or showing certain ads based on specific sites visited (such as showing cooking ads to someone who frequents cooking sites).

DoubleClick DART cookies
We also may use DART cookies for ad serving through Google’s DoubleClick, which places a cookie on your computer when you are browsing the web and visit a site using DoubleClick advertising (including some Google AdSense advertisements). This cookie is used to serve ads specific to you and your interests (”interest based targeting”). The ads served will be targeted based on your previous browsing history (For example, if you have been viewing sites about visiting Las Vegas, you may see Las Vegas hotel advertisements when viewing a non-related site, such as on a site about hockey). DART uses “non personally identifiable information”. It does NOT track personal information about you, such as your name, email address, physical address, telephone number, social security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card numbers. You can opt-out of this ad serving on all sites using this advertising by visiting http://www.doubleclick.com/privacy/dart_adserving.aspx

You can chose to disable or selectively turn off our cookies or third-party cookies in your browser settings, or by managing preferences in programs such as Norton Internet Security. However, this can affect how you are able to interact with our site as well as other websites. This could include the inability to login to services or programs, such as logging into forums or accounts.

Deleting cookies does not mean you are permanently opted out of any advertising program. Unless you have settings that disallow cookies, the next time you visit a site running the advertisements, a new cookie will be added.

AdSense Privacy Policy Provided by <a href=”http://www.JenSense.com”>JenSense</a>

Simply cut and paste the new policy into your privacy policy on each site running Google AdSense, and you will be in compliance with the new change.

http://www.jensense.com/2009/04/03/new-adsense-privacy-policy-sample-with-interest-based-targeting-included/

Note: The database ate this post and the comments posted previously.

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Google AdSense drops AdSense for video

Google AdSense has decided to no longer offer their Google AdSense for video (not to be confused with video ads, where advertiser’s videos appear in an ad unit in lieu of a text or image ad).  These ads, which have been around for just over a year, allowed publishers to show certain YouTube videos embedded on their own sites, and showing AdSense ads overlayed. 

The program was good for publishers using it, and I know I have heard from publishers who didn’t even know it existed.  But there were restrictions on the usage, which definitely contributed to the fact it wasn’t widely adopted.

The program is ending at the end of April, so publishers should remove the units before then.  However, if you decide to keep them up, they will change to the standard YouTube embedded players, which will not earn any revenue.  They do state that earnings will continue until the end of April, so you don’t need to worry that you will lose income prior to it ending. 

There is more on the AdSense blog.

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Google AdSense joins Twitter

If you haven’t noticed on the Google AdSense blog, AdSense now has their own Twitter account where they will be tweeting on all things AdSense.  So far they have highlighted some things previously featured on the blog, but also have highlighted a forum thread where publishers share some of their AdSense tips.

They only have 6 tweets so far, but hopefully they will become more active.  I think the most valuable thing the AdSense twitter account could do is alert publishers when there are any issues – whether it is when stats are delayed or when access into the control panel is suffering from an unscheduled downtime.  Right now, I am doing that for the many publishers who follow me 😉

They only have 105 followers so far, so if you are on Twitter, go and follow @adsense… and follow me @jenstar too :)  @adsense only follows a couple of the official Google Twitter accounts though, so don’t be surprised if they aren’t following you back.  They do request @replies though, but I wonder how long it will be before their @replies are saturated with “I got my account suspended and I didn’t do anything wrong!” type of tweets!

Don’t really know what Twitter is or how to use it?  I have some Twitter related blog posts over on JenniferSlegg.com:

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Speaking at SES New York & judging best search apps contest

Next week I will be in New York for Search Engine Strategies New York, taking place March 24-26 (with training sessions on both the Monday and Friday). 

My first session is Introduction to Search Engine Marketing with Susan Prater from Owens Corning and David Naylor on Tuesday morning.  It is an overview of Search Marketing tips and techniques for those who are fairly new to the world of search engine marketing.  While most people know me for speaking about contextual advertising and AdSense, I actually also speak frequently on all aspects of search engine marketing, optimization and social media marketing.

Also on Tuesday, I am on of the judges for Searchappalooza at 1:45pm in the Grand Ballroom.  So if you have a killer search app you think should be in the must-have arsenal of any search marketer, be sure to submit it (yes, it is free to submit your app)… you might just get picked to demo your search app at SES New York in front of the Searchappalooza attendees and the judges, which include myself (Jennifer Slegg, CEO, JenSense), Larry Cornett (VP Search, Yahoo!), Rob Griffin (SVP Search Marketing, MediaContacts), Stacey Helman (Agency Development Executive, Microsoft) and Venkat Kolluri (CEO Chitika, Inc.). So it is a pretty good opportunity to get your app in front of some industry leaders. There is also a Twitter contest for a Kindle, if you are unable to attend.

There is also the Searchappalooza party at 5pm, so if you want to attend one of those exclusive parties everyone talks about, attending Searchappalooza will get you a wristband to get you into the party at O’Lunney’s Pub later that day from 5-7pm.  You can also hit up the Chitika booth or find the Owl (OWL?  Apparently so!) to score a wristband.  Yes, you need a wristband to get into the private party, just showing up won’t get you in.

Don’t forget there is the Monday night IM Charity Party with drinks and prizes.  There is a minimum $50 donation to attend (which goes entirely to charity) but the great sponsors cover the drinks.  I have attended many of these parties in the past, and it is always a great time socializing and networking for a great cause, and you will find many of the speakers and search bloggers in attendance.  The party is at Heartland Brewery in Union Square this year.  Consider this a must-attend party!

I will be around throughout the week, so feel free to have a quick chat if you see me. I have a few events scheduled in the evenings, but afterwards you will very likely find me in one of the hotel’s lounges or bars (last year there were two, but there was construction going on, so you just never know!)… which is where all the real networking happens :)  I also tend to twitter frequently at conferences, so you can follow me on Twitter (@jenstar) to find out where I am, and what we are all doing.  And if you are interested in becoming a JenSense client, please feel free to send me a message via my contact form so we can connect while in New York.

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Google AdSense introduces behavioral targeting AKA “interest based targeting”

Google AdSense as jumped into the behavioural targeting ad game with the launch of their new “interest based targeting” in an email publishers received last night, and which was also posted on the Inside AdSense blog.

Interest-based advertising will allow advertisers to show ads based on a user’s previous interactions with them, such as visits to advertiser website and also to reach users based on their interests (e.g. “sports enthusiast”).  To develop interest categories, we will recognize the types of web pages users visit throughout the Google content network.  As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we will add them to the “sports enthusiast” interest category.

The new advertising will start with only a limited number of beta testers, before rolling out with a wider release later this year.

Individuals can also click on the “Ads by Google” link on the AdSense ad units to modify their preferences by adding their preferred categories or to opt-out of the interest based targeting.  There is also information about your specific Google cookie for the computer you are currently on.

The category options are surprisingly extensive (800-900 it appears) and you can completely drill down into multiple levels of the high level categories.

I find it quite interesting that Google is not calling it behavioural targeting.  I must admit, the “interest based targeting” sounds much less “Big Brother-ish” which is the biggest complaint about behavioral advertising.  I have long thought that Google could have amazing results using behavioural targeting, provided it was rolled out correctly.  And changing up the name from something that sounds less intrusive was definitely a good move for Google to make.

It will be interesting to see what the response rate is for surfers opting out and for those who drill down their interests using the category selection.  I suspect unless it hits the mainstream media with a “why you should opt-out”, most surfers would be none the wiser and will continue to remain opted-in. 

I have seen a few people comment that they believe this should be opt-in for surfers, but I would suspect the adoption rate would be so low that it wouldn’t be worth it for Google to do this program. 

This will either be a really good thing or a really bad thing for publishers.  It does have the potential to drive more advertisers into content who want to take advantage of this targeting, since the argument goes that advertisers who see more personalized ads based on their surfing habits are much more likely to see ads that interest them specifically, and are more likely to click on the ads.  However, there is definitely the flip side that while your site might be about something that is in a higher AdSense earnings market area (say, finance for example), it could definitely hurt a publishers bottom line if the surfer sees knitting related ads because that is what their interest based targeting would serve up on the financial site.  There will hopefully be some checks and balances in place where higher paying contextually targeted ads would appear before lower paying interest based targeted ads.  However, since Google is also in it for the bottom line, you would hope they’d show the higher paying ads first, or else they will have a whole slew of cranky publishers complaining about it.

Now, because it is a limited beta group testing this first, it won’t affect your bottom line, either positively or negatively, until later this year.  And I am sure publishers who are asked to participate in the beta will have the choice to opt-out if they wish.  And Google should ideally be giving plenty of warning before they unleash interest based targeting on the masses, so AdSense publishers can really analyze the results and see how the program is affecting their bottom line.

I will also be doing a new privacy policy, because I know many of you use my AdSense privacy policy template.  You do not need to have the new privacy policy in place until April8, 2009, but I will have the new privacy policy template up within the next few days.

So what is everyone thinking about the new interest based targeting?  A good thing?  A bad thing? 

I also can’t wait until next month to pepper the AdSense reps about it who will be at ADSPACE :)  So if you are going to be in the San Francisco area on April 22nd, you will definitely want to be there since this is pretty significant news by Google to announce.

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Suspended AdSense publisher sues Google and wins

Have you had your account suspended by AdSense?  Most publishers end up losing the revenue earned after the last check had been issued.  Depending on the publisher, this could obviously vary from a few pennies to thousands of dollars.  So one publisher, Aaron Greenspan of Think Computer Corporation, decided to sue Google for that amount, in his case $721.00… and won.

Aaron received the standard Google AdSense suspended account email stating his account had been disabled.  And he decided to try contacting Google in any way he could in order to get his AdSense account reinstated.  First he went the online route, contacting support and filing an appeal but did not get a response.  So he phoned the Googleplex trying to talk to anyone in AdSense or even legal, to no avail.  He even tried going through AdWords, since he was also an AdWords advertiser, and hit a brick wall there too.

He also tried to sign up for AdSense for Domains, but was also declined, since once a site is suspended, it can no longer run AdSense of any kind.  He eventually found a workaround with Sedo, which ironically serves Google AdSense on parked pages, but since Sedo is effectively a reseller of AdSense, the revenue dropped significantly. 

So, what Aaron Greenspan did next is what all suspended publishers would love to do – he sued Google in small claims court for the $721 owing.

On January 15, 2009, I walked over to the Santa Clara County courthouse in Palo Alto, which conveniently fell within the same county lines as Google’s home of Mountain View, and filed a civil small claims lawsuit for $721.00–the amount Google owed Think when it disabled the account–using form SC-100. For a total of $40.00 in court fees, I arranged for Google, Inc. to be served by certified mail. The hearing was scheduled for March 2, 2009.

Interestingly enough, lawyers are not permitted in small claims court so Google sent a paralegal who ironically was not even told of why Aaron Greenspan’s account was disabled, so was not able to provide any reasons behind the termination, which was very likely the main reason behind the final decision.  So in the end, the judge sided with Aaron for the $721 (plus the $40 filing fee), although the judge declined to force Google to reinstate Aaron’s AdSense account, despite Milani saying the money had already been returned to the advertisers who paid for the clicks originally.

Ms. Milani reiterated her previous arguments, but the judge didn’t buy them. “I don’t think I have the power here in Palo Alto small claims court to make you reinstate his account, but I think you owe this young man $721,” he said finally. “I think there might be money in Google’s treasury for that.”

This does raise a lot of interesting points.  Will Google now be bombarded with hundreds or thousands of suspended publishers who want the balance remaining in their account?  Now, I do now that in some instances the balance is paid out, not all terminations mean a loss of whatever revenue was still owing in the account.

If the judge had forced Google to reinstate the account, it would put the AdSense terms of service in an interesting position, since those terms effectively state Google can terminate an account for any reason, whether it is invalid clicks or anything else. 

And what if the paralegal had come with all the information regarding why the account was suspended, particularly if invalid clicks was the reason?  Google losing a case for $721 is far less dangerous to the AdSense program than if the paralegal had come with documents supporting how Google determines whether clicks are invalid or not.  You know if she had, those documents would be torn apart and reverse engineered by publishers gone bad who are trying to determine how they could commit click fraud on their account without getting caught.

It will be interesting to see if more cases are brought against Google by suspended publishers.  And if they do, if Google will be sending more information to court with their paralegals to defend themselves. 

And if you are considering in small claims, do keep in mind that the AdSense terms state that any dispute or claim “shall be adjudicated in Santa Clara County, California”. 

So what does everyone think?  And if you are a suspended publisher, are you going to file in small claims to see about getting the money owed?  Or are you rooting for Google, since it is “bad” publishers who cause advertisers to disable advertising in the content network completely, meaning less revenue available for all publishers.

Update:  Susan did some digging around, and it turns out this publisher was clearly violating the AdSense terms by using AdSense on a parked domain that had nothing but a large AdSense ad unit in the middle of the page.

Aaron Greenspan posted the following on the AdSense support forums immediately after he was suspended.

I have a domain name that gets a lot of traffic, and I wanted to sign up for AdSense for Domains when I purchased the domain back in April. At the time it looked like the program was closed, but the page encouraged people to sign up for normal AdSense accounts, which I did. Instead of using the AdSense for Domains page, which I couldn’t, I put an AdSense block in the middle of the page, and a lot of people clicked on it for several months. Today, Google cancelled my account citing the verbiage about posing a risk to advertisers.

When someone pointed out that he had no content and was in violation of the AdSense terms, he responded:

I suppose I didn’t realize that not having content was forbidden with typical AdSense (as I don’t see that in the Terms and Conditions, but maybe I missed it). In any event, it seems disingenuous of Google to encourage people who are obviously looking to park domains with no content to sign up for a program that will penalize them for having no content. It was an honest mistake if it was a mistake at all. Google certainly profited from my traffic…

He also posted a lengthy post threatening legal action.

If the publisher had read the terms and policies (which he would have had to agree to when he signed up) he would have known that the policies state “No Google ad may be placed on any non-content-based pages.”  And yes, a page with nothing on it but an AdSense ad unit in the middle definitely qualifies as non-content.

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If you think no one is watching you click your own AdSense ads…

It is funny how people think they are being so creative by clicking their own AdSense ads.  So, here is one guy who thought he’d be sneaky by clicking his own AdSense ads – across multiple sites, no less – while at a Morrison’s Supermarket in the UK.

guyclickingads400

SEO Idiot caught this guy in action while he was at Morrison’s last week, and fortunately for the voyeur in all of us, he took a pic of the guy and then twittered it :)  He said “he appeared to be clicking ads on a number of sites – they didnt look like decent paying ads either – prob paid for his sandwich”.  And he appeared nervous while doing… and rightly so!

So next time you are passing by that internet cafe or using a wireless network outside of home/work, and think the coast would be clear to click a few ads, well, you just never know who may be watching!  Now, I know SEOIdiot did not report this publisher, but if you do the same thing, you might not be so lucky.  Not to mention the fact that the Google click fraud filters will probably raise the red flag on this one, especially if this is his daily lunch break activity.

Cue the “I got banned for no reason at all!” complaint 😉

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Some AdSense publishers unable to login, starts endless loop with Google account login

To start with, if you are having a panic attack and think Google must have suspended your AdSense account, chances are pretty good that your account is fine, but it is Google having login issues instead :)  I will be posting updates on Twitter at @jenstar as things change.

If you are trying to login to your AdSense account and having problems, Google is definitely having issues. When you go to the main AdSense login page, the landing page is different, but gives you a link to login. But once you click the link, it takes you to the generic Google account login. Which is fair enough, but once logged in to that, when you click the link to the AdSense account within your Google account, it takes you back to the initial different looking AdSense landing page, where the loop is repeated.

So here is the new look landing page… note that it seems to be there to attract potential new publishers rather than being something useful for regular publishers since there is no login boxes on this page.  Click the image to view it normal size.

adsenselogin1

So you click the Already using AdSense? link, and you are taken to yet another new page:

adsenselogin2

So you login and the assumption is that you will be taken to your AdSense account.  But actually, you are taken to your Google account landing page (I did not include a screenshot since it includes some of my personal login info, along with all the Google products I use, some of which are still in limited beta).

On the Google account landing page, there is a link direct to AdSense.  But when you click it, sure enough you land on the new look landing page, the first screen shot in this blog entry.  And then the whole process repeats itself over and over again.

Interestingly, multiple browsers are reporting this issue, so it doesn’t seem to be a case with one browser having it and another not. Interestingly enough, my laptop had this issue while my deskop on the identical IP and same login info displayed the usual login page.  You can try flushing your cookies or using a different browser to try and work around it.

It could be that Google is rolling out an update to the Google interface, and while rolling it out in batches have discovered this issue.  So there could be something new and shiny to play with in our AdSense accounts once the problem is fixed.  Follow me on Twitter @jenstar as I keep you posted on the latest!

More discussion at DigitalPoint & AdSense support forum.  Nothing official from Google as of yet.

Update: It appears the endless looping issue is resolved, but some people are still seeing the new version of the AdSense login pages.

Update March 4 @ 12pm: Many people are still being hampered by this.  I still can’t get my laptop out of the weird login loop.  If you are having the same issue, try a different browser, but even Google Chrome is having this issue with some publishers.

Google has also commented on the issue:

Login loop

If you tried to sign in to your AdSense account between 10:45 and 11:35 p.m. PST last night, you may have found yourself in a “loop” between the AdSense login page and your Google Accounts page. We’re in the process of trying out some new designs for our US English homepage, and we rolled them back after users reported a login error with one of the designs. You should now be able to sign in as normal. Rest assured the next time the new designs are rolled out, you’ll actually end up where you want to be: in your AdSense account! Thanks especially to the forum posters and Twitterers for quickly bringing this to our attention.

Slower stats

You may notice more of a delay in your AdSense and Google Ad Manager stats than usual today, as our engineers will be performing some maintenance work on our system. Please be assured that ads will continue to be served to your pages, and all activity will continue to be tracked as usual. Although it may take longer than usual to see impressions, clicks, and earnings reported in your account, you’ll be credited for all valid activity on your sites. We apologize for the short notice, and appreciate your patience as we work to keep our systems updated for you.

Hopefully we will see everything back to normal soon.

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Ryanair wants you to click Google AdSense ads, not buy flights

For years I have been telling publishers who are running a business selling a product or service that they should be very wary of using Google AdSense on their sites for a number of reasons. First, people using the site that might be purchasing from you are going to wonder why you are trying to pawn them off on a paid ad instead of doing what they expect – selling them your product/service. Second, because of the way AdSense targeting works, you WILL have competitor’s ads appearing on your site.

Ryanair is a perfect example of this… and since Ryanair has denounced all bloggers as lunatic bloggers, I don’t have to worry about them reading this 😉 (Here is one of the many stories if this is the first you have heard of it).

I was on Facebook tonight when I noticed someone posted a link to RyanAir Showing Adverts for EasyJet on FlightBlogging.com. And sure enough, when you search for a flight on RyanAir, along with showing you their available flights, they also show you – you guessed it – Google AdSense ads. It is worth noting that the AdSense code they are using is custom, however they have a regular publisher ID, not a premium publisher ID.

Now, if I was a Ryanair shareholder, I don’t think I would be very happy to see Ryanair trying to send the customers off to BMI when they search for a Ryanair flight. This was what I saw when I searched for a flight to Edinburgh (first picture is the first ad in the ad unit, then below is the full ad unit, click thumbnail to view full size):
ryanairbmi

ryanair1

It makes you wonder if this is how RyanAir is planning to subsidize all those cheap flights. But it has one big problem… along with BMI and EasyJet, they are also showing all kinds of competitive comparison shopping type travel and flight sites too, such:

  • Easyjet
  • FlyBMI
  • Priceline
  • Expedia
  • SideStep
  • Kayak
  • CheapRickets.com
  • Orbitz
  • Travelocity
  • Trip Advisor
  • AerLingus
  • FlightCentre
  • TravelZoo
  • FareCompare
  • Mobissimo
  • and many more!

And you know once the word spreads that Ryanair is using Google AdSense ads, competitors will be specifically site targeting their ads on the site to drive the traffic and flight purchasers away from Ryanair. And with the number of competitors and the flux within the ad space of that industry, blocking competitors will be a timely job, not to mention the fact it will dramatically reduce the income.

Now, is this a smart marketing strategy for Ryanair? Only if they are planning to get out of the flight business and into the ad publisher game. Because otherwise all they are doing is sabotage their own sales… why show other sites that will drive their customers to go and seek out pricing elsewhere, when many of those people might have been fully prepared to plunk down their credit card and order a flight online when they saw available flights? By not only including their own flight information, but also AdSense ads with competitors, it will only result in fewer bookings… and I am fairly certain that those ad clicks won’t equal the lost revenue. The only fortunate thing is that they have very poor ad placement.

At the very least, Ryanair should get someone on board so at least the ads shown can be targeted yet not sabotaging their business, such as hotels in the chosen destination or car rentals… but right now, showing competitor’s ads will do nothing to help Ryanair’s business… nor do anything to keep their shareholder’s happy.

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Payments due AdSense publishers from account hold bug delayed until March

If you were one of the publishers who ended up with your AdSense account on hold for payments due to an AdSense bug, you were reassured that payments would be processed to be included at the end of February.  Originally, AdSense Pro William posted on their support forums that payments would be included in the payments at the end of February.  However, because Google had to remove these holds manually, it seems as though this wasn’t done until after the February 15th cut off time.  So what does this mean for affected publishers?  You have to wait another month to receive your payment due to Google’s bug, according to AdSensePro Jen.

However, please keep in mind that the payment hold issue that was occurring earlier was fixed after the 2/15 Feb payment cycle deadline. As a result, if you believe you were under this issue, you should be paid in the next cycle at the end of March.

Yes, so now Google’s bug means you have to wait until the end of March for those payments.  Still no word on how many publishers are affected or if perhaps some of them made the February 15th cut off so they will get their payments at the end of February as the original post implied, but the new post by AdSensePro Jen seems to say that all affected publishers didn’t have their account’s fixed until after the payment cut off deadline.

If you were affected, you should be able to login to your AdSense account and check your payment history to see when the bug was fixed for your account, and if it looks like your payment from your December earnings made the end of February payment or not.

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