Sunday, 10 December 2006

Terminating AdSense Accounts: Whys and Wherefores

Yesterday I found myself thinking about Google's AdSense account termination process in the light of a few other things I have read about or experienced.

First, partially in response to a previous post of mine, I read a comment on John Chow's blog, in which he stated, "once you start producing results, even Google will bend over backwards for you." I found myself thinking about AdSense account closures in light of his statement.

Second, the official AdSense Help Forum is constantly full of posts from people whose AdSense accounts have been closed, without warning and with the user having no idea why.

Third, and finally, the fact that I was once sent a warning letter from AdSense regarding my web site,, which informed me that I needed to remove AdSense ads from my site for reasons of trademark policy violations. Why did I get a warning? Why do others get warnings but some don't? That got me thinking about John Chow's statement again - why does Google "bend over backwards" for some, warn others, and not even bother to warn the rest?

This lead to a completely untested hypothesis on my part. If Google will bend over backwards for highly successful publishers, perhaps they treat policy violations on the basis of their perceived value of the publisher, or the publisher's web site, in terms of potential future earnings. In other words, does Google just ban those sites whose future prospects it deems poor and is more lenient with those it thinks have earning potential? Except for cases of clear, extreme policy violations, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some truth in that. Why else would Google treat even regular AdSense publishers (i.e., not "Premium Publishers") differently from each other?

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Saturday, 9 December 2006

AdSense: Scam or the Real Deal?

I've often been asked whether you can really make a lot of money online just by putting up AdSense sites or whether the whole thing is just a scam. This is understandable given the way AdSense is often presented in various online advertisements for AdSense sites and the like. So, is this for real or are they just scams?

There really are two issues here. First, can you make good money from AdSense? Second, are "made for AdSense" (MFA) sites scams? I'll address these in turn.

Earning from AdSense

I would be lying if I said you can't make good money from AdSense because many people certainly seem to be doing just that. However, the impression is often given that all you have to do is create a web site, sign up for AdSense, stick some code on your pages and then just sit back and watch the money roll in. However, rarely, if ever, are things quite that simple. If you already have a web site in place that gets a good number of visitors, then displaying AdSense ads could certainly work pretty quickly for you, especially if your site lends itself to good quality ads and a visitor-base that is likely to be interested in the products/services being advertised. On the other hand, when it comes to new sites life may be very different.

Supposing you create a new site, even if has great content, if no-one is visiting how are you going to earn anything? That is the key point and one I'll address below.

MFA Sites Scams?

Are these "made-for-Adsense" sites scams? Well, I guess the answer to that depends on how you define "scam" so I'll address the reasons why such schemes are not quite as simple as they claim to be.

Back to the subject of who's going to click on those ads if there are no visitors ... most AdSense schemes don't seem to address this issue. Without visitors you may as well not have a site at all. So, if you're creating a new site in the hope of earning money from AdSense, remember that you are going to have to put in a lot of hard work attracting visitors--which is a whole new topic in itself and one that I'll be dealing with in part in next week's article. So, unless you're already experienced in marketing new web sites, you will probably have your work cut out to make good money on a new site.

Another important issue not really pointed out in these schemes relates to site content, especially in relation to Google's AdSense policies. First the Google AdSense Program Policies state:

"No Google ad may be placed on pages published specifically for the purpose of showing ads, whether or not the page content is relevant."

Thus, if you are putting up a web site for the sole purpose of displaying ads, you are in violation of Google's policies and could have your account discontinued. How Google determines your purpose, I cannot imagine!

The second issue is that many of these "made-for-AdSense" sites are simply a collection of freely available content that is already available elsewhere on the internet. Even though there is certainly a place for such content, if the bulk of your content is not original to your site then you are not following Google's webmaster guidelines, which is also frowned upon by AdSense policies.

In summary, yes, you can make good money from AdSense, particularly if you already have a successful web site with a good visitor base. Otherwise, even though it can be achieved it takes good, original content, the right type of content, hard work at marketing your site and the nous to know how to attract visitors.

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AdWords Free Hosted Business Pages - A Good Thing for AdSense Publishers?

As I discuss elsewhere, Google is now offering free hosted business pages to users of AdWords starter edition who do not have a web site. If basic economic theory, and a few assumptions hold true, this should be a good thing for AdSense publishers. Let me explain . . .

1. If demand for a product goes up and supply remains the same, the price will go up. (See an explanation on Wikipedia.)
2. The availability of free hosted landing pages should increase demand for AdWords advertisements
3. Therefore, all other things being equal, the price of AdWords advertisements should increase.
4. Now, assuming that AdWords smart pricing doesn't undercut any such effect AND that AdSense publishers generally get a roughly fixed percentage of the cost the advertiser actually pays, if advertisers now pay more for their ads, the publishers of those ads should start receiving a higher average price per click - which sounds like a good thing for AdSense publishers!

Of course, as more and more people sign up for AdSense, the supply of advertising space also increases, so any gain may be short-lived so make the most of it while you can!

Like with all good economic theories, of course, this theory will only hold true if my assumptions are reasonably accurate, so here's hoping!

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Thursday, 7 December 2006

AdSense: A Bifurcated System

Now, I always knew there were two tiers of AdSense users, the "premium" publishers who have such benefits as Google Keywords (google_kw) and the rest of us, i.e. the average AdSense publisher. However, until today, I didn't realize (oh naïve me) that there are also two sets of rules (well, there's probably as many sets of rules as there are premium publishers).

I was aware that some rules in the AdSense Terms and Conditions, and Policies are not applied as written, but today I learned that AdSense is prepared to forgo entire rules for publishers that are in a special relationship. How did I discover this?

A few days ago I happened to be reading John Chow's blog when I noticed that his blog was displaying both AdSense and Intellitxt ads. Immediately I thought to myself, "Self! Intellitxt is a contextual ad system and you are not allowed to display contextual ads on the same page as AdSense ads, so something's up." (See the "Competitive Ads and Services" section of the Google AdSense Program Policies).

Being the curious type and one who likes to see rules being applied equally to all people, I thought I would write to AdSense support to ask if I, being a mere mortal AdSense publisher would be allowed to display Kontera ads (similar to Intellitxt) on my blogs alongside my AdSense ads. I also pointed out that was doing this very thing. I received an interesting reply:

According to our program policies, Kontera and Intellitxt ads may not be displayed on the same page as Google ads on your site. However, you are welcome to display those ads on pages of your site that do not include Google ads . . . Additionally, I understand that you've noticed is displaying Google ads. Because we respect the confidentiality of all publishers, we cannot disclose any details of our relationship with this site.

So, if you're lucky enough to be one of the John Chow's of this world, not only may you get access to premium features, but Google may also be prepared to break its own rules to have you use their contextual ad publishing service.

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AdSense Nonsense: Clearing Up Some Common Misconceptions

I regularly read posts in the official AdSense Help forum that highlight some common confusions and misunderstanding among AdSense newbies. So here we're going to put the record straight.

There are two common misunderstandings regard AdSense's CPM ads - not to mention the fact that some people don't even realize that there are CPM ads!

First, that you can choose whether to display CPM ads or not. Second, the belief that you will earn from AdSense ad impressions no matter what. I'll address these misunderstandings in turn.

Choosing CPM Ads
You don't get to choose whether you get pay-per-click (PPC) or pay-per-impression (CPM) ads. By default, you only get PPC ads and you will only get CPM ads if an AdWords advertiser hand picks your site to advertise on (in AdWords terminology, a "site-targeted campaign"). This is extremley unlikely in most cases, so the vast majority of AdSense advertisers never get CPM ads on their web site.

Payment for Impressions
AdSense is primarily, at least at the moment, a pay-per-click program. Thus, as stated above, by default you will only get PPC ads. Therefore, unless someone clicks on your ads, you will not receive a cent no matter how many thousands of impressions you may have.

There are also two common sources of these confusions, the eCPM statistic and image ads.

The confusion about payment per impression often arises because AdSense reports a statistic that it refers to as "eCPM." eCPM is your effective CPM income, i.e. you effective income per 1000 impressions which is merely a rough approximation as to how much you will earn from PPC advertising on your site, based on performance and impressions to date.

For example, if you've had 500 impressions and you've earned $10, your eCPM would be $20. If you'd had 10,000 impressions and earned $10, your eCPM would be $1. The formula is:

(earnings/impressions) * 1000
Thus, using the first scenario above, if AdSense is reporting an eCPM of $20, all that means is "if your PPC ads continue to perform at the same rate as they have in the past, for every 1000 impressions you will earn roughly $20."

Image Ads
Many people, including myself initially, get thrown when they see image ads on their site because they think they must therefore be CPM ads. However, just because an ad is an image it doesn't mean it's a CPM ad, there are also PPC image ads. In AdWords, you can create CPC (cost-per-click) image ads as well as text ads. So, if you see an image ad on your site, the chances are that it is still a PPC ad, not a CPM ad.

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