Monday, 26 March 2007

Why It's Not Worth Putting Competing PPC Ads Alongside AdSense Ads

I frequently read questions on various AdSense discussion forums regarding whether or not you are allowed to put ads from other PPC programs, such as AdBrite, Bidvertiser, Clicksor, etc. on the same page as AdSense ads.

In this post I'll discuss why I don't think this is generally a good idea anyway. However, first, what exactly are the rules governing this situation?

AdSense Rules Regarding Competing Ads

The rules governing competitive ads and services were amended earlier in 2007 and now read as follows:

In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads.
In various places, Google has also stated that if the competing ads naturally have a similar look to Google ads, they must use a distinct color scheme to clearly differentiate them from the Google ads.

Thus, you can now use pretty much any competing ad program alongside AdSense provided they are visually different, even if the competing ads are contextual, which was formerly prohibited. Of course, you also need to make sure that the competing ad program permits AdSense to be used alongside their own ads!

Why It May Not Be a Good Idea

There are 4 main reasons why I think it is generally not a good idea to display competitive ads alongside AdSense. However, I want to begin with a proviso. I do not consider in-text ads as being competitive ads. By this, I mean such ad programs as Kontera, Intellitxt, etc.

So, here are my reasons:

1. Poorer Quality Ads
Many of these competing programs simply have poor quality ads, as compared to AdSense. They don't necessarily follow the same editorial policies that Google requires of its ads and often just look tacky. However, this definitely does vary from program to program. Also, the format of some AdSense competitors' ads is not good. For instance, Element Ads often truncates the title of the ad when it is wider than the ad width. Thus, you may see ads for "Bicycle Shelters and R" or "Lake Tahoe Mountain Cabi," for example, where the end of the ad title is missing.

2. Lower Paying Ads
In my experience, AdSense competitors tend to have lower paying ads both in terms of the average cost per click and the click-thru rate. For example, on one site of mine, I earned more than 10 times the amount with AdSense in about 6 weeks than I earned from Bidvertiser and AdBrite during a period of several months. (Note: AdSense was not run alongside Bidvertiser and AdBrite).

3. Competing with AdSense
This kinda goes without saying . . . but if you have other ads on your page that are competing with your AdSense ads, you are going to get less clicks on your AdSense ads. If the AdSense ads tend to pay more per click, why compete against them?

Another issue to consider here is that of payment threshold. Suppose your competing program has a $100 minimum payout requirement, like AdSense has. By running the two programs side-by-side you are going to take considerably longer to reach the payment threshold, even if both programs perform equally well. Now, if you're a high-traffic, high-earning site, that's not an issue, but I know there are plenty of AdSense publishers out there struggling to reach $50 in earnings, let alone the $100 minimum! Can you really afford to wait perhaps twice as long to get paid?

4. AdSense is More Than Adquate On Its Own
In my opinion, you really don't need competing CPC ads because you can already place more than enough AdSense units on a page anyway. Under the current rules, you can place 3 ad units (which may each contain up to 4 ads), 1 link unit, 2 search boxes, and 2 referral units per product. That's potentially an awful lot of ads to appear on a single page!

Of course, if you're unhappy with the performance of your AdSense ads, feel free to try other programs, or test their performance against your AdSense ads. However, in my opinion, AdSense is by far the best contextual PPC program available.


Thursday, 22 March 2007

Agloco Viewbar Release Delayed - Why Am I Not Surprised

According to the Agloco blog, "the Viewbar release is currently scheduled for between Monday April 2 and Monday, April 16."

So much for the March release that was promised! As I expressed in a previous post on the subject, I had my doubts that a March release would occur and I've been proven right.

Given the promises and the fuss that people have made over Agloco, when (if) it does eventually launch the Viewbar, it had better be one highly successful program or there is going to be a lot of "egg-on-face."

I continue to wait with breath that is even more bated than before!

Related Posts
Agloco's 100 Day Report
Agloco Viewbar Scheduled for a March Release
Agloco: What No-One Seems to be Mentioning About It


Google PPA Ads: The Pros and Cons

As you've probably already read elsewhere, Google recently announced a limited beta test of its new Pay-Per-Action ads. This new pricing model will initially only be available to U.S. advertisers and the ads are only going to be shown on AdWords' Content Network, that is, as AdSense ads.

Under the PPA pricing model, publishers will only generate income when a customer completes an action that the advertiser has predefined, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, etc. Each action is assigned a value by the advertiser and part of the price the advertiser pays goes to the AdSense publisher.

As part of this new pricing model, Google is also introducting a new type of advertisement: text link ads. This is in addition to standard text or image ads.

So, what are the pros and cons of this new form of AdSense advertising for you, the AdSense publisher?


More Control
Google's PPA advertising model has four characteristics that provide greater control and choice for the publisher:

  1. Publishers can choose whether or not they want to have PPA ads on their web sites.
  2. Publishers can choose "between an individual ad, a shopping cart of ads, or a specific term or phrase that is relevant to their site’s content."
  3. The introduction of the new "text link ad" format gives publishers more flexibility in the type of ads being served.
  4. Finally, before the ads start to be served to their sites, publishers will be able to "view the specifics of the ad, including company name, logo and products or services being sold."
I think point 2 is of particular importance. It is a frequent complaint of (newbie) AdSense publishers that they have no, or little, control over the ads being displayed on their sites. With the PPA model, publishers will be able to choose specific ads to display, or ads pertinent to keywords of their choice. This is potentially a big plus for the PPA pricing model.

Potential for Greater Earnings
This "pro" is certainly more uncertain and tenuous than the issue of greater control. However, because the advertiser can place a fairly accurate value on the action, they should be willing to pay considerably more per action than they would pay per click because, in reality, only a certain percentage of clicks ever leads to a conversion for the advertiser.

The issue of clicks and conversions also raises another important point to remember. Under the CPC pricing model, if clicks on the Content Network are less likely to lead to a conversion, the publisher's income per click is reduced as a result of Google's Smart Pricing methodology. Thus, PPA ads are a way of avoiding Smart Pricing.


Uncertainty and Risk
By far the biggest issue on the negative side with PPA ads are the issues of uncertainty and risk, particularly with regards to income. Because this pricing model is new, it will take time for prices to reach their optimum levels, such that they are attractive to advertisers but still providing a decent income to publishers.

Also, and by far the most obvious issue, is the fact that publishers will only earn when an action is completed. This will therefore put pressure on the publishers to ensure that such ads are displayed on pages that are likely to be read by customers actively looking to complete such actions. Thus, PPA ads are more likely to succeed on, for example, product review pages, than on purely informational or educational pages. Thus, it is going to be risky for publishers to place these ads on their sites without any way of assessing the likelihood that clicks will lead to conversions. This is particularly true of pages that are already generating a relatively decent income on a CPC basis.

Minimizing the Risk
So, given the riskiness and uncertainty of PPA ads for the publisher, how can this risk be minimized?

1. Have you Been Smart Priced?
If you have been an AdSense publisher for a while, analyze your income per click over time and see if it has gone down. If so, that means you have probably been "smart priced." That is, clicks on ads on your site(s) are generally not converting well. In this case, PPA advertising is probably not a good choice for you unless smart pricing has so siginficantly reduced your income per click that the value of a single conversion would exceed your CPC income within the time needed to get a conversion in spite of smart pricing.

2. Analyze Your Site's Content
Take the time to analyze your site's content with regard to the action the advertiser is trying to achieve. Are visitors to your site likely to be seeking to do what the advertiser is hoping for? Is your site's content very specific to the content of the ad and its associated action?

If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, PPA ads may be a good choice for you.

3. Test
Test PPA ads on a small section of your site as a trial. Make use of AdSense Channels to analyze the performance of the ads and compare their performance against (1) non-PPA ads on other parts of the site during the same time period, and (2) the peformance of non-PPA ads on the same section of the site prior to the switchover to PPA ads.

4. Are You Unhappy with your CPC/CPM Income?
If so, then PPA ads may simply be worth the risk!

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Update: If you are interested in reading the pros and cons of AdWords PPA advertising from the advertiser's perspective, read my blog post on the subject.

Friday, 16 March 2007

February's Most Popular Posts

Well, better late than never, the most popular MoneyTies posts in February were:

  1. Alternatives to AdSense: Kontera. - My review on in-text AdSense competitor, Kontera.

  2. Joel Comm's Monthly Templates Violate AdSense Program Policies? - Discusses the reasons why AdSense guru Joel Comm's monthly templates breach AdSense's rules.

  3. AdSense Optimization: Tricks That Harm AdSense Publishers - This post looked at how much AdSense optimization is really tricking users into clicking on ads and how this can result in a lower CPC as a result of Smart Pricing.

  4. AdSense: A Bifurcated System - This post discussed how Google is willing to bend its rules for premium publishers. Note, since this post was first published, AdSense has changed some of its rules to give more flexibility to all publishers, rather than just to premium publishers.

  5. How Google Targets AdSense Ads - Discusses the factors that Google takes into account in determining which ads to display on your web site.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Affiliate Links on this Blog

Several prominent bloggers, such as John Chow, have been discussing the issue of whether affiliate links in blog posts should be marked with (aff) or some other designation.

As you may be aware, with a view to open disclosure, I have generally indicated afiliate links with "(aff)" following the link. However, after reading posts on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that this practice is probably not helpful and could, in fact, confuse readers who are unaware of the meaning of "(aff)". Thus, I have decided not to indicate affiliate links in future but rather to simply state here that any links found on this blog or on the web site may be affiliate links.

Bidvertiser Has a New Look

Bidvertiser launched their completely redesigned web site today.

Bidvertiser New Web Site

This new site, which has been "redesigned from the ground up," certainly looks a lot slicker and more professional than the previous site. However, when I've tried to access it today it's often been extremely slow and unresponsive—in fact, it produced a pretty serious-looking error message the last time I tried to visit the home page and also when trying to log in. Not a great start for a newly launched web site! However, given my prior review of Bidvertiser, I am, sadly, not surprised.

In addition to the new look web site, Bidvertiser has also just launched a blog, "where we'll keep you informed with the new features to come." Let's hope the Blog gets off to a better start!


Putting AdSense Code in External Files

If you are managing a web site comprised of several pages and you would like to be able to add AdSense code to the site without having to paste the exact same code into each and every page, there are two main ways this can be achieved.

Include Files

Dynamic page building technologies such as ASP,, PHP, and SHTML allow code that is common to multiple pages to be stored in an external file and incorporated into the main page with a single command.

For example, if you were using ASP you could place your AdSense code in a file named i_adsense.asp (the i_ prefix indicating an include file. Note: It is not good practice to name ASP include files with a .inc extension). In order to include this file in your main code, you simply use the command

<!--#include file="i_adsense.asp"-->
Similarly, in PHP you use the command
<?php include("i_adsense.php") ?>

External .JS Files

Using this method, you simply place your AdSense javascript in a file that has a .js extension, such as adsense.js, and reference this file in your main code, wherever you want the AdSense ads to appear. To incorporate the external .js file in your code, you would use the command
<script language="JavaScript" src="inputmasks.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
Note, the src attribute can contain a full path or absolute URL, such as js-files/inputmasks.js or

Is this method permitted?

There seems to be some confusion as to whether external .js files are permitted. In order to clarify this situation, I recently contacted AdSense support and this is how they responded
You're welcome to include the AdSense ad code in .js files, but please don't modify the code or manipulate the ad targeting in any way, as this is against our program policies.
Thus, as long as you don't alter the core JavaScript code in any way, it is perfectly acceptable to make use of external .js files.

Limitations of these Methods

External files make managing your AdSense code across many pages much simpler. This is particularly useful when you are using a template that allows for an ad unit of the same size in the same place on every page in your site. However, this is not without its limitations.

The single biggest issue with this is that it makes the use of precise channels much more difficult. For example, supposing every page has a leaderboard at the top of the page that is in an external include file and you want to include a unique channel for every page's leaderboard. If you had no other AdSense ads on the page, you could make use of URL channels, but what would you do if you also had a skyscraper unit on your pages? How would you differentiate the two?

By incorporating programming techniques into your external include files in ASP, PHP, etc., even this is possible, but is beyond the scope of this post.


Thursday, 8 March 2007

Agloco's 100 Day Report

According to an email I received today from Agloco (aff), "[i]t is now 100 days since AGLOCO went public with its pre-launch plan to become the Internet’s first Economic Network."

Is it really only 100 days? Seems a lot longer than that.

However, the thing that really caught my eye in this email was not Agloco's 100 day birthday but rather the statement that the

Viewbar software team (now seven engineers in Shanghai) is making steady progress. - Release of the software will be announced with both an email as well as a notice on the AGLOCO website.
Previously, Agloco reported that the Viewbar would be released in March. Now, I know it's still only March 8th but it concerns me that the software team are only "making steady progress." Shouldn't such an eagerly anticipated piece of software that is scheduled to be released within 23 days be at a stage beyond "steady progress?"

I still wait with bated breath.

Related Posts
Agloco Viewbar Scheduled for a March Release
Agloco: What No-One Seems to be Mentioning About It


Wednesday, 7 March 2007

How to Tell If You Are Getting CPM AdSense Ads

Confusion still reigns regarding CPM AdSense ads, as I've discussed in my previous "AdSense Nonsense" post and elsewhere. I'm also still reading advice that if you place large AdSense ad units on your site, you're more likely to get CPM ads. So, how do you get CPM ads, indeed, what are CPM ads, and how can you tell if you are getting any on your site?

What are CPM Ads?
CPM ads are advertisements that are part of Google's AdWords program for which the advertiser pays per 1,000 impressions rather than per click. Thus, they are the only type of AdSense ad that pay you for impressions rather than clicks. However, even though your AdSense reports are showing relevant impressions, you may not get any associated earnings because an advertiser may be paying as little as 50 cents per 1,000 impressions, which is the equivalent of only $0.0005 per impression!

How Do You Get CPM Ads?
This is really very simple-you get CPM ads on your site if an AdWords advertiser, choosing to advertise with CPM ads, handpicks your site to advertise on. As AdSense help states:

Advertisers running CPM ads . . . select the specific sites on which to show their ads, and pay each time their ad appears.
Source: What are CPM ads? AdSense Help Center.

In the world of Google AdWords, the flip-side of AdSense, these ads are known as "site-targeted ads."

How Can You Tell If You Are Getting Any CPM Ads on Your Site?
You can very easily verify whether you are getting any CPM ads on your web site by using functionality built into AdSense's advanced reporting mechanism. Simply follow these instructions:
  1. Log into your AdSense account
  2. Click on the "Advanced Reports" link under the "Reports" tab
  3. For the "Choose product" drop-down, make sure "AdSense for content" is selected
  4. For the "Show data by" drop-down, mak sure you select "Individual Ad"
  5. Check the box immediately below the "Show data by" drop-down, labeled "Show data by targeting type - contextual or site"
  6. Select the Date Range you want to check for
  7. Click the "Display Report" button
  8. In the report results, you should see a column labeled "Targeting." If you are getting CPM ads, for some (or all) days you will see the word "Site" in this column, with a value in the "Ad Impressions" column. Any days that do not have a "Site" value as well as a "Contextual" value in the "Targeting" column did not get any CPM ads. (Note: "Contextual" in the "Targeting" column refers to the standard cost-per-click ads.)
Using this report, I can see that I had some CPM ads on March 3, 4, 5 but none on March 2 or 6.

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