Archive forAdWords

Google Adds Favicons to Ads

Here is an interesting Google test I came across today. It looks like they are testing putting small icons beside the URL in some ads. Here is a screen shot:

Google Favicon Ads

Google is always testing changes like these to a limited set of users to see what affect they have. My guess is that these icons will increase the click-through-rate on these ads. There have been some other reports from people seeing these as well, but my screen shot is the first I’ve heard of a US based search showing these results.

I’m sure if these icons do increase click-through-rates, publishers will like the addition!

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AdWords Policies Will be Updated to Ban Essay Writing Sites

According to an article from the BBC, Google will be updating its policies to include essay writing sites in its list of sites that are not allowed to advertise using AdWords. Starting next month, Google will no longer allow ads for “academic paper-writing services and the sale of pre-written essays, theses, and dissertations”.

Google, commenting on the change, says its advertising policies are “developed and evaluated based on multiple factors, including legal and cultural considerations plus user and customer experience”.

And a spokesperson said that the advert ban was expected to be applied across Google’s global network.

Of course, the essay writing companies aren’t too happy, while the universities are applauding the news. To me this ban seems kind of arbitrary. I don’t think these ads provide a poor user experience and they bring in money, so it’s just a matter of Google deciding that this industry is “bad” somehow. What industry is going to be next? Of course Google is allowed to reject any ads they want to, but does it make good business sense?

If you are a publisher who happens to have a site that includes these types of advertisers, I’m sure there will be a dip in AdSense revenue starting next month.

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Google Cracking Down on MFA Arbitrage

JenSense is reporting that Google is disabling arbitrage publisher accounts as of June 1st. Some publisher are getting emails stating that they have a business model that is not a good fit for AdSense, and their accounts would be disable. The publishers will get to keep any money they make before June 1st.

One thing that is not 100% clear is what exactly determined which accounts got the emails. Reading a thread at Webmaster World, which includes comments from many webmaster who received the email, it is not clear what the exact problem was. Were they banned strictly for doing arbitrage, or was it because it they had MFAs (Made-For-AdSense websites)?

My personal opinion is that Google is cracking down on accounts that have sites which provide a bad user experience. We all know those websites that have very little content and the ads are the only obvious way to leave the site. Kim Malone has already stated that Google does not like these sites. This is from a Search Engine Watch article:

Kim Malone, Director of Online Sales & Operations for Google, gave the generic search engine response. “We’re interested in a positive user experience,” she said. She did share, however, that misleading users is not acceptable. For example, you cannot offer something for sale in a PPC ad and then direct consumers to a landing page full of ads instead.

Google has nothing against arbitrage itself. It is possible to do arbitrage, and still supply a good user experience. I have a site where 25% of my traffic comes from AdWords. Almost all the income from this site is from AdSense. But, I know this is a good user experience because users who get to my site from AdWords spend an average of over 5 minutes at the site reading an average of 10 pages each. All the content is unique and relevant to the ads that I display. Google’s AdWords system also recognizes the quality of the user experience, because most of my keywords rank a “Great” quality score. The quality scores measures the relevance of you page content to the keywords you use for your AdWords ads. This great quality score allows me to keep my bid prices very low. The high page count per user at my site means I don’t need a huge CTR on each page to make a profit. For example, if I pay 5 cents per click on my ads, and I have a page CTR of 3.33%, and my pages per visitor is 10, I only need to make 15 cents per click to break even. Add to that the fact that the user has had a good experience at my site and is likely to come back and recommend it to others, I am way ahead. I don’t think Google would complain about this type of arbitrage.

I think one source of confusion is that many people equate arbitrage and MFAs. This is because almost all MFAs engage in arbitrage, and most arbitrageurs use MFAs site. But, as I have shown above, it is possible to do arbitrage in a way that provides users with a positive experience.

The other question is whether or not this will be good or bad for publishers. There are a few factors at work here.

First, Google’s disabling of many MFA arbitrageurs accounts means there are going to be fewer AdWords advertisers as well. Fewer advertisers means less competition, and lower click prices. That’s bad for publishers.

Next, eliminating MFAs from the AdWords advertising pool and making the user’s experience better means people may be more likely to click on ads in the future. If someone has an experience where they click an ad and are led to a spammy page with more ads, they are less likely to click on ads in the future. That’s good for publishers.

Finally, some advertisers do not use the content network because they do not want their ads to appear on MFAs. Banning MFAs from the system will mean more advertisers are willing to use the content network in the future. That’s good for publishers.

So, I think there may be a slight, initial dip in publishers earning as the MFA arbitrageurs leave, but in long run I think things will even out.

Update: Shoemoney has a video on the subject. He says many big time arbitrageurs have not been kicked out of AdSense.

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What Does Google’s Click Fraud Announcement Really Say About Level Of Click Fraud?

A careful reading of Google’s announcement about click fraud reveals that they really say nothing about the levels of actual click fraud.

Google was careful to comment only on the level of invalid clicks that they actually catch, not the level of click fraud itself. Here is what Google actually says
1) It’s automated invalid click detection find less than 10% of the click are invalid.
2) Manual reviews of invalid clicks reported by advertisers accounts for fewer than 0.02% of all clicks.
3) What they are talking about is invalid clicks, not fraudulent clicks. Fraudulent clicks are a subset of invalid clicks.

So, lets say there are 10,000 click in the system. Google will automatically filter less than 1000 of these clicks as invalid. Advertisers will report some number of clicks as invalid. After manual investigation, Google declares fewer than 2 of them are invalid clicks. But in actual fact, there may have been 2,000 invalid clicks in the system. Google and the advertisers just never noticed them. I’m not trying to say that the actual level of click fraud is 20%, it’s just that it could very easily be somewhere above 10%.

A lot of headlines about this story are very misleading. For example Danny Sullivan’s headline on SearchEngineLand is “Google: Click Fraud Is 0.02% Of Clicks“. Google never makes any claims about click fraud, 0.02% number really is really the number of invalid clicks found after manual review as a percentage of all the clicks in the system.

Search Engine Roundtable’s headline was “Click Fraud is 0.02%, Invalid Clicks 10%, $1B Lost To Click Fraud Yearly“. Again Google claims nothing about click fraud let alone 0.02% click fraud. This headline makes it seem like almost no invalid clicks are fraudulent clicks, which again is wrong. Google said nothing about what percentage of invalid clicks were click fraud.

Again, to be clear, Google never argues what the actual level of click fraud is, just the levels that they identify as invalid clicks.

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Major Change in AdSense Policies: Other Ads Must Look Different

Google has updated their AdSense program policies. There are many small changes, but there is also one major change: If publishers use ad networks other than AdSense anywhere on their sites, they must now make sure the ads look different. JenSense has the details of all the changes and a special post on the competitive ad policy.

This is going to effect many publishers, myself included. It is currently standard practice to run A/B tests with Google and other ad networks. You randomly rotate Google ads with ads from another network using the same formats and color schemes, and see which one performs the best. This will no longer be possible. It is also common to display ads from other non-contextual ad networks in formats that are very similar to AdSense. Again this will no longer be possible.

This is going to cause a lot of confusion and questions for publishers. There has been a lot of debate on the forums about how acceptable it is to display an image close to an ad. I think trying to figure out what is acceptable for competitive ads is going to be even more difficult. The new policy states:

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.

But what is considered the same color, if you have AdSense in dark green and Chitika ads in light green, is that different enough? If you always use leaderboards for AdSense and skyscrapers for Yahoo, is that different enough? Is adding a border enough?

There is going to be a lot of talk about this on the forums and in blogs. People are not going to like this.

Well, I’m going to be busy the next few days trying to figure this out and implement the changes on my website. AdSense has never performed very well for me on AdMoolah, so I think I’m going to switch to Miva MC to give it a try.

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AdWords Now Allows Seperate Search and Content Pricing

AdWords now allows advertisers to set separate prices on ads that show up on search pages versus ads that show up on content pages.

It is hard to predict whether this will be good or bad for publishers. Publishers could see a decrease in the price per click they get because advertisers may decide that content ads are not worth as much. On the other hand this may encourage some advertisers who were previously not advertising on content sites to start doing so, increasing the ad inventory and competition.

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New York Times Article on Google Advertising

The New York Time has an article which look at Google’s advertising system. Although the focus of the article leans more towards the advertisers side of things rather than publishers, it is still worth a read.

Here are some of the bits that I found interesting.

Because of this technology, users click ads 50 percent to 100 percent more often on Google than they do on Yahoo, Mr. Noto estimates, and that is a powerful driver of Google’s growth and profits. “Because the ads are more relevant,” he said, “they create a better return for advertisers, which causes them to spend more money, which gives Google better margins.” (Yahoo is working on its own technology to narrow that gap.)

This certainly seems to be true given what publishers are saying about YPN vs. AdSense. AdSense seems to have much better CTR than YPN, and relevancy seems to be a big part of it.

Here, as in other places, many advertisers criticize Google for being like a black box, because the company gives them less specific information and control than they would like.

Although I don’t follow the advertiser’s side of things as closely as I do the publishing side of things, this seems to reflect what publishers are feeling. The lack of information about what is happening in the advertising system can be frustrating. So far Google seems to take the approach that the system works, so there is no need to reveal any of the details.

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AdWords Now Allows Targeting Specific Pages

AdWords advertisers can now target sections or pages of a site:

Site targeting places your ads on individual sites in the Google content network. Site sections take that one step further by placing your ads on only one section or even one page of a site. If you sell football shoes, for instance, you might choose to advertise only on the sports section of a news site rather than placing ads across the entire site.

What does this mean to publishers? It means having good content with well targeted pages is even more important now than it was before. Advertisers want to be associated with high quality content, and this will allow them to do it. Content remains king on the web.

Found via: Search Engine Journal

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AdWords Users Required to Use Google Account

Soon, Google AdWords users will be required to create a Google Account to sign into AdWords. Currently Google accounts are used for things such as Gmail, Google Groups, and Froogle. This change will be done by January 15, 2006

This seems like a very bizarre move to me. AdWords users are primarily business users, while the other Google services are primarily consumer based services. I’ll be creating a new Google Account strictly for my AdWords account to keep it separate from my personal Google account.

Why would Google force AdWords users to do this? My guess is they are trying to consolidate all their user administration services to ease maintenance and updates.

I’m they’ll be doing the same thing for AdSense users soon.

Found via ThreadWatch.

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AdWords Gets a Google Forum

It’s obvious that Google appreciates AdWords users more than AdSense users. And why wouldn’t they, they’re the ones paying the bills. The AdWords team just announced that there is an AdWords forum available.

AdSense got a blog first and now they get a forum. I hope the AdSense team follows quickly and gets an AdSense forum going. I’ll be looking for a adsense-help Google group soon.

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