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Google Apps Dropping Support for Older Browsers

Google just announced that it is dropping support for older browsers across a large number of their service starting August 1st. Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Sites users will need to be on the latest or next-to-latest major versions of browsers, or risk not getting the full functionality of these services. The only supported browsers will be Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer.

I think this is great news. Developing web sites that look good in older versions of browsers is a major pain in the butt, and anything that encourages people to upgrade gets the thumbs up from me. Looking at my stats, currently just over 10% of all visitors to one of my non-techie sites use Internet Explorer 7 and about 2.7% still use Explorer 6. Considering IE7 was released in 2006, it is ridiculous that so many people are still using IE6. Since IE7 is one of the browsers Google is dropping support for, I hope it gets people upgrading their browsers.

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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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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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Google Starts AdSense Referral Program Beta

Google has announced the beta of a new AdSense referral program. They have announcements for the beta test from both the publisher and advertiser side of things.

The program allows advertisers to offer publishers a pay-per-action model. This is more like an affiliate program, publishers only get paid when a visitor you refer actually takes some action such as signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product.

This program takes Google a step beyond what their competition, like YPN and MSN adCenter is doing, and puts them in direct competition with companies like Commission Junction. It will be interesting to see how the competition reacts.

Right now it looks like publisher need to select individual ads to be displayed on their site. I would guess that at some point Google will combine the contextual aspect of their AdSense ads with the referral program and allow ads to be automatically selected for publishers. This is the approach that companies like and AuctionAds are taking. Update: I found out Google does allow you to select a keyword, and Google will automatically rotate through a variety of ads for that keyword.

You can sign up for the beta as a publisher, or as an advertiser. I have signed-up. If I get accepted and find out more details, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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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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