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High number of problem sites in "content network"
75% of content is a problem for search engines
James in Vancouver




msg:1157321
 5:53 am on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just recently started looking at more of the sites that came via clickthrough of adwords ads in "Content Network".

Of the sites I checked at least 75% of them had absolutely no content at all. They generally just had adwords ads (usually as "sponsored links") and other advertising. It was themed to the subject of our site, but there was no content.

I know some would say "if they convert who cares". However, the nature of our site makes tracking "conversions" impossible, so it is difficult to determine how useful these click throughs are.

Also as someone who creates what I believe are high quality content sites that use the adsense program, I resent paying money to people who create spam sites.

Do others notice similar results. Could it be the words I'm targetting. (Some primarily content site adwords get an incredible number of hits with a very low CTR). I think I will modify some of the key words to see if this changes. If not I will probably remove myself from the content network, although I hate to do this as I like the idea of supporting sites with good content.

I actually sent an email to support about one of the sites. I got a reply back explaining how to turn off content network displays and a comment that they would send the site to the adsense team for investigation. We'll see what happens.

-James

 

beren




msg:1157322
 10:47 am on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

You're right, of course, and if more advertisers knew the type of sites in the content network, more would certainly opt out.

I doubt Google will kick out a site just because it is low quality, though. That hasn't been how they've operated. AdSense has contributed to a decline in general website quality in the past year (maybe this is a selection bias on my part, because the AdSense sites in the industry I'm interested in are so horrible), but too many people are making money off the system for any significant changes to happen. Advertisers have to wake up.

killroy




msg:1157323
 10:52 am on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Pay for performance will ultimately prevail. Why pay for a possibility when you can buy certainty elsewhere?

SN

jonathanleger




msg:1157324
 1:40 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am an AdSense publisher myself, but I can certainly attest to what you guys are talking about. However, I doubt Google will take much action in the immediate against low quality sites since 51% of their profit for the last quarter was from their "Content Network"--i.e., AdSense publishers.

mquarles




msg:1157325
 1:51 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

However, I doubt Google will take much action in the immediate against low quality sites since 51% of their profit for the last quarter was from their "Content Network"--i.e., AdSense publishers.

And, if "75% of content is spam" then over a third of Google's profits is from these low-quality sites. My suspicion is that it is substantially more than a third of their growth.

Is an about to go public company likely to kill the goose that's laying the most golden eggs?

Also as someone who creates what I believe are high quality content sites that use the adsense program, I resent paying money to people who create spam sites.

There is a simple solution to this that involves only one click of the mouse.

MQ

P.S. As an advertiser, all I do care about is if it converts. I understand the problem you cite, but I don't have that problem myself; I measure conversion. The amusing reality is that the "spam sites" convert as well or better than the "quality" sites in my experience (but of course nowhere near as well as the search network).

europeforvisitors




msg:1157326
 2:31 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Google wants AdSense to be successful with mainstream corporate advertisers and ad agencies, it will have to offer one (or all) of several things:

1) A higher overall level of quality in the AdSense network, or...

2) An "AdSense Select" network in which sites have been vetted manually for quality; or...

3) Greater advertiser control over where ads do or don't appear.

Why? Two reasons:

a) Madison Avenue media buyers and ad-agency principals can't afford to risk their jobs by having a client go ballistic when an XYZ Medical Supply Corp. ad for enema kits turns up on buddies-bedroom-watersports.com.

b) Perception can be as important as reality, and if mainstream advertisers have the perception that AdSense delivers junk traffic, claims that traffic from spam sites converts as well as traffic from quality sites will fall on deaf ears.

It's hard to believe that Google will allow the present situation to continue indefinitely, because a flood of junk sites doesn't merely leave an opening for competitors with higher standards--it also threatens the integrity of Google's core product: Google search. Google opened a Pandora's box when it sought a dominant market share without regard for the consequences, but having achieved that dominant market share, it's likely to seek ways to identify and neutralize "AdSense spam" by the use of algorithms and filters.

jonathanleger




msg:1157327
 3:05 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google opened a Pandora's box when it sought a dominant market share without regard for the consequences, but having achieved that dominant market share, it's likely to seek ways to identify and neutralize "AdSense spam" by the use of algorithms and filters.

And Google is presently attempting to do this with their "smart pricing" algorithm, which (in theory) lowers the EPC of the spam sites to the point where they will no longer be able to justify keeping those sites up.

The problem is that if the "smart pricing" is based on conversion, as said before it is common that junk sites convert better than quality sites, and so this effort may backfire.

ogletree




msg:1157328
 3:12 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I make very low quality sites. They only to get visitors and send them to AS and affiliates. I don't know how the AS converts but I do know how the affiliates convert. Our affiliates are very happy with us. We only get paid when they convert. Before you get so upset you should know the facts. Turn off conetent match and see what happens that is all you need to do. You don't have to use it. I get paid because I know how to SEO better than the affiliates and adveritsers do.

jonathanleger




msg:1157329
 3:29 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Note: I am not taking sides on this issue, I do not feel strongly one way or the other. Just explaining what I think the issue is.

I think the real issue here, ogletree, isn't conversion. Regardless of whether or not the traffic converts well, there is a large number of merchants who do not want to be associated with what they consider spam sites, and who feel that people who create such spam sites should not be rewarded with their money.

It really comes down to two classes of people: those who care about quality and conversion, and those who care only about conversion.

What I think many AdWords advertisers would like to see is the ability to display ads on sites they can be certain provide quality as well as conversion.

mquarles




msg:1157330
 3:57 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

In the end, I think #3 in efv's post is the only solution. #1 and #2 are extremely costly to Google in both hard costs and lost revenues.

#3 (advertiser control) would make most advertisers happy and would not cost Google money. In fact, it might increase use of the content network, which could increase Google revenues.

If I could more easily track conversions by source (let's say by domain) within the content network, and choose to block certain domains from showing my ads, I would spend a lot more on content ads.

MQ

europeforvisitors




msg:1157331
 4:09 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the real issue here, ogletree, isn't conversion. Regardless of whether or not the traffic converts well, there is a large number of merchants who do not want to be associated with what they consider spam sites...

True, just as Tiffany & Co. probably wouldn't advertise on the Jerry Springer Show and a lot of companies wouldn't advertise in PENTHOUSE even if the ads got results. Brands that rely heavily on their images or reputations are pickier about their ad venues than a no-name affiliate site or online merchant might be.

Mind you, Google may be able to earn a lot of money by focusing exclusively on the traditional PPC market, but I doubt if it wants to limit itself. Why? Because the most lucrative potential market for "content ads" consists of mainstream companies who are used to advertising in handpicked editorial media or with carefully targeted direct mail campaigns. If Google can't give them what they need, Google competitors like Overture almost certainly will.

Bottom line: The current version of AdSense is a first-generation product that was intended to make Google the Amazon.com of contextual advertising. Now that ubiquity has been achieved, Google can focus on refining and extending the product to reach a broader (and, in some cases, more demanding) market.

HughMungus




msg:1157332
 4:33 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

It really comes down to two classes of people: those who care about quality and conversion, and those who care only about conversion.

What's the difference between a bad conversion and a good conversion?

jonathanleger




msg:1157333
 5:00 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

What's the difference between a bad conversion and a good conversion?

I think the argument is that a "good conversion" rewards a webmaster who is making a genuine effort to produce quality content related to the advertisements being shown on his web site, and a "bad conversion" rewards a webmaster who has put up thousands of spammy pages so that the visitor clicks on the ads just to get away from the spammy site.

europeforvisitors




msg:1157334
 5:18 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

What's the difference between a bad conversion and a good conversion?

"Conversion" doesn't necessarily mean a sale in Googlespeak. If the advertiser is looking for leads (as opposed to immediate sales or bookings), a "conversion" might mean a request for information or a visit to a certain number of pages on the advertiser's Web site. So a click might "convert" in terms of generating the desired response, but the resulting lead may not convert. (If all leads were equal, advertisers wouldn't consider audience demographics when buying ads or commercials in offline media.) The difference between a "bad conversion" and a "good conversion" would therefore be whether the conversion provided a high-quality lead for the advertiser.

Sometimes it may not matter where the AdSense ad appears. Let's say that you're advertising hotel bookings in Shelbyville. A user searches Google for "Shelbyville hotels," ignores the AdWords on the SERP, and clicks through to a page that turns out to have nothing but scraped search results and AdSense ads. The user is flying to Shelbyville on Friday and needs a hotel room, so he clicks on one of the AdSense ads and books a hotel room on abcd-cheapo-discount-hotels.com. In this case, any advertising venue will do, because (a) the user is ready to buy online, and (b) any hotel site that offers rooms in all price ranges should be able to close the sale.

Now let's look at another example: XYZ Cruise Travel is advertising Platinum Cruises, a luxury cruise line with fares that begin at $700 per passenger per day. AdWords/AdSense bids average $3.50 per click for "Platinum Cruises," so it's important that ads are displayed only on Web pages that will be read by serious (or at least possible) prospects. For XYZ Cruise Travel, the ideal prospect is someone who either knows something about Platinum Cruises (such as a visitor to a cruise enthusiasts' site) or has just read an article that identifies Platinum Cruises as a very expensive luxury cruise line. The casual user who's curious about Platinum Cruises, searches Google for that term, clicks through to what he thinks is an information page, and then clicks on an AdSense ad in frustration is unlikely to be a serious candidate for a $700-a-day cruise. The click may "convert" if conversion is defined as a request for a brochure or a visit to half a dozen pages on the advertiser's site, but there will be many expensive "bad conversions" if the ad is displayed on any page that mentions Platinum Cruises.

In short, different advertisers have different needs, and catering only to "It doesn't matter where my ads run" advertisers will limit Google's AdSense revenue growth.

[edited by: europeforvisitors at 5:20 pm (utc) on July 27, 2004]

James in Vancouver




msg:1157335
 5:19 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree about not wanting to be associated with spammy content.

Since I wrote my original message I have found that one of the worst spam site creators is google itself with its Parked domain adsense program. I will remove myself from the content network and I will write a note to google explaining why and that I will not go back on the content network until I have more control over the quality of content on the content network. I know they probably wont care as our advertising budget is quite small, but hopefully if enough people do this hopefully the will listen.

Personally I would like the ability to see say the top 50 sites for impressions and the top 50 sites for Clicks and then individually remove sites that you didn't want to be associated with. I can't believe this would be that difficult. The only reason I can think of they wouldn't want to do this is that it might reveal how poor of quality many of the advertiser sites are.

andrewg




msg:1157336
 6:05 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Channel control for advertisers is indeed paramount for improving the image (and performance) of AdSense.

The removal/blocking option would make a ton of sense. The only issue I see there is that you'd have to keep removing, blocking, etc. because there is a potentially very high number of "spammy sites" that might show your ad.

Google has thought pretty hard about this already, obviously. Because so many of the solutions to the problem seem imperfect (if you work them through to their logical conclusion), Google's already tried to squeeze out low quality publishers with their "actuarial" predictive model that offers these publishers lower revenue, aka "enhanced smart pricing."

But the fact that Google does not disclose revenue shares or other details to advertisers is not sitting well with outside observers. Newspaper reporters are shaking their heads at a system that works so cryptically, giving little info or control to either advertisers or publishers. (Yes, at the end of the day, we can do advanced ROI tracking, so we're not completely in the dark, but if our tracking shows some publishers to be 'evil,' that requires a proactive approach on the advertiser's part to report abuse.)

The "block site" option is less imperfect than many solutions. I'd take that.

europeforvisitors




msg:1157337
 6:22 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google has thought pretty hard about this already, obviously. Because so many of the solutions to the problem seem imperfect (if you work them through to their logical conclusion), Google's already tried to squeeze out low quality publishers with their "actuarial" predictive model that offers these publishers lower revenue, aka "enhanced smart pricing."

"Smart pricing" is a step in the right direction, but it isn't enough for two reasons:

1) An automatically generated "scraper" site doesn't need high earnings per click to be profitable--not when the publisher can easily crank out tens of thousands of pages.

2) Not all advertisers are willing to put all of their faith in an algorithm. If even 25% of potential advertisers and ad-agency media buyers are unwilling to cede full control to Google, that means Google is leaving a huge amount of money on the table for competitors to pick up.

HughMungus




msg:1157338
 6:51 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the argument is that a "good conversion" rewards a webmaster who is making a genuine effort to produce quality content related to the advertisements being shown on his web site, and a "bad conversion" rewards a webmaster who has put up thousands of spammy pages so that the visitor clicks on the ads just to get away from the spammy site.

That's what it sounds like. It's all money to me.

mquarles




msg:1157339
 7:03 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

LOL HM,

Last time I checked the bank didn't ask about the quality of the sites that sent me visitors when I went to cash the check from the sales they sent me when the visitor clicked on the spammy site's ad.

MQ

HughMungus




msg:1157340
 7:03 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

In short, different advertisers have different needs, and catering only to "It doesn't matter where my ads run" advertisers will limit Google's AdSense revenue growth.

Ah. I see. I think we'll see some major changes after the IPO.

skibum




msg:1157341
 7:05 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

If someone does a search and lands on a parked domain, or some scraped search results and the page contains an ad for whatever the person may have been looking for, those "spammy" sites may actually generate higher CTRs and maybe higher conversions simply because the person searching finds nothing else of value on the page.

It often been commented that ugly affiliate sites sell better than those that go on and on and on about whatever the topic may be.

Keep the click bots and the get paid to click operations out and it might not really matter at all as long as the person is in the searching mindset.

ogletree




msg:1157342
 7:16 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you want contol of where your ads go then go to sites directly. AS is not set up for that and never will. There is just no way AS could check every site for quality and who is to say what is quaility. Not everybody agrees. If you don't want to adverise your company by putting flyers on cars in the local Wal-Mart then AS is not your place.

europeforvisitors




msg:1157343
 7:53 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

It often been commented that ugly affiliate sites sell better than those that go on and on and on about whatever the topic may be.

Sure, and mail-order ads in the NATIONAL ENQUIRER or informercials on cable channels sell, too. But not every company chooses to advertise in those venues.

Keep the click bots and the get paid to click operations out and it might not really matter at all as long as the person is in the searching mindset.

Not all advertisers want people with a "searching mindset." Some want qualified leads.

If you want contol of where your ads go then go to sites directly. AS is not set up for that and never will.

First of all, AdSense isn't designed for sites; it's designed for pages. It's a network that aggregates relevant pages from many different sites to provide advertisers with content-targeted ads that wouldn't be practical or economic to buy in the usual way.

Second, nobody here has any way of knowing what level of advertiser control AdSense will offer in the future. But we can safely assume that, if Google doesn't provide more choices for advertisers, its competitors will.

Side note: There seems to be a commonly held misconception among WW members that PPC advertising exists only for affiliate and e-commerce sites. Such sites may have represented the first generation of PPC advertisers, but there's a far bigger market that has hardly been tapped. I think it's fair to say that Google is aware of that market--and that "image ads," which were introduced to the content network recently, are just the first step toward providing options for the Madison Avenue type of ad buyer.

skibum




msg:1157344
 8:44 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maybe not all advertisers want someone in the "searching mindset" but surely anyone advertising on a search engine and therefore AdSense would want someone in the "searching mindet" otherwise why would they be advertising on a search engine?

europeforvisitors




msg:1157345
 9:23 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maybe not all advertisers want someone in the "searching mindset" but surely anyone advertising on a search engine and therefore AdSense would want someone in the "searching mindet" otherwise why would they be advertising on a search engine?

If advertisers are looking for prospects who have a "searching mindset," they don't need AdSense. They can just buy AdWords.

The whole point of using "content ads" is to reach prospects who don't have a "searching mindset" (and who either ignored AdWords on a SERP or arrived on the content site without using search).

ogletree




msg:1157346
 10:25 pm on Jul 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors if G agreed with that they would automaticly assume that any site with AS should be taken out of the index.

I think the general idea about AS was that it was a way for sites that already have traffic to make money off of that traffic. That soon went away when they started makig truckloads of money. There are a lot of people that make sites to get G traffic for the sole purpose to have the visitors to click on those ads. Some people even use OV and AW to get traffic to their AS sites. As a matter of fact I think this method has become the main use of AS or a large percentage of AS. G knows this and has made no comment about trying to change the statos quo. They are making too much mney to care. You can complain all you want but this is how things are. You are pointing out things that G already knows.

Also most of these SPAM sites are dominating SERPS where no one really was before. I have done searches where that was all I found. I have gone down 4 pages deep and still have not found the site I need because the people that run the sites that have the information that I need have the domain name in the title of every page. You are finding these sites not because they are good but because the other sites that should be there are so bad.

AS also helps advertisers get top billing on sites when they are normaly number 20 because they only bid a nickle.

europeforvisitors




msg:1157347
 12:41 am on Jul 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the general idea about AS was that it was a way for sites that already have traffic to make money off of that traffic.

Actually, the idea was (and is) for Google to make money off that traffic. :-)

And while it's true that the SERPs are flooded with ersatz "content sites" that were created to generate income with AdSense, I don't think you can assume that Google has welcomed that development. AdSense spam is a threat to Google's core product (search), and it's hardly a foundation for a sustainable business model. It seems far more likely that, instead of welcoming such spam with a smile and a blessing, Google is working on algorithms to deal with it automatically--e.g., by devaluing such pages in search, by identifying such pages for the AdSense QC team, or both. Why? Because a spam-dominated AdSense network would be a bubble waiting to burst, like so many Internet businesses that went "pop" or "poof" in the late 1990s.

ogletree




msg:1157348
 12:49 am on Jul 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anythings possible. There is a lot of money being made in that arena and I am sure they are doing everything to avoid that threat. Some people make 7 figrues a year spamming G with AS sites and I mean pure spam that everyone would agree is spam. They will do whatever it takes to keep that going. All G can do is stop the little guys. With money like that the only way to stop it is to get rid of organic SERPS. All they can do is make it harder for them.

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