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Betting it all on AdSense
AdSense changed my life?
Stevo_UK




msg:1405678
 11:41 pm on Jun 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've been using Google AdSense for about five months now and to say that it has done nothing short of changing my whole financial situation and life in general would be an understatement and a half.

I run a high volume web site that has been up and going for about a year and a half now. Until the start of this year I was relying on donations and my own bank balance to keep the site going. This became harder as time went on and the site became more popular - until the day I discovered AdSense.

Not only has it covered the cost of running my site, it has also given me a lot more spending money to play with. It is actually so successful that I'm earning more from running the site than I am from my full time job. What started as a hobby has now become a source of income that might allow me to make some life changing decisions.

About two months ago I was on the verge of packing the full time job in, starting up a couple of more sites, and living the flexible and exciting life I've always wanted to lead. That was until I came across the large number of posts here and on other webmaster related web sites about ďThe Dreaded EmailĒ.

Now, I've been around long enough to know that not every post about getting kicked off AdSense for fraudulent clicks is totally genuine but the sheer number of them that I've seen leads me to believe that there are more than a few that have got kicked off the program through no fault of their own. I even remember a post here that paraphrased an email from G saying that yes, they knew the webmaster didn't click their own ads, but they still had to remove them.

Of course G has to protect the integrity of their system and of the advertiser at the other end forking out their hard earned cash. However, there must be a method that is both fair to the advertiser and the publisher. For example, automatically ignoring any duplicate clicks from the same IP address on the same advert over a 24hr period. I haven't been around online advertising long enough to know if this isn't feasible but it seems like a damn good solution to me.

The one very negative signal that Google is sending out is that income from Google AdSense can not be relied upon. In other words, it's just not feasible to setup and run a business that relies on it. If a person can be removed from the system on the whim of someone who is either trying to "help" or a competitor, or any of the other possible scenarios that are out of the control of the webmaster, then it's just not a system that people can bet their house on. Is this the type of message that G wants to get across?

To anyone that is planning to reply about chilling out and not worrying about it - I don't lose any sleep or hair over the thought of getting kicked off the program but having a life changing opportunity within reach will of course lead me to question the stability of the income that would finance it.

I'd be interested in hearing anyone's opinions on the above. Iím pretty sure Iím not alone. Has anyone here actually taken the plunge and bet it all on AdSense?

 

rubenski




msg:1405738
 10:50 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Wow, after reading this thread I am definitely going to look for alternatives to Adsense. It is just too risky. (Not that I've quit my job or anything)

I think what Google is doing to some of its publishers is arrogant. Google has created a really bad vibe around the Adsense program. I see many people here just hoping Google's attitude will backfire on them, while we are the people Google should be best friends with. I wonder how long Google can sustain this attitude. Probably for a long time...Let's hope for good competitors (that will work in the Netherlands too).

I don't wnat to think of what would happen if I got booted. I'd have to live of a normal salary again. Brrrrr.... :P

blairsp




msg:1405739
 11:21 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

The webmaster can block all the IPs that might be suspicious, their own and that of any suspicious network activity like bots.

backing up what cdkrg said earlier in this post.

I am now with one of the alternatives having been booted from adsense four months ago. The new company aren't perfect by any means but the quote above is one of the best things that they do. In addition they also tell you what url produced the click through. Not groupings limited to 10(?) channels but the actual url. Yes the targetting is a bit hit or miss(but then again so was G's) and the amount is a bit less (actually unless the targetting is so off that you get a high paying ad on a traditionally low paying site). The one major thing is I am not nearly so nervous about getting the dreaded e-mail.

hyperkik




msg:1405740
 4:24 pm on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google has created a really bad vibe around the Adsense program.

In all of my contacts with them in relation to AdSense, Google has been gracious and helpful. They have created an extraordinarily simple product which has produced a great deal of previously-unavailable revenue for scores of publishers.

Horror stories, true or false, may give you a "bad vibe" about AdSense. But that's not Google's doing.

alika




msg:1405741
 4:30 pm on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Kicking publishers out of the program due to "fraudulent clicks" is not exclusive to Google. This practice has been around for a long time.

Banner ad networks such as ValueClick and Burst have been doing this to protect their reputation and advertisers. With Valueclick, for example, they simply send you an email saying that your account has been disabled -- without any explanation why, that all earnings are forfeited, and that you need to remove the code from your website immediately. You can't even request for a review with Valueclick, unlike Google that still gives publishers a chance to air their side.

trader




msg:1405742
 6:11 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

Shrirch said "Oh yeah, spend some of that Adsense money on this site and join the supporters forum, go to PubCon -- you'll meet hundreds of people with hundreds of different revenue streams and ideas. (Incase you have problems with that diversification plan or need some validation...)"

What in the world is PubCon anyway? What is the URL? Tried to find it doing searches with no success. Thanks.

cdkrg




msg:1405743
 6:34 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

blairsp is clearly referring to the same company I spoke of. Good technology and a focus on being less draconian.

The only knock on them is that they do not yet have the depth of listings (though the verticals of finance, health and travel are pretty strong).

hyperkik,

It's misleading to say that the stories give AdSense a bad vibe. Perhaps that is the case with you, but not with me.

In my case it is the experience itself, not anyone else's accounts of it. I just give the stories more credence now that I've been on the wrong end of them.

Prior to that I had been very satisfied with the program and had nothing but happy thoughts about it.

adfree




msg:1405744
 8:17 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

trader, PubCon is the periodic WebMasterWorld pub conference taking place all half year or so with hundreds of WebmasterWorld members and industry professionals, mostly SE and SEM experts from all major playors and some minors.
Use the site search to see some reports about past events.

Edge




msg:1405745
 11:35 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've read alot about AdSense publishers not trusting the the program.

IMO, I think time will tell all of us how to perceive the AdSense program. We simply do not have enough time to understand the long term implications or success of this program.

europeforvisitors




msg:1405746
 3:22 pm on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've read alot about AdSense publishers not trusting the the program.

It's worth remembering that the "distrust" comes from a tiny percentage of AdSense publishers (and ex-AdSense publishers). We seldom hear from the tens of thousands of AdSense publishers who are happy with the network, or from the vast majority of AdSense publishers who have never heard of Webmaster World.

There's a tendency here at WW for members to draw broad and often inaccurate conclusions from their personal experiences. We see this all the time on the Google News forum, for example, where a guy with a purple-widgets site drops 100 places in the search rankings and declares that Google is filtering out purple-widgets sites to make more money from AdWords.

Google certainly could improve its communications; boilerplate responses to e-mails don't instill confidence in the competence or good will of the AdSense staff. Similarly, it would be nice if Google could afford to investigate every case of "invalid clicks" and base its dismissal policy on a determination of guilt or innocence rather than on business considerations. But let's be honest with ourselves: To provide the kind of personalized service that some publishers demand, Google would need to make the network far less inclusive than it is now by setting traffic and/or revenue minimums like those of other leading ad networks.

mquarles




msg:1405747
 2:06 pm on Jul 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's worth remembering that the "distrust" comes from a tiny percentage of AdSense publishers (and ex-AdSense publishers).

This is true, but unfortunately, the distrust increases as knowledge of how Google is actually administering the program increases. I am both thankful and distrustful, if that doesn't make me too schizophrenic.

The fear and distrust is based upon the loss of up to almost two months of legitimate earnings when invalid clicks occur but the site owner had nothing to do with the invalid clicks, and the ability of a jealous third party to sabotage you and likely get you banned with little effort.

MQ

blairsp




msg:1405748
 8:41 pm on Jul 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

The fear and distrust is based upon the loss of up to almost two months of legitimate earnings when invalid clicks occur but the site owner had nothing to do with the invalid clicks, and the ability of a jealous third party to sabotage you and likely get you banned with little effort.

Think this makes two very telling points. First of all the loss of two months earnings can be quite substantial and hard to take if no real reason other than invalid clicks, invalid clicks is repeated almost like a mantra. Secondly and perhaps more seriously. I "tick" someone off on this board. They look up my url details and then proceed to sit an click on my google ads all day(which would be hard as I am no longer a member of the programme-but you know what I mean).

Oh, google would appreciate what was going on - would they and indeed would they care? Your domain is receving invalid clicks, invalid clicks and from what I have read they appear to take a dim view of invalid clicks no matter how they are generated

cdkrg




msg:1405749
 10:24 am on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors,

I've seen you state more than once that only "a tiny percentage" of AdSense publishers cause the impression Google has aquired and I wonder if this repeated mantra is just a hunch you have, gut feeling or whether it has factual basis.

I mean, I agree with the general logic behind the claim, I don't expect that Google has cancelled the majority of AdSense accounts, 20% would not surprise me, however.

And though you keep repeating "a tiny percentage" I suspect you don't really know either and can only guess like I do.

Just in case it's not factually baseless, please let us know if you have quantified the claim, I've always been curious about how high Google's termination rates are.

So is it just a guess you repeat? Or do you actually know?

IanCP




msg:1405750
 10:54 am on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's worth remembering that the "distrust" comes from a tiny percentage of AdSense publishers (and ex-AdSense publishers). We seldom hear from the tens of thousands of AdSense publishers who are happy with the network, or from the vast majority of AdSense publishers who have never heard of Webmaster World.

Yes...

I almost agree, but I'm among the alternative "tiny percentage" who make a very, very substantial income from AdSense.

Take the last six years of internet revenue from numerous sources, average it out and, the first twelve months of AdSense equals nearly fifty years of that income and we're not talking small figures.

europeforvisitors




msg:1405751
 3:03 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

cdkrg:

I'm just using common sense. If AdSense publishers were being dumped by the tens of thousands (or even by the thousands), we'd see a lot more complaints here and on other forums than we do. Still, if you prefer, I'll use the phrase "small percentage" or "small minority" instead of "tiny percentage."

FWIW, even if 20% of AdSense publishers were losing their accounts--a number that would be huge by any reasonable estimate--that wouldn't necessarily mean that Google was being capricious in its dealings with publishers. It could simply mean that a significant number of AdSense publishers were violating the TOS in some way. (Just look at the number of posts we've seen here from publishers who somehow think it's okay to use "test clicks," caption their AdSense blocks with "Visit these recommended sites!", etc. Even Webmaster World's owner says things like "They're your ads, so you have the right to click on them.")

I think it's fair to assume that, in most cases, publishers who have lost their AdSense accounts fall into one of two categories:

1) Publishers who have violated the TOS. These publishers ignored, bent, or failed to read the rules.

2) Publishers who haven't violated the TOS, but whose sites have had invalid clicks and fit certain profiles. (E.g., they don't generate enough revenue to justify the expense of investigating invalid clicks, they have very low conversion rates for advertisers, or they're in categories that have a higher-than-average probability of invalid clicks.)

I'm sure there have been some cases where publishers have been removed unfairly, because no organization is perfect and not every Google employee will be blessed with the wisdom of Solomon. But I just haven't seen any evidence to support allegations that Google is purging large numbers of AdSense publishers without cause.

akogo




msg:1405752
 7:14 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Stevo_UK

Has anyone here actually taken the plunge and bet it all on AdSense?

I've had adsense for 11 months now and the income has declined. I am hoping this is due to seasonal patterns. My advice to myself is to not take things for granted and continue to work hard at other ways of building an income.

Akogo

ownerrim




msg:1405753
 8:36 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

adsense is a love hate thing. you love it because it allows you to monetize pages that were previously a bust. You hate it because the thought of someone else having the power to flip the "kill" switch is just unnerving.

Regardless of the reasons why (EFV, I agree with just about everything you've said), allowing a widespread atmosphere of fear to incubate among adsense publishers can never be a good thing.

I don't see why google can't adopt a mult-tiered approach to dealing with invalid clicks. How about sending the webmaster a canned letter explaining that invalid clicks were generated and that the income derived will be withdrawn and refunded to advertisers accounts. If the invalid click activity continues unabated, it becomes a different issue, of course. What about allowing publishers to submit IP numbers or ranges that adsense should disregard should clicks emanate from them.

The thing is, google can do better than it's done. They should AT LEAST show publishers that their websites don't simply amount to waste material that can be ejected at any moment. And, regardless of the reasons why, that IS the perception they are allowing to take root.

Fairly enlightened webmasters come to webmasterworld, to learn and share, so I'd say the general perceptions held here are worth noting. But if you took a poll of adsense publishers here, the appraisal of how google has handled relations with its publishers would not be awfully good.

cdkrg




msg:1405754
 8:53 am on Jul 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors,

I'm not sure how you arrive at the conclusion that you would be seeing more complaints here and on other forums if there were > X terminations.

I am not pursuing the subject in research yet I run into sites dedicated to it, websites informing their visitors of the termination, and a host of messages to me (here through sticky mail and elsewhere) of webmasters that have had similar stories.

The ones who approach me privately make me wonder if there is an element of shame to it, complaining automatically brings some suspicion upon you. I'm sure that many people think persons like myself who have complained are among the 100% of the innocent prisoner population.

It was a blow to me, to be sure, I play on the up and up, and have high standards (I never even use popups, email marketing AT ALL, or even avoid flashing banners). I think a lot of the terminated accounts are under reported because of the appearances it gives.

Also note that Google has non-disclosure clauses that survive termination, and as they are ambiguously worded some might wonder (I do) if the terms can plausibly cover such complaints.

Anywho, on to where I agree with you.

The sheer number of shady AdSense sites and practices I see than make me believe that many terminations have taken place, I certainly agree that the overwhelming majority of the terminations must be because of TOS violations, after all, that is the criteria that the terminations are based on.

But the problem I have been pointing out is that there is not really the #2 category you speak of.

With or without complicity Google can "reasonablely determine" that you fit into the #1 category, regardless of anything you do.

And it is precisely the lacking delineation of complicity that I point out as being problematic.

It means that even the most strictly "toward" webmasters end up suffering financial loss. One person who approached me here through sticky mail reportedly lost in the tens of thousands and asked me for advice from having dealt with the same thing.

I get so many of those queries through various channels that I don't even respond to them anymore.

europeforvisitors




msg:1405755
 4:11 pm on Jul 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The ones who approach me privately make me wonder if there is an element of shame to it, complaining automatically brings some suspicion upon you.

Could be. Maybe that's why most of the complaints we see are from "junior members" who may, in some cases, be long-established Webmaster World members posting under new aliases.

One person who approached me here through sticky mail reportedly lost in the tens of thousands and asked me for advice from having dealt with the same thing.

It would be interesting to know more about the kinds of sites that have lost that kind of money: e.g., their topics, business model (editorial, e-commerce, affiliate, etc.), and clickthrough rates. I can understand why Google might close very small accounts without investigating the source of invalid clicks; that's a matter of simple economics. It's harder to understand why Google would close the account of someone who's making, say, $10,000 a month unless the site had violated the TOS in some way.

I can envision one scenario where a high-revenue site might get dropped for "invalid clicks" even if the publisher wasn't responsible for the bad clicks: Let's say the site was "made for AdSense" and has an extremely high clickthrough rate because there's little real content on its tens of thousands of pages. The site is generating a lot of AdSense revenue for the publisher and Google, but because many of the clicks are motivated by the lack of real content on the pages (i.e., users are turning to the AdSense ads for information that the site lacks), the conversion rate for advertisers is unusually low. Now, Google could terminate the site owner for having a "made for AdSense" site, which is contrary to the TOS, but it's a lot easier for Google to hold the publisher accountable for any invalid clicks that occur than to prove what the publisher's motivations were when he created his site. (Google might even argue that an unusually low conversion rate is evidence in itself of invalid clicks.)

BTW, I'm not saying this is what happened in your case. But it might be why some high-revenue sites have had their accounts closed by Google.

cdkrg




msg:1405756
 7:45 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

It would be interesting to know more about the kinds of sites that have lost that kind of money: e.g., their topics, business model (editorial, e-commerce, affiliate, etc.), and clickthrough rates.

The ones I have been made aware of are mostly forums, and other community sites and sticky sites.

I don't know about their affiliations or anything else, as I'm really not too interested in their woes.

A while ago my webmasterworld inbox was cleared out for some reason (I suspect some glitch more so than foul play because for a while the header of the pages listed the number of stickys there but I couldn't read them) so I can't look up the one that claimed to have lost a great deal.

I do vaguely recall that it was one of the high-traffic/low-income class of sites, it was music downloads or software downloads or somesuch.

It didn't appear to be illegal and was very highly ranked on Alexa but that's about all I remember.

It's harder to understand why Google would close the account of someone who's making, say, $10,000 a month unless the site had violated the TOS in some way.

I'm not sure how to make this clear, as I have said it in the past, but by definition all sites that are terminated violated the TOS in some way. The most common way would likely be to have been a site on which a certain criteria (at Google's sole determination) of invalid clicks occured.

So this is a bit of a "that which describes everything" criteria. I'm sure, that according to the TOS the termination is valid. What is more relevant to speculate about is whether they had any complicity in the matter, as a TOS violation does not require this to be the case.

In any case, I too wonder why a website would be thusly terminated when making that much money for Google. I suspect that what is a lot of money to us isn't for them, as the site wasn't in the premium program (where Google buys on a CPM basis after a test).

The nature of the website seemed to be such that regular traffic (for that site) could have flagged an algo, and the tone of the webmaster gave me the impression that he/she was not complicit (I did not respond, so I do not know much).

I wish I could remember the site, but I do remember my impression, and it was that it was probably very atypical browsing patterns of the users.

It wasn't one of those adsense sites, and it was in the beginning of adsense, before the multitude of those sites started showing up.

BTW, I'm not saying this is what happened in your case. But it might be why some high-revenue sites have had their accounts closed by Google.

It may well be, I sympathyze with Google in that they can't devine motive and have to rely on certain metrics to combat the sleazy folk. I simply think that they could do a better job by changing the basis of their algo-based terminations to click deduction and save termination for a more thorough accessment.

I was told by Google that a human had reviewed my case, but got the impression that it was probably a 5 minute look.

paybacksa




msg:1405757
 7:28 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Based on comments made by Google people and their families in the media over the past year, as G got ready for an IPO, I remain convinced that the management of G thinks it has serious potential outstanding liabilities is deathly afraid of the current and future lawsuits.

They appear to be acting thusly: the party is over, take the money and run as fast as you can.

It will be a whole new world with a public Google. Watch for major changes, and a whole new ballgame. Until then, everything will be overly cautious, under-stated, and may appear to be irrational. The reason it appears irrational is they are *not* in the business of growing and competing. They are in the business of cashing out.

Just my opinion.

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