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"Made for AdSense" sites
europeforvisitors




msg:1422641
 7:57 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

In another thread, a member posted the URL (since removed) of what might be termed a classic "Made for AdSense" site. For the benefit of newcomers who haven't seen such sites, let me describe what this one is:

The overall topic is "widget ------ling." The site's home page consists of links to pages optimized for keyphrases such as "widget ------ling in Springfield," "widget ------ling in Shelbyville," "Christian widget ------ling," and so on. The site has several hundred pages in all.

If you go to the page on "widget ------ling in Elbonia," you'll find a block of standard text that has been modified via a script or search-and-replace program to read something like:

"This page is about widget ------ling in Elbonia. If you're interested in widget ------ling in Elbonia, you can read our information on widget ------ling in Elbonia or chat about widget ------ling in Elbonia to learn all about widget ------ling in Elbonia."

The left column consists of AdSense ads disguised as a navigation bar. (Colors have been modified to eliminate ad borders and make the the "Ads by Google" hard to see.)

Clearly, this site violates the Google TOS, which state that an AdSense publisher's pages can't be created "for the purpose of displaying ads" even if the content is on target. (One might also think that the borderless ads disguised as a navigation bar would violate the TOS, but they don't, because Google made the mistake of listening to publishers who insisted that control over ad colors was necessary for "site aesthetics.")

I'd like to think that, when Google discovers sites like this, it takes action. Such sites are bad for users, bad for advertisers, bad for Google Search, and bad for the credibility of Google's "content network" among current and future advertisers. The question is, what can Google to do to discourage the creation of such sites? Here are some ideas for discussion:

1) Require that publishers obtain Google's approval for each site or subdomain where the AdSense code is to be used. Better yet, use technical means to ensure that code isn't displayed on non-approved domains or subdomains.

2) "Sandbox" revenues of new accounts and new sites under existing accounts for a reasonable period--say, 60 to 90 days--or until the AdSense QC team has done a couple of spot-checks to make sure that the site is legitimate.

3) Perform regular spot checks of any account that has revenues above a certain figure.

4) Tighten up the color and layout requirements for AdSense ads: e.g., require that the ads have borders and don't allow them to be used in lieu of navigation bars.

5) Work more closely with the Google Search team, so that any site banned by Google Search is also banned by AdSense and vice versa.

These steps might not eliminate the problem of "Made for AdSense" sites that threaten the viability of contextual advertising and clutter Google's search results, but they'd be be a step in the right direction.

 

bhartzer




msg:1422642
 8:02 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think they're already doing a good job of finding these types of sites. I don't think there's anything else they can do except hire more eyes to manually review sites and act on spam tips from their users.

They're already using the Adsense data in conjunction with the organic SERPs data to find, penalize, and ban sites.

Personally, I think it all comes down to manpower.

ken_b




msg:1422643
 8:08 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

2) "Sandbox" revenues of new accounts and new sites under existing accounts for a reasonable period--say, 60 to 90 days--or until the AdSense QC team has done a couple of spot-checks to make sure that the site is legitimate.

I curious EFV, would you have signed up for adsense with sandboxing like this? I'm not sure I would have.

To me the biggest threat toadsense is the way they allow wholesale adding of the program to unreviewed "additional" sites.

Simply requiring each site to be reviewed would take care of most of those issues.

alika




msg:1422644
 8:11 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have always voiced my opinion regarding G's policy of allowing accepted publishers to put the Adsense code to any other sites they own/control. This is a loophole that allows unscupulous publishers to put the code to less than savory sites, even those violating the TOS. G may soon catch up - but it takes time and manpower to spotcheck the sites.

I understand that the policy of "submit one site; if approved put the code to all your sites" allowed G to have Adsense spread much more faster, and thus dominate the market early on. But now is the time to control quality, and one way is to make sure that the Adsense code is only put on sites that G has approved and reviewed. This change may create a backlog in site approval, but it can reduce the number of manhours tracking unscrupulous publishers.

Banner ad networks require every domain/site to be sent for review before their adcode can be used in that site. It is time for G to follow the same procedure.

bhartzer




msg:1422645
 8:12 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

requiring each site to be reviewed would take care of most of those issues

True, it would take care of the issues, but there are only so many people on Google's staff who can review sites. If they made that manual review a requirement then there wouldn't be an Adsense program--they wouldn't have the contextual ad inventory.

loanuniverse




msg:1422646
 8:14 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

These type of sites are detrimental to the quality of the program.

They certainly make the net less useful.

ownerrim




msg:1422647
 8:16 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

They need more warm bodies at the googleplex: to review sites as well as to respond to search issues, adsense issues, and adwords issues. They run a skeleton crew for the multitude of things they do.

7_Driver




msg:1422648
 8:19 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is surprising that Google will approve you for one site, and then let you add adsense to any others you might own.

Obviously it cuts down their workload - but it does invite people to create one half-decent site and truckloads of rubbish.

The site you refer to was absolutely blatant nonsense (every page identical apart from the keywords) - and I'd be surprised if Google didn't remove it if it was reported to them.

The one thing that you COULD learn from it was that placement of an Adsense skyscraper in the left-hand column. I'm quite tempted to test that myself, below my actual site navigation:

The left-hand column is just a place users are conditioned to want to click - bound to get a good CTR there. Changing the colour to match that column is no different to choosing a white background and no border when putting the adsense in your body copy - and LOADS of people do that.

(Of course site X took it to extremes by not bothering with site navigation at all! - Fine for a "made for Adsense / affiliate" site - but no use for sites trying to build a loyal following of users).

[edited by: 7_Driver at 8:25 pm (utc) on July 29, 2004]

loanuniverse




msg:1422649
 8:21 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

...there are only so many people on Google's staff who can review sites.....

This is a good excuse for a few months, after that you need to create a program managed by a couple of Google employees in-house, that can have a couple of dozen people working remotely hunting down these sites.

Take your list of publishers and assign 50 to 100 sites to each "contract employee" to review each day. If they find something unseemly, they can kick it up to the two Google employees for second review.

When you show $1.5 billion dollars in revenue in six months and most of this revenue growth is coming from this program. You better protect it and let the competitor {that will surely come} be flooded with those sites.

Please Google do something as we don't want to see our EPC go south.

dmorison




msg:1422650
 8:24 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

The funny thing is is that you can get a new "Made for Adsense" site temporarily high rankings due to the sandbox effect.

So whilst one Google team (AdSense review) are waiting to get around to quashing the backlog of M4A sites, another Google team (search results) are actively promoting the same sites with the SERP sandbox behaviour.

[edited by: dmorison at 8:47 pm (utc) on July 29, 2004]

bhartzer




msg:1422651
 8:25 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's a good excuse until their IPO. After the IPO, they'll be able to hire more people and charge it to the investors, which is what I think they'll do. They say that spam is a big problem, for Adsense as well as their organic SERPs. Hiring more people to review Adsense sites and reviewing spam in general will most likely happen after the IPO.

gopi




msg:1422652
 8:36 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Google is making money and the advertisers have ROI (otherwise many will disable content ads) and users find it ok (otherwise they will not click on those AS ads) there is no reason Google has to police those sites!

loanuniverse




msg:1422653
 8:43 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

...there is no reason Google has to police those sites! ...

The reason is: That is not how the program is being sold to advertisers.

bhartzer




msg:1422654
 8:48 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

The advertisers are under the impression that websites are manually reviewed. And a lot of them aren't.

richmondsteve




msg:1422655
 8:55 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

gopi wrote:
and users find it ok (otherwise they will not click on those AS ads)

I find your logic faulty. A significant percentage of users will click a text ad if the only exit links are those text ads, especially if the page the links are on did not meet their needs. Clicking an ad in no way implies that the user is satisfied with the page they're viewing, the ads on that page or the ad serving company when those are the only options available (other than hitting the back button or closing the browser).

If you like analogies...

A customer on a flight must love airline food otherwise they wouldn't eat it. ;-)

loanuniverse




msg:1422656
 8:59 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Smoking gun:

we place highly-targeted AdWords ads on content pages within our extensive network of [u]high-quality[/u] partner sites and products.

I did not write the above, it can be found in a Google page. Ok, I did underline the high quality part, but just that.

I am not one to brag about the quality of my site, but really lets have some standards.

conroy




msg:1422657
 9:02 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Why is it a requirement for a visitor to find a page useful for Adsense to be allowed on it? What if only 50% of the visitors find the page useful? Should Adsense then be allowed?

In a sense, by providing Adsense, you are providing something the visitor finds useful, because they click on it. There are other ways to leave a site besides clicking on an ad. People do not click on ads without reading them.

loanuniverse




msg:1422658
 9:06 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Conroy: The requirement is that the ad should appear within content. Hence the name "contextual advertising". Nothing more.

martinibuster




msg:1422659
 9:15 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Tighten up the color and layout requirements for AdSense ads: e.g., require that the ads have borders...

  • It is presumptuous to dictate the look and feel of someone else's website
  • It is presumptuous to meddle in the financial affairs of another website operator
  • It is pretentious to believe that one's own method of doing things is the correct way

gopi




msg:1422660
 9:18 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

IMHO The only thing Google cares (or should care) is whether those users deliver ROI to the advertisers ...

In my limited expirence those users arriving in those spammy widget SEO'd pages are far more in buying mood than those users clicking AS ad on a widget news story in a "high quality" magazine!

>>> It is pretentious to believe that one's own method of doing things is the correct way

Spot on Martini!

loanuniverse




msg:1422661
 9:25 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is common sense to believe that a decline in the reputation of the program and the rate of participation of advertisers in the program will affect all publishers.

conroy




msg:1422662
 9:32 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hence the name "contextual advertising".

"Spam" is content as well.

Also, who says it is declining? It is booming. And I agree with gopi that there is better ROI on the spam pages than high quality sites oftentimes. You can test this yourself by running an affiliate program instead of adsense on the spam pages.

gopi




msg:1422663
 9:36 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> the rate of participation of advertisers in the program will affect all publishers.

If the advertisers get the ROI why they leave the program? ...

As i said before the ROI is far better in a SEO'd site where fresh new targetted users arrive everyday than a high quality established site which has the same repeated visitors and also they are just in a browsing mood (like newspapers or forums )

ownerrim




msg:1422664
 9:42 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

the long term success of adsense depends, to some extent, on adsense appearing on quality sites. At the very least, those sites should not be content-empty spam cans.

ogletree




msg:1422665
 9:48 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is a constant flow of new advertisers bidding up prices. There is no end in site. There are many threads about how it is getting out of hand. People are not upset about content sites they are to busy trying to outbid there neighbor. Most people don't even know there is content advertising or a way to op out of it or that there is a problem with it. WW members represent a tiny portion of advertisers you can't go by posts here and think that is the general consensus. Don't get me wrong this site gets tons of visitors but the web is huge and very few people in the grand scheme of things have any clue of what is going on. G is happy they are making money.

europeforvisitors




msg:1422666
 10:00 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

there is no reason Google has to police those sites! ...

Actually, there are several good reasons, as I'm sure the Google Search team would agree.

But the most basic reason is very simple: These sites are explicitly forbidden by the AdSense TOS.

exmoorbeast




msg:1422667
 10:21 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

losely speaking, the really useless adsense sites give us the worst conversion.

I wish we could exclude urls, as there are some really bad sites that have never given us a single conversion, and yet they appear in the stats all the time. It's extreemly frustrating that we cannot black list them.

loanuniverse




msg:1422668
 10:37 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

So to recap:

The argument for these types of sites is that ROI is not really affected.

In the post above we have a testimonial that at least one advertiser's ROI was affected.

Hmmmm, what am I missing here?

/edit: Frankly the fact that the program is not being promoted as a free for all, and that EFV pointed out that the sites are against the TOS is like the atom-bomb of arguments. There really shouldn't be an argument at all.

exmoorbeast




msg:1422669
 10:47 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ogletree has the right idea though, because we are only one advertiser. My friend works for a media agency where all they care about is spending clients' money. Not even the client is concerned about ROI, as for them it is only about exposure.

Others that are extremely roi focused grumble when they see sites that are sending them traffic not converting. I imagine that as roi tracking becomes more prevalent, then you might see more people getting annoyed. In the meantime I imagine that its all about getting huge volumes of traffic.

That same friend told me that AOL told him a few years ago that a customer cost 1000 USD to aquire because of their huge advertising costs. He suggested to the AOL marketing director that he would be better off standing in Central Station with a bag full of 100 dollar bills and actually paying people 200 usd cash to sign up! It's a funny world!

ogletree




msg:1422670
 11:15 pm on Jul 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

A lot of things have been said about the TOS. A lot of the sites you people think shoud be against the TOS are not. Or at least G does not think they are. I have an email from G saying that my pure SPAM site is ok with them. There is no argument about it being SPAM everyone would agree. I'm glad you people don't work at G.

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