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Does Adsense Code allow G to see referrer info?
Can they track where my visitors are coming from?
MikeNoLastName




msg:1407825
 4:14 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was contacted by phone, by a rep from Google this past week (the caller ID even came up something like "Google Inc"), desperately trying to sell us on adding AdSense to our website (millions of page views a month - ironically when we applied a few months back just to see what it was all about, they rejected us). The rep already knew our domains, and they rank pretty high on G and more recently very high on Y! (hmm, wonder if THAT had anything to do with the sudden call?) and I was afraid if I said "no" outright that we would be get a penalty on G. She even went so far as to create the account for me, have an e-mail sent and confirm a call-back date to follow up.
Anyway, our attorney had a lot of reservations about their policy (like number 12 - them having the right to use our name and logo indiscriminately, amongst many others).
But, as webmaster my concerns were more as to whether the way they display the ads allows them to see the referring source calling the page which they are linked on. Normally when a page calls a cgi or gif from a remote server, the remote server can only see the info for the page they are linked on and visitors IP which is ok. Since we have not agreed to the terms yet, I can't see the code they want us to put on the pages. I'm asssuming it is some sort of javascript based on the policy description. We've previously kept our entire website almost completely java-free AND more importantly cookie-free for privacy conscious visitors! I'm assuming the code they want added will violate both of those? BTW, is there a way to make their click-thrus open in a new window? This would definitely be another requirement if they wish us to link them.
We already have 100's of advertisers paying a monthly fee, whom we definitely do not want to alienate or drive to G, but from the sounds of the people on this forum, the income can be quite substantial, especially for the more desirable keywords which we command.
Also, has anyone else but me, questioned them on the fact that they won't allow our own tracking of click-thrus to compare to theirs as well as the fact that there is no way to check up on the amount they are charging the bidder to see if we're being paid fairly?

Thanks!
Mike

 

growingdigital




msg:1407826
 4:21 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi Mike,

When you play with Google you play by Google's rules. I have never heard of a circumstance where they changed there ad sense policies for anyone. (Correct me if I'm wrong).

I'm assuming your site advertising is based on CPM? If that is the case, you may make more with your current advertisers than ad sense anyway.

howiejs




msg:1407827
 7:12 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I believe the "refer" drives smart pricing and your payouts

markus007




msg:1407828
 7:48 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

anyone who doesn't try out new things, on the internet shouldn't be running a website. Things that worked 3 years ago don't work now, and what is working now won't work 3 years from now.

MikeNoLastName




msg:1407829
 9:22 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the insight. My primary original question was whether anyone had studied the G code and determined what information they passed and if it was possible for them to track incoming referrer or other info from the calling page.
We're not adverse to trying new things at all, simply CAUTIOUS in looking before we leap... especially when a $multi-billion company, bent on internet domination, is inviting US to "come on in to the parlor" ;).

MrAnchovy




msg:1407830
 10:29 am on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I believe the "refer" drives smart pricing and your payouts

Impossible with the current code.

My primary original question was whether anyone had studied the G code and determined what information they passed and if it was possible for them to track incoming referrer or other info from the calling page

This topic came up just a few days ago.

When it comes to your page referrer, Google has absolutely no way of knowing. Passing the page referrer to Google, via the AdSense code, is possible, but it would be something that you would have to do, and something you would have control over... not something Google could do on their own with the current script.

They could alter the code in the future to pass such information... and alter the TOS to require you to do so, but it would be clearly identifiable in the code itself. If that day ever came (and I seriously doubt it will), it won't be something they could slip past you without you knowing... you could easily just opt-out of showing ads at that time if it bothered you.

I'm asssuming it is some sort of javascript based on the policy description. We've previously kept our entire website almost completely java-free AND more importantly cookie-free for privacy conscious visitors!

And overly privacy conscious visitors are most likely blocking cookies. Cookies play a vital role to the web. I could be wrong, but you seem to be of the cookies-are-bad impression. Surely there is the potential for abuse, and there are even some isolated instances of that abuse... but overall the scare about cookies is way over-hyped imho.
If was surprised at the "even more importantly cookie-free" comment.. as it's javascript that you should be more concerned about. Of course, as the webmaster you have control over what javascript goes into your page.

I'm assuming the code they want added will violate both of those?

Yes... the code is displayed via a piece of javascript. And a cookie is set and/or read if it already exists. But it's nothing more than the cookie Google sets at it own page. Again... if your visitors are overly paranoid, they're probably already blocking it.

BTW, is there a way to make their click-thrus open in a new window?

No

bishop175




msg:1407831
 12:03 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

BTW, is there a way to make their click-thrus open in a new window?

No

This is possible. Add to your body html tag target="_blank" or target="_new"

As a separate example, I believe the About.com site uses the adsense program (albeit custom). Their AS links open in separate windows.

MrAnchovy




msg:1407832
 1:20 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is possible. Add to your body html tag target="_blank" or target="_new"

While possible... ya better ask for permission before ya do it.

The AdSense policy states that you can't alter the behavior of the ads... opening the link in a new window would do just that.

bishop175




msg:1407833
 1:33 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't see why not. I'm not altering the Google code. I'd want a clear definiton of "behaviour".

bishop175




msg:1407834
 1:42 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I fired off a question to Google AdSense to get their ruling on it.

MrAnchovy




msg:1407835
 1:58 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't see why not. I'm not altering the Google code. I'd want a clear definiton of "behaviour".

I fired off a question to Google AdSense to get their ruling on it.

[webmasterworld.com...]
"Official word from the AdSense team is that you are not allowed to do anything that will open a new browser window when a user clicks on an AdSense ad - whether or not you modify the actual code or not." - Jenstar

[webmasterworld.com...]
"It is against the terms to open the link in a new window (unless you are a premium publisher)" - Jenstar

One reason is that many advertisers hate it (read the threads above for reasons). If Google doesn't catch ya, you stand a very high chance of one of the advertisers turnin ya in anyways.

linear




msg:1407836
 5:19 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi Mike,

In this thread [webmasterworld.com], message #11, I analyzed what gets sent to Google on an ad request, and strolled through the javascript code for additional details, should that interest you.

As far as I can tell, they can't tell the referrer of the page with the ad, although they *do* get the length of the click trail in the form of history.length.

MikeNoLastName




msg:1407837
 5:57 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks all for the input. Looks like we'll just have to hit them up for "premium publisher" status if they're so anxious to get us ;-).

BTW, didn't know about the target= in the html tag trick, that could come in real handy elsewhere too.

Mike

bishop175




msg:1407838
 5:58 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I got a reply from Google:

<paraphrase>At this time we do not have an option to open Google ads in a new browser window. Please do not modify
the AdSense ad code or alter the result of clicking on an ad on your website, as this is against our program policies.
</paraphrase>

<paraphrase>
The AdSense code is not changed, but the site's default is
set up to have its directory of links open in new windows for visitors and this was before the
addition of the AdSense program.</paraphrase>
So what I'd like to know from Google is:

1. since I haven't changed the AdSense code, and
2. my site is set up to have its links open in a new brower and
3. the AdSense links do open in a new window

...do I have to change the default setup of my site to comply with the
AdSense policy? If that's the case, why is it so important that the AdSense
links open in the same browser window?

Respectfully,

waiting now for their reply...:)

[edited by: Jenstar at 10:50 pm (utc) on Nov. 2, 2004]
[edit reason] paraphrased email quote; actual quotes not allowed as per TOS [/edit]

raywood




msg:1407839
 6:05 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

MikeNoLastName,
Go to any page with a google add on it. View the source code of the page, and find the url of the javascript. Paste the url into your browser and have a look. It sure looks to me like they track the referer.

freeflight2




msg:1407840
 6:10 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

MikeNoLastName: are you sure an official from Google contacted you and not some ad agency? I never heard of something like that.
Adsense ads do NOT set a cookie and unless they are doing some tricks with the G toolbar they can not see where/how your visitors came to your site.they do set a cookie for every google search user though
My site's default set up is to have its
directory of links open in new windows for visitors
why do some people think they can keep users this way? most users hate this kind of behaviour and some will never visit your site again.
bishop175




msg:1407841
 6:28 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

...most users hate this kind of behaviour and some will never visit your site again

Got any research on that? I maintain about 50% retention of unique visitors to my site.

MikeNoLastName




msg:1407842
 6:33 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

My first thought was that it might not be entirely legit too. However, as I mentioned, the caller ID DID say "Google ...something or other" which is not trivial to fake. Unfortunately my secretary erased it before I could look at it myself closely and copy down the number. The number the rep gave me to call her back is a 212 NY, NY area code. 411 didn't list a name for the number or any close to it. I see G has a NY office, but no mention of that area code or prefix that I can find on their website.
Is there such a thing as an agency getting a commission for referring new adsense publishers to G?
----------------------------------
As far as looking at the JS on sites' pages which were already displayed, I figured this would not be useful, since presumably the "dirty work" of tracking the original referer would have been done before the page even came up with their ads inserted.

freeflight2




msg:1407843
 6:45 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

tracking the original referer
siteowners do that, yes, but they don't share that info with G. The JS code you see is the code they get from google and that's it. As I said before G already has ways to know how internet users visit sites: everybody using the google search gets a 'cookie' which can be matched again if somebody clicks on an adsense ad and perhaps they are also using tracking info from the google toolbar.
dmorison




msg:1407844
 6:54 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi Mike,

As you say you have "millions" of page view per month you should qualify for premium service, which means all of this speculation becomes largely irrelevant.

You will have an account manager with whom to negotiate commercial, technical and legal terms - and if they really want to work with your company they won't let clause x.y get in the way.

"Take it or leave it" T&C's are there for Joe Bloggs who wants to run AdSense on his Blog. If you want to work with Google and have the traffic get talking to them.

Rodney




msg:1407845
 7:22 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Got any research on that? I maintain about 50% retention of unique visitors to my site.

I've read a few useability articles and sites posting results from their own internal research on opening new browser windows.

Most of the info I've read is that it is *generally* a bad idea from the standpoint of the visitor, although, as with anything, there are exceptions.

your_store




msg:1407846
 7:48 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

It sure looks to me like they track the referer.
As an advertiser, I noticed the tracking strings in Adsense referrers a couple of weeks ago. The Adsense referrer strings sometimes include the following snippet along with the usual formatting code:

&ref=http://search.msn.com/results.aspx%3fsrch%3d105%26FORM%3dAS5%26q%3dquery

I've seen all the major engines and numerous info based sites show up in the above string.

MrAnchovy




msg:1407847
 8:05 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

It sure looks to me like they track the referer

Raywood...

Are you talking about:
google_append_url_esc('ref', w.google_referrer_url)"?

Notice everything else that is lumped in that section... color, text, border, etc etc. Those are all fields that have to be set in the first part of your adsense code in order for Google to see them... they can get them by no other means unless you supply them.

So... you could take the page referrer and enter:
google_referrer_url ="www.url.com";
into your AdSense code so they could see it... but they couldn't get it on their own.

If you scroll down the java script, you see that any info not passed is set as "null".

The current script + you not specifically providing the referring URL - the possibilities of the toolbar logging referrals = Impossible for them to know

MrAnchovy




msg:1407848
 8:22 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Please do not modify the AdSense ad code or alter the result of clicking on an ad on your website, as this is against our program policies.

So what I'd like to know from Google is:

1. since I haven't changed the AdSense code, and
2. my site is set up to have its links open in a new brower and
3. the AdSense links do open in a new window

...do I have to change the default setup of my site to comply with the AdSense policy?


Yes, you'll have to change your site. Like Jenstar previous stated, regardless whether or not you modify the actual code or not, you cannot open the link in a new window. Also, regardless of how your site was set up before AdSense you have agreed to the terms... and are obligated to abide by them if you wish to continue the agreement.

If that's the case, why is it so important that the AdSense links open in the same browser window?

Because it's generally implied and expected that a clicked link is to be opened in the same window.

Another reason (and quite possibly the primary reason) it is so important to Google is becuase it is important to the advertisers. And those advertisers are the ones who fund AdSense buy purchasing ads. While the difference may be small, links opened in a new window do not convert as well as those opened in the same window. If we all started to do things that were against the advertisers wishes, we'd end up with smaller checks... or possibly no check at all.

MikeNoLastName




msg:1407849
 8:44 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

>Yes, you'll have to change your site. Like Jenstar
>previous stated, regardless whether or not you modify
>the actual code or not, you cannot open the link in a
>new window.

Hmm, but I don't see anything in the Standard Terms and Conditions which says, that upon a click to an adsense link, you can't open (say with a standard <on exit> to a site other than your own) a new window containing the current page from YOUR site which they just clicked from and pop-it UNDER the current window which now has the advertiser info... :-)
Same final effect (displaying the ad content on the topmost window and your own page in an underlying window), just different semantics and apparently then outside the restrictions of the rules.

MrAnchovy




msg:1407850
 9:22 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Same final effect (displaying the ad content on the topmost window and your own page in an underlying window), just different semantics and apparently then outside the restrictions of the rules.

Nice, creative idea there!

However, I would guess that it's still under the confines of the policy. Google would most likely reply that the behavior of clicking the ad was indeed altered.

Also.. it may very well tick off adertisers... and without them, there is no AdSense.

raywood




msg:1407851
 9:40 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

<<Are you talking about:
google_append_url_esc('ref', w.google_referrer_url)"?>>

MrAnchovy, yes that's what I was referring to. Thanks for the insight. I don't really care what google or the advertisers track. I can't understand what difference it makes as long as google chalks the clicks up to my account. Unless of course, a lot of clicks for a particular advertiser enabled me to negotiate a better deal with them directly than what I'm getting from google.

bishop175




msg:1407852
 10:01 pm on Nov 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

...Same final effect (displaying the ad content on the topmost window and your own page in an underlying window), ...

This is how my site is set up. Clicked links appear on top. It'll beinteresting to hear their reply.

AdSenseAdvisor




msg:1407853
 2:29 am on Nov 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

<Jumping in to clear up any confusion>

As you all know, it's against AdSense policy to modify the ad code in any way. Along the same lines (and also referenced in our policies), the behavior of the ads may not be altered in any way even if you haven't laid a finger on the ad code. So if your ads open in a new window due to your site's default settings to open all links in a new window, I'd advise you tweak your settings so that the ads don't open in a new window.

MikeNoLastName- I understand your privacy concerns regarding the referrers for clicks on ads. Let me assure you that there's really nothing to worry about, as we don't track any personally identifiable information with clicks.

ASA

bishop175




msg:1407854
 11:23 am on Nov 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

We appreciate your concern regarding this matter. I reviewed your site and
have confirmed that your implementation of the AdSense code is currently
in compliance with our policies.

Also, please know that when a user clicks on the Google ads on your site
the ad does not open in a new browser window. Please feel free to reply to
this email if you have additional questions or concerns.

Well it seems what I thought was happening was indeed not happening at all. Since my site is set to have links open in new browser windows, I assumed the same would occur with AS links. According to G, the links behaviour is ok by them. So I'm clear. But now I want to know why they are aren't acting like the rest. Time to dig some more....the questions never cease. :)

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