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Google AdSense Forum

'free' to be avoided?
question about keywords for content

 2:44 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

hi everyone. i am a total newbie to this site and abit of a newbie to adsense, but I'm hoping this forum will help me gain some insight. While browsing topics I came across some comments about the word "free" being bad to have on your page. I tried finding the topic again to refresh my memory on what it said, but cannot seem to find it now. Anyway, I am wondering if this is common knowledge that the word "free" is bad? Can someone give me some more thoughts or details about this?
My website is a hobby site, which I started about a month ago. I am not trying to live off of it, however, I am a student and I value the small amount that I am making from it so far. Like everyone else I want to ulitize its money making potential as much as possible.
It is a website for free photos for digital artists to download and use. Free is in the url title.. and I use the word free all over my site. It seemed like a good idea at the time, people like things that are free. I figured it would be good for traffic. Any idea if the word "free" has a negative effect on how much ads pay?



 3:00 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I too have read some posts about the (key)word free being penalized, but I'm not sure there's any substance to it. Most of what I read on this forum was pure conjecture. I guess what I'm saying is don't worry about. If you keep doing what you're doing, and you do it well, you will reap the benefits in due time.


 3:25 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I get paid less for my freebie sites. Particularly one that has free in the URL. I get paid about half as much for those clicks, compared to a non-free site made using the same template/layout.

Free is good for traffic though, so you can make up for the low EPC by increasing traffic.


 3:37 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Didn't someone say something about advertisers being able to add filter words? Or is it google deciding that a page about free stuff isn't likely to be a review of expensive things to buy.

I checked one of my sites for the word "free" after reading that thread. I seem to use it quite a lot: "feel free to...." and "free from..." "free moment".


 3:45 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've been adding 'free' to my keyword exclusion list in adwords recently.

It seems that 99% of the sites I go to that have Free all over the place are spammy adsense sites.

And, I only find them when they've clicked on my ads from the same ip multiple times with a short time (minutes).

But as lacy says it may balance out but I'm pretty sure that whatever clicks you do get will be worth less than same site without Free... I'm also excluding 'download' too.


 4:10 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

devotchka... welcome to webmasterworld.

i'm not too sure if using "free" on your webpages will directly affect ads payouts too much.

rather, i think the biggest effect would be indirect... the users that are attracted to your site in the first place, are a self-selecting group of bargain-hunters. there's nothing wrong with that, but i doubt that they are likely to click on "hi-res downloads for $99" or something like that.

in other words, your site might be attracting a demographic that is unlikely to click on the ads that pay the most in your niche.


 4:17 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

"but i doubt that they are likely to click on "hi-res downloads for $99" or something like that."

that is what I figured, and is probably the reason I don't get many clicks (some days zero).
I expected less than stellar results with using adsense with this site, and I guess am just hoping to just make the best out of what I have.


 4:57 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Erm, i have one freebie site that paid like 0.05-0.07 per click so it is kind of hard to make big money with the word "free". However, you can seperate sections of free. You can set up one page for the word free but other pages excluding the word free. THat is how i do it.


 5:34 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Maybe you should try using only image ad units. Being that your visitors are "visual" people looking for images, they may see something interesting in an image ad, rather than a text based ad. It's worth a shot, since you mentioned that text ads are not performing well.

Do your pages have a higher density of keywords about "free" than you have keywords about the actual content you want to focus on?

Try analyzing your site at the following URL to see the keyword density of your webpage(s).


What size ad units are you using?

Where are you placing them?


 6:14 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks Thinkaholic. I was not aware of that tool, it is rather handy. The word that appears on my homepage the most is 'photos', with 'free' coming in second and 'texture' third. this is because I am focused on a niche of photography called "texture photos" which are used most often in 3D art. I'm still not completely sure 'free' hurts me for content. I mostly get ads for free photo related things (stock photography) and since people come to my site for free photos, I figure those are probably good ads for me to have, even though most of them are selling photos. I sometimes get photography studio ads and freeclip art ads, which I'm not thrilled about, but I havn't been able to find a way to control the ads more than I currently do (I was just glad when 'free dating services' ads stopped showing up). Plus I figure maybe there aren't that many stock photography and texture-photo ads to go around to begin with. At this point I can't imagine changing my content just to try to get higher paying ads (I'm not saying anyone is suggesting this).

That is an interesting idea as well to try image ads. I had dismissed them completely for some reason, but I will probably give them a go and see what happens. I am very much in the experimental phase of adsense, so I don't see any reason not to try it.

What size ad units are you using?

i am currently using the skinny skyscrapers.. 120x600. with 1 or 2 of them (depending on page length) on the left hand of the pages, not at the very top, but close enough that you don't have to scroll down to start seeing them. I am considering switching to the right side, but Im not sure if it matters. and it works best with the layout of my site this way. I am considering adding a 3rd skyscraper to the right side, to balance things out when appropriate, but I also felt like maybe it would be ad overload.

btw, I appreciate everyone's comments so far. This seems like a very nice forum. :)


 6:57 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think over time your ads will even out. Adsense recrawls your site every 1 - 2 weeks, so the more pages you create, the more targeted your ads will be.


You may want to try different size ads during your experimental stage. Depending on your layout, the skyscraper ads may show the most ads per area, but they may also be overwhelming to the visitor. Maybe smaller ads integrated into your content would perform better.

According to my stats, the 336x280 performs the best, but it will greatly depend on the layout of your own website.

I've learned that its not the quantity of ads you have on your website, but actaully the quality and placement of your ads that brings in more clicks.

Are you matching your ads to the same colors as your website? (background, text color, link color, etc.)

[edited by: thinkaholic at 7:08 pm (utc) on June 12, 2005]


 7:06 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Also, have you tried using the Adlink units? Those might integrate into your site very weel, almost relating to targeted categories that will send your visitor to more specific ads.

Try putting those above your skyscraper ads. I suggest using the 4 links per unit instead of the 5 links. It is more evenly spaced and doesn't looked crammed.


 7:12 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've learned that its not the quantity of ads you have on your website, but actaully the quality and placement of your ads that brings in more clicks.

that is probably true. The only reason I consider adding more ads is because I think most of my traffic is likely to be repeat visitors. So I imagine even if they do find the ads interesting, if they are seeing the same small number of ads, that they will be even less likely to click on them in the future. With additional ads they probably will still see repeats but at least they will have more choices.

Are you matching your ads to the same colors as your website? (background, text color, link color, etc.)

yes, I've given my ads a color scheme that goes with my site. I would show you the site, however I am under the impression it violates a rule here, since I am a newbie?


 7:18 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Also, have you tried using the Adlink units?

nope. I've only just been made aware of them today. I assume they apply to the adsense rule that you can have no more than 3 ad units on a page. Am I correct? If they do count towards the limit, I suppose I can still keep my existing 2, and add 1 adlink, allowing me to have more ads with less risk of looking like an ad overload.
good suggestion, thanks.
I still have to try the image ads too.. so many experiments, so little time. :)


 7:20 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's not ok to post personal URLs in the public forum, but if you click on my sticky mail link, you can send it to me. You can also add it to your user profile and possibly get some traffic from here! :)


 8:10 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

if you click on my sticky mail link, you can send it to me

I sent you a stickymail, however it looks like it didn't go through? I'm not sure. My url is in my profile if you didn't get the message.


 8:18 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I got it and have replied. Looking forward to your reply.


 8:37 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

thinkaholic, that tool you referred to is quite useful. I just learned something about my current writing style and it certainly stands to be improved. Too much use of the word "them". :o

devotchka, you can have 3 ad units *plus* 1 adlink unit. It's mentioned low on the page of "optimization tips" in the "help" section.


 8:50 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

you can have 3 ad units *plus* 1 adlink unit

sweet. thanks icedowl.


 9:19 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

No problem icedowl. Glad I could help.

John Carpenter

 9:32 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

The word 'free' occurs on our site rather frequently, yet we earned $1500 last month. We have 2000 unique visitors a day on average. I don't think the word 'free' is penalized in any way.



 10:28 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

This may sound dumb. I have a non-commercial site.

Suppose I worked the word 'free' into my text here and there. Would this increase traffic?
Any chance of a SERPs penalty? I just want visitors to come and look at my work. -Larry


 10:53 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

larry... if you have a site about widgets without any mention of the word "free" and someone does a google search for "free widgets" you arent in the running at all.

so, the simple answer is: yes adding the word "free" will put you in the running, but if you arent getting lots of traffic from "widgets" you are unlikely to get significantly more from "free widgets"

put differently, google's default operator is AND, which means that a search for "free widgets" is a search for pages that have both "free" AND "widgets" on them. there is lots more information on this in the other forums on WW.

one other note... sticking words like "free" into a footer or something is easy for google to catch, so like you said, you have to weave it into your existing content.


 11:01 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

very well said, elsewhen.


 11:47 pm on Jun 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi elsewhen: Thanks for the good fast response!

My site is about UFOs, gets fairly good traffic.
I doubt anybody Googles for "Free UFOs", (they look expensive to me.)

I can weave 'free' seamlessly into the text. It is a common word after all.
I may try that ONCE on some obscure 3rd level page as a test. Thanks again -Larry


 1:37 am on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

hi larry... this isnt the proper forum for this, but just to finish the point. i agree that "free" would probably not be a good word to target since people wont search for that with respect to your niche.

a great tip, is to pay very close attention to your server logs... you should be able to see what words people ARE searching on to find you. maybe on one page you have the word "conspiracy", and lots of people are finding your site by searching for "UFO conspiracy"... if that is the case, then you might want to weave THAT word into more of your pages, not some generic term like "free".

one word of caution, after freshly reading the google patent... i wouldn't go back and edit pages just for the sake of keyword targeting. google seems to track the changes that you make to a page... and if the only difference between their cached version of some page on your site, and your recently edited one is the inclusion of 5 instances of "conspiracy", i think they will assume that you are stuffing keywords and they may discount them.

please note, this is just a hunch, but whenever i make changes to existing pages, i make real and significant changes... playing with keywords only is like playing with fire, IMO.

rather, you might want to add new paragraphs to old pages, with a couple instances of the keywords, or alternatively, you might want to create new pages with several instances of the word.

the studying of your server logs is clearly lauded in Brett's Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone [webmasterworld.com]


 4:09 am on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

The word free comes up all over my site, and approx 25% of my referral logs include free+keyword/keyphrase. In my niche, it is no uncommon for the avg keyword to be 25 cents.

So, then consider the following example with very modest traffic:
Monthly AdSense Impressions: 60,000 (@2,000/day)
Click through Rate (CTR) Average:5%
Average Income Per-Click:.25
Monthly Income:$750

That would be just a matter of optimizing your content to get the average keyword (Average Income Per-Click)to pay .25 cents, while maintaining targeted traffic.

If you have a site which has software, or similar content for eg., it might not be a good idea to exclude the word free from your content, based on my experiences.

OTOH, if you are an advertiser, who spends Adwords money for ads to promote their software, it also might not be a good idea to use free in the negative word filter -- sure you might kill a few non-converting-lame-duck sites, but for ever one of them, you might block a good one too. I think that the negative URL filter is better for that purpose. Using such a broad term as "free" with so many phrasiological useages, in a negative word filter, might create some self-injurious results.


 5:19 am on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hello again elsewhen: My site is UFO related. I just added 3 new pages with maps and new original content.
These are about the apparent taking of specimens by UFOs and associated 'entities'.

It wasn't hard to work in the phrase 'free samples'.
I will check my access logs as always, and see if there is some traffic from that.

One surprise: People with no apparent interest in UFOs visit, looking for a map of Fergulia or whatever.
Most just back-button out, but SOME of them stick around and browse the whole site. Go figure. - Larry


 6:01 am on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

The word FREE can be used in different contexts.

I used the word 'sugar free' in one of my food related sites, and adsense gave ads related to free stuff, but in around three days, the right ads started appearing.


 2:49 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

One surprise: People with no apparent interest in UFOs visit, looking for a map of Fergulia or whatever.

I know this is probably getting off-topic, but how do you find out what words visitors were searching for when they go to your site? Is this a program you are using, or is this available in your webstats? If it is in your webstats, is this a common feature? (I have not come across anything like that in mine).

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