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The AdSense Black Box
What is going on inside those black boxes?
martinibuster




msg:3283202
 10:05 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Most new AdSense features are greeted with cautious optimism to fear and hostility. Despite the AdSense blog, there are mini mysteries that together seem to make publishers jumpy. What is going on inside those black boxes?

For example, what's the deal with those weekend updates? What are they hiding back there? A little more openness would go a long way toward dispelling the fear that one butt paddle is being exchanged for a bigger more efficient butt paddle. It's these numerous little mysteries that together make some people feel suspicious of new updates and improvements to the system.

For some, it doesn't matter what Google does, the checks keep coming same as ever. But according to the feedback on this forum, apparently not for everyone. Are new features another screw put to the publisher? Or do you have such little feedback from Google that you don't know what to think?

 

europeforvisitors




msg:3283219
 10:31 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

It all comes down to the bottom line: Are you earning more than before, or less? Are you earning as much as you think you should be earning, or not?

Also, no matter how much "openness" or "transparency" publishers demand, they aren't going to be happy with the answers unless the answers are the answers they want to hear.

Hobbs




msg:3283252
 11:22 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yes EFV, those greedy publishers will never be content no matter how open Google becomes and will never stop making up stories because that's their nature, publishers.

Excellent openings Martinibuster,
My personal feeling is that Google is an excellent advertiser's company, and a lousy publisher's partner, publishers are treated like the ex-wife while advertisers are treated like the girlfriend.

Before someone goes on about who pays and another replies with who provides content for the serps and ads.., let's take the latest example which I think is what you are referring to, site targeted ppc, will publishers be able to turn them on or off, will it be through the control panel, will publishers be able to see them in the stats? Probably Google thought it all out already, but FUD is prevailing because we know nothing yet, I mentioned in another thread that if you lookup SmartPricing in the Google AdSense help, you will get their equivalent of a 404! While all of us publishers know it is a serious matter that affects us, AdSense advisor's activity compared to AdWords advisor..many other examples can be made on this. More thought and care towards publishers will go a long way, not information that could reveal trade secrets, but the kind that rallies educated well informed publishers more to Google's side, I feel Google is shyly trying and taking steps, like when the AdSense blog started for example, but quickly it became a dispenser of mostly trivial information, one step forward, two steps back, we have mutual interests with Google and want to believe them, but they need to speak out for this to happen.

[edited by: Hobbs at 11:28 pm (utc) on Mar. 15, 2007]

wyweb




msg:3283256
 11:31 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

As rational and level headed as I now try to be with regard to the daily ups and downs of the Adsense program, I can't overlook the fact that at certain times a significant number of publishers all report experiencing the same problem(s) at approximately the same time(s). EPC falls, targeting takes a sudden nosedive, etc... Whatever it is, it's being reported by numerous people across, I'm assuming, widely varied niches. Too many reporting in to be coincidence, at least in my opinion there are. The evidence that "something" happened seems to be there, although what that something could be I have no idea. These "somethings" seem to occur with more frequency around the planned maintenance periods.

Seem to. Appear. Possibly. Might be. When the human brain doesn't have all the necessary information it needs to reach a concrete conclusion, it will sometimes embellish if allowed. The mind hates loose ends so we improvise. My EPC fell by 50% and they just did a system maintenance therefore the two must be connected. Slim but when it happens three or four times the perceived connection strengthens.

If I had to nail down a concrete answer, and fortunately I don't, I'd say it's just some sort of ripple effect. The Adsense machine is massive and incredibly complex and it's growing every day. Tinker with one aspect of it and a shockwave reverbs from side to side. Publishers in the way of that shockwave either go up or they go down, those going down probably being the more vocal of the two groups.

sailorjwd




msg:3283264
 11:41 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

"while advertisers are treated like the girlfriend"

ya, right!

Being the girlfriend, I just wish they would take me out to dinner before they drag me into the back seat and screw the money out of my pockets.

<am I in a bad mood today?>

Hobbs




msg:3283265
 11:46 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

lol
I'll take you to out to dinner sailorjwd, later you'll pay for my keyboard!

incrediBILL




msg:3283284
 12:21 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can't overlook the fact that at certain times a significant number of publishers all report experiencing the same problem(s) at approximately the same time(s)

The stock market behaves in much the same way with bunches of people gaining at the same time bunched of people are losing. It's obviously a combination of advertiser market forces and some algorithmic changes here and there, but hardly enough of the AdSense publishers suffer at the same time to make it an epidemic.

If everyone went down all at once, to levels we couldn't survive on, it would be a mass exodus to YPN or something else which clearly isn't the case yet.

Back to Martini's original post, if it's going down for some, why do you stick with it?

Why not look elsewhere?

We know why, the competition pays even less!

Hobbs




msg:3283305
 12:42 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't think that was MB's question Bill, and if it was a matter of take it as it is or shutup then why are we all here discussing AdSense?

[edit: gone keyboard need replacement now]

[edited by: Hobbs at 12:45 am (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

ken_b




msg:3283319
 1:00 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

For example, what's the deal with those weekend updates? What are they hiding back there?

What about the maintenance downtimes? I doubt anyone really wants to see the system left unmaintained.

What reason is there to think G is hiding anything with the maintenance breaks?

Those appear to be mostly on the record keeping and reporting side, it isn't like the ads are not being shown on our sites while the maintenance is being done on the system.

We just can't login to our control panel for a few hours now and then. Big deal.

Januuski




msg:3283333
 1:23 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

publishers are treated like the ex-wife while advertisers are treated like the girlfriend.

You got that wrong! Publishers are treated as whores where for a few bucks they can do anything and everything and advertisers are treated as ex-wife where you have to pay child support and alimony.

[edited by: Januuski at 1:24 am (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

creepychris




msg:3283377
 2:29 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think some black boxes are necessary while others are not and just create an environment of publisher paranoia. Google is creating a hostile set of publishers because of their black box approach and I think they should rethink the long-term negative ramifications because of it.

What are the Black Boxes? Are they necessary? (looking at both sides of the argument).

Percentage Payout Black Box: Do you really need to know how much a cut Google gets?
NO. What matters is how much they pay compared to other advertising networks.
YES. How can I run my sites around adsense if I don't know why EPC is declining? Am I being smartpriced? Is Google grabbing more? Or is the market declining? This kind of information helps me plan MY business. Not knowing creates all sorts of paranoia such as: Google is a public company now so the board must be cutting my share to increase profits for the shareholders. And quite frankly, I would be extremely pissed if I found out that I was subsidizing About dot com.

The Click Fraud Black Box: Do you really need to know how they detect fraudulent clicks?
NO. They need to keep this as secret as possible to discourage the gamers and fraudsters. Publishers do not need to know.
YES. If I am an advertiser, how do I know Google is sending valid clicks.

The Smart Price Black Box: Do we need to know what quality score Google is giving our sites and the discount to advertisers that it implies?
NO. As long as the checks that Google writes are bigger than the other advertising networks, who cares?
YES. Again how can I plan when everything is such a mystery? How can I improve quality? Personally, I think smart pricing is a farce and I do not trust their algorithm. And anyways, Smart Pricing only became necessary because of Google's lack of quality control and Google's take-it-all-or-leave-it-all approach to content selection. Why am I discounted this month but not last month when nothing has changed? Or has it? Has the market declined? Again I don't know. Google's lack of transparency makes planning difficult. It encourages me to waste time checking channels trying to derive relationships between CTRs and EPC and sudden swings in EPC. I want PLUG-AND-PLAY. I've always said that only the advertisers know the value of our traffic so let them decide the market site by site (thankfully they can do that now).

The Account Termination Black Box: Do we need to know why we were booted?
NO. Google is not a court of law. They can and do terminate their relationship without explanation because something has turned sour. It is their right as spelled out in their agreement. (And besides how many times has someone proclaimed innocence on this board only to be uncovered later?!)
YES. Are both sides leaving money on the table because of a misunderstanding or even, heaven forbid, a framing by malicious individuals? If our business is being sabotaged by a third party, perhaps we have legal rights in regards to this third party. In the short term, such problematic accounts might not be worth the revenue they make to investigate, but business changes. Who knows who next years internet superstar will be for any given niche? What is certain is that Google is buring bridges when it acts like this.

Personally, my answers are Yes, No, Yes, Yes. That is I think they should keep their inner workings with regard to click fraud secret, but be transparent on the other issues.

martinibuster




msg:3283380
 2:39 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>I doubt anyone really wants to see the system left unmaintained.

Very good point. But the problem with discussing maintentance is, do you or I know what "maintenance" is? Are we certain it's not a euphemism?

It's not like they have to power down the datacenters to throw bananas at the monkeys powering the hard drives. What do they mean by maintenance, and why does it have to be such a big secret?

I want to make it clear that I am not saying they are twisting the screws on publishers during maintenance times. It could very well be something as benign as taking the datacenters down so they could load data into the machines to keep them current.

It wouldn't surprise me if it were something benign and even boring. The point I want to raise for discussion is that it appears Google may be taking non-communication with webmasters to the point where some (not all, nor a majority) of the publishers are getting nervous.

In my role as moderator I read almost every post that gets posted. I try not to skip any of them no matter what the topic. After reading that many posts you start to pick up on a general trend. I can't help but observe that the roots of some of those fears and worries are nourished directly in the soil of this black box mentality.

ken_b




msg:3283397
 3:04 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

]quote][So you're saying you know what "maintenance" is?[/quote]

Nope, I'm taking their word for it because I have no reason not to.

Khensu




msg:3283426
 3:43 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I know what maintenance is, my momma told me.

She also told me not to be afraid of the dark, I mean black box.

(I think I am going to change my handle to Forrest)

mzanzig




msg:3283478
 6:43 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Excellent topic, and about time to be discussed.

I think this business (like probably most businesses) is about communicating with the people involved, be it on supplier side (Adsense) or customer side (Adwords).

Being on the supplier side, I do accept their attitude of running a Black Box due to the lack of sufficient alternatives. And I guess this is true for many publishers out there. But how attached to the program am I? Do I feel that this is a good business relationship? (Yes, I know I signed a contract, and I should be happy to have a business relationship with them at all, but that's not the point here.)

So, do I trust this partner? The answer is - no. And this is very unfortunate, because I would love to have exactly that: a reliable business relationship that I can trust. Go to bed each night, knowing that everything will be OK.

If I were to make a wishlist, I'd go for

a) Open discussions about existing Adsense feature sets, as well as a dialogoue about required/requested features
Why are certain features implemented the way they are? Why has the stupid filter exactly 200 slots? Why not 150? 250? 500? Why? - Knowing the rationale behind features would give suppliers a better feeling. Being able to openly discuss new features (other than then throwing them over the wall like we did in last years X-Mas feature request list) is a big plus too. It gives those publishers who are undecided about their future relationship a better feeling.

b) Hard facts on the thing that matters most
We are trying to make the most of our websites, and Google is trying to make the most out of the Adsense system. These two goals should be connected somehow, with the basic idea being "the more =we= earn, the more =Google= will make". The fact that they do not (not even strictly confidential per publisher) tell you the revenue share does not help raising the confidence with the program. The result are conspiracy theories about how big the revenue share might be, and whether and how it may vary for each publisher, whether advertisers or publishers are being ripped off and so on and so on.
Again, please let's do not get into the discussion whether we actually NEED to have this information. I just want to make a point that having such information would raise the confidence level of publishers. To provide a good, safe feeling. To build an honest business that will also survive hard times. To build a long-term partnership that is based on trust (Google to trust me to deliver quality traffic, and myself to trust Google that everything is developing well). Such a partnership will survive even if competitors to the Adsense program will show up in the future.

c) No more unnecessary Black Boxes
There are even unnecessary Black Boxes in Adsense. Take click-tracking. We need to install external software (or self-developed code) in order to get the most basic information that Adsense refuses me to tell, e.g. which ads were clicked? When? By whom? On which pages? Which colors? Which size? This is plain ridiculous as this information is present in Google's database anyway. Why don't they make this information available? Why? Why? Why? Is there something they want to hide? Where is the point in allowing external software to do what they could do as well?
Again, this does not raise the confidence level with the program (which is required to build a long-term relationship).

I could probably go on for hours without getting emotional, but I doubt that anyone (except this tiny group of webmasters) actually reads and understands this and takes this to higher forces that might change things. I doubt it.

I bet, however, that once a suitable alternative is available, we will see some frantic activity in MV to actually improve their communications. At that point in time it probably is too late.

Hobbs




msg:3283552
 8:45 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

some (not all, nor a majority) of the publishers are getting nervous

And some even become skeptical as well.

When data in front of you is in direct contradiction with the little that Google is saying, or your own experience contradicts because of what they leave out you, you can become skeptical.

Here are some examples of practices that only work for some and can easily contradict with Google's advice:

- Blocking non competing sites will lower your earnings
(I've salvaged EPC and earnings by blocking MFA for years)

- They leave out advice on not putting too many ads per page
(Almost all newbs including myself fall into this in the beginning before testing, it is important enough to even include it in the welcome email)

- "Advertise On This Site" will boost competition on your ad space and your earnings
(For some it kills their CTR)

- Google AdSense is a very high quality network
(Yet we see hoards of rubbish advertisers and publishers getting in)

- Competition on your ad space goes through an auction system. Google's algo selects and displays the ads most likely ads to generate revenue for both of you
(but somehow 1 cent MFA slip through)

- Opting out of CPM lowers your earnings

These all can be sound advice for some, but for sure not all publishers, leaving out some details could lead to a state of distrust, when X, Y and Z on WebmasterWorld pass out advice that improves your bottom line, and it contradicts Google's advice or Google it left out, you could start believing urban myths and conspiracy theories.

Google, let there be light.

designhaus




msg:3283562
 8:58 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

bottom line ... leave adsense and fine a new advertising publisher option. its so terrible google is so unclear on what they do. there are so many options for publishers out there ... come on guys take the bull by the horns and take some control back. We are all at Googles mercy. Just remember we are worth a ton in income to them as publishers.

testing0




msg:3283591
 9:32 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

@mzanzig

Very good point you mantioned.

google alone = 100 million page views per day

publishers = i think but not sure about 50 million page views per day

In other hand G guys don't even bother to answer most of our requests, wishlists etc..

as someone mantioned before we are kinda like Cheap whores to G.

As for now google adsense is a very uncertain business for publishers. You hanging by a tiny wire and dont know when G gonna cut it.

I hope those G advisors answer on this topic.

[edited by: testing0 at 9:41 am (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

OutdoorWebcams




msg:3283594
 9:39 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

As wyweb says:
I can't overlook the fact that at certain times a significant number of publishers all report experiencing the same problem(s) at approximately the same time(s). EPC falls, targeting takes a sudden nosedive, etc... Whatever it is, it's being reported by numerous people across, I'm assuming, widely varied niches. Too many reporting in to be coincidence, at least in my opinion there are.

Also in mine. At least targeting should be constant.
What has happened at those times?
What must happen to make this happen?

One day I only got ads in Korean language (while sitting in Germany and browsing my German site) - what kind of weird data has been accumulated and taken into account?
Well, Google 'did something' and all was fine again - have they just flushed some data cache?

Are they collecting and using more data than they can handle, producing some sort of overflow?

During those maintainances, are they, opposite to martinibuster's proposal of loading data into machines, flushing data and start 'something' all over again?
The frequency of the maintainances is increasing - in correlation with the growth of publishers?

At least their system seems to be immature and they try to figure out what's wrong - during the meantime occasionally hitting the reset-button seems to be the way to go...
And I wouldn't talk about this either.

Maybe some of the black boxes are also black for Google.

But as long as Google is making less money while we're making less money due to the overwhelming complexity of their algo(s) I'm confident that they are trying hard to fix any problems.

Scurramunga




msg:3283595
 9:41 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

...Just remember we are worth a ton in income to them as publishers.

I disagree to some extent here. Whilst the publisher concept as a whole might be valuable to Google; an exodus of one, two or even a few thousand (normal sized ) publishers wouldn't matter much I would imagine.

This is I belive, is the crux of the "black box" issue. If a few Adsense publishers leave because they are disgruntled there are plenty of other Adsense publishers willing to take their place. Yet the recruitment well paying advertisers would be a higher prioriy for Google, so naturally a few incentives such as allowing them greater control are thrown their way.

Scurramunga




msg:3283605
 9:57 am on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

as someone mantioned before we are kinda like Cheap whores to G.

Maybe we should try to avoid these sort of analogies as they only add an emotive perspective to the issues discussed. Without trying to add an emotive slant to the topic myself, I will say that I do agree that it does seem quite evident that the treatment of publishers and advertisers by Google takes on different priorities.

Take for instance the enforcement of TOS at it's most basic levels. We do know that many advertisers use adwords to promote MFA's (which in my opinion is dishonest as it promotes invalid clicks by trapping visitors) Yet of all the MFA sites I have reported, not a single one has ever been banned, nor has Google ever replied to my emails to acknowledge the problem of the MFA's that I reported. Yet it is almost certain if a publisher (dishonestly or otherwise) generates invalid clicks the chances are that banning will occur.

[edited by: Scurramunga at 10:00 am (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

bts111




msg:3283692
 12:20 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google Adsense is my madam...

Scurramunga




msg:3283735
 1:16 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google Adsense is my madam...

Your life experiences could be worse. For instance, if you were a Republican voter ;-)

[edited by: Scurramunga at 1:33 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

europeforvisitors




msg:3283737
 1:19 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Again, please let's do not get into the discussion whether we actually NEED to have this information.

The real point is whether Google needs to share the information that a small minority of AdSense publishers are demanding. I'd say Google doesn't, because there's obviously no shortage of AdSense publishers. For that matter, how many of this forum's members who are unhappy with the program have actually taken the step of saying "Enough!" and going elsewhere?

Winning the confidence of disgruntled publishers is far less important to Google than winning the confidence of current and prospective advertisers. That's the bottom-line reality.

ebound




msg:3283757
 1:33 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

For that matter, how many of this forum's members who are unhappy with the program have actually taken the step of saying "Enough!" and going elsewhere?

I am! One advertiser at a time I am replacing Adsense ads with direct advertisers and earnings are on the rise again. A 10K loss here and there, one publisher at a time, will eventually add up and maybe Google will take note.

Winning the confidence of disgruntled publishers is far less important to Google than winning the confidence of current and prospective advertisers. That's the bottom-line reality.

And I'm finding that these advertisers are somewhat disgruntled with Google themseleves. They are much happier to go direct. They pay less - I earn more - everyone is happy - except Google, oh well.

Scurramunga




msg:3283763
 1:37 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Winning the confidence of disgruntled publishers is far less important to Google than winning the confidence of current and prospective advertisers. That's the bottom-line reality

That's pretty much what I have just said. What's the old proverb..... "beggers can't be choosers"?

netmeg




msg:3283775
 1:52 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

(I always assumed that a good portion of the 'down-for-maintenance' Saturdays were because of changes or enhancements to AdWords - the two programs are apparently so tightly woven together that any time one goes down, the other goes as well)

Some more transparency would certainly be nice. I'm not holding my breath though.

I really do wish ASA was as much of a presence here as AWA is in the AdWords forum. I realize he/she can't probably can't say much, but in broad sense, there are some questions that could be answered without giving away the store to spammers or the competition.

Again, I'm not holding my breath.

Hobbs




msg:3283788
 2:05 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whenever AdSense issues are discussed, some here will always advise publishers to put up or leave the program, well, I'm not planning to leave soon, I also plan to discuss with like minded publishers what this program is missing and how it can be better, and you know what? Google does listen eventually, and does follow what's being said on forums, it is their feedback as a company that's lacking and this is exactly what this thread is about.

You don't want more openness from Google, you don't think they will communicate more with publishers, you don't think it is in their interest, or you just like black boxes.. Does not give you the right to claim to be a majority, or even minority, it is your view which we all should respect as long as you do not try to sell it as ours too.

On majority and minority, someone once said, mostly dead fish swim with the flow.

adamnichols45




msg:3283830
 2:36 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

One thing to remember for those that say lots of people are saying there numbers are dropping etc etc.

When the numbers are rising few people are quick to post a new topic and we dont hear about the "UPS" half as much as we do about the "DOWNS"

just a point.

celgins




msg:3283881
 3:12 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

When the numbers are rising few people are quick to post a new topic and we dont hear about the "UPS" half as much as we do about the "DOWNS"

Of course not, but I think this is just a fact of life. News agencies tend to report negatives before positives, and the public feeds off of it.

I believe the relationship between Google and Adsense publishers to be like that of a vehicle maintenance shop and the customers they serve:

There are other mechanics around, but this one is geographically close and convenient; built a great reputation in the beginning; and has lots of other clients.

We just want to them to explain a little more about the work they're doing under the hood. Especially now, since some cars aren't running as smoothly as they once did.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38 ( [1] 2 > >
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