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Referrals 2.0 Solutions
Common answers to some common problems

 12:44 am on Aug 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone,

I know there have been a number of frustrating issues regarding Referrals 2.0 ads. Some of these are the result of underlying technical issues, which we're constantly working to resolve as quickly as we can, and some of these can be solved by publishers selecting certain settings when generating the referral code. I've been working with our referrals specialists and we wanted to share solutions to a few very common problems below.

1. If an advertiser ends their campaign or runs out of budget, those referral ads become unavailable and will stop showing on your pages.

If you've selected 'Pick best performing ads' or you've selected keywords or categories for your ad unit, then we will rotate different referral ads to fill the referral unit. If you haven't checked that option, your page will display an empty space where the now-unavailable ad used to appear.

To maximize your opportunities to generate referral earnings, we therefore recommend you check the 'Pick best performing ads' box when generating your referral code.

2. However, if you select an ad unit size that is only available for Google product referrals and check 'Pick best performing ads,' there's currently a system error that will cause no ad to be displayed. Our engineers are working to fix this as quickly as possible, but in the meantime, if you'd like to refer users to these Google products, please uncheck the 'best performing ads' box when generating code for that referral ad unit.

FYI - Many of you noticed that some of your referral ads weren't showing for a short time late last week. That particular error was resolved last weekend and shouldn't cause any more display problems.

Our engineers, product specialists and I sincerely appreciate your patience as we work out these Referrals 2.0 kinks. Please keep giving us your feedback on this product so that we can deal with bugs right away, expand the features that are working best, and generally continue to improve Referrals 2.0 for you.




 12:40 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I finally got around to setting up a referral unit on my website yesterday. My intent is to use it on pages which doe not monitize well for regular adsense ads due to the pages having a lot of cross topic index information. In an hour of working with this last night I made a few observations.

Having to createa a "shopping cart" of ads and then generate a code block based on that cart is very cumbersome. If I want to update the ads for a particular locaiton I need to go back through the entire interface and choose all ads again. This makes it very difficult to add or remove a single ad from a rotating collection.

A few years ago I used Commission Junction on another website. Their interfce allowed creating an ad unit with a specific code. That code is embedded in the website but all contents for the ad unit are managed from the management interface. This allows the manager to see what is in the ad unit as well as add or remove specific ads.

Another issue is in actually browsing and selecting ads. Having to move back and forth through pages is time taking and not efficient for comparing between ads. Once you select an ad unit size the other sizes are marked as unavailable, but still show up on the screen while browsing.

Having a multi-level collapsable tree view would make ad selection much easier. With AJAX (yea, just JavaScript) coding the tree can load in ads only when a section is expanded, but this would allow someone to view ads from multiple advertisers at once. Also, when doing this, it should be possible or maybe in preferrable to not show ads of a size which can not be displayed at a particular time. Also, make it so someone can choose to turn on and off graphical ads and text ads. When I'm building an ad unit I may only want one or the other.

With a few improvements, I believe Referrals could be made much more useable.


 10:13 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)


No answer yet?


 10:39 pm on Aug 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Didn't I read somewhere that they were going to start serving up PPA ads amongst the PPCs whether you signed up for them or not?

Yes, there was a thread here about that a few weeks ago. Also JenSense has a newer post about it on her blog. Interesting reading.


 12:19 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

No answer yet?

If history ever repeats itself, I am thinking as far back as post June 1st 2007


 1:33 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

An on-the-fly solution would have been far easier for the many publishers we know tend to be on the lazy side ;)

Come on Jen, that was a little low!


 1:39 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

Thank you for your great feedback. This thread is getting a lot of attention over here at the "'plex" and we're looking forward to addressing the issues you've raised in our ongoing product development. We are listening and we are working hard to improve Referrals 2.0 for you all.

To summarize, the referrals product team and I have taken the following requests/concerns away from this thread so far. Let me know if I've missed anything.

Finding ads
- Improve the search feature, including letting me search by types of ads
- Make it easier for me to identify new referral products

Ad categories
- Categorize advertiser ads more accurately
- Consider having sub-categories and then allowing me to default up a level when ads run out in the sub-category

When an ad runs out...
- Find a way to tell me if the ad I chose is running out or already ran out of budget
- Make sure that I'm not being shown unselected ads when I unchecked 'Pick best performing ads'
- Give me an option to substitute in something else

Quality of the advertisements
- Get advertisers to create attractive landing pages
- Make sure Google Product referrals are showing properly
- Remove the blue border under the Google Product referrals
- Let me exclude specific referrals when selecting 'Pick best performing ads'

- Be more clear that Network Performance indicates how well an ad has performed for publishers across AdSense
- Give me a way to change ad units without generating and re-pasting the code

Once again, I just want you to know that we are listening to your feedback and we are thinking hard about how to improve Referrals 2.0 to address your concerns.

-ASA et al.


 3:08 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

AdSenseAdvisor, it's always nice to know that people at the "'plex" are listening, don't hesitate in letting us know when a particular thread is being read.

I think you have done a nice summary of people's complaints with the referrals at this point. About your points:

- Make sure that I'm not being shown unselected ads when I unchecked 'Pick best performing ads'

I think this is pretty urgent, especially when we would normally avoid promoting certain type of products and they appear (ex: scientology stuff in a christian site, for example).

As for the advertisers, sure, a good landing page is important, but more importantly, we also need to know what it is! Some don't even make a link to one in their program descriptions. We somehow have to retype the domain name shown in ads to find out, and that's when we are lucky that it is, in fact, the homepage being promoted. I don't know how it is right now for advertisers, but I think Google should strongly guide them with very specific and obligatory form fields of what they need to fill out in the description: what's the commission, the company homepage, the landing page, and good description of the product itself (more than 3-4 words!).

The choice of categories should be limited also, it's annoying to find "hot best selling items 223" everywhere. Please crack down on advertisers abusing the system this way.

I think one last point for me is the difficulty with managing ads. If we could somehow save the shopping cart that we use when building an ads list, and be able to remove one advertiser or add a new one in that list later on, that would be helpful. Right now, I could spend 30 minutes building a list of interesting advertisers, but I have to do it all over again in a week if I want to tweak it a bit, hoping I haven't forgotten one. There is no easy way to check the landing page, for example, of an ad you are currently running without searching that advertiser again, hoping it has not disappeared because their daily budget has expired.

Also, please do display what category a product is currently in (more so when you will create sub categories). When we find a product by keyword, we would often be interested with other similar programs in the same category.


 3:51 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

- Make sure that I'm not being shown unselected ads when I unchecked 'Pick best performing ads'

Totally #1

I have taken all PPA ads down until it is fixed as to not to needlessly upstage the PPC ads. Please let us know when it is operating properly.

All the others are great ideas!

The Contractor

 11:00 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Find a way to tell me if the ad I chose is running out or already ran out of budget

I still say an advertisers budget shouldn't run out. They are paying on conversion and they set what the conversion is. If they want to only sell 10 widgets a day instead of 1000 or they only want 50 leads a day instead of 5000, they need to run AdWords PPC.

Is this always going to be a "feature"? Is it because it's so tied in with the AdWords system or other systems in place? Publishers need to feel confident when they choose an advertisement it's going to be there all the time. If we wanted "other" ads we have that choice to ad/rotate. It seems if we only want the one advertisement...we are out of luck by 10:00 AM.


 11:52 am on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

When "Pick best performing ads" is selected at the end of the day there's stats that show up in our AdSense accounts that show clicks, but don't show actual impressions without doing some math by figuring out the total impressions with the CTR combined with the actual clicks. When I'm looking at this list of advertisers that had ads displayed on my site that day, often I can't tell what the product is, and I can almost never tell what their actual.com is. Maybe you could make it possible on the report level to reveal their.com or even better, reveal their ad itself, including their destination url. While you're at it, put the ability to block certain PPA advertisers on your TDL. Thanks for listening to our feedback, Plex long and prosper.


 1:17 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

You got it all ASA :)


 1:56 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

- Make sure that I'm not being shown unselected ads when I unchecked 'Pick best performing ads'

I agree this is MOST urgent.

I am using my best prime space to present an ad that is having an incredible response, but other ads are still randomly showing up. I left the box UNCHECKED and have even re-done the code several times to be sure!

It is not a problem of the advertiser's budget running out, either... unless it is a daily budget that is running out... hadn't thought of that.

But I would much prefer *nothing* to show up than random ads which my visitors have no interest in.

Thanks for working on this!


 1:48 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)


No fixy yet?

Do you guys need a screwdriver or something? Maybe a multi-tool?

I can overnight you one, just let me know.


 2:56 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Khensu - you must know by now that the wheels at Google turn pretty slowly... If everything got fixed in two months, I'd drop dead with shock.


 4:39 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Nah just jibing them, I know netmeg.

I am just trying to keep my sense of humor about the whole thing. Lamenting over lack the extra $150-$200 per day I was making starts to get old after a bit. This is my worst month annually and it was making things more palatble.

Guess I am going to have to shop the sales items at the liquor store next month, no biggie.


 5:50 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Tried again,

Nope still getting random cheap text ad drivel instead of my nice graphic banner that was converting at 10%. A five star brand name advertiser that is perfectly aligned with my audience.

dems da breaks an I aint cheesin' bout it


 7:49 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Referrals 2.0 is destined for failure unless Google takes much greater control over the quality of the ads and landing pages.

I am running a CPA banner that advertises a medical procedure. I get paid when a potential patient fills out an appointment request form.

Problem #1: Google allows a banner that lists the phone number and URL of the advertiser in an obvious attempt to entice the potential patient to call directly or type in the web URL and avoid having to pay me. Solution: No phone numbers or "Visit this URL" within the banners.

Problem #2: Landing pages must be scrutinized and rules developed and enforced with respect to quality. If you are going to pay me when a potential patient fills out your appointment request form, then your landing page should clearly and concisely direct the user toward this goal. Instead, the landing page currently in use is dominated by the company phone number in a HUGE font stating "Call Now" and a million other ways for the user to call or click away from the stated goal of filling out the appointment form. This is an intentional effort to gain branding on my website and avoid paying both me and Google for our role in generating leads.

Of great interest, I saw a banner for the same company on my Yahoo! e-mail. I clicked it. The landing page was wonderful. No clutter - just a direct path to filling out the appointment request form. Lots of white space. Verbiage "schedule your appointment in 3 easy steps" with the steps clearly defined and a "Get Started" button.

Solution: Landing pages must be simple, well-constructed, uncluttered pages that very obviously direct the user straight down the path toward conversion with no room for clicking or calling elsewhere. If you want visitors from my site to have the option of calling you directly or becoming a lead in ANY OTHER WAY WHATSOEVER than a conversion that I get paid for, then use pay per click!

Finally, I second the need for urgent action on excluding ads / limiting ads to exactly the ones that we choose. My medical website is currently showing CPA banners for a technique that most doctors view as absolute quackery, despite the fact that I only selected the product discussed above.


 9:42 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't understand the way the "only show this ad" mechanism works. I've selected it every time, and sometimes only the ad I want shows up. Other times, to make only the intended ad show up I have to put another block of referral ad code somewhere else on the page. Otherwise the wrong ad will pop up. I don't understand why it does this on some pages and not others.

To clarify, I wanted to leave a chunk of normal adsense on the page along with a referral ad. This works sometimes. But other times, in order to get the referral ad that I want to show up, I've had to replace the normal adsense block with another referral block to make the original referral block show the ad I wanted.


 2:18 pm on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Adblocks that can't play nice together.

Totally FUBARed

Now I am getting conversions from at least a week ago there have been no ads for about that time. People are signing up well after the fact, at least the cookie aspect of it is working. Man this whole thing is just burning my tail. Maybe I'll get some Google burn ointment to quell the pain. I am having trouble sitting in my office chair and logging on to my stats.

[edited by: Khensu at 2:28 pm (utc) on Aug. 18, 2007]


 12:37 am on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Khensu --

I didn't even KNOW there was a 'cookie' aspect.

That is very good news!

Was this stated somewhere that I missed it?



 2:14 am on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

- Get advertisers to create attractive landing pages

Just to be clear, publishers aren't asking for "attractive" landing pages in the sense of being visually appealing, it's about landing pages that convert. Little clutter. The visitor is directed towards the desired action.

See the post by beavis above.



 6:00 am on Aug 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Maybe Mr Wizzard will speak tomorrow?

Getting of tired of clicking my heels together.

My cats are starting to look at me funny!


 7:36 pm on Aug 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok I have tried the banners on a page with no PPC adblocks and they have come up ok. Maybe that is the problem with the targeting, there could be some kind of interaction?


 3:31 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok the ads are back up and I am getting some conversions but the check box is acting like it don't care if I check it or not. The only saving grace is that it is following the keywords and themes of the pages when not showing the primary ad. It is not showing the ad I speced 100% of the time and that is what unchecking the box is supposed to do (at least that is what is says in black and white). Guess I'll have to eat some 2 cent clicks to get some of my $4.00 conversions.

You offer absolute choice and yet you don't give it to us.

What is up with that?


 10:46 pm on Aug 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

OK, I already posted this in another thread, but it looks more relevant in this one:

Develop an "Adlinks" style of unit to display referrals. This will give us another option to display the ads, which I really do not want to mimic standard Adsense Ads on my pages.


 7:09 pm on Aug 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ad categories
- Categorize advertiser ads more accurately
- Consider having sub-categories and then allowing me to default up a level when ads run out in the sub-category

Please give us a way to report mis-categorized ads! A simple link next to each ad is all we need. Let the publishers help you!

Quality of the advertisements
- Get advertisers to create attractive landing pages

I think the complaint was more specific: that an advertiser landing page should lead naturally to a way to convert, otherwise it smells like deliberate branding, in which case the publisher is being used without compensation - not a good way to get publishers on board (as numerous comments have pointed out.)

Regarding budgets: Why would an advertiser be able to set a daily budget limit? As others have pointed out, it's like saying "we only want to sell $10 worth of product". Smells fishy. Unless a conversion means something other than a sale, in which case, this is all getting very weird, and doesn't make much sense to some of us.


 4:15 pm on Sep 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

Oh, I see the subcategories have been implemented!

What else have they done?


 5:16 pm on Sep 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

Waiting until the targeting is fixed. The unchecking the check box works 100% and I get the ad(s) I want. Don't want to see my adspace wasted on pure chaf for 2 cents per conversion. (god why is that stuff even there? there should be some kind of minimum like a quarter)


 4:00 pm on Sep 7, 2007 (gmt 0)



 6:26 pm on Sep 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I gave up, finally, and took referrals off all my sites. I really wanted this to work, but it just plain isn't going to, the way it's set up now.


 7:04 pm on Sep 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm about to follow netmeg's lead. I've had referrals on my site since they became available, and it just hasn't performed. I have two very low -priced conversions. Even worse, though it is supposed to show only the ads I selected (and that is all I have ever seen), the AdSense report indicates that a ton of other unwanted and unrelated ads have also been showing.

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