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Some Sobering Realities About AdSense
Rely on it at your peril
Go60Guy




msg:3584221
 8:50 pm on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

As a moderator, I feel a little embarrassed to jump back in here, not having posted for quite some time. At one point I was ill, but I also I haven't been posting in this forum out of disquietude over my recent personal experiences with AdSense.

For a couple of years I enjoyed a steady increase in AdSense revenues and reached a point where, in spite of the usual fluctuations, my sites running AdSense saw healthy income growth. No sooner did I become a moderator for this forum, than I began to witness a fairly dramatic falloff in revenue despite increasing impressions and clicks. My eCPM began to take some big hits on a recurring basis (and, no, I haven't been smartpriced).

My experience has mirrored what a lot of those posting here have reported, as well as what I've seen on other boards and even some media coverage citing WebmasterWorld.

Since I have AdSense now on 56 of my sites, I can't attribute the decline to the fortunes of just one or two sites. Indeed, many of my sites with AdSense are seeing higher traffic. So, I've been left with no plausible explanation other than the reality that there will be unexplained fluctuations over which publishers have little, if any, control. That said, in the last few days, I've noticed that my eCPM and revenues have shown a nice jump. Whether that signifies anything, who knows?

In spite of whatever perspective I've been able to maintain, and in light of my recent experience, I've felt that I really had nothing to contribute here as I've been seeing the same dimming in my sites' performances as others have reported. Bottom line, and certainly irrationally, I've felt embarrassed in taking on a role as moderator here.

On the other hand, in thinking it through, I really do have something to contribute even though it's been repeated many times by the likes of EFV and Martinibuster. That is to reiterate the sobering reality that placing reliance on AdSense as a mainstay of your internet business model is simply unsustainable. I've operated as an affiliate since I began developing websites a number of years ago. Fortunately, I have other revenue sources, and during this AdSense dropoff I've seen other revenue streams jump in to more than fill the void.

Let me repeat. If you're new to AdSense, do not harbor the notion that you can build an income from it upon which you can rely to make a living. Whether you're new or not, you must develop other revenue models if you intend make your way in life on the internet. In short, you have to diversify.

My recent experience only solidifies that admonition. If you disagree, so be it.

Again, I apologize for my absense.

 

europeforvisitors




msg:3589090
 3:20 am on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Edge, I did read andrewshim's post correctly. I was merely pointing out the folly of making sweeping assumptions based on individual experience. Fact is, some publishers are reporting substantial increases in EPC (e.g., 63% for February, 2008 compared to February, 2007), so from the perspective of a publisher who's seeing an increase, any imaginary " payout knob" is obviously being turned up, not down.

In reality, if there are any "knobs" being turned by Google, they probably relate to things like conversion rates, type of content, etc. rather than overall percentage payout. That scenario (along with supply and demand within any given niche) fits what we're seeing a lot better than a simple-minded "Google is cutting the payout" hypothesis does. See netchicken1's post #3588933, which ought to be posted here once a week in boldface type.

Maxima




msg:3589108
 3:56 am on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Exactly.. Personally I have seen a 40% jump in revenues in Feb compared to Jan and this month is looking like it would best that :) (Revenues in mid-high 4 figures/month)

inactivist




msg:3589130
 5:33 am on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

@janethuggard:
This is a war. You have to continually fight to win. My last battle to save my earnings is by no means the first, nor will it be the last. Back in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 I nearly gave up and walked away from the web. I am still here because each of those times when things got turned upside down, I looked to myself for help, and not others.

Best post of 2008. Thanks!

Hobbs




msg:3589296
 2:20 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes indeed Excellent fresh post from Jane, now we could use 10,000+ posts of that kind!

Edge




msg:3589299
 2:24 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Edge, I did read andrewshim's post correctly. I was merely pointing out the folly of making sweeping assumptions based on individual experience. Fact is, some publishers are reporting substantial increases in EPC (e.g., 63% for February, 2008 compared to February, 2007), so from the perspective of a publisher who's seeing an increase, any imaginary " payout knob" is obviously being turned up, not down.

I too would like to point out “the folly of making sweeping assumptions” that everybody is wrong and needs to be told so.

You seem to be suggesting that more publishers are reporting an increase than a decrease in EPC? If a particular website sees an increase in EPC this is not evidence that Google is not taking a bigger share. If you do have concrete evidence to disprove my assertion please provide your reference, derivation or other evidence to support your claim.

In reality, if there are any "knobs" being turned by Google, they probably relate to things like conversion rates, type of content, etc. rather than overall percentage payout. That scenario (along with supply and demand within any given niche) fits what we're seeing a lot better than a simple-minded "Google is cutting the payout" hypothesis does. See netchicken1's post #3588933, which ought to be posted here once a week in boldface type.

I personally hope you right but please provide evidence (REAL not philosophical).

Just for the record my EPC has mysteriously recovered and I want everybody to know that I don't have any concrete evidence to support any hypothesis on EPC reduction or increase.

[edited by: Edge at 2:32 pm (utc) on Mar. 2, 2008]

europeforvisitors




msg:3589322
 3:06 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

You seem to be suggesting that more publishers are reporting an increase than a decrease in EPC?

We don't know if more publishers are having increases than decreases (or vice versa). Even if someone took time to compile numbers from this forum, the numbers would be meaningless, because people who have problems or complaints are more likely to post than are people who don't.

If a particular website sees an increase in EPC this is not evidence that Google is not taking a bigger share.

Similarly, if a particular Web site sees a decrease in EPC, that isn't evidence that Google is taking a smaller share.

If you do have concrete evidence to disprove my assertion please provide your reference, derivation or other evidence to support your claim.

It isn't my responsibility to prove a negative. It's your responsibility to provide evidence for your assertion.

Hobbs




msg:3589327
 3:29 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

<yawn>
How about discussing success with affiliate programs or direct advertising or whatever it was this thread was about?

Pepito




msg:3589337
 3:37 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

My past experience with two affiliate programs was that I was giving free publicity for nothing in return. It is no for me.

europeforvisitors




msg:3589354
 4:19 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

How about discussing success with affiliate programs or direct advertising or whatever it was this thread was about?

OK, back to the original post in the thread:

If you're new to AdSense, do not harbor the notion that you can build an income from it upon which you can rely to make a living. Whether you're new or not, you must develop other revenue models if you intend make your way in life on the internet. In short, you have to diversify.

Whether those other revenue models involve affiliate programs, display advertising, subscriptions, direct sales, etc. depends on your topic, your audience, and your tastes. Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to the "sobering realities" challenge.

Romac34




msg:3589467
 9:04 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Great post. Do you really think it is all up to algorithms though? I went from nearly 200 a day to 40 a day, but it seems that that is allways the case at the beginning of the year. From May on I expect to slowly go up again to 200 a day. I cant lay my finger on what is causing this, but I see a patern in this. Anyone have a suggestion as to why this is happening?

incrediBILL




msg:3589516
 11:05 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

So, I've been left with no plausible explanation other than the reality that there will be unexplained fluctuations over which publishers have little, if any, control.

I'm a firm believer that you CAN exercise some control over AdSense if you just know where to look for the problems. Yes, Google does change things every now and then and I've taken a couple of nasty hits but after a little experimentation you can often undo what happened once you determine what triggered the problem.

For instance, had a recent rash of "on topic" ads that were of little interest to my members so I saw a big slump in revenue. I know those types of ads are low interest because some direct advertisers on my site with the same types of ads got very little play from my visitors so blocking those types ads in AdSense caused the revenue to go back up.

Then I noticed a bunch of pages suddenly showing alternate ads seemingly at random instead of AdSense, took a big hit there, so I finally decided to give YPN! those pages for two months while I figured out the problem. Eventually I found out what the issue was and the pages now alternate AdSense or YPN! based on specific topics and geographic source of the visitor. Problem solved and AdSense revenue is back up and slightly higher than before although many thousands of pages have now been taken away from AdSense.

... and many other issues, it never stops, whoever said it would be simple?

However, if you have the tracking tools in place, use channels extensively, and know how to perform A/B testing and other experiments on your site to see what works and what doesn't you can usually diagnose AdSense problems and your site back on track if you take a logical approach to the situation and don't just blame it on the G(ods).

When you start sacrificing chickens to appease the G(ods) it typically doesn't work, unless you're just hungry for fried chicken.

I will repeat that channels is definitely one of the biggest tools because a quick export of the data and charting gives a simple visual to see what went wrong, when and where, and it's sometimes a coin flip whether something changed on my site to cause it vs. changed in AdSense.

Keep track of the volume of your "alternate ads" page being displayed too because a sudden spike in volume and you know you have issues.

A big problem is many people seem to run with javascript disabled these days and new Firefox plug-ins like NoScript and Adblock Plus make it easy to let people zap many ads so your web traffic can be better than ever while losing ad impressions. To help offset this problem you can run static ads in a <NOSCRIPT> block following each AdSense or YPN! block to try and monetize those visitors.

Last but not least, AdSense does not like all web pages, just remove AdSense and move on.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 11:08 pm (utc) on Mar. 2, 2008]

incrediBILL




msg:3589524
 11:15 pm on Mar 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

And before you post how wrong this is, I and everybody else are well aware that you don’t believe Google could do such a thing to us publishers.

Well, it wouldn't make sense for Google to take much from the publishers because without the publishers Google loses a bunch of revenue. Therefore, taking more publisher revenue, as you suggest, would simply backfire and cost them more than they would earn from the change in revenue share in the first place.

Then Google would need to take even MORE revenue from the remaining publishers to break even which would yet again backfire even worse, you see the catch-22 here?

However, Google could easily just scrape a very tiny amount across the board without notice, like a single percentage point, which is a more likely scenario than something greedy that would incite publisher riots.

spaceylacie




msg:3602504
 2:59 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Sobering realities... First of all I agree with ronin and also janethuggard. Your web site(s) are your Internet properties to rent space to the highest bidder. Right now, for my sites, Google is the highest bidder so they get the ad space. If Google stops being the highest bidder, I will just go with the next highest bidder. I will keep making money from my sites either way, whether I sell the space to Google or someone else. Google is the one that will lose out from losing me as a publisher, I won't lose anything. My sites will still be there just the way I left them, ready to make money from advertisers, if not through Google, than through the next big thing to come along.

I started my first site in 1996. I hadn't heard of Google at the time, maybe because they weren't around yet!

ronin said:
<quote>You don't speak for all of us. Let's not propagate a myth that Google is the saviour of self-published sites.</quote>

Now to Janet's thoughful post... I once did almost the same thing... hide myself in my room in front of my computer until I fixed it. Someone that I was sub-contracting work to asked me, "what are we going to do?" This was when our Adsense income went down to less than half of previous earnings, I could take the hit but he couldn't. So I just sat down and fixed it. It turned out to be just a matter of ad placement. Our income was back to "normal" within a week.

Every time my income goes down, I just fix it. By analyzing stats and figuring out what caused it. Sometimes it's trial and error but it's always a learning experience. Most just can't see the forest because of all those darn trees in the way. Each individual publisher has to make their own way through the forest, don't ever follow someone else's path because it could lead to a trap.

wyweb




msg:3602534
 3:35 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

...taking more publisher revenue, as you suggest, would simply backfire and cost them more than they would earn from the change in revenue share in the first place

Not necessarily. It depends on who they're taking it from. Take it from the little guys and the little guys may very well just go ahead and eat the losses and live with it. I doubt very seriously if they're taking it from the big guys because the big guys would definitely bail. Little guys don't have that option though. I mean where do we go from here? Even when adsense tanks, what are our options?

When adsense screws you, it's still better than being kissed by any of the other PPC programs that are available right now. Google knows this and they're skimming accordingly...

wyweb




msg:3602538
 3:43 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Every time my income goes down, I just fix it

Really? That's interesting.

Not being sarcastic at all Lacie but that's amazing. When my income re: adsense goes down there's not a damn thing I can do about it except watch it fall. It doesn't matter what I do... move the ads, try different formats, etc. NO one has done more testing than I have and guess what? It doesn't mean squat. Doesn't make a bit of difference.

There are forces in play here that go waaay beyond what an individuall webmaster has control over.

spaceylacie




msg:3602543
 3:51 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't believe in the idea that there is no solution to the problem, sorry, but I just don't. There is always a solution, you just have to find it.

wyweb




msg:3602558
 4:31 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

And I am a firm believer in that myself Lacie. Having been through the fire several times, my life in itself is testimony to that.

Adsense doesn't seem to adhere to the "if it's broke - fix it" line of reasoning that would apply in any other scenario. Maybe it does to you and maybe it does to many others as well. When your income falls there are things you can do to fix it. I wish I could do that too. After you've fixed it, and it falls again, then what? Another fix? Or do you fix it once and then everything is everything?

I have literally tried everything I can possibly do to kickstart my adsense earnings. Nothing has helped. I mean I've seen short term changes but it always falls back to where ever it was before. I've come to the conclusion that I'm just jinxed, that I'm not destined to make any real money on the internet.

I think I'd really be better off working in a parking lot [webmasterworld.com].

spaceylacie




msg:3602562
 4:42 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

<quote>After you've fixed it, and it falls again, then what? Another fix?</quote>

yep, to put it simply.

zett




msg:3602613
 6:37 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

wyweb:

I noticed a long time ago that Adsense eCPM seems to be pre-determined based on whatever Google thinks it should be based upon. Conversions? Maybe. Traffic sources? Certainly. Manual inspections? Perhaps. We don't know.

But I see exactly the same thing like you do: earnings are now on a (mediocre) level, almost where they have been three years ago, when I started Adsense.

Google takes from small publishers. They indirectly admitted this when they said that the increase in traffic aquisition cost (TAC) was mainly caused by their special deals. See messages # 3507941, # 3564257 and # 3564625 for further analysis.

The one thing that makes me suspicious is the fact that Google never released any information on the number of Adsense publishers. I bet they know why, and it has a lot to do with their own publisher base (that needs to be kept in the dark for as long as possible).

@incredibill - I understand that -given the right tools and skills- one can determine what the possible cause of a problem may be. However, this is more for the big wigs. The small guys probably do not have enough traffic to do A/B testing (or don't even know how to do it, technically).

andrewshim




msg:3602635
 7:09 am on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

there's not a damn thing I can do about it except watch it fall

thought so too recently. I was seeing the ad block (medium banner) for my main page slide down in CTR and eCPM the past 2 months. So I replaced the banner with a large rect. Immediate result. For the past 2 weeks, CTR is back to pre-slide and so it eCPM for that channel. I'd say the problem looks to have been :

- Banner blindness because I left the banner for well over a year thinking if it ain't broke don't fix it.

- Lack of variety because main advertisers were hogging the 2 slots in the banner.

just my 2.34 cents... take it with a pinch of salt.

sutrostyle




msg:3603201
 7:02 pm on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have not been on this forum for a while, since as I mentioned before we shifted away from Adsense in Feb due to their dropping ecpm. I am happy to report that tribal fusion ads in the same spots generate about 3x the current ecpm of Adsense, which matches what Adsense used to pay before October glitch.

spaceylacie




msg:3603446
 10:26 pm on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's great, sutrostyle, even though I currently only use Google because it's so convenient, I have publisher accounts with Yahoo, tribal fusion, commission junction, and many others. If something happened with Google that I couldn't fix right away, or at all, my options are open. So far though, I am happy with Google and only play with the other non-Google publisher accounts for test purposes.

incrediBILL




msg:3603520
 11:30 pm on Mar 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Not all AdSense downturns are related to placement, colors or anything of that nature.

Sometimes it's related to your TRAFFIC such as you suddenly lose traffic from a keyword that was paying well and it was replaces with something else.

Most often it's the SEO of my site that makes or breaks AdSense and that's typically what I adjust first.

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