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Google AdSense Forum

An AdSense star moves on

 1:11 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

I stumbled across this today as I've long been a fan of Tim Carter's Askthebuilder.com, and long admired the business he'd built with AdSense and other ad networks. You probably have all heard of him, he's been featured as an AdSense success story and held up by Google as an example of what small publishers can achieve with their sites.

I just happened to visit his site today and noticed that he'd completely changed the design, turning the focus of the site away from its roots as an virtual encyclopedia of home renovation and project how-to's to basically one that promotes his email newsletter.

You can see at his home page: [askthebuilder.com...]

Also took a look at his Facebook fan page, where he elaborated (a little) on his reasons for changing the design. Here's a few quotes from Tim:

"The most desired result of the new site is to get them on my list - *not* to necessarily wander through the site. I'm trying to decouple my biz from the search engines if you know what I mean..."

"I'm at the end of the road with this Free Internet stuff. I had a good run, but one can no longer base a business on the whims of the search engines."

Have any of you guys come to the same conclusion and re-focused your web businesses? I know Tim Carter's site was hit pretty hard by the Panda algorithm change last year, as were many others.

What do you guys think?

---- [edit] ---

Here's the link to the AdSense Success Story article:

[edited by: incrediBILL at 5:26 am (utc) on Mar 16, 2012]
[edit reason] included link to AdSense Success Sory [/edit]



 1:42 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm urgently developing ways to try to get my site visitors to do exactly the same thing -> sign up to my email list; as well as trying to make my sites more interactive and engaging, and develop more pathways for people to find my site - via Facebook and Twitter, person to person referrals, links from other relevant sites (not linkbuilding for the sake of SEO...), etc.

All of these things are efforts towards reducing my reliance not only on Adsense, but also Google search traffic, and Google in general. I'm trying to be careful not to trade my reliance on Google search traffic for Facebook traffic, and so on...

In order to do this, I really have to give the visitor either a more compelling reason to want to and/or the ability to:
  1. Sign up for the email ist.
  2. Engage more with the site and other site users.
  3. Recommend/Like the site with Facebook/Twitter/G+

While I don't plan on hiding my any of my existing content behind a signup or paywall, and will continue to add new content to the site, it will be a challenge to create special content that is only available via email, that also drives traffic back to my site... that is where the interactivity and engagement work comes in...



 1:47 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Look at the alexa data for his site. He's getting Pandalized, starting about a year ago. A slow, but steady decline. This is just another example of Google's Goof. I've visited his site on many occassions and found the information spot on.


 2:35 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

He probably could've hung on a little longer if he hadn't milked it so hard. I never quite understood why they made a case study of his site, but I do understand why it was hit by Panda, if indeed it was. In that case, here's an excellent case study of a short-term business strategy.


 5:56 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

In that case, here's an excellent case study of a short-term business strategy.

Hmm. Maybe. But his site has been online since 1995, and he'd been a part of AdSense since it started. Seventeen years doesn't sound so short-term to me.

Sally Stitts

 6:30 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just checked his Alexa data, as suggested.
From 20,000 at the beginning of 2011,
to the current 60,000 now. Wiped out.
No wonder he is taking his current tack.

And an ad for Novation on every page,
a structured settlement company.
AdSense has about 10,000 far more appropriate ads,
so why the terrible targeting? Helps you to
understand the builder's dilemma, and outlook.


 8:45 am on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

He probably could've hung on a little longer if he hadn't milked it so hard.

From memory, I think his site was indeed quite spammy with ads.


 3:51 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I certainly remember it as being ad-heavy, however useful.


 4:16 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Wonder if that "interest based advertising" rubbish had to do with the decision?



 4:22 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

From memory, I think his site was indeed quite spammy with ads.

My guess is he was a premier publisher (20 million page views per month). He likely made the mistake of following the Adsense Advisor advice and was then crushed by Panda.

Forget about the ads for a second, did you ever read the articles. They were good... His downfall was listening to the Adsense side of the house.


 5:28 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Funny that he says he's at the end of Free Internet Stuff when the new website design looks like it is trying to correct the ads issue and attempt to regain traffic.


 5:43 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Never been on his site I guess he has good info not really sure I do quite a bit of this on my home.
I did find a serious issue he has with the new site.
roof ventilation turbine vents site:www.askthebuilder.com
and click some of the links. He has an issue with the redirect he has set up. Man I bet he has thousands of 404 pages now.


 6:59 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was actually on his site couple of weeks ago around Panda 1 anniversary not because I am in this niche or handy but since he was the Adsense posterchild that got pandalized in 1.0, I wanted to see what he did to correct or try to fix things. Much less ads especially on the front page so to be have a consistent drop in traffic must be frustrating. However, I must say, I liked the old site better.


 9:00 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Even though I've been Panda'd as well, it's moments like these I'm glad I haven't changed a thing on my pages since 2000/01.

The only thing I did was in June, 2003 delete Amazon links/ads from my SSI file and insert AdSense text ads.


 9:12 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I were in his place I'd be damned angry with the people behind Panda. To me, the people behind Panda probably think that a phone directory is thin content. However people still use them.



 6:58 am on Mar 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts announced that Google is gunning for SEO's in order to "level the playing field", as if punishing those who put the most effort into their craft is ever a good thing. When you gun in any machine sort of way you will spray and hit innocent targets. Tim is a classic example.

Google - social is not the answer to improve natural serps, please stop forcing it on us so hard or you'll damage that too. in fact please wake up and realize that the internet isn't a popularity contest, it's a quality contest, and social isn't an impartial judge on quality.


 7:28 am on Mar 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well said.


 8:38 am on Mar 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

The Adsense success stories article where Carter is featured has this to say:
Askthebuilder.com used testing to grow revenue from $10,000 to more than $30,000 a month with Google AdSense.

Yet it has nothing to say regarding what has happened since.


 12:42 pm on Mar 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts announced that Google is gunning for SEO's in order to "level the playing field", as if punishing those who put the most effort into their craft is ever a good thing.

Unless your site is specifically about SEO, SEO is not the craft where effort should matter, it is just marketing.


 4:16 pm on Mar 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't believe that Matt Cutts said that Google is gunning for SEO's. Suggest you listen to the audio. They're gunning for false positives; stuff that ranks because of tactics and not because of quality.

And what people don't seem to get is that AdSense and Search are apples and oranges. Of course Google AdSense pointed to the guy as a success story - he increased his earnings, and he increased Google's earnings, and that's what AdSense is supposed to do. And by the standards that were in place when it happened, maybe it was a quality site by Search too.

But a lot has changed since then. We already have seen ample evidence that Google's search quality team does NOT have the same goal as the AdSense department. For all it might seem ridiculous, this is actually fairly common and recognizable to anyone who has had to deal with really large companies and/or government departments; the right hand frequently does not know (or care) what the left hand is doing.

If two departments have different goals, then they usually have different standards, and pretty much by definition, they have different measurements for success or failure.

I dunno when this guy was the success story (and by the way - if Google asks you, NEVER let them make you the success story. It only helps Google, not you) but maybe it was before EVERYONE AND HIS BROTHER plastered as many ads as possible all over every bit of their sites, and above the fold, too. In case you haven't been paying attention, quality sites have been drifting more and more towards looking like MFA sites - probably due to a number of things (and whether declining CTR is a cause or an effect of this is a separate and interesting discussion) plus everyone's doing the monetizing thing now, so maybe what looked marginally okay two or three years ago looks pretty spammy now.

When I saw his site (right after he got hit by Panda) it looked pretty spammy to me. I don't know if I would have thought that three years ago though, because I hadn't been so inundated with ad impressions yet.

And that may be why he got slammed in 2011 for something that was fine in, I dunno, 2008 or so.


 10:58 am on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google - social is not the answer to improve natural serps, please stop forcing it on us so hard or you'll damage that too. in fact please wake up and realize that the internet isn't a popularity contest, it's a quality contest, and social isn't an impartial judge on quality.

isnt that what google+1 is all about, though? they are specifically asking users to rank sites, based on quality. its not the same as a facebook share button. with +1, users are actually saying "this site is good quality".

i doubt that the public grasp the difference, though. im sure they just see it as another facebook-type button


 4:46 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've had sites online since 1995 and I've used adsense since Dec 2003. Can't say I've made $10,000 to more than $30,000 a month as his site supposedly did, but if he was making that much money I hope he saved some. I have had non-internet businesses that did well for a number of years and then competition and other negative factors set in and they died. While they were going good, it was good money. I didn't complain when they went under. I had saved plenty of money and didn't carry any debt so it wasn't a big thing. As to the internet - It's changing. My sites are doing well, while some people's sites have crashed and burned. Sure, there are ups and downs, but year over year increasing visitors and increasing income.

This is no different than any other business except, in this case, the person depended upon AdSense and search engine rankings.

One thing I did notice is some in this thread mentioned his former site was "ad heavy". I can understand. There are some good sites out there that I just don't frequent because the ads have such a noise factor that it's just annoying. On my sites I set an ad limit. Right now if you'd go to my main site and visit the "Advertising Info" page you'd see a big "No Advertising is currently being accepted" statement which has been there for quite a while (about a year or more), yet I still get requests for ad space. I got another one last Friday. It's interesting how people react when you tell them I'm booked for the next year - They start into all the places I *could* place "...just one more..." ad. They even often offer to "double" my regular rate. To me it doesn't matter. I do not intend to diminish visitor experience by loading up a site with ads just because I can.

If could be that the gentleman killed his own site, possibly through greed, and now he is upset.

I stand by what I have said for years - If you have a good, quality site (or sites) with good content, and don't worry about SEO every day, if you make sure your visitors have a pleasant user experience, your site(s) will grow and hold their own against the competition.

Content and visitor experience, not SEO, is King.


 6:19 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

for those who read this thread without poking around that website, he is still using adsense.

the informational pages I looked at had both a chitika ad block and an adsense ad block.


 7:50 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Content and visitor experience, not SEO, is King

It would seem to many of us who actually didn't fiddle with anything at all for well over a decade, have literally 10,000's of inbound links from other authority sites [universities and colleges in my case], that Panda disagrees with you.

Got me totally beat.


 10:08 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Elsmarc is so right. I've been running a website since 1998 and 4 years ago we decided that for us SEO or optimizing for search engines meant...

When a person does a search on a search engine and finds our site they think "wow, that search engine found just what I was looking for, I'll use it more often."

The visitor is happy, so the search engine is happy, then we are happy.

Making it clear what is an ad and what is content is a big part of making the visitor's experience better. It meant less money from ads at first but now it is good and it is solid.


 10:42 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can't say much about Panda or any of the other "updates" over the years. I chart # visitors, page views, unique visitors and $ income. I do well year over year. I have read a fair amount about different Google search updates over the years and, just like Panda, there are too many known and unknown variables to *really* be able to say why some sites do better, some sites don't change, and some sites crash and burn. That's why I haven't done any significant SEO on any sites in some years. Even when I used to have a Google rep who would give me recommendations, when I thought they were too aggressive (obnoxious) visually (for example) I didn't take the rep's advice.

This is not to say I haven't seen what I *think* was Panda 1 on a couple sites. They declined a little bit at a time over about 4 to 5 months, but then they jumped back up and are doing OK again. As I look at a couple graphs of sites, each has it's "up" and "down" times. Thing is, looking long term, year over year, the sites keep doing better.

I do have forums and one question I ask people who register in the forum is how they found the site. These days a lot of visitors are recommendations from teachers, colleagues, email links from a friend. I also get a lot of referrals saying things like "my boss told me about it" and stuff like that. Another question I ask is what they were searching for and I get a lot who were searching for the specific domain name. I'm sure this is because the sites have been around for a long time and I would guess they present a good user experience and have useful information or there wouldn't be as much direct and organic(?) search traffic as there is.

I do find it puzzling that with "literally 10,000's of inbound links from other authority sites [universities and colleges]" you're having problems. Maybe the niche? None of mine come close to 10,000+ inbound non-reciprocal links. I've never done any link building, but believe inbound non-reciprocal links are part of the G algo. I just always believed link building was sorta trying to win by gaming the algorithm (aka "black hat"). I would think the links you have would be good coming from universities and colleges. I'm definitely envious of you.

Maybe I do things that help that I don't know I'm doing. Something I did was register all my domain names and paid up through 2020 (a Danny Sullivan SEO tip from a news letter he did in the late 1990's).

I can look back at the couple of B&M businesses I have had that failed and can pretty much say why. Not so with the internet from a business aspect. I have no idea why the ups and downs. But - Since I look at it long term, it doesn't really matter. Once the critical mass of a site is at a point where it can survive on greatly reduced search engine result links, it doesn't matter much.

And I'm a relative light weight. I've never made $30K in a month on a site, but I'm happy with what I make.

Like I said in my earlier post - Businesses don't last forever, and in the internet world a person may never know specifically what caused the failure. I do plan for my "business model" to fail at some point. It's the same, really, with every day people who work at companies - They never know when a layoff is coming or when/if they'll be fired. It's just part of life.


 7:29 am on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

To me as a "white hat", SEO merely meant making your site "search engine friendly".

That is, your page gave a succinct <title> of what it was all about followed by a <description> which fleshed that page out as to what it was really all about.

To me that was, [partially], what SEO was all about.

This was further literally "driven home" to me many years ago when I was researching one of Australia's biggest companies sites looking for information I desperately needed. It was indeed a most tortuous path.

The corporation's pages contained very detailed information on their manifold products. I found that after "drilling down".

By many standards of the day, it was the epitome of web design, factual, little bumpff.

Frustrated, viewing the source code of every page [100's] revealed a uniform?


Description? Non existent.

No wonder Google hadn't been particularly useful. That was around 2004.

I honestly felt sorry for the web designer of one of our largest corporations, I gave him/her a heads up.

With what result I don't know because I had my needed data.


 7:29 pm on Mar 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Something else also is happening that's dovetailing in with the Panda updates and many publishers' livelihoods being upended, something I've been noticing among bloggers I read who've been working on their blogs for a few years now.

Quite a few, I've noticed, are beginning to experience burnout. They've either cut back on their posting/updating of their sites, hired freelancers to share the workload, or have begun to quit their blogs altogether and return to the 9-to-5 working world. I think it's partly a sign that, now that we're several years in to this whole thing of having AdSense and other ad networks that can support small publishers, many of us have begun to look beyond doing what we've been doing, perhaps for the next challenge, perhaps to do something completely different.

In a way, it can be like any job, I suppose.


 3:42 pm on Mar 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

I certainly remember it as being ad-heavy, however useful.

Sounds like Google's homepage these days - maybe it should Pandalise itself!

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