zork - 8:21 pm on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)
I thought it was just me, but clearly there are a ton of people experiencing this same issue. I will admit that the sites I'm running have zero search traffic and 100% social and referral, so it seems to me that I'm being Smart-Priced due to the traffic being less than ideal (although I thought social traffic was a only a notch below search, no?).
For me, the clicks come in and the earnings go up, then get adjusted down about 75-90% every time. I've watched it happen all day long since Easter Sunday. What I'm seeing is a huge drop at the start of Jan 2013 to March 31st, and now a huge drop from there at the start of April 2013. Seems to me that there are new algorithms being rolled out every quarter that are most likely attempting to benefit the advertisers in order to keep them from complaining about zero conversions from the content network and leaving Adwords altogether, which hurts Google, of course. The drawback is publishers don't get paid for placing ads on their sites.
I feel that this is unfair. My top 5 sites get around 10k uniques per day each and it's all real visitors as far as I can tell from my stats. If they aren't interested in buying after they click, that is the advertisers problem as I have already done my job by providing relevant visitors to relevant websites. Most advertisers have crappy landing pages and think that a click should convert which in actuality all the click means is that the user found the ad itself interesting enough to click. Since the publisher can't do anything about conversions on the backend of the ad, I don't think it's fair at all for publishers to get penalized. A bid is a bid and a click is a click. Obviously if clicks are coming from known bad IPs and referrers then those are breaking TOS, but someone in my position is simply serving ads on a high traffic site and essentially not getting paid for it. Smart-pricing is *NOT*, I repeat *NOT* a fair way to handle online advertising as it doesn't accurately reflect the bids of the advertisers nor the price that most publishers feel they should be paid. What it's doing is causing publishers to load their sites with more ads to compensate and it destroys the user experience. In this way, Google is totally destroying their advertising network on both sides.
Retargeting is yet another problem, especially in combination with Smart Pricing as it means the user will see irrelevant ads on their site even if it's relevant to them personally. Most people I know (and I poll a lot to get a good idea) are annoyed by seeing the same ad over and over and don't understand why they're seeing, say, a Best Buy ad on a dog training website. It may be good for branding since it reminds the user that Best Buy exists, but it's irrelevant and I'm willing to bet it causes smart-pricing in kick in since people aren't clicking on retargeted ads as much as relevant ads.
What I see happening in the near future is retargeting and smart pricing causing many people to leave adsense which is going to ultimately hurt Google since they'll end up with too little inventory in their publisher network.
If this keeps up, I will definitely be leaving Adsense myself. In the meantime, I'm attempting to replace Adsense ads with others on my low performing pages. At least I can make a little money from CPMs off other networks instead of zero.