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I guess that eventually it would start to reduce my page's worth for the particular keyword. The question then is whether google stop serving ads on that keyword because it doesn't pay me as much as others or simply penalise me across the board for a 'bad' page.
It's a complicated game - not being able to see all the rules makes it hard to play.
Well, I can see why the targeting is off. There is a keyword on the page that is seriously ambiguous and pulls in adverts from several sectors where that same word is used.
Your page is topic "A". with keyword widget.
A person has come to your page looking for topic "B" which happens to have the same keyword (widget) as your page's topic "A". Now they are at a page that doesn't interest them, but, the ads on page are exactly for the topic "B" that they are interested in. They click on the ads and may even buy!
This is what makes scraper sites so profitable, visitors that want to leave the site to find the true topic they were looking for.
From what I've read on smart pricing, it is only useable by advertisers who sell direct and being a statistical algorithm it needs lots of clicks (per advert) to work.
Google allows advertisers to define a "conversion" as any type of business action such as a purchase, an inquiry, a registration, viewing a specified number of pages, etc. In other words, a conversion can be a lead, not just a sale.
Also, smart pricing can take general assumptions into account (not just what conversion tracking reveals about your individual page or site). This was explained when Google introduced smart pricing back in 2004.
But someone doing a search and getting that page in the top results may well click through to it without carefully looking at the title or the snippet displayed, or they may assume that your page ALSO contains information about the subject they were searching for. Or they may click through on a a vague link description.... In any case, once they are there, yep, the ads have what they want. Those visitors may only be a small fraction of the visitors to that page, but could account for most of the clicks.
FWIW, I have experienced a similar phenomenon throughout my entire site for some time. The site has a clear focus, but many pages have ads on a related but quite different subject, one which I do not cover on my site. But it clearly interests my visitors, and in fact I suspect that that different subject is generating the higher-value clicks around my site....
Have you tried section targeting?
It's like using Yahoo's random search feature. If something in an ad strikes you, you click on it. That doesn't mean that the ad doesn't convert for the advertiser. Most people are interested in a wide variety of things and will click on any ad that appeals to them, regardless whether it's relevant to the page that it's on.
Serendipity Publisher? I guess it must be.
One thought intrudes, I wonder if the problem is actually with the Google Adsense tool, maybe the ads it predicts are not those it is serving? Maybe my attempts to target the page have worked and I just don't know it.
Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions.
To go with your example, a plumber is looking for a tap. Your site shows up in one of the Google results in a search for "taps". You do not know what the plumber actually searched for. ( You can if you review your webserver logs though and find the exact search ).
So the plumber arrives at a site that has snare drums, but the ads showing on the snare drum site are for "pipe taps" nothing to do with snare drums, but it's exactly what the plumber was looking for.
So the plumber leaves you site clicking on the ad for pipe taps.
A web site will make more money from adsense when this type of coincidence happens.
You will make more money from Adsense when the ads are more interesting than the content of your web page or web site, again exactly why scraper sites make money (if Google indexes them!)