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Dumping the block list

     
8:02 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Any regular readers of the forum will know I'm very much in favour of blocking MFA's. This stance is as a result of my success in increasing my income thanks to effective blocking of the crap.

In the last couple of months I've spent less time looking at the ads on my site, and have not blocked that many ads. I know Google are working on algorithms all the time, and some work has been done on quality scores in adwords. Maybe it's time to conduct an experiment in removing the list to see how/if the algo's have improved. I've removed all except ebay - that IS a step too far :)

I am also using a tracker to see what ads are clicked. That works OK except it doesn't tell me what ads were clicked from an adlinks unit.

It's too early to tell anything from the overnight results. However, I can report back on the ads I'm seeing. Firstly, I'm seeing 3-4 ads per unit. That may not be significant, as over the last few weeks I've seen mostly full ad units.

The other point to note is that the target bot clearly hasn't been improved. I'm seeing an MFA in the top spot both last night and this morning. Same viewing the US via a proxy.

The tracker shows that nobody has clicked the MFA - so far there have only been clicks on genuine ads.

It's too early to say if there are any financial implications, but I have to say that with MFA's appearing this is inevitable.

My gut feeling is that blocking is the correct thing to do, as even if nobody clicks the MFA's they are taking up space of genuine ads that people might click. I'll let the experiment run for a few days and see what happens. Obviously I'll report back here.

8:21 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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aint adsense trackers illegal?

also plz post the url's in pm to me so i can also track who clicks what cus i wanna force them to click $99 ad's only heehe

8:27 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Nope - they aren't illegal. I emailed adsense support before implementing it.

Adsense don't like you using them because some of them have large security implications for data that is sensitive, and they point out that any fraudulent clicks made as a result of using them might get you banned. Use at own risk is their stance.

The trackers tell you whose ads were clicked on - you still don't have any way of knowing how much each advertiser pays. So you can't use them to filter out cheap advertisers.

8:42 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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How the MFA's ads can be find?
8:49 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi david_uk;

I've been thinking of the same thing as my filter list has been full for more then a month now. My line of thought was that maybe all the junk advertisers I had filtered are no longer advertising and therefore taking up valuable space in my filters list.

I'm not yet at the point where I'm brave enough to do it though but I'd sure appreciate it if you could post back regularly with updates :)

Also, it would be nice to know if you are seeing the ones that were previously blocked.

Best;
Marvin

9:19 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Remember at this point the experiment is less than 24 hours old!

The MFA I've seen so far is a previously blocked one.

My filter list is not approaching the maximum, partly because I don't block MFA's immediately as you sometimes see them one time only. I usually block the persistant ones. Secondly, I regularly go through the list and remove sites that are no longer online and ones that no longer serve ads.

I've been saying for a while that adsense need to provide us with better tools to optimise the block list - specifically an indication if the site is a) still being served ads, and b) if it's still online. I'm becoming more convinced than before that block lists are full because of over-hasty blocking and the fact that most people don't prune them occasionally because it's tedious work.

Yes, I'll be reporting regularly in this thread, but these are my thoughts so far.

whywhywhy:- what the deffinition of an MFA is has been done to death in other threads, so I don't really want to go there in this thread. Just for the record, my personal deffinition of an MFA is a site that is not directly selling goods/services, or a genuine information site. They invariably have little content, lots of ads, and their adwords campaign is well worded to get maximum visitors.

9:46 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Incidentally, I'm now seeing the two MFA's that started the whole blocking process appearing in the block. I'm up to the main block containing 50% to 75% of MFA's with the genuine advertisers bumped.

One site consists of an adlinks unit left of page pretending to be site navigation, an adsense block in the centre of the page pretending to be content, another adsense unit at the bottom of the page and no content whatsoever. The other site has one solitary ad centred on a white background above the fold, and way, way, way below the fold is a few keywords and an adlinks unit. I've reported both of these to adsense and adwords as publisher and advertiser and they are still there.

I'm not going to abandon the experiment just yet, but I have to say that unless targeting stops this nonsense very soon, I'll be forced to.

[edited by: david_uk at 10:05 am (utc) on Mar. 12, 2006]

9:59 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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have separate block lists for adsense and adlinks units

Where? I can not find out what You mean.

10:06 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"One site consists of an adlinks unit left of page pretending to be site navigation, an adsense block in the centre of the page pretending to be content, another adsense unit at the bottom of the page and no content whatsoever. The other site has one solitary ad centred on a white background above the fold, and way, way, way below the fold is a few keywords and an adlinks unit. I've reported both of these to adsense and adwords as publisher and advertiser and they are still there. "

I've been there and done that. There are many sites that scrape all my content and when I go there they are made for adsense sites and they typically remove the ad content so that it looks like a menu or links to topics etc.

I've reported them ad infinitum (especially during the Jagger updates) but nothing has been done about any of them over the last few months.

10:07 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Sorry - my mistake. I'm still half awake. I was referring to the competitive ad filter having a tab for search as well as a tab for content. I've edited my post accordingly.
11:23 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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ok send me url to tracker
12:39 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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thank you david_uk you answered me correctly
2:38 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This whole exercise seems enormously time consuming, I just visited two of my pages at random and neither appeared to be displaying MFA's ads. Is there an easy way to distinguish MFA's without visiting their sites? Aren't new ones appearing all the time? Perhaps there are more in your industry because I don't really see them.

It also seems that advertising MFA's with AdWords would be self defeating because the the MFA has to pay as much for the traffic as it gains from the ads being clicked on their own site. Even with a 100% CTR they are breaking even at best. How can this possibly work for them?

How much of your time do you spend on this? Is the increase in income really worth it balanced against the time you spend?

[edited by: andrea99 at 2:48 pm (utc) on Mar. 12, 2006]

2:45 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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andrea99,

It is fairly easy to figure it out, but if we gave you examples here...guess what...MFA website owners would read this and probably change their text. :)

2:53 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It all seems like a ridiculous circular argument, if it is so easy to figure out why haven't the MFA's figured it out already without your having to explain it here risking their seeing it. They after all would be spending more time thinking about it than you would.

I'm sorry, this just doesn't add up.

4:13 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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andrea99, what's your point? Are you trying to argue that MFAs don't advertise using AdWords? Because they undoubtedly do. It seems expensive and risky, but some sites do do it.

But I'm with "Makes a Little Sense" in that I don't really care to go into the details of how they get their traffic or maximize their revenues. All it would do is inspire even more people to try to get into this parasitic business.

4:28 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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andrea99, what's your point? Are you trying to argue that MFAs don't advertise using AdWords? Because they undoubtedly do. It seems expensive and risky, but some sites do do it.

My point is that there must be more to this than meets the eye. I frankly don't see MFA's in my AdSense blocks, but more importantly there is no logical reason for them to be there.

I generally understand most of the scams out there and am able to avoid them for that reason.

And this entire thread smells of scam because it just doesn't add up and now people are getting defensive about explaining it... I remain the skeptic.

4:39 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Okay.
5:12 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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And this entire thread smells of scam because it just doesn't add up and now people are getting defensive about explaining it... I remain the skeptic.

Blocking MFA's is not new, and it's not a scam. When I started doing it last July I published as much data on it as I could without breaking Google / ww TOS. There are plenty of people here that block MFA's with good effect.

It's not time consumming. As webmasters we all visit our sites (I assume) for various reasons. I would also imagine we take a look at what ads are appearing in our ad blocks. Therefore we know who is a regular advertiser and who is new to a great extent. I'm also sure that most people can spot an MFA by the ad copy.

I've never said "Block all of them" - my standpoint is investigate and block the persistant ones. It doesn't take more than a minute or so to look at ads I've not seen before and block them if necessary. Would you consider it "Time wasting" if blocking a few of the worst offenders increased your income by half?

Blocking an MFA doesn't necessarily mean a new one replaces it. As time has gone by, I've spent less and less time doing blocking and have not blocked an ad for a couple of weeks now. Nor is my block list anywhere near full.

So to answer the question is it really worth the effort - yes. When I started blocking my income started rising. Others have reported the same effect. For the minimal time involved it's certainly worth the effort many times over.

Regarding the circular argument, I think you are trying to ask the question how do people profit from buying traffic and then converting it into other clicks for profit. This isn't theoretical - arbitrage is a fact, and there are many threads here on the topic. I didn't really want to go down that route in this thread as it's been done to death in many other threads, but it's a valid question.

Firstly, ever noticed the MFA often doesn't have any content? Content is the last thing they want people to see - they want people to click ads and if there is only ads to see then that's what they click. Especially if they have disabled the back button. Yes, it's against the Google TOS, and no - they won't make them change or kick them out of you report it.

Secondly, I've noticed that some MFA's actually filter out rival MFA's - they want the top ads only on their site. Doesn't that tell you something?

Thirdly, they are good at writing ad copy that attracts clicks, hence good CTR, hence Google's algorithm gives them good (undeserved) placements. As adsense can be tuned for maximum revenue (as we all are trying to do), adwords can be manipulated by those that have the skill to do that.

The logical reason MFA's appear in the ad blocks is that Google's algorithm thinks they represent the best likely income - they aren't the highest bidders. It's a common misunderstanding that many people have thinking the ads shown are the highest bidders. That is not the case.

As the person who started the thread, it's not a scam. It's about the effects of suddenly removing a blocklist that's been in place for some months. There are plenty of people that block ads interested in seeing how this pans out. I know that it's only the data of one person, but nonetheless it's interesting.

5:41 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi David,

I am interested in your tests: please do keep the data coming.

I basically only block the dumb "buy new and used popes" shopping/auction sites, plus any really objectionable ones that I see (for example, should I block the "make money fast on penny stocks" ads which are very likely either misleading or boiler-room scams: I have reported a few to G on that basis but not blocked any yet).

Rgds

Damon

hunderdown

5:42 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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andrea99, you stated in another thread that haven't spent much time on WebmasterWorld recently, or something to that effect. So you've missed a lot of background.

david_uk isn't pushing a scam. He's reporting his latest step in dealing with MFA sites. There are a number of earlier discussions about it. David, thanks for this latest experiment. I think I know how it is going to turn out.

My experience is actually somewhat different from david_uk's. On my site, it's not always easy to distinguish MFA sites from sites providing legitimate services. For example, I've seen ads for sites claiming to provide lists of publishers for authors to use. When you go to the site, in some cases you find a genuinely useful site with real and original information. In other cases, you get to a site on which the only content--really!--is AdSense or similar ads, an adlink, and a search function, which throws up yet more ad-based content.

I block such sites because I don't think they help visitors to my site find what they want. david_uk has reported in the past that blocking them has the immediate effect of reducing CTR (because they do have good copy) but increasing EPC over time. Your mileage may vary.

Regarding the amount of time put into dealing with MFA sites, in my opinion you don't need to check the source of every ad on every page of your site. Take the top 10 or 20 pages on your site, and review the top 4 ads on those pages. If your site is like mine, you'll see many of the same ads over and over, from advertisers you know. Check out the ones you don't. And consider blocking the real MFAs. If you follow this procedure you won't get every MFA but you will get the ones having the biggest effect on your earnings.

6:33 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Firstly, ever noticed the MFA often doesn't have any content?

Many of them have scraped content and some are even cloaking it to Google and showing visitors something completely different. I've been feeding those idiots poison for a few months now and got a bunch of those that scraped my site dumped from Google when they showed up with the poison pages.

You have your ways to combat them, I have mine, together we may make a dent ;)

7:34 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>>>The other point to note is that the target bot clearly hasn't been improved. I'm seeing an MFA in the top spot both last night and this morning.<<<

i don't see mfa's being a function of google's targeting capability, rather, mfa's appear because of:
1) popularity of your sector
2) price of the adwords in your sector
3) ctr/epc of the page(!)

#3 seems questionable, but that's how it happens for me... i have sites on blue widgets and red widgets, both with the same long-term advertisers, but the mfa garbage only shows up on the pages with the lowest ctr... those low ctr pages also typically have the lowest epc.

my "low" ctr is way better than what most people get with forums, yet those pages still don't compare to my high ctr pages... quite a disparity there... the average page epc generally follows the ctr.

so whatever business model mfa's use to make money appears to revolve around paying minimal $$ for adwords, and it's being done with google's blessing, because they make $$$ off of mfa's.

7:42 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I do see what you are saying, but I personally think that part of the reason we see MFA's is that the bot doesn't learn from history.

If the bot used historical data of how ads have worked on your site, and this was taken into account during the targeting process then it would not be the case that the bot would drop good ads that work, and replace them with junk that isn't working.

I can comment on the targetting of ads.

Firstly, I'm seeing no difference in optimised units. I.E. on average there are three ads per block. What I am seeing is roughly one MFA per block, and I would say that equates to approx 30% of the ads are MFA. Worryingly, in most cases they occupy the top slot.

As regards the ads that are clicked, according to the tracker some 70% of clicks are for genuine advertisers. So it seems that MFA's and genuine ads are getting clicks in proportion to how often they are displayed. Bearing in mind that the top slots are MFA's I would have thought this would be higher, but it's still only limited data.

I don't want to draw any firm conclusions on the financial aspect of this yet as I don't think I have sufficient data. Although CTR seems stable, the ecpm on my main channel is currently standing at just over half of the months average. Overall, (including adlinks that I can't track clicks from) site ctr is slightly up, but ecpm and earnings are down.

9:08 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I just visited twelve of my pages, I have over 500 pages, some are similar but all are unique. Each page has two blocks of three AdSense ads and I checked each one carefully. Most were reputable names that I recognized immediately, the few that I didn't I visited by manually entering their URL's.

All but two were legitimate ebusinesses--one of those was an affiliate farm the other seemed to be just collecting email addys and other info.

I will in the future be looking more closely for MFA sites but the experience described above is consistent with all my views of my own AdSense blocks--I just don't see MFA's. Maybe I'm just lucky or maybe it's the industry (apparel) but I just can't find anything to block. If it were to add to my earnings I certainly would. I do have another site devoted to pop music that gets huge traffic but little revenue, maybe I'll check it for MFA's. Mostly I've just been using it to drive traffic to the apparel pages but maybe there is some AdSense potential there.

I apologize to david_uk if it appeared I was accusing him of running a scam, that wasn't my intention. But I just don't see any evidence of keyword arbitrage in my AdSense blocks and I don't think it could be a very good business in any case.

hunderdown

9:17 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It sounds like your niche has an unusually low number of MFAs. They definitely seem to target high-paying sectors. On my site, which is an old site not built in a systematic way, I see ads in a number of areas. What I believe to be the lowest-paying are selling books and book clubs. No MFAs there. The highest-paying are in the self-publishing area, and that is exactly where the MFAs show up. Even there, it's not all that many. I've got maybe 20 in my block list.

Since AdSense takes into account CTR when determining an ad's position, a well-written MFA ad can bump a less well-written ad for something real, I think it is possible for the MFAs to do keyword arbitrage, by carefully tweaking their campaigns and watching their budgets....

9:23 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well I am watching this experiment with great interest!

I started blocking MFAs (and EVERY site that didnt directly sell a product or service) over a year ago. They are very rapidly becoming a large proportion of all the ads!

My income went up by a large margin. Typically an extra 1000 a month.

I also know what happens if you empty the filter (200 in my case and more mneeded deperately). Click through rises a little, epc falls like a stone. I tried it several times already! I lose about 1/3 of my income to almost a half.

Since I have no wish to piss off adsense clickers (and stop them clicking future ads) and no wish to share advertisers finite budget with a MFA or fake search engine or whatever I will always ban them even if it actuaslly cost me money! But the opposite is true! Massively on some of my sites, slightly on others.

After this experiment has run, I may try it yet again and post the results too.

9:33 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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More reasons to ban:

They are making their living off YOUR content with none of their own. This makes them scavengers.

They reduce your income now, and more so in the future because the average punter will get "wise" and expect that they will see a page of ads if they click. This will hurt your income and googles in the long term.

It makes your legitimate site look cheap. Pisses of your visitors. Goodby repeat traffic!

Think. These people are making money from your hard work! They write "good" copy. They get good click through. So they get cheaper ads. Then after they pay you a few cents they make a dollar from the SAME ad that IS or WOULD have been on your page.

10:25 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I apologize to david_uk if it appeared I was accusing him of running a scam, that wasn't my intention. But I just don't see any evidence of keyword arbitrage in my AdSense blocks and I don't think it could be a very good business in any case.

Hey - I'm a newsgroup veteran, so don't take offence easily! I read your posts as legitimate questions, and not as some sort of affront to me personally. I could see you weren't getting answers so tried to help out a bit!

Anyway, the current overall result is that ctr is up, but everything else is down. I know that the data provided is not enough to draw major conclusions from. I'll give it until tomorrow, but I don't think I will be able to continue the experiment long enough to have meaningful data except for the fact that without blocking, MFA's appear left right and centre, bumping off good advertisers selling real products.

At this point my main concern is not the loss of revenue (which isn't that far outside maximum variation), but of the long term effects of having the MFA's dent my earnings.

10:59 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I've been feeding those idiots poison for a few months now and got a bunch of those that scraped my site dumped from Google when they showed up with the poison pages.

I would love to know how to do this. I block as many as I can but it's a never-ending battle.

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