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I run a high volume web site that has been up and going for about a year and a half now. Until the start of this year I was relying on donations and my own bank balance to keep the site going. This became harder as time went on and the site became more popular - until the day I discovered AdSense.
Not only has it covered the cost of running my site, it has also given me a lot more spending money to play with. It is actually so successful that I'm earning more from running the site than I am from my full time job. What started as a hobby has now become a source of income that might allow me to make some life changing decisions.
About two months ago I was on the verge of packing the full time job in, starting up a couple of more sites, and living the flexible and exciting life I've always wanted to lead. That was until I came across the large number of posts here and on other webmaster related web sites about ďThe Dreaded EmailĒ.
Now, I've been around long enough to know that not every post about getting kicked off AdSense for fraudulent clicks is totally genuine but the sheer number of them that I've seen leads me to believe that there are more than a few that have got kicked off the program through no fault of their own. I even remember a post here that paraphrased an email from G saying that yes, they knew the webmaster didn't click their own ads, but they still had to remove them.
Of course G has to protect the integrity of their system and of the advertiser at the other end forking out their hard earned cash. However, there must be a method that is both fair to the advertiser and the publisher. For example, automatically ignoring any duplicate clicks from the same IP address on the same advert over a 24hr period. I haven't been around online advertising long enough to know if this isn't feasible but it seems like a damn good solution to me.
The one very negative signal that Google is sending out is that income from Google AdSense can not be relied upon. In other words, it's just not feasible to setup and run a business that relies on it. If a person can be removed from the system on the whim of someone who is either trying to "help" or a competitor, or any of the other possible scenarios that are out of the control of the webmaster, then it's just not a system that people can bet their house on. Is this the type of message that G wants to get across?
To anyone that is planning to reply about chilling out and not worrying about it - I don't lose any sleep or hair over the thought of getting kicked off the program but having a life changing opportunity within reach will of course lead me to question the stability of the income that would finance it.
I'd be interested in hearing anyone's opinions on the above. Iím pretty sure Iím not alone. Has anyone here actually taken the plunge and bet it all on AdSense?
Personally, I think putting all your eggs in any one basket is not only foolish, it's an invitation to many sleepness nights.
Here's my key(s) to peace of mind:
1. Multiple traffic sources: The search engine world is in much too much flux to rely on any one source of traffic too heavily. Case in point: Our PR7 site lost all it's top 10 rankings in early march, and has yet to recover...to the tune of about $10k a month in sales volume. However, sicne we had already been working on fine-tuning our PPC campaigns, we were able to replace that lost income (for the most part) in a very short period of time.
2. Multiple streams of income: Relying on adsense alone gives an outside entitiy WAY too much power over your income. What if they drastically alter the payout rates? Or your traffic drops off? Or they drop you for whatever reason? etc. etc. There is simply too ,much left to if you were to rely on googel alone for your livelihood.
No publisher or Webmaster should rely on a single revenue source.
Enjoy the gravy while it's coming in, but never expect it to continue. Always be looking for other opportunities, other revenue sources, other traffic sources, other products, other customers, etc.
1) I had some slow pay advertisers. Now if they are even a day late I yank their ads and put up Adsense. I tell them I get the same money either way, Adsense or them, if they want the space they need to be on time with their payments. Now days they are.
2) Adsense chanels have identified several pages for me (to my surprise)that are quite valuable in terms of generating click throughs. On some of these pages I have dropped Adsense and been able to sell their ad space to other advertisers, thus diversifying my income sources.
I got kicked out of Adsense for no reason. I posted here and of course the sharks circled and blamed me. I got back in, never found the actual reason, but it did me a favor. It made me realize right up front what I was dealing with.
This is unmanned territory. You are NOT dealing with a customer-centric company and you're not dealing with humans.
If you can't call someone to resolve a matter, its one hopeless feeling. Your whole business or income is gone, and there's no one who can or will help you. Screw that.
Add to that the frustrating fluctuations in income levels ($3,000 in March and $1,200 for June) and there's no way I'm banking on this crapola. I'm developing off-line marketing plans the old school way to sell products so that I'm not reliant on AdSense money only.
There's no way I could sleep at night with AdSense being the bulk of my money.
The original post was saying adsense changed his life after trying other alternatives for years. I know webmasters whose income had moved from under $10,000 per year into mid hundred thousands. You'll see examples in this forum (one person was saying his colleagues thought he was now a drug dealer). Adsense can be a complete dog to some Web sites, but to others it is remarkable.
Also, one observation - anyone who works full time in one job is taking the same risks betting it on Adsense. Companies go belly up all the time, people get sacked with little notice and get shafted out of their money. To follow the mis-applied nonsense above, you would need to have 4 full time jobs.
If I was Stevo? Unless my job made me depressed, would stay at it for a few more months to see where Adsense heads. Then try to arrange leave without pay for 6 months and eventually quit. Alternatively, maybe ask to go part time for a while.
That was me. I can't quote the email but it stated in no uncertain terms that although the "fraudulent clicks" did not generate from me they were terminating my account (and swiping my cash) to "protect" their users or somesuch.
I never did find out what it was but did get a few leads.
First of all, someone tried to DoS me during that period, don't think that was it because that was not click traffic. But they tried a lot of other tricks on me.
Another possibility was that some users said they were using the ads as a tool. My site is an ask an expert site and they were using the ads to answer there questions.
For example, a "where can I buy widgets" query would of course return widgets ads which they'd use.
A couple of users didn't even know they were ads, thinking it was a "service" (and not just luddites, some tech savvy people too) but this was in the first weeks of AdSense, before users got used to it.
Anywho, it was a nightmare for me, and it still is for many webmasters out there.
A friend of mine has had an AdSense account since the beginning but never put it online, he is waiting to remove forums from his site first (sticky sites and forums run the greatest risk of being booted for an algorythimic reason).
He told me today he had a dream last night about it and he's not even in AdSense yet. He said he dreamed that he had set up an alarm to flag "frudulent clicks" and protect himself from Google and that it kept going off (was actually a real alarm and the snooze bar).
There is a very widespread dread on this and my own extensive research into this makes me believe that a substantial portion of it is valid (in addition to the many whining cheaters).
I know many webmasters who got kicked off who, to the best of my discernment, did not do anything wrong.
I new run ads from other contextual providers like Overture and Quigo and with many other small networks.
With many of them I work closely with their developers and executives as they develop their services and I've always been upfront with them about what happened to me.
I helped a few write their TOS and my prevailing wishes was to completely ignore any IP range I am remotely close to if they have to (one of them provided an IP ignore feature because of my requests).
I asked them to reduce the rates they pay if they have to, discount most even marginally questionable clicks if they have to. But don't screw over the webmaster.
We webmasters are usually not rich, we are everyday folk trying to make it and it hurts a damn lot to have an account termination.
So with the other networks I have been able to get this across and many of them are actually positioning themselves as an alternative to Google's "draconian" (direct quote) positions.
You see a lot of webmasters starting to cheer for other networks because of the prevalence of people who got seriously screwed over by Google.
For them it might be a couple grand but it nearly put me on the streets. I had to receive donations just to stay afloat.
Now it wasn't all their fault. I was a starry eyed google fan and put all my eggs in their basket. I also lost my job on the same day they confiscated revenue I was counting on so my personal woes were exacerbated by things that have nothing to do with them.
But no matter how reasonable I try to be when I consider their policies I can't help but cheer for others now. I was a guy who would refute all the Google Watch type arguments in the past and now I am no longer a fan.
I respect their needs but they go about it the wrong way. Simply not counting the clicks would work. I would have been perfectly happy earning half as much due to an aggressive algo that discounted many false positives as well as the "fraudulent" clicks in exchange for a little more security in not being reamed at Google's whim.
The fear is not just a phantasm it is a reality thy cultivate as a part of their efforts to combat fraud. I ignored all the AdSense naysayers till it happened to me, it's like a word you learn and then notice everywhere.
I've personally communicated with hundreds of webmasters who I encountered who have had similar stories. I did not seek them out at all (although merely recounting my story here means several otehrs who lost thousands to AdSense contacted me).
It's going to backfire on Google. Mark my words. Google's slowly losing their teflon and in my opinion the greatest catalyst is turning publishers against them.
My users know or suspect what happened, I had to ask for donations and many of them used to be starry-eyed Google fans too.
I respect Google's work and don't hate them, but I no longer cheer for them. And now I finally do not like their monopoly as being excluded from them leaves me with few options.
I've learned and diversified my revenue well enough that I am now earning more than with Adsense (using ALL the networks out there and other main contextual providers).
I periodically get approached by Google's premium AdSense service (for sites with over 20 million views) and they ASK ME to sell them inventory... sigh. I always turn down a fixed buy (don't want to commit to being reamed) and tell them I will only consider AdSense at a level of integration I determine as I am understandably wary.
My lesson learned is to diversify. I also learned that it actually is possible to earn as much as with Adsense through smart diversification. i'd initially thought AdSense was the only way to monetize a sticky content site like mine.
Good luck to those who don't. I wouldn't wish what happened to me on a dog.
With more competition in the market maybe Google will soften their stance, as right now they don't need publishers as much as they would if there were viable contextual alternatives.
What happened to me made me start cheering for said alternatives to bring balance to the marketplace and reduce the Google hubris. A pity, as I still want to like Google.
Employers usually do not treat people with such reckless disregard. Employers are rarely so callous and even when you do something wrong and get fired they usually take some humanitarian considerations.
Ok, so a company can go bankrupt right? Well, there's that. But then again there is unemployment insurance (in some countries) and they don't go confiscate your last few months' salary.
No, it's not comparable at all. I know, as I faced both at the same time and I currently have a day job that is shaky.
If my company goes down I will have unemployment insurance to fall back on, and my last few months hard earned money will not be taken.
Google is restricted by no such humanitarian concerns by law, their relationship with the publisher is not governed by the evolution of laws that govern an employer and an employee.
In terms of this relationship we are still back in the Triangle Fire. When I was a member Google's terms were such that if they felt like taking my money they could.
And they did, even legitimately earned money. They didn't just take the "fraudulent" (read flagged an algo) revenue but all my legitimately earned money as well.
It is a gross insult to compare this to a job, even the most heartless employers I have worked for could not screw their employees over that vigorously.
Thank goodness for events like the Triangle Fire thathelp make the employment landscape what it is today, and that is: very much more aware of humanitarian concerns than is Google.
Hell I told Google that I'd quit pursuing my money if they just showed me a little humanity and gave me an email that was not a canned response.
I asked them to just tell me what happened and I'll quit bugging them and let it go. They couldn't even do that, just another canned response. They went so far as to insult me by telling me that my AdWords account remains "in good standing" in a very poorly worded canned response.
No, it's not like a job. Employment laws are such that regardless of a dearth of humanity laws help protect the little guy from being screwed. This is not anything similar, and the contract terms themselves are on the border of legality in their strictness.
Their survival clause of non-disclosure is such that even after being screwed, you can't kiss and tell.
Like I said before, if you use AdSense, implore that Google address the clicks differently, disregarding what they suspect instead of booting webmasters to the curb. I really don't want what happened to me and so many others to happen to you. It blindsided me and it took me 10 reads of the email to even realize and believe what was happening and I hope nobody else gets this unpleasant surprise.
Employers usually do not treat people with such reckless disregard. Employers are rarely so callous and even when you do something wrong and get fired they usually take some humanitarian considerations.And if an employer wishes to accuse you of (or fire you for) fraud or stealing they MUST provide proof of said fraud or open themselves up to serious liabilities (at least in my neck of the woods).
Actually that's not entirely correct, nor is it looking at the entire risk of being employed. Here's why...
All around the world many companies employ staff as a casual employees so they can avoid paying the full entitlements (this is lost income that can amount to months of wages) PLUS they can terminate the employment without cause with just one hour's notice. So many employees are at risk at any time of losing their job and their losses grow the longer they work. This is also true for many workers employed through agencies.
Next up, I know people who have lost 1-6 months wages from employers going under. There are lots of stories like this from the dot com bust. People on monthly salaries were told of delays to their payments and they keep working only to get nothing. Other people have lost all their entitlements - redundancy, retirement, owed holidays, long service leave, back pay and more.
Finally, what makes you think you can't take on Google if you honestly believe you have done nothing wrong? Many people assume from posts in this forum that the Web masters are without fault. We don't know that, nor do we know how Google handles those situations where larger amounts of money are involved. There is more to fraud than clicking your own links.
Remember, the post is all about the risk of leaving two sources of income for one larger source. There are also other risks to relying on your site - what if your site(s) is dropped from the SEs? Regardless of how many diversified sources of income you use, they will all go down.
If your web site is just an hobby project, chances are that you have no other choice than putting all your eggs in one basket (unless you consider placing banners on your pages as a good alternative for Adsense), so my advice is: if you have a job and you like your job, keep it!
Needless to say that if you run a business, you must diversify in order to reduce risk...
I didn't say "how likely is it that..." I said "what would happen IF..."
Think about it:
1. JS is turned ON now because it came ON by default, users don't know how to turn it off, or can't be bothered (it is not turned ON because they insist on having it ON).
3. How many users, once js is turned off, would complain that they want it back on?
4. Which would happen first: webmasters fix their js-only navigation/buttons/etc to accommodate the change to no-js, or users go out of their way to turn on JS to be able to surf such sites? Clearly the users would take forever to get it done, and the dependence on JS would be eliminated by webmasters first.
G takes on a far larger risk than the AdSense publishers when they rely completely on a single technology, which is under user control and easily corrupted by hackers, for their advertising programs. Who else has taken on that risk?
- agencies built around the online advertising industry (that industry already collapsed once recently)
- companies growing their businesses based on successful online advertising (again, dot com fiasco)
- AdSense publishers
How fast will your operation go "upside down" if the income is turned off? That is, how will your costs exceed income if AdSense income -> zero? Bandwidth charges, etc need to be paid, hosting, etc. with roughly 2 months lag needing to be covered. Make sure you have that in the bank.
If you are Google, every day costs millions, 2 months may mean 20 million.
If you are an AdWords "Success Story" every day may mean tens of thousands. Two months may mean a half million lost.
If you are a large publisher, every day might mean thousands of dollars - 2 months may mean ten or fifteen thousand dollars.
If you are small publisher, every day might mean tens of dollars - 2 months may mean a thousand bucks.
Wait, even worse, what if our sun goes super nova.. Think of the impact on our profit margins..
Doomsday scenarios will come and there is nothing we can do about it. Certain things you have control over, and should be prepared for, and certain things you do not.
Google is not the only game in town, and as time goes on they will face more and more competition. If Google decides to boot me for whatever reason I know I am smart enough to find an alternative revenue source. I am also working on other ways of diversifying my income so I'm not so dependent on Google.
This problem is inherent with many businesses. It's part of the risk you take of going into business yourself. (Of course, your employer could fire you at any time as well, so I guess nobody can avoid this problem).
Play by the rules and hope for the best, but also have a backup plan and you don't need to worry.
Google income plays up +-40% every month. It is not a source of income to relay on. It is good as a side income and thatís about it really. Search Google for "CBprosense" for a similar program which can compliment Adsense revenues.
CB Prosense sounds just like what CJ is going to launch called CJ Evolution. So does Amazon. Contextual ads connected to an affiliate program. I think everyone and their sister will be copying the contextual ads.
As I asked here: [webmasterworld.com...]
will Google ban people from using both on the same page as an adsense ad?
Same here, one of the problems I have with Google's terms is that they have no obligation to act in good faith, their terms clearly state that they can both seize the income and terminate the account for "fraudulent clicks" as well as arbitrarily (at their sole discretion) decide just what "fraudulent clicks" constitute.
darkmage "Actually that's not entirely correct..."
Perhaps in your neck of the woods, as nothing you said has any application in the place I currently live (though I'll admit that in many of the 10 countries I have lived in those conditions exist).
"Finally, what makes you think you can't take on Google if you honestly believe you have done nothing wrong? Many people assume from posts in this forum that the Web masters are without fault. We don't know that, nor do we know how Google handles those situations where larger amounts of money are involved. There is more to fraud than clicking your own links. "
How? In their terms it says they can do exactly what they did. They can, at their sole determination, deem any click "fraudulent" and take your money. How do you fight that?
In my case I know it wasn't "webmaster fault" they told me explicitly. They told me that although it was not my doing it happened on my site and they are "protecting" their customers by confiscating all the legitimate revenue and cancelling my account.
I might even still have that email around somewhere, because I was in disbelief. But then I re-read their terms and that's within the rights they granted themselves. They can, at their sole discretion (e.g. simply decide by an algo that you shouldn't be part of the network anymore), kick you off, take your revenue and refuse to disclose their evidence of any wrongdoing.
So in my case, they tell me that it wasn't me, that it happened on my site, that they are cancelling my account, that they are taking my money, and that no, they would not provide an iota of information to back up their claim (not even a date) but that I can continue to give them money because my AdWords account was in good standing.
There's not much I can do about that, they hold all the cards.
My only recourse would have been to try to dispute one word of their terms "reasonable". When I was a member this was in their terms "reasonable determination".
Personally, I don't see anything reasonable about it. I had no complicity or even any knowledge of what they claimed and they could have simply disregarded any clicks they deemed invalid and I'd be happy. But fighting over that definition of the word with Google isn't something I have the time and energy for.
What goes around comes around, I have to move on. If Google continues to do this they will hurt themselves. I do think that the sheer numbers of webmasters screwed over is serving to turn the tide, like I said, I USED TO BE a starry eyed Google fan. Many others are a lot more angry than I ever became and will be a lot less reasonable about it. Google's image will change if they keep pissing off publishers (i.e. people who have media reach) this much and this often.
Its certainly hard to reconcile this with their 'don't do evil' stance, and it is interesting to note that they never post anything to explain why they adopt this strange position.
I am baffled as to why so many webmaster remain starry-eyed over this - its immoral and unethical.
The reality for many people who have lost AdSense is that the loss is unexplained, is often felt to be unwarranted, and once gone there's very little you can do to get it back. The burnt hand teaches best, and webmasters benefiting from the revenue will hopefully realise that they are exceptionally fortunate to be part of AdSense. One benefit of losing AdSense is that your expectations of your site's revenue potential do go up, and I've learnt far more about online advertising and the value of website revenue from losing AdSense than I would have from having it. I'm still quitting my day job, but not in the style I might have :)
Enjoy and benefit from the revenue while you can which can be enormous, but don't place yourself in a situation where you are actually dependent on it. Even if you're making 5 or 6 figures a month, be able to do without it. Google retains complete power over publishers, and AdSense can stay or go any time. While there may well be a reason over at the GooglePlex, for many webmasters the practical reality is that there is no reasonable cause for losing AdSense whatsoever. For me that's the galling part, and that's what Google needs to work on.
CBprosense sounds just like what CJ is going to launch called CJ Evolution. So does Amazon. Contextual ads connected to an affiliate program. I think everyone and their sister will be copying the contextual ads.
Which is a welcome change for the better. More choices more options and more money making ideas can only be good for us hard working webmasters.
I for one am tired of seeing my Adsense revenue being slashed by 30%-40% every month.
CBprosense & other aff contextual systems alike signals the end of Google's dominance over this type of ad delivery market and over our life.
This has been the same with virtually everywhere if you deal with a boilerplate agreement as publisher.
Having gone through the ups and downs of the dotcom/banner boom, I can assure you that I am atleast comforted by the fact that Google is not going anywhere. That by itself a far better than most of the banner companies that I dealt with who terminated for a variety of reasons (most of them related to the bottom line).
Here's what adsense did for me (yes, it was a bit of a life changing post by Googleguy when he announced adsense on WebmasterWorld).
1) Took my loss leader sites to money making sites in a month.
2) Woke me up to the fact that "there is money on the net". You have to meet my peer / drinking buddy group to figure why I've been so negative and over analytical about it.
3) Woke me up to the fact that context sells and more importantly, 'money word' context sells more. My affiliate revenue is now about 3 times that of adsense for my main site.
Bottom line, Adsense was a bit of a wakening, it did change my lifestyle considerably. Within 6 months of my first adsense check, I was able to leave my job as a regional manager with a multi-million dollar P&L responsibility, work from home and play with my kid when I want to.
My internet risks have grown significantly and I've diversified enough to survive a couple of hits. Hopefully in 3-6 months, I would be able to take 3 or 4 hits and a year later a few more hits.
While I'm not in the league of some of the folks here, my message would be :-
Don't be in a hurry to quit your job based on adsense, create a diversification plan with a number of ideas you want to test out. Then use the adsense money to enhance your income potential... not as your main source of income. (i.e. buy sites, links, advertising, hire programmers / designers etc etc).
Oh yeah, spend some of that Adsense money on this site and join the supporters forum, go to PubCon -- you'll meet hundreds of people with hundreds of different revenue streams and ideas. (Incase you have problems with that diversification plan or need some validation...)
It is not only baffling from an ethical and moral standpoint but baffling from a "what's good for Google" standpoint.
Hell I won't name names but several of their competitors (the second biggest and the third biggest) market off of the "we will not be as draconian as Google" advantage. No lie, I helped the third biggest (after Google and Overture) contextual network of this kind redraft their TOS and the input they wanted from me was: "how can we make this less draconian than Google". They used that specific word 'draconian' and it's a label that's beginning to stick to Google the way the flip-flop stuck to Kerry.
There are other ways they can achieve the same degree of protection against fraud (discount clicks more agressively, build fraud protection into the rev share, track site ROI and base rev share off of that) yet they willingly choose to err on the side of axing more webmasters and while they are big and have a lot of money they can't have lost sight of the fact that AdSense is for small sites and webmasters who do not have a lot of money to confiscate.
Through no fault of my own, Google really made my life miserable for a while. Losing that kind of money is nothing to them but not knowing if I could pay rent or the server bills was depressing to me.
You speak sooth. What Google did to me was motivation to learn how to diversify monetization if nothing else.
I'm very entusiastic about it now, and became an internet marketing specialist as a result. :-)
Now I know every ad network like the back of my hand, and am ready for draconian treatment that only Google has been willing to mete out (note: only Google has the position to do so, as other networks have more competition and subsequently more cause to be fair).
I too share your wish for more competition, and wonder why Google's not too worried about driving people to actually cheer for their competitors.
You say that all networks retain complete control with the boilerplate TOS and this is very true.
When some of the networks sought my advice about their TOS what I said to them is that "the key is not in the TOS, yours, for legal reasons, needs to be as airtight. The key is in the implementation. Don't get a reputation for shafting people. The way to avoid doing so is to simply not shaft people in whimsical and arbitrary manner."
Thankfully other networks have more competition and less hubris and complacency in this particular regard.
One such network then asked me for advice on how to both protect their interests AND not shaft people. And I gave them ideas that they have implemented.
For example (and Google folk, if you are reading pay attention becasuse this is a really good idea for you guys for free, it would at LEAST be great PR for you, I've been saying this forever and if you haven't already done so, do it) I told one company to let the webmaster block IPs, this would give some control.
The webmaster can block all the IPs that might be suspicious, their own and that of any suspicious network activity like bots.
And in my experience, while all the other ad networks hold the cards, not one of them have the gall (from no competition) to use those cards in what can only be called a cruel manner.