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Google AdSense Bay Area Forum

Googleplex - March 16, 2005

     
7:22 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I just flew back from the Googleplex (yep, I got to go to the 'Plex), where I was a part of the Google AdSense Bay Area Forum. The AdSense team brought together a group of publishers from the Bay Area, and three presenters with high level experience with AdSense - Dr. Cheng Wu of eFunda [efunda.com]; Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome [lockergnome.com] and Gnomedex [Gnomedex.com] fame; and myself of JenSense [jensense.com] and WebmasterWorld fame ;) This is the first time Google has done something like this, bringing together publishers and AdSense Team members (and hopefully not the last!).

When you arrived in the new Building 43 lobby (yes, you could watch the search queries rolling by - and boy, there were some weird ones!) you got your name tag, complete with Google logo, and went up to the second floor where the forum was being held.

Tons of Googler's were on hand, from the AdSense Team as well as some from other teams that were showing off some of the other products like Blogger. I heard many publisher asking detailed questions and getting equally detailed responses back. There were also lots of munchies and drinks during the first half hour of socializing.

Once everyone settled in their seats at 6:30, Kim Malone, Director of AdSense, talked about the history of AdSense, and how they have released new features based on publisher feedback, and focused also on the latest releases on Tuesday. She also shared that many AdSense team members are also publishers as well, so they experience both sides of the program... and that she was turned down for excessive profanity the first time she applied ;) This obviously brought a lot of laughs from the crowd that even a top AdSense Team member doesn't get an automatic in.

Dr. Cheng Wu of Efunda (a site for mechanical engineers) presented “Utilizing Color and Placement to Enhance the Google AdSense Revenue Stream”. He discussed the many problems he had with monetizing the site before AdSense, particularly with such a tiny audience. He shared test results he found while in search of the best placement for monetiziation, and the best was using the borderless blended technique. He is a strong believer in blending the ads into content, so when readers finish an article, the natural inclination is to click one of the links suggested by AdSense.

Chris Pirillo was wonderfully entertaining, and if you have caught his radio show, he is just as entertaining when presenting as well. “AdSense as Content: Structuring your Site Around Google Ads” was his presentation, and he gave plenty of examples of how he designed the layout specifically to maximize revenue with the AdSense placement. The memorable quote that stuck in my mind the most was that he plans to name his firstborn AdSense, because the program has changed his life that much. He also talked about how hard it can be to monetize a website and how poorly affiliate programs convert on content sites.

I was last up, and instead of talking about my own sites, I chose to instead focus it on what the attending publishers could do in order to make more money with AdSense. I presented “Increasing Your AdSense Income Through Content Creation and Testing”, and I went through different ways to make content specifically for AdSense, primarily by expanding the sites you currently run AdSense on, with plenty of examples and practical tips on doing it.

Then I jumped into testing, detailing how useful the AdSense custom channels can be to increasing your monetization (far too many people do not use channels!), and advice on how to use the AdSense filter properly so you don’t inadvertently cost yourself a significant portion of your earnings. I saw people scribbling notes as I was speaking, and several people asked for the PowerPoint I used, saying they couldn’t write fast enough for all the ideas and tips I was suggesting.

At the end, publishers got to ask questions to the AdSense team. Of course, the revenue share question was one of the first questions to be asked. And not surprisingly, the answer was that they likely will not be sharing that information. But as each question was asked, the AdSense team member with the expertise in that area would respond, so it really gave publishers the opportunity to not only ask their AdSense questions, but also get the answer from the right person.

Many publishers were raving about the ability to be able to do electronic fund transfers (EFT) for their earnings. Kim revealed an interesting tidbit that publishers in France were ready to boycott AdSense if alternative payment options were not introduced. With non-US publishers facing huge banking fees for depositing US dollar checks, direct deposit – as well as checks in home country currencies – has made a huge difference for many publishers.

Someone brought up Ads by Goooooooooooogle and wanted it back to straight Ads by Google again. They took a show of hands, and it seemed to be evenly split. In my opinion, the extra long Gooooooooogle seems to draw the eye to the ads. And I am convinced they must have done enough testing to know that it increased CTR enough to make it a widespread AdSense feature. So really, I think the best question to ask would be if publishers would be willing to lose some of their CTR % along with those extra oooooooooo’s. Is it the right theory? Some publishers swear their CTR went up the day oooooooooo became standard.

Ad Links were also discussed, as it had just been launched, and Google confirmed that adding a custom channel to the Ad Links javascript will properly track it in your stats. It was also suggested that a format be created which could be used as an alternate ad for the regular AdSense ad units.

It was also nice to see AdSense team members scribbling down notes during the Q&A, so they were taking the feedback seriously.

All attendees got a Google goodie bag – yes, even the bag was an official Google bag. Inside the bag was, you guessed it, really cool swag. There was a black zip Google case, which unzipped to reveal many USB/techy goodies, complete with the official logo. It seems to be more of an exclusive item, as it isn’t available for sale in the Google Store. Included were headphones, 4-port USB hub, a USB laptop light and an Ethernet extension cable. Also in the bag was a bright blue Google notebook and pen, along with some handouts.

The handouts were very well done, including one titled “How to maximize your Google AdSense revenue”, complete with a heat map to show where they found the best placement areas on a webpage are for AdSense ad unit implementation. We also received the official AdSense timeline. For those who don’t know, AdSense just celebrated its second birthday a few weeks ago. There was also a handout with bios on all three panelists – it is very flattering to read that even the AdSense Team refers to me as an “authority on Google AdSense”, as well as noting my participation here at WebmasterWorld.

There was also a draw for an iPod Mini if you filled out a feedback form on the event. I did wonder if it had the Google logo on it too ;)

The event was officially over between 8 and 8:30, but it was closer to 9:30pm by the time I left (I had been up since 5am for my early flight) and there were still publishers chatting with Google reps when I did.

In all, it was an absolutely wonderful experience to fly down to get to visit the Googleplex, and it was an honor to be asked to present to a group of publishers. If AdSense decides to host more of these, I definitely recommend attending if you score an invite. You don’t get many opportunities like this, especially with the kind of ratio of AdSense publisher to AdSense Team member that there was at the Bay Area Forum. Kim, Mike and the rest of the AdSense Team pulled off a great event.

<edit>typo</edit>

[edited by: Jenstar at 8:15 am (utc) on Mar. 18, 2005]

7:32 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the feedback, and it's great to know how seriously they take the feedback.

As a small UK publisher that's increased his income twelve-fold in a year, do I qualify for an invite, and will they pay the travel costs?

:)

7:47 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Wow great news on you being invited to the plex and thanks for sharing the experience

>>authority on Google AdSense
Jen you can be so modest sometimes ;)

We all know you are the best person to turn to for advice with adsense and explain it in lay mans terms instead of the google lawyer jargon, in fact it a pity they don't consult you first on how to word any new changes, it would save so much time...

7:54 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Jenstar! I am sure you did an awesome job with your presentation and for those publishers that didn't already know of your Adsense flair...they sure do now!

Do you think they would send some of those handouts to publishers if requested? I would be willing to pay for a Google packette :)

8:37 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Very interesting read Jenstar, thanks once again :) Chris Pirillo is absolutely correct when he says affiliate programs don't convert that well on content-driven sites, but thrive on Adsense (no doubt someone reading this disagrees, of course...)

Any possibility of the powerpoint slides being released Jenstar?

11:32 am on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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That's such a wonderful experience. Glad you had a great time!
2:11 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Jen, can you give us more information, maybe a text description of the heat map. I would like to know if the HOTTEST is 'page center' or 'page top banner'.

Was there anything mentioned about their viewpoint on cookie cutter sites - those awful sites that drag in search engine results then place Adsense on them.

4:13 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Chris Pirillo is absolutely correct when he says affiliate programs don't convert that well on content-driven sites, but thrive on Adsense (no doubt someone reading this disagrees, of course...)

Depends on the topic, the affiliate programs, and how the affiliate programs are used. Some editorial sites (mine is one of them) earn more from affiliate programs than from AdSense. For a site like mine, the real benefit of AdSense is its ability to "fill in the gaps" by generating revenue from subtopics that don't relate well to affiliate programs.

Getting back to the topic of the Google AdSense Bay Area Forum, I can't help observing that the emphasis seemed to be on boosting publishers' income without regard for whether the techniques used (such as making ads look like content) are beneficial to advertisers. If I were a prospective advertiser, I might find that emphasis disturbing.

4:33 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't think the emphasis was on getting ads to appear unfairly. There was a definite emphasis on using *quality* content, and using the tools within AdSense to find the "sweet spot" for AdSense look/feel within the page. When I generally hear complaints from advertisers, it's about the quality content issue (or lack thereof).

I'll see if I can get a copy of the heat map to share, then everyone can get busy optmizing their AdSense placement. And for the curious, I was already using their top "hot spot" for placement ;)

4:36 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'll see if I can get a copy of the heat map to share

Would this be the same heat map we saw in the press release a couple of weeks ago or something new?

[webmasterworld.com...]

6:23 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This was an AdSense-specific heat map, although not quite as detailed as the search result one from a few weeks ago.

Yes, it was a really great experience :)

11:56 pm on Mar 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Many of you comment how Jenstar is an invaluable resource and authority on AdSense, and you're absolutely right on about that. I share your opinions!

As an eye witness at Wednesday's forum, I have to say she really did do a fabulous job.

ASA :)

1:39 am on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The memorable quote that stuck in my mind the most was that he plans to name his firstborn AdSense

And then on the day after the baby is born, he get's that 'Invalid Clicks' E-mail. Arg! Why didn't I name him Yahoo!

It would be nice if Google did online chats.

4:35 pm on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I thought it was WRONG to make content specifically for adsense, but it seems 2 out of 3 of the presenters IN GOOGLE touched on this very topic.

am I wrong here?

4:45 pm on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There is nothing wrong with creating *quality* content for AdSense, I think that is what everyone here tries to do. The issue with the "creating pages for AdSense" is primarily for scraped sites or pages that are lacking in any quality and/or unique content. Creating a site around "mesothelioma" for example, might also fall under that as well.

All the speakers discussed expanding current sites with new and fresh content. We weren't telling people to create sites for "high money keyword" and throwing AdSense on it, or running a scraper program and putting AdSense on the scraped results.

9:24 pm on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The issue with the "creating pages for AdSense" is primarily for scraped sites or pages that are lacking in any quality and/or unique content.

Did any of the Google people acknowledge that as a problem? And, if so, did they give any indication about what, if anything, they intend to do about it?

2:22 am on Mar 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I also attended the AdSense Forum.

Jenstar, I thought your talk was great. The Q&A part of the event was also interesting.

However, I found the other two talks to pretty much useless. To me, they felt like an odd combination of pitches for their sites and pitches for AdSense. Since the people in the room were obviously already sold on AdSense, that seemed weird to me. Both talks were also raving about the idea of using transparent ad borders. Not only is that a super-basic optimization (something I tried long, long ago and that produces worse results for me), but then I had to hear about it twice. I almost walked out more than once, but I stayed to hear Jenstar's talk.

I guess I expected the event to be more focused on common publisher problems, with more direct advice about to improve eCPM. Instead, it seemed to be oriented more toward first-time (or very new) publishers. I was also hoping to hear at least a little bit about aspects of AdSense that haven't been talked about for ages on sites like webmasterworld.

My direct experience with the Googler's wasn't very positive, either. While they said they wanted to answer questions and help with things like site optimization, I found their answers to be either not helpful or full of promises that they would help me "later" (I still haven't heard any answers from them).

While the goodie bag was fun, and while it was entertaining to see a little of the Googleplex, it's definitely not something that I would do again unless they make some dramatic changes.

3:46 am on Mar 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Just wondering if anyone picked on the "no made for adsense site" which is prevalent everywhere. Something Google should probably do is make it a policy to check each new website which is added to a publishers account. I doubt it'll take more than a min to do that basic screening. The way I see it... if you let every website in, Google looses a bit of credibility. I like overture's stand at this… Although the standards are too high for small publishers. But Google should have a strong stand at this.

Regards,
R