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AdSense Income Burns in Southern California

Natural disasters impact online economy

   
5:00 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Many of you have probably noticed temporary AdSense declines in the past but never associated it with events happening to people many thousands of miles away.

Most have speculated that recent drops in AdSense income were associated with the latest Google updates to AdSense last weekend, which coincidentally was timed with the fires in Southern California. When you consider that an estimated 500K people have been evacuated from their homes it's reasonable to assume that this mass exodus will have a noticeable impact on the online economy.

This isn't the first time that natural disasters have been responsible for a decline in AdSense earnings. Previous dips in AdSense were felt by many with the impact of Katrina, major power outages due to winter storms in the Midwest and East Coast, and massive flooding in various places around the country. These events tend to be felt strongest when they hit areas that tend to be more wired such as a major city or high tech area like Southern California.

5:02 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Additional footnote: the World Series is also taking massive amounts of people away from their computers at the moment. Not exactly a natural disaster unless you look at the teams playing this year.
5:06 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



You also have school holidays in the UK. It's quite normal for the October holiday week to creep either side of the 9 days (2 weekends in there) if schools are willing to heve kids miss a day or two (which they are less keen on nowadays but it still happens a lot). Dips in UK traffic of 10% to 20% are common during such holiday periods.
5:06 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The World Cup is a huge event everywhere but America. I'd be interested to see if there is a decrease in sales across European and Asian markets associated with the time of the WC.
5:10 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Yup... good point Bill.
5:48 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



My website is in a niche that should be directly impacted by the fires - Southern California Tourism - but the traffic and revenue is typical. Around 25% of my visitors are local, but I haven't experienced a significant drop. Yesterday was a little lower than average, however it was completely within the range of an ordinary AdSense "mood swing." Today = so far, so good.

My guess is that the World Series will have a bigger impact on internet surfing than the fires.

5:55 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



My guess is that the World Series will have a bigger impact on internet surfing than the fires.

Depends on your niche and how you market your site.

I depend on a lot of local traffic, meaning people looking for things in their own local area, and I took a pretty decent hit this week from that area.

6:09 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Whilst I commiserate with all those suffering I have to say that my traffic is completely "normal", not even fluctuating from the norm by less than 5%.

Historical metrics show me that even when there's a major event happening somewhere, such as the Olympics or soccer World Cup, even during Katrina, my visitor levels were all within the usual range.

It always surprises me when massive international widget trade shows are occurring that my earnings do not vary much.

YMMV!

[edited by: HuskyPup at 6:10 pm (utc) on Oct. 25, 2007]

6:41 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Bill, it could be a coincidence. According to Wikipedia, there are around 24 million people living in Southern California. So the 500,000 displaced only represent around 2% of the population. Meanwhile, some of the remaining 98% might decide to stay at home rather than go out and face closed roads and heavier traffic due to the fires. For example, major portions of the Angeles National Forest are closed due to fire danger. Pacific Coast Highway was closed for a short time as well. So it's possible that people who would have gone to places like that might opt to stay at home instead.
6:56 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I track my traffic geographically and my stats show traffic for affected cities like San Diego, La Jolla, etc. is down about 50% or more this week and my SERPs are still #1 for those locations so it was a reasonable conclusion that those areas are being negatively impacted by this disaster.
7:22 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Well if you can narrow it down to a particular zone like that, then yes it's a reasonable assumption. I was thinking in terms of Southern California.

Besides the people actually displaced, there are probably power outages, and people are dealing with cleanup in those areas.

But I think the impact on Southern California-based traffic as a whole should be minimal.

8:36 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



USA has a population of around 300 million. The recent events affecting 500K people who have been evacuated from their homes is a drop in the ocean. It's only relevant if you are dependant on that particular area for your earnings. If you are, bad luck, maybe spread out a bit. The Uk has a popoulation approaching 30 million.

But major sports, they do affect major parts of the world.Has anyone any experience of setting up websites aimed at these one off events? Olympics, world series, garnd prix, world cup? Is it a wothwhile market to aim for?

8:59 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Not exactly a natural disaster unless you look at the teams playing this year.

Ahhh! Boston certainly deserves to be there and Colorado one 21 out of 22 games. I'd say they deserve the trip too! :)

The World Cup is a huge event everywhere but America.

Not as huge as everywhere else, but probably watched (and attended) a lot more than most people outside of the U.S. think.

I agree with incrediBill's observation. I've made the same observation in the past when significant events take place around the world.

I think the number (500,000) has gone up a little and even though that's not a huge number (compared to the population in all of California), you have to look at the 500K that was displaced. Were they middle-class internet users? Or, were they low-income families? The former will have a much bigger impact on web traffic.

Plus, you have to consider the fact that many people have relatives in the area (this keeps them from their normal, daily routines of surfing the web); millions are following the fires and the story (which keeps them away from their normal routines).

So it's not just "500K", it can relate to many more.

9:34 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The Uk has a popoulation approaching 30 million.

Perhaps you'd enlighten our Government, as they seem to think it's somewhere around 60 million - something to do with the last census in 2001 - and set to increase to 70M within the next decade. ;)

Can't say I've noticed any downturn in traffic despite the half-term holiday here; seems to be holding pretty steady. But I did notice a slowdown back in the 'summer' when we had all that flooding, so I guess localised crises can affect Adsense.

10:08 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



It's only relevant if you are dependant on that particular area for your earnings.

OK, that's just silly because traffic comes from all over so when an estimated 500K-1M people are in flux they aren't a part of the internet economy and it has to make an impact.

Sites that provide local services like I do might notice it more readily simply because we already track local response rates but that doesn't make the site dependent on one area, it just means that now there is a gap in the bottom line.

10:16 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



There's always something happening somewhere. Holidays, holy days, warm sunny days, big events. I tend to agree that unless you look real close at that one particular area, the traffic impact is negligible. Not zero, exactly, but pretty hard to separate from background noise.

In your first post I thought you were getting at the idea of some large advertisers having their businesses disrupted due to the fires. Since California is a huge center for e-commerce, that actually seems more likely to me, although the impact of that would be on eCPM rather than overall traffic.

10:19 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The areas hit in the LA area are affluent, as I believe La Jolla is. Canyon and ocean-front (or close to beach) properties are very high priced real estate. Next will come mudslides once the winter rainy season starts.

It's actually only a small portion of the area (and population) here, LA is enormously spread out.

10:25 pm on Oct 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



provide local services like I do

I'd say that's a unique enough view on the market to suggest a cause. Sure there are ba-jillions of internet users out there, but when your focus is a set of people whose city is burning, you feel the impact. The world-wide impact of their exodus may be small... maybe. Of all the people in the area who aren't evacuated, I'll bet most of their internet usage is focused on news at this point and might not be out in the market doing casual browsing and shopping. I agree that the people "missing" from the net-at-large are more than the 500k people displaced by the fires.
12:07 am on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Not all of those 500K to 1M displaced use the internet on a daily basis. On a national scale, you can divide the number of displaced by the US entire population and see there's little impact. On a local scale (in San Diego), it will have some impact... maybe 5%-10% of SD's population. The number of people displaced in Los Angeles is statiscally insignificant.

Bill, you mentioned a 50% drop in San Diego traffic - that couldn't possibly be directly related to those displaced residents not using the internet. Half of San Diego wasn't evacuated.

But here's a thought that could help explain your stats. There are probably power outages that might have affected routers that are local to San Diego. That traffic might have been rerouted through other cities. So it's possible that some of your 50% is simply showing up somewhere else.

Side note: As I understand, lower income groups use the internet as much as higher income groups. The only real difference is when it comes to age. Younger people use the internet more than older people.

6:04 am on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jetteroheller is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Additional footnote: the World Series is also taking massive amounts of people away from their computers at the moment. Not exactly a natural disaster unless you look at the teams playing this year.

My AdSense income is mainl based on my German sites.

Last year in June was the soccer world champion ship in Germany.
About 25% income loss

6:30 am on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Bill, you mentioned a 50% drop in San Diego traffic - that couldn't possibly be directly related to those displaced residents not using the internet. Half of San Diego wasn't evacuated.

It could be attributed to those in San Diego glued to the news instead of the internet or helping friends and family that were evacuees.

10:18 am on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The World Series is also taking massive amounts of people away from their computers at the moment.

I make most of my Adsense money from people goofing off at work.

p/g

10:20 am on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



There's a California fires watchdog website (blog) that has Adsense ads. One was for fire extinguishers. Not sure it's going to help at this time.

p/g

4:23 pm on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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What we are noticing (and seen others mention as well) is a reduced CTR after this maintenance. I am guessing they are getting more aggressive as what are considered valid clicks for the advertiser. Hope I am wrong and revenues return...
5:58 pm on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



I make most of my Adsense money from people goofing off at work.

Good point. My revenue is typically higher during the weekdays than it is on a weekend. In fact, I'm at work right now :)

6:19 pm on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



One was for fire extinguishers. Not sure it's going to help at this time.

Well, if you're playing on the Internet, it's most likely that your house isn't buring down at the moment. Seeing a relevant ad (fire -> fire extinguisher) will probably result in a lot of sales from people suddenly remembering they don't have a fire extinguisher at home.

I'm sure (fire) insurance ads are getting a lot of traffic as well. However, I suspect the "Find fire at eBay" ads aren't doing so hot. (pun intended) :)

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 6:21 pm (utc) on Oct. 26, 2007]

4:47 pm on Oct 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



My income tends to go UP (a little bit) with things like this, due to the nature of my site. It's a Google Earth related site, so for things like the wildfires we get a lot of new traffic from people wanting to see it in Google Earth.

In fact, Katrina more or less put our site on the map.

I really feel kind of bad about it, knowing that the misfortune of thousands of people is directly helping my AdSense earnings. I try to donate some of the extra to relief-related funds, though the extra I earn from AdSense in times like this is rather minimal.