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December 2007: Google Adsense income way down

Why is my Adsense down by 80%?

     
11:46 am on Dec 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have a website and my income has reduced from around 50 USD per day (June '07) right down to less that 10 USD per day.

I would appreciate any help anyone can provide as I am at a loss as to what to do. The site is 4 years old and Adsense has served me well to date.

Look forward to any comments or suggestions.

[edited by: jatar_k at 12:27 pm (utc) on Dec. 22, 2007]
[edit reason] no urls thanks [/edit]

4:12 am on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I remember there was an google ad tracker out there that stopped working not long before october. I wonder if they disabled it knowing that they would change the way a click is tracked, not just limiting it to the title and url, but with additional interpretation criterias, and were weary of people seeing this discrepancy.

Checking a few of my sites that have been underperforming in the past months, I do notice a big, but gradual, decrease of CTR since october. These sites also have a big global audience. I blamed it on seasonal factors and lack of advertisers (not really the best topic for the holidays) but it's much worse than last year. I just hope that my users weren't actually on the retarded side and clicking accidentally too much, but I also see the CTR decrease on adlinks, and if this was the case, I doubt someone would accidentally click an ad twice, which is needed to be counted.

What if they include the bounce rate before validating a click? Like if a user click back too fast, it's not counted?

5:57 am on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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clicks from non-Western countries are not being ignored

I agree that they may not ignore the clicks altogether, but probably the majority clicks. Maybe clicks coming from certain ISPs, or from users with a certain click history?

I think you're extrapolating too much from a sample that's too small and too varied.

Nah. The sample itself looks OK to me, both in terms of quantity and quality. I've charted the deviation, and one thing is very clear - something has happened in September 2007 that let's Google suddenly report fewer clicks than before. In the 16 weeks since beginning of September, 15 weeks saw deviations as described; just one week was "on par" (funnily enough, it was the week where others reported a glitch in the channel statistics).

6:13 am on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It could be due to low to no geotargeted inventory for the countries zett termed exotic. The ads they see would therefore not be as well targeted, resulting in either lower ctr, and/or clicks that aren't worth as much because of conversion issues- for instance, the landing pages aren't targeted to support a Czech or Israeli consumer.

The problem is not ad targeting, because I am seeing that users click the ads (and for my sites I know that these are not accidental clicks), but these clicks seem to be not counted by Google. A problem with ad targeting would result in fewer clicks, but not in clicks being ignored.

I could imagine, though, that Google has historical evidence that clicks on English language ads with English language landing pages simply do not convert when users come from certain countries. Maybe this leads to the majority of clicks from such countries to be just ignored? Maybe they have additional historical data that can pinpoint certain fraudulent activities to these countries?

All of this leads me to believe that the SmartPricing algo was changed in September, and probably for a second group of publishers in October.

9:00 am on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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All of this leads me to believe that the SmartPricing algo was changed in September, and probably for a second group of publishers in October.

Possible. I'm always hesitant to blame anything on SmartPricing as it seems to be what everyone blames everything on. (Unless, of course, times are good for that particular publisher)

I saw a steady increase in income and traffic with income levels peaking in August and September. Income started to collapse in October, and was at about 50% of the August peak for November and December with traffic only dipping a little.

This could be for any number of reasons though: Advertisers may have dropped out of AdWords, bids could have been lowered across the board because the August/Sept bid ranges were simply not profitable on the content network, or it could all be related solely to changed that Google made.

Who knows. There's not really a point in worrying about it. My income has not collapsed completely and since I have no control over how much AdSense pays me aside from trying to place the ads in the most CTR friendly areas possible I just go about my business.

If people put as much effort into maintaining/updating their sites as they do worrying about AdSense revenue and browsing this forum for the magic cure how much better do you think their sites would be?

9:45 am on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If people put as much effort into maintaining/updating their sites as they do worrying about AdSense revenue and browsing this forum for the magic cure how much better do you think their sites would be?

Yeah, right.

Still, it is eye opening for anyone who actually runs a business or plans to do so, e.g. by quiting their day-jobs. Without this discussion, people might (wrongly) think that Adsense is a safe way to earn money.

For me, Adsense has lost its glory. Back in 2005 I was happy to have it and was surprised at the amount of money it would generate. 2006 was even better, and I was extending the content offering. In 2007 I realized that one should simply not rely on Google. Despite growing content, visitors, and traffic, site revenues fell consistently. Today it looks like a case of "whatever you do, your eCPM will decline" to me.

I think, the old Adsense rule of "just take care of the content, do not worry about the revenue" is not true any longer. Today you should consider Adsense as a side dish, as an extra smoothie. Very few can actually build a business on it.

3:14 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If people put as much effort into maintaining/updating their sites as they do worrying about AdSense revenue and browsing this forum for the magic cure how much better do you think their sites would be?

What? What's wrong with discussion? And how do you know how many employees we have maintaining and updating our sites? For some of us, our full-time job is to stay on top of revenue issues, and this is one of the best places to do so.</rant>

The 'disappearing click' theory sounds the most plausible to me. While we haven't been hit nearly as hard as others, I wonder if the others might get a higher percentage of their traffic from these 'exotic' countries.

AdSense stats have always shown a reduced CTR in the wee hours of the night and we've always figured this was due to not all the data updating at the same time. Perhaps it's because the wee hours of the morning where we are (CST) is when there are the fewest US visitors on our site.

3:30 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ummm, I don't know 90% of my visitors are from the US and 7% are from the non exotic countries ;) so that lives around 3% from exotics countries and I still got hit with about 80% drop in ctr so go figure.
4:00 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think, the old Adsense rule of "just take care of the content, do not worry about the revenue" is not true any longer. Today you should consider Adsense as a side dish, as an extra smoothie. Very few can actually build a business on it.

I'd guess that most "AdSense businesses" aren't built around a "just take care of the content, do not worry about the revenue" philosophy. They're built around AdSense, and maybe that's their problem. Does the Web really need another 100,000 keyword-driven, template-based, thin-content, me-too directory or "user review" sites?

I remember a thread on the Google Search News forum a while back where a guy was wondering if he could dump 2 million new pages (most with little or no content) onto the Web and get them indexed in Google.

Now, maybe there are some great sites that have seen their AdSense earnings decimated in the last few months. But I can't help wondering how many more AdSense- and keyword-driven "thin content" sites have been affected. (It would make perfect sense for Google to smart-price or reduce the payout to "thin content" publishers, if only because they devalue the perceived quality of both the AdSense network and Google's own search results.)

5:58 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If Google would only be so kind so as to thin out the earnings of skimming sites or worthless sites, but they don't, and those sites continue stealing ad exposure for sites that deserve them and the revenue they generate.

Our site is unique in the world, as far as we're aware, and we've been hit with the lowest earnings since 2006. It's like a switch went off and our eCPM dropped by 50% virtually overnight.

Whatever Google did, it tried to masquerade the change through altering the clickable areas in November under the guise that we should expect lower eCPM and CTR on the basis of removing "accidental clicks." But instead of a decrease in clicks, Google is simply under reporting them, eCPM is being held below a certain value, regardless of whatever CTR Google does report, meanwhile traffic is on the increase. What's particularly strange is regardless of other factors, Google appears to be artificially capping our earnings to arrive at the same value every day. If one day's traffic is up along with CTR, eCPM is down. The next day eCPM is slightly higher but traffic is lower and as is CTR. Regardless, the days earnings are always, everyday, the same. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

6:52 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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What's particularly strange is regardless of other factors, Google appears to be artificially capping our earnings to arrive at the same value every day. If one day's traffic is up along with CTR, eCPM is down. The next day eCPM is slightly higher but traffic is lower and as is CTR. Regardless, the days earnings are always, everyday, the same.

That hasn't been my experience. In December, for example, the ratio of the highest day's earnings to the lowest day's was 2.83:1. In November, it was 1.79:1. Of course, some people would complain that my experience demonstrates AdSense's volatility, and that you should be grateful for the consistency of your daily earnings. :-)

7:01 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If it was 100% of its average value and then stable, that's right, I'd be the happiest guy around here :)
8:24 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Despite growing content, visitors, and traffic, site revenues fell consistently. Today it looks like a case of "whatever you do, your eCPM will decline" to me. I think, the old Adsense rule of "just take care of the content, do not worry about the revenue" is not true any longer.

I actually never heard of that rule. I have one site that gets 1% percent of the page views of another site of mine, yet the lower traffic site often makes more money in a given day. Both sites have about the same number of pages. I think differences in the topics and targeted traffic account for the extreme difference in EPC.

9:39 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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differences in the topics and targeted traffic account for the extreme difference in EPC

Absolutely; and since the ones who aren't experiencing negative changes have no idea what the target audience and topics are for the sites of the people who are experiencing devastating changes, I see no point or what good is accomplished in their repetitious posting of smug, self-satisfied and condescending homilies without any way of knowing what those factors and differences might be. What possible reason could there be for assuming such self-aggrandizing posturing? What's the purpose of it, and what is it intended to accomplish?
9:56 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Marcia, why should it be controversial or offensive to point out a simple truth: that some publishers are hurting, some are gaining, and some aren't experiencing significant changes? Just because misery loves and demands company doesn't mean critical thinking should be checked at the door.
10:28 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Adsense performance for me during November-December 2007 was very weak to say the least. However since late December I have started to observe significant improvements in both CTR and average EPC. Having said that I hope it keeps up.
11:33 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Despite many assertions that some group of people has experienced some common phenomenon, I have yet to see any consistency in the specific symptoms, or in the exact timing of each individual's ups and downs. To me it just seems like the same old constant flux.

As to whether there's some common factor among the most recent lot of aggrieved webmasters or not, because of the restrictions and the self-imposed secrecy that reigns on this board, that seems basically unknowable. There's no basis on which we can even speculate.

12:53 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Critical thinking [iadeaf.k12.ia.us]:

The disciplined process of actively conceptualizing, analyzing, and applying information as a guide to action.

Pointing out that there are differences, by some sharing that they have not experienced any negative changes, is a piece of data that's useful and makes a point. That's where it stops. Data is not information.

Beyond that point, since there's no experiential foundation for discrediting the existence of the phenomenon as experienced by others, there is no further information that can be offered that has any use in the process of assessing what's been happening, the reasons why, and possible applications to base future actions on.

Maybe it's time someone went through and did a post re-capping only the posts made that actually made some sense or had any value and were productive, omitting those that did nothing more than cloud the issue or show disdain for other members.

Transactional analysis games, parent-adult-child communication:

I'm OK, you're OK.
I'm OK, You're not OK (this thread)

How about letting it stop so somethng productive can start happening?

1:00 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Jane Doe:

The things I think may cause a big drop like that are:
1. Losing ranking on a top earning page or two, if most of your income came from just a few pages.

2. Losing ranking in Yahoo or MSN. I think those search engine users have different demographics and are more inclined to click on ads than Google users.

3. Untargeted traffic. Adsense can sometimes have an inverse reaction to increases in traffic if it is based on users looking for more general, noncommercial terms.

4. Site wide ads that are not really targeted well to your site as a whole.

5. And obviously, a loss in overall traffic can cause a loss in earnings.

Most of my sites have a wide variety of advertisers but if you have sites in narrower niches then a change in advertisers or a new site in your niche using Adsense may also have a big impact on your earnings.


Objective. Useful. Analytical. Outstanding.

Jane Doe:

To me it would be very unusual to have a site that made an average of $50 daily for extended period of time drop to $10 for an extended period of time. I see really big swings from day to day in small sites that make under $10 or so but to me a drop to $10 on a formerly $50 site would not be a normal variation, and something certainly worth investigating further.

Jane Doe: Hereby nominated for Adsense Forum logical thinking award of the year.

incrediBILL:


>>If a site provides value, there's no reason why it shouldn't be able to convert for product sales, if it's got the traffic.<<

Bingo!

My wife has a site that does a small AdSense amount but the affiliate sales can pop for $30 or more per commission payout and she does a decent amount of affiliate sales per month. So you combine the 2 marketing models and she's doing quite well but if she did AdSense only it would be a complete bust just like you read about in this forum all the time.


Kudos to incrediBILL for a concrete example, showing safety through diversity.

[edited by: Marcia at 1:28 am (utc) on Jan. 5, 2008]

2:19 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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With the speculation that Adsense may not be recording some clicks, I was wondering if they are obligated to pay publishers for clicks that advertisers are charged for. Or maybe it's just that zero cent discounted clicks are no longer being shown in publisher reports, leading to a drop in the CTR.
2:54 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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With the speculation that Adsense may not be recording some clicks, I was wondering if they are obligated to pay publishers for clicks that advertisers are charged for. Or maybe it's just that zero cent discounted clicks are no longer being shown in publisher reports, leading to a drop in the CTR.

If the clicks are discarded right away (i.e., when the occur), they won't show up in the reports at all. If they're removed in a subsequent audit, the reports won't be updated; you'll just see less money in your payment.

Side note: According to the Tuzhilin Report [googleblog.blogspot.com] (a PDF file), which has been discussed in this forum previously, the detection and removal of invalid click is a three-stage process that consists of:

- Prefiltering

- Online filtering

- Post-filtering (automated and, in some cases, pro-active or reactive manual monitoring)

See pages 22-25 of the report for more details.

6:33 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think there's nothing wrong with a determined skepticism towards the possibility of a new phenomenon, and it has value at this point in the discussion, which is still a debate.
7:38 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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>>skepticism towards the possibility of a new phenomenon

Loss of 80% of income is a bit beyond a possibility; it's a stark reality for some people, the ones who have experienced it. So they're either hallucinating from smoking some bad stuff, delusional lunatics, or liars - which could it be?

How is skepticism over the reality of what other people are experiencing doing anything constructive to help, or accomplishing anything other than hijacking the thread into a teenage boys' macho high school gym locker room demonstration of "mine's bigger!" if you get my drift - and fostering division, discord and resentment instead of building a sense of community.

Not everyone is experiencing that level of change, but that doesn't make it any less real or credible to those feeling the pain.

I think it's time to leave boasting and egos at the door, and to start rebuilding a congenial, supportive community environment in this forum.

That said, I've experienced the loss of my best performing, highest ROI for time spent, (ugliest) site (from affiliate sales commissions and bonuses, not Adsense, which wouldn't buy me a Happy Meal for that site). I know why in that case, which is among the factors Jane Doe so kindly outlined - traffic loss, and it's because of the site's pages being hijacked. By Live Search's crawling mess-up, no less. I shared about it in the Affiliate forum here (and this forum) so others would know to look for it with their sites. And also informed (and phoned) who needed to be contacted to put a fix in place. No whining: end of site, end of story, build another site, maybe two or three more.

However, I do know what CTR rate has been for a few years, not only year-'round but seasonally, and particularly 4th QTR. Irrespective of traffic changes, CTR has been way, way down. Same sites/pages/product verticals, same same target audience. I don't know what's up with that, but if the product lines and target audience haven't changed on my end but Adsense CTR plummeted dramatically - well something sure has changed. Hmmm..what could it be? Something that changed on the Adsense end of things during the last few months, maybe?

7:57 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Now if the original poster would only come back and clarify that his CTR is the reason for his 80% drop in income, then you and he would have something in common. Failing that, all you're offering is two unrelated data points.

I'm not denying that what the OP reported was real (some did, but IMO that's going too far). But an 80% drop in income could be caused by any number of factors. There have been lots of claims and theories in the thread, but given the utter lack of detail in the original post, any explanatory value would be completely accidental.

3:42 pm on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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How is skepticism over the reality of what other people are experiencing doing anything constructive to help,

Marcia, nobody is skeptical about the reality of what some people are experiencing; we're merely skeptical about the alleged reasons for or meaning of what some people (note the word "some") are experiencing. There's a tendency here for unhappy Webmasters to claim (indeed, insist) that their experiences are universal. That's simply incorrect, and it doesn't contribute to an understanding of what may or may not be happening.

9:36 pm on Jan 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Yesterday's earnings and eCPM were their lowest since 2006 (last week we thought we dipped as low as we'd get, but alas...), while CTR was 40% higher than the December average and traffic was above average for a Saturday.

I could see eCPM sliding with an increase in traffic, but a dip in earnings and eCPM alongside a rise in CTR and a rise in traffic? It's bewildering.

1:39 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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My traffic continues to grow and yet the number of clicks has dropped.

This particular website has 250,000 members and roughly 20,000 visits a day. It's a mobile related with Nokia taking presidence on the site. Nokia is massive in Asia and thus a majority of our traffic is from Asian countries.

I have relevant affiliates set up on my website which convert brilliantly. The clicks from my Asian members are most definitely not worthless.

After reading some of the latest posts in regards to 'ignored clicks' from non western countries, I'm a little concerned. It's definitely rang a bell.

Googles frigging algorithms should be taking affiliate stats in to account when smart pricing. It proves my traffic converts well. So basically those that advertise on my website are receiving great conversions and only having to pay a fraction of the price they should be.

Smart pricing is great in theory but in reality it's absolutely retarded.

1:50 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Now if the original poster would only come back

If I were a newcomer like the original poster and got insulted like he did, you can be sure that I wouldn't be back either.

and clarify that his CTR is the reason for his 80% drop in income

How could he clarify anything, when he simply does not know the reason for the drop? Did you read his description that he put under his post title? Here's what he asked:

Why is my Adsense down by 80%?

Does that sound like he knows what the reason is?

then you and he would have something in common. Failing that, all you're offering is two unrelated data points.

Oh? and which data points would that be, as opposed to the ones the OP shared?

an 80% drop in income could be caused by any number of factors.

And so could a 10% drop or a 20% drop in income be cause by innumerable factors. That's exactly why it's valuable to share data points and factors to consider.

given the utter lack of detail in the original post, any explanatory value would be completely accidental

What detail could have been provided? Detailed Adsense stats and the specific URLs affected?

All that said, however, the OP is not the only person affected by a drop, and since this thread is not an individual site review for the OP, it has value for anyone who's experienced any kind of a drop if members collectively share observations and viable possibilities.

Added:

Incidentally, related to Jane Doe's excellent checklist toward the very beginning of this thread, re MSN Live Search (and demographics) and loss of traffic (Yahoo also in some cases), that's exactly why this thread was posted on Dec. 13th, about something which had been going on already for a couple of months, with sites getting "hijacked" right out of MSN because of a "bug" (Yahoo too, incidentally):

[webmasterworld.com...]

It was totally expected that when pages (in some cases whole site(s) could have) completely disappeared and consequently a load of traffic lost because of the "bug" that the Adsense income would tank, which is precisely what has happened to some sites, as well as affiliate income, and was the sole reason for posting the threads: as a heads up.

And no, I'm not going to do another dozen posts trying to explain it all over again.

[edited by: Marcia at 2:05 am (utc) on Jan. 7, 2008]

6:10 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Quoting EFV a ways back:
I remember a thread on the Google Search News forum a while back where a guy was wondering if he could dump 2 million new pages (most with little or no content) onto the Web and get them indexed in Google.

Now, maybe there are some great sites that have seen their AdSense earnings decimated in the last few months. But I can't help wondering how many more AdSense- and keyword-driven "thin content" sites have been affected. (It would make perfect sense for Google to smart-price or reduce the payout to "thin content" publishers, if only because they devalue the perceived quality of both the AdSense network and Google's own search results.)

And that's something that ought to be discussed - if people are pushing sites with millions of new pages on the net, presumably so they can earn AdSense revenue.... that will have an effect on a large number of other sites, won't it?

If massive new sites are coming online, then supply of ad-bearing pages, relative to current demand for said pages, goes up. Way up. eCPM might go down.

There's only so much advertising $ to go around on any given day. Advertisers set a budget cap. The only thing Google can adjust is the payout, and, in order to prevent blank ads or PSAs, Google has to ensure that there are enough ads to go around.

Dilution.

[edited by: inactivist at 6:54 am (utc) on Jan. 7, 2008]

6:40 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think the recent inclusion of myspace, youtube and other massive web sites of the sort are more to blame with the dilution factor than spammers who end up getting the boot in the end... I would be inclined to think that the conversion percentage on these huge sites with a very young audience must also be abysmal.
7:00 am on Jan 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think the recent inclusion of myspace, youtube and other massive web sites of the sort are more to blame with the dilution factor than spammers who end up getting the boot in the end... I would be inclined to think that the conversion percentage on these huge sites with a very young audience must also be abysmal.

I agree that there may be many sources of dilution. And that the conversion rate on some of those sites you mentioned is pretty bad. An abysmal conversion rate for a site getting millions of hits per day may still account for a significant hit against advertiser budgets.

As far as I can see, the dilution of publisher ad space is growing. I have Google search notifications for keywords related to some of my sites, and the ratio of spam pages to real content is usually about 8:1. This makes sense: the spam is machine-generated/scraped, so of course there will be less human-generated content to compete with it - after all, it takes time for a human to write good content. Oh, and those keywords almost *never* show up on the YouBoob, FaceFlake, Digg, or other 'big name' social sites. My keyword space is aimed at a different demographic.

In any event, I wonder about the relative proportion (and growth) between available advertising dollars, and publisher pages capable of carrying ads.

Google has a difficult problem to solve - sorting out quality sites and visitor/click patterns from the low-quality ones.

This 163 message thread spans 6 pages: 163