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Is anybody else in this situation?
One, the advertisers who use to bid for my entire block, are now bidding lower, and only being seen in a single ad block, in position 3 to 8 where I run two ad blocks on my site.
Second, recently I have been seeing TWENTY ads in one block, where before there had only had been 4 or 5 maximum.
I was trying to figure out the very question this OP asked, and was collecting data. A quick view of my site found little arrows on the bottom of my ad blocks, with no explanation what they were.
Of course, I was scared to click them, not knowing what they were or what they might do. I ultimately decided if in 3 years one little click on a ad by mistake, wouldn't hurt my account.
So, when I clicked the arrow, four more ads came, then four more... until I had seen 20 different ads. I can only imagine how that would affect my ctr and ecpm. This change in ad blocks ended up comsuming the rest of my day, as my partner and I mulled over the impact this new feature would have on us.
I surfed my site some more (something I rarely do) and saw more ads, no arrows, just a link to see more ads.
If . . .
advertisers all had to bid agressively to be seen in one of the eight spots on my site, but suddenly there were 40 blocks on my site, how agressively would they have to bid in order to be seen? Not very. This would mean lower bids.
I'm not sure how long this has been going on and how long it has been affecting my earnings, which are still down 25% from 2006, inspite my return to 2006 traffic levels since October.
But, it now makes sense why Google wanted to remove the "advertise on this site' link on the bottom of the ads, They had bigger and better ideas for that space at the bottom of ads.
They don't always appear which leads me to believe that if Google is displaying $0.01 - $0.05 ads in those slots then once in a while they'll open up the ad spot to an entire slew of cheap advertisements in order to increase the potential for a click, albeit a low paying click. Chances are if a user can be bothered to cycle through the links they'll be more inclined to click.
If well targeted and higher paying ads are displayed, presumably the arrows and links to more ads are never displayed in order to encourage clicks on the higher paying ads.
[edited by: CentennialEmpire at 12:59 am (utc) on Jan. 12, 2008]
Since they're only an experiment, aren't being used consistently, and seem to be invisible to a lot of people, it's highly unlikely that they're the reason why some publishers have had sudden, dramatic drops in earnings.
I think it does come down to multiple elements. We have seasonal traffic flux, seasonal low bidding as a result of seasonal traffic flux, we have site targeted maximum bidding and we have those darned ad units with 20 ads.
I was actually looking at my site, as mentioned, thinking of pulling the second ad unit for testing and considering the link unit, which I have never used when I stumbled on this 20 ads in a block problem.
Since my maximum cpc had been so severely lowered, we had thought maybe to limit the number of number ads shown on the site, and force them to bid higher in order to be seen at all, or just not be seen on the site. Imagine my surprise to see four times the ads, which seems to only make the matter worst.
Now, with my site flooded with four times the normal amount of ads, it seems puling that second ad unit is a must. 40 ads on a page is just WAY too much. It has to be hurting us.
A little calculation showed us that we can pull the lower ad unit, replace it with another ad server cpm, non-contexal ad, and increase our earnings, with little damage to our Adsense ctr, because the Adsense ad is very high on the page, above where the cpm ad will be.
We had actually done this before, and when we quit and put the second Adsense unit on, our earnings skyrocketed. That is why I'm dragging my feet.
Though, when we did this before, it was a few years back, it is was a much different time in Adsense. Things have changed, and maybe this is now the right time for this particular shake up on our site.
One thing is clear, we have to force the advertisers to bid higher, or they will continue to beat us down.
It really sets me on edge, because I know who about a quarter of my advertisers are, who have reduced their bids. I know they have targeted my site, and I know I give them excellent value, and a good ROI. My site is an excellent match for them, I have the exact, quality traffic they need.
Some, I have spoken with on the phone, as they tried to cut a deal for dirt cheap ad space on my site, without using Adsense.
The only problem was, what they were offering was an outrage. So, in all cases negotiations broke down. Though neither of us ever spoke the word "Adsense" in talks, it was obvious to me when they submitted my contact form, they wanted to circumvent Adsense. So, I listened to see what they were up to.
Oddly, when negotiations broke down, they increased their bids at Adsense, and took over the entire blocks on almost all my pages, and earnings went up considerably. We were delighted.
These are the ones who have pulled back their bids, to see how cheap they could be seen on my specific site, since this option was introduced at Adsense.
In the last day, I have seen one of them jump to take up the entire ad unit again. Maybe it is time to push some buttons to see if we can 'encourage' them to bid higher, or not be seen at all.
The way I would expect it to work is that the ads that are visible initially (without scrolling) would be priced at the normal rate.
As Jomaxx says, Google wouldn't have any reason to implement a feature that would trash its own revenues.
This HAS to be hurting their traffic from me, that traffic I know they covet, as they tried to deal direct. My traffic is unseasonably high right now because Google opened up the supplemental results again in search. I 'should' be making a killing in Adsense.
Here is another thing. In the last day with the one bidder taking the entire ad unit, he was being seen in the lower ad unit, not in the top one with the scroll bar with 20 ads. He was obviously the highest bidder, but he was not in the top ad unit shown on the page, which would reduce his ctr as well as mine, and my earnings. This is crazy.
Right when Google does one thing to help in search, they do another to counteract the effect seen in Adsense.
It is a combination of problems I listed that have created a "perfect storm" that combined to drive down bids.
Ever wonder what happens to the publishing dollar pool when Google strikes a deal with MySpace and adds a few million publishing pages? Ever wonder where most of the advertising money comes from? The US economy has not really been performing well the past year. Ever wonder what happens to overseas publishers when the value of the dollar drops?
Ever wonder what happens when US business in general slumps? Ever wonder what happens when American Express (Who only approves companies and people with great credit ratings) announces that they are starting to see more late payments and defaults?
I think a lot of answers can be answered by those questions.
If web traffic is growing and publishers are increasing, the opportunity to advertise grows alongside them, right? And if an opportunity exists expect the market to tap it.
Opportunity and ad budgets are two different things. And I find it very easy to imagine that the number of pages with AdSense ads is growing at a faster rate than advertising budgets are. Last April, Technorati estimated that the blogosphere alone was growing at the rate of 120,000 new blogs (not pages, but blogs) per day, and the average daily blog-posting rate was 1.5 million posts. For a more general view of Web growth, take a look at the Netcraft Web Server Survey [news.netcraft.com], which showed the Web growing by 48% between December, 2006 and December, 2007 (or 38% if parked domains and other "inactive sites" aren't counted). According to NetCraft, the Web grew by some 50 million sites during that 12-month period. Granted, not all of those 50 million new sites are running AdSense ads, but AdSense ad units on even a modest fraction of those new sites would represent a lot of click inventory to fill.
Granted that number could be skewed and since 2005 web traffic has obviously grown, but lets say for the sake of argument there are 600,000 active publishers on January 11, 2008. For reference purposes, Adbrite, well known and popular, has just under 50,000 publishers according to its website.
Given the hypothetical figure of 600,000 Adsense publishers the ratio of Adsense sites to non-Adsense sites across the entire Internet is gargantuan, for lack of a better term.
I'm simply unconvinced that in the last few months publishers have outpaced ad inventories given the growth in online advertising investment and continued growth of online business ventures. The Internet is still an unknown to the majority of businesses but, coincidentally, it's the mom and pop shops that are getting into the online advertising realm through Adsense. If there's a substantial void still left to be filled and Adsense has a knack for attracting non traditional advertisers, where's the inventory problem?
[edited by: CentennialEmpire at 7:33 am (utc) on Jan. 12, 2008]
[edited by: jatar_k at 2:02 pm (utc) on Jan. 12, 2008]
[edit reason] no urs thanks [/edit]
Now, there are so many new advertisers, I can only name about a quarter of them, and they are the ones advertising on my site since before 2006.
I am in a rather narrow nitch. It was very narrow in 2002, and still so in 2008, though there has been some modest growth, mostly scraper sites and half-hearted wannabees.
I went out the back door sometime in mid 2007, and attempted to advertise within my nitch, from my Adwords account. As a matter of fact, that was only a few days before Adsense dumped a truck load of arbitrageurs and there was major chat about it here. I never did manage to get a campaign off the ground, only today found out why.
I checked out the list of those publishers who would allow site targeting, and it was a short list. I don't remember how many, but I would guess off the top of my head, about 24 or less. Today, there is about double.
But, of that twice as many, very few of the new sites actually should be targeting my nitch. They are really not in my field. I can only guess why they are listed for my non-applicable nitch.
This means while my legit advertisers have grown, and are paying much less, my 'real' competition has not grown very much at all... maybe a handful of sites. Search results confirm this. There is not a big difference in the amount of pubishers in my nitch carving up the limited ad budgets. Of those competiting with me for my #1 keyword, there are only about a dozen of us any advertiser would consider for site targeting.
And... this lower bidding only became a problem AFTER Google decided to let advertisers cap the max bid on specific sites. Not all year long as suggested. It happened within a day that I noticed the drop. Day 3-4 I began to investigate the problem as it seemed not likely to go away.
Anyway, I have begun pulling the second ad block and replacing them with cpm from another non-contextual ad server. It will be interesting to see the results. I can only hope that it pushes advertisers into higher bids, who are intent on being seen on my site specifically.
The original thought went like this:
Or could it be that totally outside factors have combined to create a perfect storm for a portion of those here? Like real storms, there is one blowing somewhere every minute, every day, resulting in the always present mix of some who are up, and some who are down.
And that AdSense, instead of being the cause, is only the yardstick by which the outside factors are revealed.
The point being that its possible --no, make that 'highly likely' -- that some publishers are being whacked by a brew of small factors which in total have a profound effect on their earnings.
It's an observation not meant to be disrespectful to anyone. When AdSense performance goes down (or up!) I believe in looking at market/economic issues and traffic factors (serps, Google penalties, etc) before even thinking about AdSense mechanisms. It works for me, and I thought it fair to offer up in a balanced discussion that included all sides of this problem.
AS can't help but follow economic trends. Case in point: one of my niches is based on a market that's been going through a miserable slump that was caused by inflated prices and over-easy credit. (I am sure all US readers of this can easily identify what niche I am refering to.) It currently stinks as an advertising market, and there's no need to look beyond today's newspaper to understand why.
I have other niches performing just opposite of the above example --that is, increasing in earnings-- and I believe the reason is also to be found in the market trends of certain sectors.
I know these are over-simplified examples, and I don't offer them up to insult the knowledgable, capable publishers who have been involved in this discussion. But it shines a light on outside factors, and, perhaps, deserves consideration alongside the focus on AdSense mechanics.
BTW, I was starting a monthly "How was it for you?" survey. Perhaps we should keep it running in '08.
...the number of pages with AdSense ads
Anyway AdSense has been around for quite a few years now, and I doubt that the total penetration of AdSense as compared to overall eCommerce levels has changed significantly in the last year. My guess would be that any appropriate metric could only have changed 10% or at most 20% in the last 12 months. Certainly there's nothing that would have caused a short-term change since October, which is what the OP is claiming.
My guess would be that any appropriate metric could only have changed 10% or at most 20% in the last 12 months. Certainly there's nothing that would have caused a short-term change since October, which is what the OP is claiming.
That's why the "perfect storm" hypothesis makes sense unless one believes that Google has singled out certain types of publishers, content, ad-unit usage, audience demographics, or whatever for changes in ad allocation or compensation. Mind you, the second possibility is just as reasonable as the "perfect storm" scenario, but until the victims start sharing more information about their sites, we'll never even begin to know why some publishers are seeing an 80% revenue drop while others haven't been affected.
It seems to me that the arrows within an ad unit are just another (and less in-your-face) version of AdLinks.
The first time I saw this on my sites I went straight in and clicked since I want to know precisely what Google are doing on my sites. I love this feature since the ads are superior to the AdLinks I run.
Does the EPC reduce the further along it scrolls, I suspect so however I have to say that I feel possibly one of the reductions in my CTR has been the fact that my sites have been targetted and these ads are paying well yet however testing my sites the ads hardly ever changed because, I presume, this was because Google was providing me with the highest paying ads.
My AdLinks EPC is now considerbly lower than my Leaderboard yet it gets more impressions...is this visitor boredem with seeing the same ads? I know I have that attitude on sites I regularly visit, something new with good ad copy and I'm very likely to click.
This applies to only what I am seeing in the UK/Europe however my metrics also scream loudly that the EPC in my industry, assuming that metrics normally update within about 30 minutes, that USA/Canada EPCs have dropped considerably the past few months.
"Perfect storm" scenarios do occur and during Sept/Oct a lot of unusual financial circumstances were brewing especially so in the USA. I do still find it difficult to believe that it also happened on the same weekend as a maintenance update if I remember correctly!
but until the victims start sharing more information about their sites, we'll never even begin to know why some publishers are seeing an 80% revenue drop while others haven't been affected.
I feel that the affected have shared enough to know that there was a "common factor" in that we were penalised for some unknown reason with the usual denial wall of silence from Google.
Insofar as I am concerned 2008 AdSense has started much better than I expected and I have delayed the introduction of our own advertising programme to see how the rest of the month progresses.
Current total earning v 2007 are 22.17% lower however, if previous years are anything to go by, this next week usually sees a dramatic upturn in traffic and earnings, heh, that's put my neck on the line!
And to really put the "cat amongst the pigeons", a very good friend and business colleague swears that his YPN ROI is far, far superior to AdWords basically owing to much less competition in our sector!
[/ducks for cover}
Not trying to be pedantic, but the number of pages with AdSense is irrelevant. I could add a billion, or a trillion, webpages with AdSense tomorrow, if I chose to. It really comes down to the number of pageviews.
Actually, the only thing that really matters is the actual clicks on AdSense ads running on the network, relative to the demand for those clicks.
So, if there were billions, or trillions of new pages (to take your example) of new pages showing AdSense ads, those pages, even though low-traffic and low-CTR, are capable of siphoning off a significant amount of advertiser $$. Casting a wide net is an effective method of catching fish, isn't it?
I would expect this flood of new pages to contribute to a lowering of payouts to the other low-traffic publishers who haven't similarly flooded the web with new pages.
When advertiser daily budget limits are reached, the remaining ads in the system are competing against fewer advertisers, on the same number of publisher pages. Do you think Google's auction pricing system will raise or lower the per-click payout when this happens?
Do you suppose that smart pricing takes into account *only* the site on which the ad is running? I think that would be a totally naive assumption.
Google's system must ensure an adequate supply of ads to run throughout the day - or serve up PSAs or blank ads, which would alienate publishers, to be sure. So, what do you think Google's system does to system-wide pricing in order to ensure a match between supply and demand?
Regardless of other theories, the AdSense and AdWords pair form a supply (pages running ads) and demand (Advertiser budgets) system, and when supply of ad *clicks* grows relative to the demand for them, per-click payouts are likely to drop.
Taking this one step further, I'd suggest the influx of new supply would NOT evenly distribute accross all available topics (niches). Which would then impact publishers to a varying degree, depending on their niche. Some would feel the hit to the max, while others dodge the bullet... and all the in-between possibilities.
Or am I wrong?
That doesn't necessarily explain why Publisher X or Y has saw an overnight drop of 80%, though. I'd be more inclined to blame such sudden, dramatic drops on changes at Google's end--not penalties, but new policies or algorithms that are bad news for publishers who fit certain profiles. And there's way of knowing whether such changes are "glitches" (as some have suggested) or intentional.
Some topics are flooded with forums, blogs, you name it, while others--and not just obscure topics--have relatively few sites covering them. What's more, some topics probably attract more junk sites or send more non-converting referrals than others do, making advertisers leery.
EFV - if you don't mind me asking - do you feel that your sector (which I understand to be travel, right?) belongs more to the first or the second category? In other words, is there a glut of low-quality travel sites?
First, your niche's relation to popular themes. For instance, a site on Presidential campaigns or Hollywood personalities might rank as a 10, and a site about Elbonian sewer systyms would get a 1 (or maybe a 0.01).
Second, your yes/no answer regarding the "October crash": a simple 'impacted' or 'not impacted' would suffice.
Would this possibly be meaningful data, or it it frought with bad polling design?
From within Adwords, there are only double the 2006 amount of publishers' sites with my keyword, who have elected to be targeted. I think that growth within the targetable sites is indicative of my nitch in general.
The publisher and advertiser growth in my sector has not grown proportionately. I am in a 'publishers' market, where we have the advantage and my nitch is not one likely to be found within text in a peer to peer network or blog.
Because my site has only about a 25% "addict" (returning visitor) rate, I have a continued large base of new visitors, who have had no chance to become 'ad blind'.
I was looking at a particular area of my site late last night, trying to work through this problem the OP and I both have. The area targets a specific foreign market. During a site expansion, I added the major section to my site, as a result of a then recent huge traffic plunge after a Google dance, trying to offset losses. It has taken a while to get rooted in the engines and gain a following.
That section, because of the information I needed to get on the page, and the way it needed to be designed, was not possible to put up any of my standard ad unit sizes. I had really no choice but to use the 728x90 format, which I have always hated. If not at the top of the page, right across the entire page, it does not perform well.
But, in this particular case it performns very well at the top of the page, and with blending it was not overly obnoxious. My point is, while looking at it, I was thinking that I had not seen the scroll bar in that type ad unit, and that perhaps Google was not using that format for serving their 20 ads. As much as I hate the format, I may consider using it in some other areas of the site. My ctr is a decent single digit on the section, and the average click is .25, with highs over $1, even lately. But... this is targeting a foreign market, and has advertisers from that nation.
Now, when I first launched that area of the site, for the first year I would say, it was penny click hell. If I got a click for a nickle I was thrilled. Still, it added up, but I pretty much just put it on the backburner for checking income stats, it was so insignificant. In looking last night, I see the average is now $.25, with highs over a dollar. It is now comprising several hundred dollars of my revenue from that site, all on that 728x90 ad unit. It was a seed planted, that took a long time to grow, but grow it has.
The foreign advertisers from that nation, or targeting that nation have upped the ante significantly, while the cornerstone American advertisers I had to come to depend on are bidding lower, beating me down with their bids with maximum bid site targeting. As I said before, had my revenue not plunged with a day of them offering that feature, I might not be so inclined to say this is the key factor.
This other nation doing so well on my site, could be a combination of factors though, including national economics. Other factors might be there is only one ad block on the page, none with a scroll bar, none with the option to 'view more ads', it is the only ad block on my site that is that high on the page, and the only one that stretches across the entire page.
So, I continue to pull second ad blocks, replace with cpm image ads, and see if this helps push up the bids and lessen the cheap choices.
As a footnote, when I first started with Adsense, I used the maximum three ad blocks on the pages with one 300x250 and two sky scrapers with the addition of two search boxes, one top and one bottom. I tested this for a few months, then withdrew the third ad block and the second search box at the bottom of the page. That seemed to help at that particular time in Adsense history. Maybe reducing to one ad block now, will have the same effect. No word today on the test area, Adsense stats are down.
EFV - if you don't mind me asking - do you feel that your sector (which I understand to be travel, right?) belongs more to the first or the second category? In other words, is there a glut of low-quality travel sites?
I don't think there's a simple answer to that question, because it depends on the specific topic. But don't forget that "quality," in the context of AdSense referrals, has as a lot to do with audience and why readers or users are on the site. A site of questionable editorial quality might still be valuable to advertisers if the average reader is researching how to spend money on a trip or widget. (Remember Google's examples of "a page of photo tips" vs. "a camera-review page" when Smart Pricing was introduced in 2004?)
FWIW, I was reading an analysis of the U.S. economy on a major, influential newspaper site last night and saw a Google ad for horoscopes. That's a good example of a topic where AdSense probably doesn't work very well, and where clicks aren't likely to be of top quality. (The same ad on a horoscope or fortune-telling site would have reached a much better-targeted audience.)
FWIW, I was reading an analysis of the U.S. economy on a major, influential newspaper site last night and saw a Google ad for horoscopes.
ROFL...classic...you'd probably get just the same forecast!
My guess is that the sites I have benefit from the fact that I have made a physical exertion and expended money to come up with the research on those pages. The high earning sites I have are not niche. What they have though is lots of pictures and hints / tips that prove I was there or actually did what I'm talking about. With many other sites on the same subjects, it's hard to judge if the writer actually did / does what is being written about.
So what is the relevance of the above paragraph to ecpm? I believe the viewers on my sites are "in depth" interested in the subject of the sites, not just passing half-interested. Possibly this makes them more likely to click on text ads. They are more interested in the subject and because the site has proof that the author has really "been there and done that" they believe the ads may be of value.
One other attribute of the high earning sites I have is a unique (or uncommon) feature that is truly useful to the reader. This reinforces the thoughts expressed in the above two paragraphs.
Ad blindness is kicking in, volume is no longer the key. Content is no longer the "be all and end all". Readers need to believe in the author of the content. So much of the content on the net is scraped or just superficial. Easily assimilated proof of expertise is needed nowadays to increase the liklehood of users clicking on ads.