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Does Google Adsense Throttle Publisher Earnings?



4:45 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've seen previous threads about this but no clear answer.

This is a specific example and I'm looking for feedback or an expert opinion:

Our directory website receives over 100,000 unique visitors per month and hundreds of thousands of page views.

Adsense has been in place for over five years.

When Adsense was the only ad rotator on the page, daily revenue averaged $200 per day with very little variation.

Two years ago, we implemented direct advertisers. We started by providing only 20% of the total page impressions to direct advertisers through our own ad rotator.

Google Adsense revenue remained virtually identical.

As we continued to add direct campaigns, we lowered the total page impressions for Adsense. Down as low as 10% for some months.

Adsense Revenue declined about 10%. Not 90% as logic would dictate.

We tested the opposite scenario:

Running Adsense at 10%, we doubled rotation to 20% - with only a slight spike, Adsense revenue remained virtually the same.

Running at 10%, we went wide open again for two weeks, running Adsense again at 100%. We would expect to see 10 times earnings if there was not some form of throttling or a fixed maximum revenue threshold set for the site. The result?

Daily earnings remained virtually the same.

The big question is, doesn't this seem like direct evidence of earnings throttling? If we earn a consistent dollar amount on 10% of the traffic, what happens to the other 90% of the impressions when we display Adsense?

Anyone else with a similar experience, would be interested to hear your perspective, and are there any ways to overcome this apparent revenue cap?


4:57 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

I don't believe there's a cap; I've more than doubled my earnings every year since 2005 (I realize that this is not everyone's experience, but if you can use one example to possibly prove something, I can use one example to possibly disprove it)

You could be distracting your users with your direct ads. Your users could be moving towards a demographic that doesn't click on ads as much. Your advertiser mix may have changed, or what they bid may have changed. Competition may change (yours and your advertisers') You may be serving more mobile users, and in many niches, they don't click on ads as much. Your traffic may be coming from places that typically get smart priced. You may be running into ad blindness, or more users using ad blockers in their browsers.

Sure, anything's possible, and maybe Google is throttling you. But why would they do that? The more you make, the more they make. And if it got out (and eventually it would get out - an ex employee would blab, or a government investigation would find it, or some other way) it would be horrible PR for Google and make them look stupid, and one thing Google doesn't like is to look stupid.

In short, there are a TON of things I would look at before I'd jump to Google deliberately throttling my earnings.


5:36 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't/can't believe that google would risk billions dollars worth company;s name.

YET, so many publishers (including me) reporting a huge revenue drop, yet google is reporting their record revenue - over 40 billions.

something doesn't add up.

sorry for my english.


6:11 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

reporting a huge revenue drop, yet google is reporting their record revenue

How does that not add up? Less money for publishers, more money for google. In fact, it adds up perfectly :)

I see throttling too. The thing is that no matter how my traffic jumps up or down somehow I earn the same amount. My traffic goes up, RPM goes down, so that I don't see any difference in earnings. If this is not called throttling then what is?


6:31 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)


Thanks for your reply, but you are missing entire point of the post.

When Adsense was reduced from 100% of the ad rotation to only 10% of the ad rotation, revenue stayed the same. It did not decrease at all.

When it is set back to 100% ( i.e. there are no 'distractions' ) revenue stays the same.

Site traffic has been increasing year to year consistently.

The important point here is that f I deliver 10,000 impressions in a day, revenue is the exact same as 100,000 impressions. We're talking one day to the next, not over a few months.

I can set Adsense to 100%, deliver 10 times the impressions, let it run that way for two weeks, doesn't matter. Same average daily revenue cap.

I know the traffic is valid, because we keep exit click reports on our direct ad campaigns and the rate is similar to what Google reports and conversion from our advertisers are excellent ( 14% from click to sale ).

Given those numbers, there's really nothing else to be looked at. My guess is that Google caps the ad revenue for a site so that they have enough ads to display on all sites.

There's nothing illegal about throttling ads, so there would never be a government investigation as you suggest.

I'm trying to see if anyone else has done a similar test on their site and sees the same thing, and if there's any way to break through a cap like this.


6:35 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Sure, anything's possible, and maybe Google is throttling you. But why would they do that? The more you make, the more they make.

I forgot to address this - yes, they make the exact same thing regardless of where the ads are displayed. Whether it's my site or someone elses, they still earn the same revenue.

If they do not have enoug ad inventory to run on all their Adsense publishers, a revenue cap makes perfect business sense. You don't want to 'run out of ads' and have new publishers displaying nothing but Google's own service ads or blank space.


7:57 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

They have enough ad inventory to run on their publisher network. They may not have enough relevant inventory to run on some individual sites.

I don't know anyone (other than maybe the Black Friday people) who have spikier traffic than I do - on one site I can go from a thousand pageviews a day to well over a million a day - and believe me, my revenue changes accordingly.

But - if you want to believe you're being throttled, then believe it.


9:12 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)


It's not a matter of belief. What I'm pointing out is that my traffic is consistent - the only thing that changes is how many impressions I use to deliver Adsense ads vs direct advertisers.

If the revenue spiked accordingly, it wouldn't be a problem. But given the numbers, the only thing consistent is the average daily revenue from Google, regardless of the traffic spike.

I have associates with sites where they see exactly what you refer to - when the traffic spikes, so does the Adsense revenue. But they are not on the traffic or revenue range as the site I'm writing about.

What's your daily average page views to your site according to your reporting?

I'm not trying to get into a debate about whether this is or is not throttling, I'm trying to understand exactly why this measurable disconnect between impressions and revenue is occurring, and if at certain revenue thresholds there's a cap - and if so, is there a way to break through that cap.


9:19 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I do believe there is a short term cap to prevent spikes, and to break through it you have to keep increasing the numbers.


9:19 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

it might be that G prefers to show the best paying, most relevant ads.

maybe when you reduce the ad impressions, G decides to NOT show the lower paying, less click-attractive, less relevant ads.

did the epc change much? did the number of clicks change much?


9:24 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

did the epc change much? did the number of clicks change much?

Nope, that's the part that's really odd, and what makes me wonder about a revenue cap and/or throttling.

When we open the gates from 10% to 100% of traffic, the total number of page views and ads served stays consistent. The EPC and CPC remains virtually the same, as does page RPM.

Since the rotation is random, the sampling impression that Google receives ( spiders vs real human traffic, etc ) is the same whether they are getting 10% of 100% of the page impressions.


11:21 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Personally I think if you can get 100% Revenue by showing 10% of ads you should be thrilled. I can understand wanting an explanation but I don't think you'll get a logical one. That means you can free up the other 90% of inventory to either sell direct, which it sounds like you are, or not at all giving your viewers an ad free experience. As for my sites, when I remove ads revenue decreases. When traffic goes up so does revenue, unless the traffic is from certain social sharing sites.


1:09 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Personally I think if you can get 100% Revenue by showing 10% of ads you should be thrilled.

I'd be much more thrilled if I could instead get 10 times my usual daily revenue without having to deal with direct advertisers.

If I generate $200 a day at 10%, it would suggest I would generate $2000 a day by providing Google with 100% of my traffic. What happens to the 90% of the traffic when I do that? Do they just see public service ads because Google doesn't have enough ads, or are they capping the rotation and throttling the earnings?

I agree with your point, and yes, I've managed to increas revenue substantially by selling space to third party advertisers, but the point of my post is - what's going on with Google, and is there some form of revenue throttling or a revenue ceiling set on certain sites?

It goes against everything I understand about the Adsense program - and don't get me wrong. I love Google. I built my revenue model based on Adsense, when initially I was just providing content for free as a public resource. Google used to send me awesome Christmas gifts - digital photo frames, mini-accessory kits with USB keys, wireless mouse, etc. ( Do they still do that anymore?)

Is there a workaround for this situation? Because as far as I can tell, nothing else explains the metrics I've described here except a rev cap or throttling.


1:25 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

what's going on with Google

Why not ask them via email support? Who knows, maybe something is broken in regards to your site and they just aren't aware of it? And if email doesn't work and it's really bothering you go to an AdSense in Your City (Learn With AdSense?) meeting and ask them in person. Those are the only two options I can think of.


9:12 am on Mar 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

You don't really go into what you mean by 10% - 20% vs 100% of page impressions. If you mean you only have one ad per page in all those cases, this may mean that you have exhausted all of the ad revenue from your niche advertisers. If you have more than one ad per page and you removed all but one from the page, this could be quite natural as well as the top paying ones are supposedly always in the first ad located on the page.

On a related topic, I've recently been in a (I think) relatively rare situation to compare Adsense revenue on search engine traffic from G vs. that from B/Y and have noticed a major difference in PPC on ads served to visitors who arrived via B/Y vs G traffic. Could it be possible that B/Y people click on cheaper ads, or is G detecting where they are coming from and "smart charging" advertisers less for visitors coming from B/Y?

P.S. I'm with you, I still have my digital photo frame, although the wireless accessories pack broke soon after arrival.


12:38 pm on Mar 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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When you increase the Adsense impressions, do the number of clicks increase also?


5:36 pm on Mar 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

August you nailed it with that explanation point by point. The Adsense limit was discussed before with similar testimonials. I know some users report increased earnings... some of us notice on several threads the joke "I know where my clicks are going now", sure it's a joke but it seems when some win some loose.

I know the fact that if some increase their earnings INVALIDATES the theory of reduced earnings elsewhere but it's not just like that, it could be like a rotation of earnings consequence of diff factors.

My situation:

- Traffic goes higher each year
- Earnings grow just a bit (not proportional) that's understandable

BUT... big efforts on posting more fresh and new content impact the earnings, sure, it works, but after a few days (a week?) that temporary increase goes down to the SAME AVERAGE. So, it doesn't matter how much the traffic goes up, the earnings won't grow except for less than a week.

The quality of traffic matters. For the last 2 years the algo updates caused a huge increase of traffic but the earnings went down. I didn't complain because I was waiting, then the algo was updated (penguin) and many complained, I just got back to the previous normal steady earnings. But then, traffic went slightly up but earnings went down, and been down.

Disagree all you want to, we are (at least I'm not) trying to reverse engineer any algo update, I'm just saying that as others, any big attempt of increasing traffic with useful, fresh and original content has very little impact on earnings (increasing them) and just works for about 1 week and then traffic stays up but earnings go down again. My earnings were solidly steady for the years with Adsense until 2012..... unstable and then kinda normal but 2013 it's just crazy.

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