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Prediction: May 2014 will be the worst month of all time

   
9:38 pm on May 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So, it appears as though AdSense has permanently replaced the smaller circle arrow in the text ads with the much larger square version. I've seen it consistently across all devices and I don't think I ever saw it before on smartphones. This will have huge negative consequences for publishers that are opted into text ads. I'm already seeing a huge CTR drop as a result.

Unless AdSense changes this "switch" I predict it will be every publishers worst CTR month ever, and as a result, your worst month as a publisher adjust for traffic.

Google - unbelievable.
5:37 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Give me back underlined hyperlinks! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!


If the underlined links had been working, or had been working as well as they used to work, then they would have kept them and not ventured into the arrows.
6:34 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Sally Stitts

Why don't you leave your politics out of this forum?
6:53 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Don't hurt my bottom line too much Google or I will give up some of your ad placements to competitors that don't force big ugly CTR destroying squares on their text units.


Or maybe I'll just get fed up and switch 80% of my AdSense ad impressions to affiliate links. (In fact, I just did, because our RPM from affiliate links is so much higher than AdSense revenue these days. As a bonus, the affiliate links are well-targeted and add value for our readers.)
8:12 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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And just to screw with me (and probably others as well) some more, in the same browser (Firefox) on the same day, the arrows on a single ad slot have gone from square to round and are now back to square again. WTF Google. Make up your mind! Can't tell if they're AB testing or what but I turned Enhancements back on just yesterday and the games are worse than ever. What a mess! Beginning to wonder if this is some corporate attempt to market Attention Deficit Disorder.
9:09 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)



CPC has recovered today.

Shame if they go back to those arrows. Shame. I hate those things. So ugly. The squares are awesome.
9:15 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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



I still have no arrows.

Means what?
9:56 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Do you have the Enhanced Text ads switched on?

Regards...jmcc
10:16 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)



This morning I had round arrows, afternoon they went back to square arrows.
10:24 pm on May 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Do you have the Enhanced Text ads switched on?


No. But I don't recall if that was a setting I changed last week or not.

I turned Enhanced Text Ads back on, we'll see if the arrows come back.

[ADDED: That did it, the arrows are back.
I didn't realize they were part of the "Enhanced Text Ads" setting.
2:57 am on May 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This morning I had round arrows, afternoon they went back to square arrows.

Ditto here, I didn't touch a thing.
8:23 pm on May 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Friday , Sunday s*itty CPM :(
9:53 pm on May 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I turned off enhanced text ads, social ads and interest ads and my earnings tanked really bad
10:28 pm on May 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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square arrows, round arrows...

tomorrow it will be triangular arrows! doh!

having seen the ads, it seems that CTRs may have dropped as they look cheap and tacky and too obviously ads, whereas people perhaps before thought the links were more informational and part of the content - often clicked by mistake?
12:21 am on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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having seen the ads, it seems that CTRs may have dropped as they look cheap and tacky and too obviously ads, whereas people perhaps before thought the links were more informational and part of the content - often clicked by mistake?


I've been saying something like this since the new ads came out. If your strategy in the past was to generate accidental clicks, these ads are designed to thwart your strategy. Same goes if it wasn't your strategy but you benefited from accidental clicks because the ads looked more like content.

Now, having said that, I am firmly convinced that these new units actually work better if you emphasize their different-ness rather than try and hide it. I've found that giving them visual impact is effective. The size of the titles and the arrow already do that so I just take it farther and use color to give them even more separation from the design while still working with my color scheme in some way (see color theory 101). Bottom line is that while hiding or disguising these ads may work for some, letting them stand out for what they are is a far more productive strategy (from my perspective). They're designed to look different than content so that's what I'm working on taking advantage of and it IS effective. Your results may vary, of course.
3:38 am on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think that the revenue/CTR/CTC issues have something to do with the clickfraud problems we just went through combined with Google preferring to send ads to their own pages first priority and Adsense farther down the list. Google can control clickfraud issues on their own pages and may be under the gun when it comes to Advertisers demanding more protections from fraud.

This would correspond with Googles earnings reports in which Adsense revenue has little growth (and often shrinks quarter-over-quarter) while revenue from "owned" sites shows constant revenue growth.

WDR

Craig
12:12 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@WDR -- I don't doubt that G puts more effort into ad relevance on it's own pages than ours and has better tools for doing so. They're getting more impressions than any single publisher just because of their size so it follows that they're getting the lion's share of the best impressions. They can format ads any way they want on their pages and have collared us with very specific formats that are difficult to make look natural on our sites. Click fraud has always been a problem but I'm pretty sure they have to deal with it the same way whether it occurs on our pages or theirs. In fact, I doubt they block AWS the way we do. Maybe they do but I doubt it. Their algorithms deal with click fraud after it happens it seems which makes sense to me. I wonder what the actual ad impression count is e.g. number of ads served on Google pages vs number of ads served on all publisher pages. I wouldn't surprise me if G has the lion's share of impressions generated from the entire system and if that's the case, why wouldn't they have the lion's share of revenue? I'm beginning to wonder if comparing owned site revenue to Adsense is really a fair comparison. I'm not a follower of G's revenue reports so I guess the question would be, is Adsense really shrinking or is G just getting better at making money on it's own sites, causing a larger and larger disparity between the two revenue streams. I guess both could be true as well.
12:38 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Again, you need to take the advertisers into account. An advertiser decides if her advertising shows up search pages, in the Display Network, or both. An advertiser in the Display Network can choose which sites she wants to advertise on, and block sites where (for whatever reason) she doesn't want to advertise on. She can pay more for search ads, and less for mobile. Or she can just advertise on search and not on Display at all (frankly, since my clients are all B2B at the moment, I'm not running any Display Network ads at all, because they don't work as well for us)

It's not *all* on Google. The formatting, yes. The placements - no.
2:07 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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netmeg's points are very important to understand. I don't think you can/should compare Google search ads to the ads on publisher pages via the Display network. Very different advertiser pool since MANY advertisers opt out of the display network. As a publisher, I'd love it if Adwords required advertisers to be opted into the display network, but as an advertiser that would be a nightmare.

I don't know what % of Adsense clicks ARE intentional, but I have to imagine it's actually pretty low. Most people I know don't MEAN to click on display ads.
2:32 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So what explains the poor revenue growth on "member" sites and the decent qtr-over-qtr growth of Google's "owned" sites? Is this a result of advertisers deliberately choosing not to publish on Adsense?

BTW: my CTC yesterday was in the toilet while my CTR was pretty normal. Revenue, as a result, was laughable.

WDR
3:28 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't know what you mean by member sites.

Many advertisers choose not to advertise on Display - for one thing, Google hasn't exactly done a great job touting the benefits of Display. Usually when they promote, they're promoting the Search Network.

Originally, when a new advertiser started a new account with a new compaign, search and display networks were both turned on by default in the same campaign. For those of us who do this for a living, that was a huge problem, because you bid Search *vastly differently* than you bid Display, and most end users didn't realize that, causing them to blow through a ton of money on Display without anything to show for it. After a month or two of that, they were more likely to turn Display off entirely (or else find someone like me to set it up properly) Because left alone, Google will always stack the deck for Google.

Nowadays, Google has rebranded that as "Search Network with Display Select" but I for one can't tell the difference. There is no scenario I can think of where Search and Display should be included in the same campaigns or bid the same way, and most AdWords Professionals (if they really are professional) are going to agree with me. Lots of small businesses can't afford us to run their campaigns though (I charge an ungodly amount per hour myself)

And even if an advertiser does run ads in the display network, all he has to do is take deeper dive and run across a dozen or so MFA crap AdSense sites before he believes the entire network is poisoned and pull all his money out. (That's what I did with the Yahoo network years ago)

(I'm not sure what you mean by "CTC" - in AdWords, that's click-to-call)

Over and over I keep saying the same thing - you can't really understand how AdSense works, the whole ebb and flow, unless you have a solid understanding of AdWords too. They are two sides to the same coin.
4:14 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)



Good info netmeg

I imagine Google would rather advertisers use the Search Network because they keep 100% of the revenue, no sharing with publishers.
4:17 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There are no entries for "adsense" or "adwords" in Google's financial statements. You have to do a bit of interpretation. Here is a link: [investor.google.com...]

Adsense is represented in "member networks" which is us. Notice that growth is 4% while growth in advertising as a whole is 17%. That says to me that 13% of the growth in Google's advertising revenue is not coming from Adsense.

This is corroborated by other analyses of Google's financials.

Google is changing the ball game. We just don't know what the new rules are.

I meant CPC; typo. It's early here.

WDR
4:45 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google hasn't exactly done a great job touting the benefits of Display. Usually when they promote, they're promoting the Search Network.


I agree except that a couple of week's ago, I had a consult with Adwords rep and he emphasized the new Search and Display Select network (I, too, am also an advertiser).

Nowadays, Google has rebranded that as "Search Network with Display Select" but I for one can't tell the difference.


The new Search and Display Select network is supposed to be more intuitive or some such thing.

I imagine Google would rather advertisers use the Search Network because they keep 100% of the revenue, no sharing with publishers.


True, but the Display network, which is us, gives them much more reach than just search ever could.
8:48 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Sally Stitts - Adsense earnings aside, what have you done about the fact that 50% of your website traffic has disappeared?
9:38 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I stopped advertising on Adsense Display Network years ago and every time I retry it, the cost per conversions is so high I stop again.

However, now that the ads are more obviously ads, it may be time to try again. CTRs may not be high, but conversions should improve.

Perhaps this is the reason behind Google's changes - to help the advertisers. Of course, this comes at the expense of the publishers in the short-term, but in the long-term may prove beneficial to both parties if it brings advertisers back to the platform.
9:41 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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the Display network, which is us, gives them much more reach than just search ever could.


Exactly. We aren't competing with ads on Google's SERPs, we're giving Google a second crack at searchers who have already left the search results without clicking on ads.
11:00 pm on May 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The main reason that Adwords earnings still continue to increase while AdSense decrease is pretty simple.

1. Google is not giving as much visibility to smaller, independent publishers in their organic results section compared to 5-10 years ago. That is a fact. Big brands and sites like Facebook/other social media sites dominate the biggest searches.

2. Google is purposefully "steering" users away from long tail searches. Long tail searches have historically been where smaller publishers have received good traffic from Google. For years now, Google's focus has been on getting searchers to just type on bigger broader search queries. Why do they do this? Well for one, if the user clicks on a paid ad they make more money. So "steering" user to more expensive clicks is a HUGE strategy by Google.

That's pretty much it. Long tail traffic is way down and THAT'S where the majority of us make our money. Traffic from 3-4 word queries has been on the decline for years. The outlook is challenging at best for AdSense publishers.
12:06 am on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I wonder if the giant click take-backs of March wasn't Google dialing in their ability to recognize invalid clicks better and thus move smaller publishers back into a higher position in Google's revenue picture.

In fact, the mere fact that AWS played such a big part in that little drama makes me wonder whether it wasn't Google's new acquisition behind some of it. Just speculating more-or-less out loud here but I had a client that with a project that we tried AWS on (it just ended) and it would be dead simple to create a click-bot on it. Since they know which bots are theirs they can determine whether the new systems are catching them. It's strange that all the bots from AWS stopped once a few of us caught on and started to block them. Not everyone blocked them but the AWS bots stopped for the ones who didn't block them. too.

WDR
1:39 am on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I can't really help myself from saying this, but to suggest the new ad look or the lack of click/revenue that most of us are experiencing is part of the reason for it? To suggest an ugly ad that sticks out like an ad means better conversion for advertisers because people clicking really want to click an ad for that product/service? I find this thought infuriating and asinine all at the same time. So Google would be thus telling advertisers since day one that they have been getting ripped off all those years because the ad format was tricking people into clicking. Interesting to hear that as part of their logic. Search ads have been blending in pretty damn nicely with that off color that wasn't really an off color. That was for quite a while too. Ugly ads that aren't making me money and detract from my website? Those aren't going to last long and will be replaced by something or someone else. To suggest these ads are being used because they reduce accidental clicks is a farce. Why not just make it so that if a person who clicks the ad doesn't buy an item then they don't have to pay me the publisher anything? Ah, that would be ideal for the advertiser and wouldn't they just flock to the ad system then.
2:58 am on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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make it so that if a person who clicks the ad doesn't buy an item then they don't have to pay me the publisher anything


There are any number of programs that work this way but we're talking PPC here. Here's a stone-cold fact. The number of PPC programs that have come and gone since the inception of the World Wide Wed is quite substantial. By the time Adsense was born, the idea was almost dead in the water and pretty much every PPC program that had failed to that point, failed because of fraud and an ability to effectively combat it. Google brought the whole idea back to life IMHO and made a lot of people a lot of money in the process. I don't see anything they do to keep the system alive while protecting their own interests at the same time to be out of bounds. I'm amazed that the system has survived this long given the never-ending assault on it's very foundations.

To this day publishers are trying to hide the fact that an ad is an ad and maneuver visitors into clicking before they think. I could post a litany of current sites here doing exactly that and getting away with it apparently. I've seen them change the design of their site to keep tricking people (things like increasing the size of fonts so the ads and the content look as similar as possible). This is deliberate and it's the model many have structured their business on.

To suggest these ads are being used because they reduce accidental clicks is a farce.


They appear to be reducing clicks in general (which would include accidental clicks) so where's the farce?
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