Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.166.74.48

Forum Moderators: incrediBILL & martinibuster

Spam ads, is Adsense doing enough to stop them

Spam ads bad for publishers, bad for advertisers

     
4:34 pm on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


Lately I have been spending about an hour each day going through the ad review-center to block spammy ads. Out of the total number of ad impression these ads account for only a small percentage (less than 1%), but I feel they have a huge negative impact when they do appear. Basically, they project a very negative image on my website and brand, they also take up space where a legitimate ad could appear and earn me clicks.

Every time I do my review I get peeved, because I am basically blocking the same ads over and over again. There are two main spam ad templates that I am currently battling.
1- Unflattering image of some celebrity, with click bait text such as "Celeb X fired you wont believe why?" or sketchy image of a person with a luxury car with the text "Homeless buy car find out how?"

2- Typically text ads, but not always, with text such as "Pending Alert, tap now to read" or "3 People Unfriended You, tap to learn more", or the worst in terms brand damage "1 Error 97.7% critical".

For each ad I block the ad, block the adwords account, block the to level domain of the url and file a policy violation report with ad-words. But still these ads come back, same images same ad text, text some times vary in language (eg: German, French, Swedish, Russian), different urls, different adwords account, different domains.

This has been ongoing since years, and I feel powerless to stop it.

Does anybody else share my concern?

Clearly the steps I have been taken are in effective, they may minimize the problem but its not enough. What else can be done?

I have considered setting up a DFP account, to set a floor for showing adsense ads, when a price is under some certain value I would advertise my own content or my other site (in a not related niche). But that essentially means that I will be paying Google to stop showing spam, pushing up the cost of legitimate advertisers, and there is no way of knowing what impact this would have on the bottom line. This could essentially cost me more than what I am earning.

What can be done?

Advertiser are also paying the price for these spam ads.
Legitimate advertisers are forced to out bid the spammers, thus increasing their cost.

Is Adsense doing enough to stop this?

Publishers are paying the price, advertisers are paying the price, only Adsense and spammers are reaping the rewards.
8:46 pm on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


I also spend easily half an hour each morning, blocking ads / advertisers which I feel are "bad". Those you mentioned, as well as all the ads for the thousands of Mindspark's toolbars, and PDF converters. And they keep coming back, form different accounts, over and over. I don't know the policy of Ad word, but it doesn't seem right.

Now, may be I am wrong blocking these advertisers, and may be I should just let Google serves what it feels is the best. May be I am loosing incomes.
3:18 am on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

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

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:7741
votes: 262


Every time I do my review I get peeved, because I am basically blocking the same ads over and over again.
Block the URLs:
10:58 am on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


As for URLs, these advertisers also keeps changing them. I am facing the same issue as NickMNS.
2:04 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:3102
votes: 119


I would think that after a few thousand webmasters block ads from"docpdfconverterz.tld" etc. download ads that someone at AdSense could talk to someone at AdWords, but no0Oo0oOo.
2:26 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

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

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:7741
votes: 262


I agree that the click-bait type ads can devalue a site's rep. I see those ads at NY Times and other reputable company sites and I always think they make the page less valuable.

I have a site that has a 70% male audience but I keep getting ads for women's clothing. Remarkably, these ads are making money. I hate them and think my pages look silly with all the dresses, purses & high heel shoes, but someone is clicking on them.

As for the PDF software, it works at my site because I offer PDF downloads site wide.

I don't block any companies or URLs but I do block the political and religious categories.

Point being, there are probably a lot of publishers that like the spammy ads. They certainly are all over the web. But if enough people complain and block specific companies & URLs I think Google will take some type of action.
3:01 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:3102
votes: 119


Just a note about the download ads - I do not block legitimate software trial downloads ads, only the ones that have "remove xyz" serps that show reputable domains (like norton, avg, microsoft) offering information on how to get rid of the stuff. ;)
4:39 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


@keyplyr
Block the URLs:

I don't think you get the extent of the problem. As I mentioned in the OP I block the urls, I block the ad-words accounts and when appropriate I file an Ad-Words Policy Violation report. Here is the result:
[imgur.com...]

What you can see in the attached screen cap is three almost identical ads, but each ad leads to a unique url and comes from a unique ad-words account. As you see all three ads are blocked, all three top level domains are blocked, and all three Adwords accounts are blocked. But the next time I will go into the ad-review center I will find a fourth iteration of the ad. With a new url and Adwords account. So effectively these ads are un-blockable.

So I am essentially powerless to stop this, and Adsense does nothing about it.

So the question is what can be done?
5:02 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


And now only a few minutes after posting the above, and getting to my ad review for the day, I find another iteration of the exact same ad from the url h..lthbea..ty90214 instead of 90217 as shown in the image.

Another point I would like to raise is that Adsense has at least two tools that should facilitate the weeding out of this crud: "predicted block" and "similar items". But they don't work on these ads.

"Predicted Block" seems to randomly select ads to block, last week it was predicting that I should block an ad from Google and often predicts that I should block my ads from my best advertisers, It has never once predicted that the spam should be blocked?

As for the similar items, it seems not to work based on similarity but on strict equality, that is ads for the identical URL and from the same account. So again, completely useless.
5:12 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

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

joined:Dec 30, 2006
posts:3226
votes: 9


I know how you all feel. I've been playing whack-a-mole with them too. It's either the pdf converters, This will shock you, Top 10 this that and the other, some celeb news, ugly photos telling you how to make your skin tight etc etc etc.
5:26 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:3102
votes: 119


@NickMNS - Are you getting good results from other ads in the same category? How much loss can you expect by disabling the category(s)?
5:56 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


I don't think that results will be measurable in a direct sense. These ads account for a very small portion of total impressions. In my niche there are a lot of spammy sites and differentiating my site from the spammy sites is key to being successful. Ads appearing on the site are a factor. So the strategy is that users must view my site trust and confidence and hopefully link and share the content, thus driving more users.
6:22 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:3102
votes: 119


I would turn off the categories the offending ads are coming from in that case. I currently block several categories for the same reasons. I have seen sites where those ads fit right in, and I'm sure they can earn nicely but I don't want them.
6:36 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


not2easy the problem is that these ads do not fall into a specific category, the same ads span multiple categories. So then I am blocking a multiple categories, blocking a large number of desirable ads, in the hopes of weeding out few bad ones.
6:42 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


I don't know how ads are sorted into categories, but the Mindspark's toolbars ads seem to appear anywhere. At first, I blocked the category "downloadable" , thinking these ads belong to it, (since it's downloading a toolbar), but even with the category blocked, these ads are still listed from other categories.
6:49 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


These spammers are not playing fair, they know how to scam the system.
6:58 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:13531
votes: 403


I have a site that has a 70% male audience but I keep getting ads for women's clothing. Remarkably, these ads are making money. I hate them and think my pages look silly with all the dresses, purses & high heel shoes, but someone is clicking on them.

This is just a wild conjecture, mind you, but is it possible that some of your male readers are personally acquainted with, and/or related to, a woman?
9:56 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

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

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:7741
votes: 262


Lucy - how many men even know their GF/wife/mother/sister's dress or shoe size?

(rhetorical)
10:09 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


Men are clicking on clothing ads, because they expect to see sexy things...
10:44 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

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

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:7741
votes: 262


[keyplyr] I don't think you get the extent of the problem
I do now, after reading the posts. I just haven't seen it (yet)

These spammers are not playing fair, they know how to scam the system.
I agree it must be frustrating and hopefully Google will fix it soon.
2:21 pm on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

Junior Member from GB 

10+ Year Member

joined:May 24, 2006
posts: 73
votes: 4


I've been fighting those spam ads - particularly the pdf converter ads - for YEARS, and I complain about them to Adsense whenever I get a chance.

There used to be a way to "hold" new ads for 24 hours in the Ad Review Centre, giving you time to approve ads before they went live. That facility vanished about a year ago (I think). I commented on the disappearance here but no-one replied and I felt rather foolish. Without that facility, it is a losing battle.

@keyplyr, I too have pdf downloads throughout my site. But over the years I have had some really sad/angry emails from people who accidentally clicked on the ad rather than my legitimate download link and had to pay a professional to get the awful toolbars/malware off their computer as a result. I don't want to be thought to be condoning that, because I really don't. So I fight to keep those ads off my website.

Lately I've been playing a little game in the Ad Review Centre - seeing if I can click through 10 pages of ads without finding one that needs to be blocked. I have never succeeded.

My conclusions:

1. There are enough webmasters out there who don't care
2. The ads make significant money for Adsense, and therefore are not going to be stopped
6:41 pm on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


That facility vanished about a year ago (I think).

I didn't even know it existed!

1. There are enough webmasters out there who don't care

I hope that that is not the case. One thing, I find is that many Webmasters believe that restricting ads will lower revenue, while that may be true on the surface. Filling your website with spammy ads will certainly have a negative impact on the users perception of trust, this in turn will also make legitimate advertisers less likely to seek your website out to place their ads.
9:36 pm on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


I suspect that, the reasons of so many adwords account, popping all the times, with these ads, is because this advertiser might have affiliate program, so affiliate are creating adwords ads for it.
1:34 am on Dec 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from AU 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 22, 2003
posts:2124
votes: 121


And the Giant Elephant in the room - that's the big one who has been there for as long as I can remember?

The user who actually clicks on those ads.

Proving yet once again all over the old marketing maxim...

"Nobody ever went broke in under estimating the intelligence of the consumer"

There must be big $$$$ one way or another with these scammy ads - I often wonder how many of these dopey "users" finish up as unwitting Trojan Bots at some future date?

What can AdSense do about it? Well they must be certainly aware of it. Are they simply powerless, overwhelmed? I dunno.

The fact that these scummy ads appear across so many prominent, hugely trafficked sites is a serious concern - because if they can't do anything about it, then we mere mortals have no hope at all in protecting our sites.
10:53 am on Dec 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:348
votes: 49


I guess Google has an interest in allowing these ads. They certainly bring good money. Otherwise, it doesn't seem very hard to detect them automatically, considering they use the same image , with the big green download button . Google has the tool to detect similar images, and so on. So, when you have plenty of different adwords accounts, using the same images, this should trigger a "spam" alert. So, Google is fine with this, otherwise he could easily detect and block them.

Remember, some years ago, Google removed tons of advertisers, which were considered providing misleading or deceptive ads, this was a big-big purge. So Google can do it, IF it wants.
1:41 pm on Dec 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


@Dimitri this is my point exactly. Google seems to have no interest and no incentive to purge the spam. The issues is the publishers and advertisers are paying the price.

@IanCP, sure users click on those ads, but those clicks must come from two sources, 1- accidental clicks, 2- a very small subset of the population. Spam is a numbers game, these ads must be getting tens of millions of impressions a day. The CTR for these ads must be in fractions of a percent. But on millions of impressions this adds up to substantial inbound traffic. I assume that the spammers are bottom fishing, that is bidding extremely low in the auction and picking up any residual space that would otherwise go unfilled so I would imagine that their cost to acquire customers must be very low. So the key to their success is to have diversity of ads spread over many websites, possibly even new ads and new accounts everyday. This avoids detection, but also keeps the cost down as being blocked by advertisers must impact their quality score.
12:07 am on Dec 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

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

joined:Oct 25, 2005
posts:3535
votes: 19


here lies the main issue what you might consider a spam ad is a really good moneymaker for G. If your income is in adsense then I would suggest find another it isn't going to change so my best advice is quit B'ing about it and spend your hour working.
12:37 am on Dec 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


@bwnbwn thanks for the great advice. This thread is not about complaining about spam. It is about looking for constructive solutions to the ongoing problem. One that is shared many publishers. But one thing is sure talking about it will definitely insure that it wont go away.
12:53 am on Dec 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from HK 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Nov 14, 2002
posts:2296
votes: 18


If you're willing to loose a few pennies in revenue and assuming you're not in AdX, use DFP to set up an artificial price floor:

Here's a very basic setup.

1) Get some ads (in house, promoting your app or something else or even charity) and set them up on DFP as a price priority item with a price floor of say USD 0.30 CPM - 100% views.
2) Create AdSense units in DFP and let them compete dynamically with your price priority item. What this results in (theoretically) is low value ads being rejected - 90% or more of the spam is from penny bids.

The DFP dynamic allocation also raises the floor at which existing advertisers pay for your inventory - if you look at how second price auctions work.

Bottom line - figure out how much those spammy ads are making you and be prepared to loose that income.

You can also block out sensitive categories those account for most of the cheap / spam ads. Diet, Black Magic etc. We also block mobile app ads, games, sexual etc etc etc.
1:07 am on Dec 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts: 609
votes: 178


@Shri, thanks for the post. I have thought of seriously about doing this.
Have you done this?
Is there a cash cost involved or is it simply a loss in revenue?

As for blocking sensitive categories, I have them all block, and I am sure that helps, but it is not enough. Despite having these categories blocked I still have the occasional ad that appear from those categories. This happens mostly with foreign language ads.
This 35 message thread spans 2 pages: 35
 

Join The Conversation

Moderators and Top Contributors

Hot Threads This Week

Featured Threads

Free SEO Tools

Hire Expert Members