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Is interest-based marketing hurts niche sites?

RPM going down... is it because of interest based marketing?

     
10:54 am on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi.

I've been an AdSense publisher since 2003... with several niche sites, mostly technology related. Up until 2013 I have seen a nice increase in traffic and a nice increase in revenues. Since 2013, we are seeing an increase in traffic, but RPM has been falling, to the point that today our AdSense revenue is about a fifth of what it was in 2013

I have thought about this, and I think there are several factors.One is ad blockers. Another is interest-based marketing. Years ago, if I had a niche site focusing on a specific technology, it carried a premium RPM as this is a good topic. The only way to target this topic back then was to use AdWords in Google or AdSense (or direct banner ads, of course). But today you can easily reach the same audience in other venues such as Facebook or in AdSense on other sites as people are "tracked" (interest-based marketing, I believe is the term?). So on the same niche and the same limited number of audience, there is much more media available (on facebook for example) so that means I cannot ask for a premium RPM no longer...

Am I getting this right? Is that a good analysis?

Ron
1:04 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello-

I had the same reflection, and I thought, that, contextual ads would perform better, so I ran experimentation, and the results were terrible (in my case). Whereas all suggests that contextual ads should perform better, and in real life, this is different.

My theory is that, advertisers no longer really mind context, they mind more about the profile of people seeing their ads (interest based ads). And, it's also possible that visitors are more sensitive to ads targeting their profiles,than the profile of the page being viewed.
1:59 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Interest based allows advertisers to buy brand safe inventory that will show to niche users. It's not that interest based less (often the opposite), but that it gets concentrated with big advertisers. One possible side effect of the current onslaught against cookies is that there might be more shift back to context in the future and brands might be forced to loosen the "brand safety" controls.
3:21 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Since 2013, we are seeing an increase in traffic, but RPM has been falling

I think there are several factors.One is ad blockers.

There is no doubt that ad-blockers negatively impact earnings in a general sense. But they are unlikely to impact RPM because, ad-blocker block the ads outright so impressions are never recorded.

Years ago, if I had a niche site focusing on a specific technology, it carried a premium RPM as this is a good topic

I Agree, and your observation about interest based ads is correct. Unfortunately the market has changed. A paradigm shift. Before advertisers would use the web-pages to target the audience using a similar approach to print advertising. But now, the web-page is of little to no importance. Advertisers target the audience (specific user) directly, and can follow the audience around as they surf. Ultimately AdSense and other networks are essentially web-page agnostic. Sure the ad must appear on a web-page, but which specific page it appears on is of little importance. As such, the competition for publishers is no longer just the other sites in your niche but any site. More supply, same demand prices fall.

To make matters worse, over the past few years the number of ad-sites has increased. Normally this would only really be a concern if the site were in direct competition with you, but given what I've described above this no onger holds, so now nearly any site is your competition.

In my experience, having a niche site continues to have value, as it remains a means of identifying individual with a specific interest. I good way to gauge interest in your site, is to check the ad-review section in AdSense, specifically the reviewed-ads, to see whether there are repeat advertisers that are consistently buying up your impressions and to see if the products being advertised are in-line with your niche.

As @Matbennett points out the ongoing privacy concerns may shift the pendulum back to assigning more importance to the website/page. In which case your position in your niche will again command higher prices. Or at least we can hope.

So what to do? I think the focus becomes, not just on number of impressions, but ensure that one a has steady user base of repeat and engaged visitors. Because there is certainly some value in getting ads from a brand in front of the same high quality and engaged users, multiple times. This is something that is not achieved with a typical MFA site.
7:47 am on Oct 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thank you all for the interesting discussion.

I hear some optimism here - maybe indeed the world will again move to "close garden" web sites where people aren't tagged and our personal information is not traded as today - and in that case our niche sites may regain their good monetization possibilities. I have to say that personally our AdSense revenue is only a minimal part of our total income - which is based on consultation and e-products that we produce and sell for our audience. But it will nice to get more revenue from ads than today of course!

Ron
8:09 am on Oct 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@mertero

Side note: As a visitor to sites running AdSense, if I see an IBA, I completely ignore it and will never click. Two reasons, 1. I may have already made a decision on the item, so an IBA is a waste of space. 2. If I have bought it, or not, I won't click because it's false earnings for the publisher and a cost for the advertiser.

As a publisher, I make every effort to avoid IBAs on site.

I dislike them.

I also think that there is a change coming and that people are becoming wise to tracking, and the IBAs are going to decline.
8:14 am on Oct 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello-

As a visitor

Indeed, but you "aware", and not the average joe. Compare how you consume the Internet, and how average people do, and you'll see a big difference.

I do agree about all what you said, but (in my case), when I tried to disabled IBA, my earnings collapsed by 80%, immediately, and returned back to the normal when I re-enabled it. So my visitors are like that.

ps: you buy a product at a site, then , for weeks, you'll be served ads promoting ... this same product, that is silly.
4:58 am on Oct 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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ps: you buy a product at a site, then , for weeks, you'll be served ads promoting ... this same product, that is silly.


Silly indeed, because it's a waste of money for the advertiser as well as being an annoyance for you.

Smart advertisers tailor their remarketing to show different, fewer or no ads for a while to those who have recently made a purchase.
8:20 am on Oct 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello-

Following this topic, I managed to make another try, and disabling interest based / personalized ads, and after 48 hours, I still see a majority of IBA in the Adsense's stats. Why is that? Is the option doing something?
1:55 pm on Oct 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is the option doing something?


Not in my experience, or has limited impact. I was still seeing IBA months after turning the the feature off.
4:47 pm on Oct 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello-

Not in my experience, or has limited impact. I was still seeing IBA months after turning the the feature off.

Okay, I see... so my question is, is there any options which are still doing something? :) I don't know if it's part of the "simplification" of Adsense, but it looks like , lot of options are still accessible, but are no longer doing anything...
11:44 am on Oct 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello-again,

Since Google renamed interest-based-ads, into personalized-ads, I wonder if "personalized" ads might also include ads based on your country, which seems natural to me, and not privacy invasion. May be this is why, "we" continue to see "personalized" ads in the reports, even after disabling "interest" based ads.
8:52 pm on Oct 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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IBA is the stupidest thing I ever heard of. During the week I purchased an item online from a large Chinese company.

Since then - every, I mean every site I have visited that run AdSense have displayed large Ads for Banggood showing the products I have already purchased. My regular newspaper sites, recipe sites, gardening sites, tools hardware, even eBay I think all showing these ads..

Dumb, totally dumb.