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More google issues

August 18, 2011 21:49

Well, I've received no new updates on my cancelled adsense account, so I'm pretty much writing that off. Doing some research on the subject, I have found instances of many people over the years receiving the very same form-letter style reasoning for cancelling their accounts: primarily, invalid clicks. Digging a bit deeper, it seems that the definition of "invalid" is treated pretty loosely. What is most likely happening is that Google has decided (and likely has done so all along) to terminate accounts that are not profitable. Basically, this means, the conversion rate (the percentage of clicks that result in a purchase from an advertiser) is too low.

One way to look at that, of course, is that people are clicking the ads with no intention to ever buy anything. There IS some merit to that argument, since most people who don't want to purchase anything from an online advertisement, tend not to click on ads. In fact, a lot of people just block the ads alltogether. How many people do that? Based on my adsense reports (before getting banned of course ;) and comparing them to my own server logs, it appears that only 1/3 of my visitors ever even SAW the ads, meaning 2/3 of the internet blocks all advertising (or at least blocks google's). Point is, if you're the type to see the ads, AND the type to willingly follow those advertisements, you're probably also the type to buy stuff you find occasionally. If you don't buy stuff after following ads, then you're a freeloader. Not my opinion, mind you, but that's the way Google sees it, as well as the advertisers who are paying for those clicks. They DO have an expectation of those clicks resulting in actual business, and Google is doing their very best to insure that actually happens. Their methods seem a bit sucky from where I'm sitting, but I DO see their point of view on this. I do wish, however, that if this is the case, they make a required coversion rate part of the TOS and allow the publishers the option to have some control over the situation.

What kind of control could they have? First off, if *I* knew, prior to this, that a certain conversion rate were required, I would intentionally restrict which pages the ads displayed on, vs placing them on every page of the site. For instance, the main page had an ad on it, and it had the highest number of clicks and made the most money of any other page on my site. HOWEVER, the actual clickthrough rate was very low and so was the actual earning rate. Something like 5 cents for every thousand views, which is about in line whith what impression based banner ads pay, whether you click on them or not. The back pages, however, were much more profitable. The relay howto page, for instance, earned about $25 a year by itself, and even though the total clicks on that page over the course of a year were in the hundreds instead of the hundreds of thousands, the clickthrough rate on that page was MUCH higher, earning something like $35 CPM. Not all of the pages faired as well, but most of the well designed, well written pages earned at least $5 a year. Those back pages, however, referenced specific products, or at least provided insight into certain product families. For instance, the relay page would display ads for various relay kits and other similar products, and I have no doubt that someone who was interested enough in relay interfacing to find that page, was probably also interested in purchasing a related product, sufficiently enough so to justify what I was making off of that page. I'm sure IT was profitable to advertisers.

The front page probably wasn't as much. I don't have a lot of text on the main page, and although the ads seemed at least somewhat relevant, it's entirely possible that any clicks I DID get from that page were the result not of interested potential customers, but instead people that click on every single link on the page, despite what it says or what it's supposed to do. In all fairness, that WAS somewhat my intention with the placement and display of the ad. So in that case, it might have been my fault, although there was nothing that specifically prohibited this, and tailoring ads so they blended in with the site was actually encouraged. Still if I were attempting to restrict clicks that had a low conversion rate, I would not have placed ANY adsense ads on the front page.

Secondly, I would also likely restrict showing ads based on the referrer. I would think that people who show up here from various entertainment sites, like stumbleupon, would be less likely to purchase advertised products than would someone who arrived here specifically looking for something. For instance, the relay page gets a significant number of hits directly from a google search, mostly people looking for information on how to control relays from the computer. They're the ones actually INTERESTED in those types of products and would be most likely to purchase something after clicking on an ad. People visiting from one of those "hey look, this is cool!" sites probably aren't likely going to develop a sudden interest in connecting their own lamps to the internet, so why even show them the ads?

It would also be nice for google to provide publishers with a site's or page's conversion rate, as well as provide more demographics as to who's actually clicking on the ads, and who's ultimately buying something. A page that generates ad revenue but doesn't generate conversions is hurting the advertiser (even if it's helping the publisher short term). However, the publisher knowing that low performing pages are going to result in future penalties might choose to drop ads from those pages. Moreover, if I can determine that people visiting from certain sites, or from certain geographical areas are more or less likely to purchase advertised products, I could tailor ad delivery based on that information. In fact, I'm quite sure google tracks that information already and quite likely factors that into the money they pay out per click, which boggles the mind over why they wouldn't just reduce or eliminate payouts on clicks from lower performing demographics. Instead, it would appear that they simply punish the publisher for not providing high performance even though they don't have the data to adequately achieve that.

Of course, advertising is Google's bread and butter, and their main interest will always be their bottom line. A strong second is to take care of their advertisers, since that's where their money is coming from. An adsense user, especially one that isn't performing well, is pretty low on the list of priorities. There's also the publisher's point of view to consider. If Google was a lot more forthcoming about performance issues and publishers spent a lot more time focusing on achieving high ad performance instead of doing what they should be doing (creating great content and making the internet a richer place), publishers would eventually reach a point at which it would be more cost beneficial to pursue their own income, either directly selling their own advertising, or pursuing other forms of merchandising. The point of adsense is that it lets publishers do their thing without having to fuss greatly with advertising.

And that leads me to my next issue, since that's the boat I'm in now. Without adsense, I'm going to need to pursue other revenue sources. CPM based advertising is relatively worthless for a site like mine. Keep in mind, I'm not just trying to cover the costs of the site itself, I would like to be able to have it earn enough to work on it or related activies full time. This means I'm probably going to have to sell actual products. That will require some degree of financial risk, as well as maintaining high cashflow requirements. There will also be more overhead, not only with money, but also with time. Still, it will ultimately be more beneficial to go that way. Adsense is great for what it is, but it's much to easy to get complacent. It's much too easy to sit back and presume that you can make a job out of writing page after page about topics you're not interested in, yet make them sound interesting to the rest of the world, and hope that you can earn enough ad revenue by doing so. I've done some of this already, but it's tedious and boring, and I'd be looking at cranking out 10,000 pages of content just to earn enough with adsense to justify leaving a decent job. My best estimate to accomplish that would require both Gertie and I to spend 40 hours a week each, in addition to my regular job, writing articles and webpages specifically crafted to generate high ad revenue, and maintain that rate for about 3 years, while earning minimum wage for the effort. After that 3 year period, adsense revenue from all of those pages would earn sufficient cash to cover all expenses, pay for our medical insurance, etc. On one hand, it would be a nice position to be in. But on the other hand, that's a lot of really boring work to accomplish it, and we would always be at the whim of Google. Encountering this situation then would REALLY hack me off. Such is the dilemma with putting all of your eggs in one basket. Thankfully, I was taught that lesson before I invested a lot of time in it. And since I find my current job, pushing boxes around a warehouse, more exciting than the prospect of writing 10 research pages a day forever....

Anyway, we're now on the path toward developing products to sell. Some will be merchandise we purchase and resell through the site, or possibly through ebay or amazon. Others will be products that I will develop and sell, such as high-end toys and other electronic gadgets and interfaces. We'll also pursue options for subscription based services related to this site. I realize that nobody would want to pay to access DMI as it is, but I have some ideas for additional features and activies that people might be willing to spend a small amount of money to participate in.