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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    What are your thoughts?

    Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2003 11:58:06 PM

    Wow.

    Google just slammed Erik. No reasons. No recourse. Just thanks, buh-bye now.

    Excuse me while I kick a gift-horse in the mouth.

    First, let me say that Google AdSense really has been a gift. Suddenly all these little sites like mine out there with decent traffic were given an opportunity to capitalize on that traffic by simply pasting in some JavaScript code and waiting for their checks. I've made about $100 a month since June with the ads on Mobitopia, which has been perfect. It's basically allowed me to host my own web server for free. So to me, Google's service has been just a bonus.

    However, if you have real traffic at your site, suddenly it's not a bonus any more, but a real business decision. You can go with Google, or you can go with other advertisers who are willing to pay you as well. Google pays pretty well, and is cheap and easy to use, so why not use them, right? Well, what did your mother tell you about stuff that seemed too easy? Google may give me high ranking or take it away, that's fine. But now we're talking about money - so it's serious.

    Here's the deal. Google AdSense has serious problems with its Terms And Conditions and it's transparency.

    First the TAC:

    #8 Confidentiality. You agree not to disclose Google Confidential Information without Google's prior written consent. "Google Confidential Information" includes without limitation: ... (b) click-through rates or other statistics relating to Site performance in the Program provided to you by Google; and (c) any other information designated in writing as "Confidential" or an equivalent designation or disclosed in a manner in which the recipient of such information should have reasonably understood under the circumstances that the disclosure should be treated as confidential, whether or not the specific word or mark "confidential" is used. ...
    Okay, so first off, I'm prohibited from sharing my click-through rates with you. Why is that? Is this standard in the online advertising world? If so, it only is there to let Google manipulate its associates, and for no other reason. Google also essentially restricts you from releasing any correspondence with them, as they could "reasonably understand" that this correspondence is confidential.
    Despite their restrictions on your free speech however, Google in this paragraph reserves the rights to what they want with *your* data:

    #16 Information Rights. Google may retain and use for its own purposes all information You provide, including but not limited to Site demographics and contact and billing information. Google may share aggregate (i.e., not personally identifiable) information about You with advertisers, business partners, sponsors, and other third parties. In addition, You grant Google the right to access, index and cache the Site(s), or any portion thereof, including by automated means including Web spiders or crawlers.
    Nice. But Wait! Don't bend over just yet... The worst part of the TaC is the payment section. This part of the contract threw up red flags for just about everyone who read it. It's long, so I've emphasized the relevant parts:

    #12 Payment. You shall receive a payment related to the number of clicks on Ads displayed in connection with your Site(s) as specified in the FAQ. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Google shall not be liable for any payment based on (a) any fraudulent impressions generated by any person, bot, automated program or similar device or for fraudulent clicks similarly generated on any Ads, as reasonably determined by Google; (b) Ads delivered to end users whose browsers have JavaScript disabled; (c) Ads benefiting charitable organizations and other placeholder or transparent Ads that Google may deliver in the event that a Site is improperly configured to comply with Google technical requirements; or (d) Google advertisements for its own products and/or services. Google reserves the right to withhold payment or charge back Your account due to any of the foregoing, any breach of this Agreement by You, or in the event that You or an advertiser whose Ads are displayed on your Site(s) defaults on any payment due to Google. The timing and delivery of such payments shall be as stated in the FAQ. To ensure proper payment, You are solely responsible for maintaining accurate contact and payment information associated with Your account. Any bank fees related to returned or cancelled checks due to a contact or payment information error will be deducted from the newly issued payment. You agree to pay all applicable taxes or charges imposed by any government entity in connection with Your participation in the Program. Google may change its pricing and/or payment structure at any time. If You dispute any payment made under the Program, You must notify Google in writing within thirty (30) days of any such payment; failure to so notify Google shall result in the waiver by You of any claim relating to any such disputed payment. Payment shall be calculated solely based on records maintained by Google. No other measurements or statistics of any kind shall be accepted by Google or have any effect under this Agreement. The payments made under this Agreement are for use by You only and may not be transferred or in any manner passed on to any third party unless expressly authorized in writing by Google.
    Let's take this one at a time. First, Google gets to advertise on your website for free. Why is that? I can understand charity's and filler ads not being charged, but Google gets to use that space for what it wants and doesn't pay you? That's not right.

    Secondly, Google can cut you off for any problems it encounters, but doesn't say what the recourse is for you. You can "dispute" the payment, but what then? Erik's site got cut off, and I know he wasn't messing with the clicks - what happens now? When did the infringement take place? If it happened on the 30th of September, does he somehow lose all the money earned for the rest of the month (a not-insignificant amount, by the way). Erik received this email today in place of the check that was supposed to arrive for August's clicks. Has his account been suspended for two months without anyone telling him?

    Finally - and this is the part that bugs me the most - the numbers have been changing constantly. You may go to your site and get a list of click throughs and the money you've earned, and the next day, the amount of money has dropped for no reason, and then when you receive your check, the amount doesn't correspond to *anything*. Google doesn't give you a log of clicks, advertisers and fees with the check. There's no transparency at all.

    Google gets to decide what they pay you for and how much, *and* they can change these rates at any time.

    Fine, you say, that's just legal jargon. Any contract in the business world will seem just as arbitrary and draconian. However, in September, I earned $98.42. Now, that just happens to be $1.58 cents short of the amount that I would need for Google to send me a check. I've heard of this happening before at other sites. I've also heard of checks that are drastically different than the amounts given online, with no reasons given. One thing is a harshly written contract, another is real life examples of a company doing the worst it can do under its contract with no recourse.

    Personally, I think something needs to be done about this. Is there a decent competitor to Google Ads that I can use instead? I'd really like to have an option, if only not to feel like I was getting screwed. Seriously, thanks for the Ads Google, but if you're going screw my friends like this then I don't want to have anything to do with your company because I know I'm next in line.

    -Russ

    Update: Erik asked for clarification, and got this slap in the face in return:

    As you know, Google treats instances of invalid click activity very seriously. Due to the proprietary nature of our algorithm, we cannot disclose any details about how our monitoring technology works or what specifics we found on your account. However, we can assure you that we have again reviewed your situation thoroughly and accurately, and could re-confirm that your account violated our program's Terms and Conditions.
    Have you *ever* heard such bullshit in your life? They aren't going to tell him what the problem was and we're just supposed to believe them? Erik didn't do anything wrong - he didn't need to with his traffic - yet Google has pronounced him guilty of fraud without proof or justification. Amazing.
    Bob Pets Warehouse
    Worlds Largest Pet Supply DataBase
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  2. #2
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    I suppose I am losing a lot of money but that horseshit contract is why I have never really pursued AdSense with much fervor.

    Out of curiosity, I did apply for my main Pagan site and was rejected because it is controversial but I have tons of other sites.

    With that contract, however, I am pretty put off.

    I, too, am open to other options.

    I would need to have some idea what kind of return to expect. $100 a month wouldn't be worth the time to do it. I would lose some money from the leaks on my sites so I would need to know that this would pay me.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  3. #3
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    October 02, 2003 09:33:09 AM
    You may be interested to know that as of yesterday Google added a #17 to their TaC:

    "#17 Miscellaneous. Except as required by law, You may not, without Google's prior written consent, issue any press release or make any public statement about the subject matter of this Agreement or use or display any Google logo or trademark in any manner (except as otherwise provided to You by Google as part of an Ad Unit)." (etc.)
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador Andy's Avatar
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    This is the type of thing that Google needs to address with their forthcoming IPO. Accountability is going to be required - demanded - by investors. Enron and WorldCom are still too fresh in people's minds...

    Andy

  5. #5
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    I do agree that people could be very unhappy with the way that Google operates Adsense, and a lot of people are not promoting Adsense for various reasons. I am very happy with how things have been for me.

    I have never had a problem with them not paying the amount shown in my reports.

    I have had issues with areas of my site that were not compatible with the Google terms, but Google were very helpful when I was not sure of what the problem was.

    I expect over $3,500 this month, so Google is well worth having on your site

  6. #6
    notary sojac Herb ԿԬ's Avatar
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    they say they pay per click based on relevancy, too: that a click on a page about building a violin, just for example, would pay more than a click on a page that just sold violins.

    so what about real directories?

    they also have something against sites based on other domains, like "homepages" whether free or paid hosting. they won't pay for a click unless it is your domain.

    my antiques-oriented directory was on compuserve.com and was really racking up the clicks, since there were individual pages with information for each state. this gave advertisers a chance to target their state page. Since most of the income for that site came from adsense I had to fully move the site to it's own domain and leave redirect pages in place at the old compuserve site.

    you know what happened: the SEs only remember the original pages and are slowing down sending anyone. the new pages are indexed but not considered popular as incoming links still point to the old site.

    I think we're being micromanaged by the particular members of their staff that are so anal that they feel this is their purpose in life.

  7. #7
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    We read the TAC before signing up for Adsense, and felt that they were, ah, 'restrictive' at best, but not too restrictive to preclude us signing up for another program.

    When we were accepted, we put Adsense only on a series of higher volume, non-performing *content* sites... sort of like a last stand thing and were astounded by what Google was willing to pay us.

    We're in the neighbourhood of Julian in terms of revenue, and basically for that type of money, if Google wanted to change their TAC to include the requirement to wear plaid clothing on Mondays with orange shoes and wave a Google Flag for an hour, I think we'd agree to it.

    Funny what that amount of money will do to people.

    CodeJockey.

  8. #8
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by CodeJockey:basically for that type of money, if Google wanted to change their TAC to include the requirement to wear plaid clothing on Mondays with orange shoes and wave a Google Flag for an hour, I think we'd agree to it.

    CodeJockey. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Yes, it is amazing what that kind of money does to us, and what we would be willing to do to continue to get that kind of money. What Google gives us, they could quite easily take it away, and that is scary

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Another related question.

    Are any of the people using adwords concerned that the click you're getting paid pennies for is taking users off your site where you would be making more money?
    Bob Pets Warehouse
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  10. #10
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    Adding Adsense is going to reduce affiliate related income. However, I like the almost predictable amount I get from Google compared to the ups and downs of affiliate related content. Although I do use both Adsense and affiliate related content to earn the money. I try to balance things.

    Would people want to earn an almost predictable $3,000 for a month, or would they try for $4,000 with a possibility of only getting $2,000?

    Sometimes you might get $4,000, but sometimes you might only get $2,000. Balanced over the year, maybe you would earn more than you would with Adsense, but maybe you would earn less.

    Adsense pays, some merchants do not.

    It is a tough decision. You have to look at each page, and each merchant and decide for yourself if you want to include Adsense, and where to place the ad, and how big etc etc.

  11. #11
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> they could quite easily take it away, and that is scary
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Yup, it certainly is, especially if Google is a substantial proportion of your income.

    But, like I said, Adsense went on non-performing sites so anything they pay us is nothing but a windfall. We were basically just going to remove all of the advertising and just let the sites run with no income whatsoever.

    I'm extremely reluctant to put it on other performing sites because they *are* performing, and if it works, I'm not going to try and fix it.

    CodeJockey.

  12. #12
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    I don't find the terms all that onerous. The reason that this is called an agreement is because there are a number of conditions to be met in exchange for remuneration. One is free to accept it or not. If and when there is serious competition, the terms will change to reflect the marketplace.

    Keep in mind that this is an agreement to display ads on your site, one of countless programs, not the local electric company where you have little to no choice as to who you can do business with. My freedom of speech isn't violated when I agree to not disclose CTR. If it was Niagara-Mohawk telling me I couldn't discuss cost per kilowatt/hr, your indignation would be understandable.

    This program is such fertile ground for abuse, I can't fault Google for it's measures to protect themselves and their advertisers. An unscrupulous competitor could easily flush an advertisers budget down the drain in no time. I appreciate the protective steps they've taken. They do need to streamline the appeals process.

    Google isn't advertising on your site for free anymore than Petswarehouse advertises for free on affiliate sites. The agreement is that ads will be displayed & payment made if a visitor clicks on it. As far as I know, you are only paying affiliates when sales are made. (If you are paying for ads being displayed, let me know & I'll put your links back up.)

    Most programs I've participated in have a minimum payment threshold. The fact that you fell short for the month tells me nothing except that you have three choices, work harder, wait until next month, or hire a lawyer and prove fraud.

    Other anecdotal stuff I'll leave for others to comment on. While the TOS could always be better written for the benefit of the affiliate, it hardly seems that the sky is falling.

    Wayne


    Added: Call off the lawyers, Henry. I thought that this was your post. I didn't realize this was a simple cut & paste of another website's article so the above references don't apply to PetsWarehouse, per se.

    Added again: That article was written 9 months ago.

  13. #13
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    There are some promising-looking alternatives to adsense in existence or coming shortly. Why not try them rather than google.

  14. #14
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Another related question.

    Are any of the people using adwords concerned that the click you're getting paid pennies for is taking users off your site where you would be making more money? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    No. Any thinking person would determine beforehand if a program is right for their situation.

    Suggest you look in the archives here or at webmaster world where all these "issues" have been raised & discussed to death months ago.

    Wayne

  15. #15
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    I was almost bounced by google the exact same way was described in the first message of the thread. But I managed to convince them to let me stay.

    I got the same message as you did...

    ------
    As you know, Google treats instances of invalid click activity very seriously. ....
    --------------------------

    But, I checked my logs and saw ALOT of activity from some wierdo sex site. I sent the logs and reasons for why this may have caused a spike in clicks at the site. I did NOT ***** about it, just wanted to know if that was the reason.

    They let me stay and I'm sure I was monitored closely for awhile.

    SO the next week after all this, I am talking to the wife and she asks me about the google ads. She tells me she was clicking on them last week from her PC. Well, I was using the same IP to get adsense ads for about 10 other websites and check stats. So...... I guess you do need to be careful about clicking on your ads from the same ip where you get the ads.

    I did not lose any $ and I still make more income from those ads than any other links.

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