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  1. #1
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    AdSense network quality issues (AdWords)
    I participate in both sides of Google's "content network," both AdSense and AdWords, and I'm a bit peeved today.

    Last night, I decided to experiment with "site targeting" in AdWords, which is a mode of paying a CPM rate to have ads shown on AdSense content sites. The minimum CPM rate is $2.00. I entered some site names and some keywords, and Google generated a list of content sites, and I picked a few dozen that sounded right.

    This morning, I looked at the results and was disgusted: just two clicks from 1,190 impressions (cost: $2.38, or $1.19 per clickthrough). That shouldn't have been a surprise, since whenever I opt into "content" in my keyword campaigns, I see clickthrough rates of 0.1% or 0.2%. (For me, these are "white noise" levels, not worth paying for, because it's nearly impossible to distinguish a campaign with 0.1% legitimate clicks from a campaign that receives 0.1% fraudulent or robot clicks).

    When I went to look at the sites that were generating more than a few impressions, I found that they were ALL either:

    (1) "ad farms" (pages with little or no genuine content, but with a dozen or more advertisements from various sources, and always with 2 or more Google ad units on each page), or

    (2) "below the fold" placements, so that the Google ad unit is not visible unless a user scrolls down the page, or

    (3) both.

    My conclusion, based on the performance for both keyword-targetted and site-targetted campaigns, is that "Google's Content Network is a joke."

    But that's not a very nice thing for me to say, since several of my content sites carry AdSense ad units (specifically, my lesson-plans site and my scrapbook-related site), and they draw very respectable performance (CTRs consistently above 2%).

    I don't want Google's content network to be "a joke," since I want to run effective ads through AdWords, and I want to earn revenue from AdSense ads. So here are two ideas, either or both of which should substantially improve both AdSense and AdWords performance.

    [1] Google could display some performance numbers when it lists sites for "Site Targeting." For example, they could list the average CTR for that site (perhaps measured as clicks per 400 ads displayed -- with a 4-ad block counting as 4 ads).

    [2] Google could create "tiers" for its sites to opt into, with the lowest tier reserved just for "ad farms" and sites that don't agree to the requirements for other tiers. At the top end, a "Tier 1" site might agree (a) to display Google AdSense ads "above the fold," (b) to include only one AdSense unit per page, and (c) to display no more than one other ad unit "above the fold." A "Tier 2" site might agree to some lesser set of restrictions. The "tiers" or "rankings" would not need to be for an entire site or collection of web sites -- sites could opt to have Tier 1 ads on some pages, Tier 2 ads on others, etc.

    What's wrong with these ideas? The first idea seems pretty straightforward, except that it might provide fuel for other ad networks who may want to recruit away AdSense sites. The second idea would require a lot more work, and would probably require a much greater level of "policing" than Google now does.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by markwelch; August 11th, 2005 at 03:20 PM.

  2. #2
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    But would CTR really be an honest look at what site is better? With all the idiots lining up pictures over the ads to confuse the viewer, adsense is quickly going down the road of short-term profits hurting long term goals. Affiliates/publishers can be so short-sighted... they don't see the benefit of making less now to continue to be a stable, valid place for merchants to advertise.

    Google really needs to police their program and start kicking out publishers who are looking to trick visitors into clicking.

    I will disagree with the above the fold statement. While that may be valid for cpm ads, it is not valid for cpc ads. Often putting the ad lower is a great way to punctuate a bit of content with related links.

    Chet

  3. #3
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I'm ready to disable the content network on my campaigns. A few have decent returns, but most are far less effective (like 1/6th the conversion ratio) compared to the search network and Google itself.
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  4. #4
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    Chetf wrote (in part): "I will disagree with the 'above the fold' statement. While that may be valid for cpm ads, it is not valid for cpc ads. Often putting the ad lower is a great way to punctuate a bit of content with related links." (emphasis added)

    My point was that Google is selling these as CPM spaces, with a $2 CPM minimum.

    I agree that being "below the fold" is okay for CPC campaigns, especially when the ads "punctuate a bit of content with related links" (as you so eloquently put it).

    But if putting the CPC ads "below the fold" results in absurdly low CTR rates that drop below the "background noise" level (0.1 to 0.2%), I won't continue the campaign. If an ad was "below the fold" but still generated 0.5% CTR, I'd continue a CPC campaign, but not a CPM campaign.

    One (tangentially related) thought: since Google does display the text URL (e.g. www.CompanyName.com), I do see some "branding" value, and I'd love to see any data about how often folks manually type the URL they saw. (To test this, you'd need to register a new domain [short and easy to remember] which you'd use ONLY in your Google campaigns.)

  5. #5
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    (perhaps measured as clicks per 400 ads displayed -- with a 4-ad block counting as 4 ads)
    Because of their format, I think one block should count as one ad for determing CTR.

    A user can only click one of the 4 ads, per page impression. So, if each ad is counted seperately, that'd effectively show only 1/4 of the actual clicking that's going on.

    since Google does display the text URL (e.g. www.CompanyName.com), I do see some "branding" value, and I'd love to see any data about how often folks manually type the URL they saw.
    Overture used to push that angle heavily, and came up with all kinds of supporting surveys (that they paid for, I'm sure). They probably still have lots of such stuff somewhere on the advertiser-info area of their site (where they try to get people to sign up).

    But, when I stopped showing a listing there, there wasn't any residual type-in traffic (except maybe a couple of competitors wondering if I had gone to 404sville), which leads me to believe there's no real-world branding value in such listings. AdWords ads are a bit different, but they aren't different enough from Over-style listings that I'd expect that to be any different for them.
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  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager Allen Nance's Avatar
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    I too have suffered from content loss. Sorry affiliates that run those types of pages.. although the click-thrus are lower than the network, there are no sales for those clicks... at least in my situation.

    I have disabled just the content ads and only stay with Network.... results seem to pay off better.

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  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Conversion-wise, in some categories, I've had much better results from the content network than from the regular search ads.

    As for the clickthrough rate, though, the content network has an astounding ability to show tons of imps without getting clicks. I wouldn't buy CPM ads on it, no way.

    (Added: This refers to promoting my affiliate pages.)
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  8. #8
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    As for the clickthrough rate, though, the content network has an astounding ability to show tons of imps without getting clicks. I wouldn't buy CPM ads on it, no way.
    I could not AGREE more!!!

    I had one content network keyword last week that had over 600,000 imps in one day... it did this for three days in a row... if I was paying CPM, ouch!

  9. #9
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Way too many sleezebag affiliates playing the site scraper/Adwords game to even fool with CPM or content options.
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  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Akiva's Avatar
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    Google has realized this as many, many advertisers that actively monitor their CR's are opting out of the content network. CR's can be pretty pathetic not to mention that it is a fraudsters haven. Just do a search for "make money with Google" and you'll see what is going on out there.
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