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Monday, March 9, 2009

AdSense Sucks!

My AdSense experiment was a flop. I never made a dime from AdSense. I was banned from using AdSense. There are three possible explanations.

  1. Overzealous readers clicked on too many ads.
  2. Someone intentionally clicked on a bunch of ads to get me banned.
  3. Google's abuse detection algorithm is defective.
Google seems to have a particularly stupid approach towards potential abuse. If they believe some of the clicks are invalid, then they should just remove them, rather than banning the account outright. For example, if Google said "We believe 66% of your clicks in February were invalid. We're removing them.", I wouldn't mind. An outright lifetime ban is offensive.

Looking on the AdSense help forum, the vast majority of complaints were "Google unfairly banned me!" I was wondering if I was going to also get banned. I certainly wasn't totally surprised, but I am offended.

AdSense appears to be a PR disaster for Google. They probably have a legitimate abuse problem. When you ban non-abusers, you just alienate people.

This incident highlights my over-dependence on Google. If I get locked out of my gmail account, I lose my blog *AND* my E-Mail address. I wouldn't mind losing the archived mail. I do mind potentially losing my blog readership. If I had to start over on a new site, it'd probably take awhile for me to rebuild my regular readership. (I plan to leave a link to my new blog here, so I should keep my regular readers when I move.)

If I purchase hosting, and someone hacks my site, I can always re-install. I might lose some data, but at least I keep my site. If I'm paying $20/month for hosting and someone hacks my account, I can always call the vendor for a password reset. If someone hacks my gmail account, I'm SOL.

If I purchase hosting, and arrange for the "free" (ad-supported) gmail to point to my site, then I can always recover my E-Mail address, but not the accumulated E-Mails. I could always drop gmail and run my own mailserver, if someone hacked my account on a self-hosted domain.

There's an inherent defect in any pay-per-click advertising program. Suppose I get paid $0.20 every time someone clicks on an ad, and 1% of my readers click on an ad. This is an eCPM of $2. I'd make $2 every thousand pageviews.

Suppose I get paid $0.002 every time I display the ad, whether someone clicks on it or not. My eCPM is still $2, but this is much less subject to abuse. If an IP range was found to be abusing, it could be easily filtered out. Of course, the advertiser can still track "# ads clicked" and "# ads displayed", to know how well their ad is doing.

Pay-per-click naturally leads to abuse, or accusations of abuse. I know how many pageviews my site got via Google Analytics. If I were hosting my blog myself, I'd know via the Apache server logs. I had a bizarre problem that "Pageviews in Google Analytics" was a *LOT* more than "AdSense pageviews".

On Blogger, I don't know how many times someone actually clicked on an ad. On my own site, I can wrap a script around the AdSense ads to determine "# clickthroughs", but that's technically a violation of the AdSense TOS.

When you're paid based on clickthroughs, this naturally leads to accusations of abuse by both parties. I can validly complain "Is Google tracking my clicks correctly?" and "Is Google crediting me with the correct amount per click?" Google can validly wonder "Is FSK resorting to dirty tricks to get extra clicks?"

If you're paying someone $0.20 per ad clickthrough, then it's profitable for me to hire someone to surf the Internet and click on ads for me. If they only did it for my site, that would be obviously fraudulent. If they had a list of 1000+ sites, it could be a very profitable business, and it'd be nearly undetectable.

According to Google's contract with advertisers, Google gets paid per ad clickthrough. If you're someone who's very angry at Google, you can go around clicking on every single ad. Fewer than 1% of Internet users click on ads. If a couple percent of Internet users click on Google ads to corrupt their network (or write a script to do it for them), then that's the end of Google's business model.

A typical user will ignore or block Google's ads. I'm so angry at Google that, instead of ignoring their ads, I'm going to click on as many as possible, just to pollute their advertising network. My goal is to generate at least $100 of invalid clicks on ads that Google serves to me. (Really, I should write a Firefox extension to assist with this.)

Suppose I were running an ad network that competes with Google. Then, it would be in my best interests to click-bomb any small AdSense publisher and get them banned. I wonder if any of Google's competitors have figured this out? For a small publisher, a couple hundred fraudulent clicks will easily get you banned.

Some people have said "It's suspicious that Google blocks my account as my total nears $100." ($100 is the minimum payout threshold.) I doubt Google would do that intentionally. Stealing $100 each from a bunch of people is so obviously stupid that even an executive with short-term thinking would not try it. Google probably has a genuine fraud problem, and they're overzealously cracking down on honest people. Google's generates more than $100 of hostility for each person they ban from AdSense.

Another "benefit" of banning a bunch of AdSense publishers is that the amount Google can charge per click increases. Allegedly, there's a glut of online adspace right now. By reducing their adspace inventory, Google increases the amount they can charge per ad.

I'm experimenting with text-link-ads for now. According to their site, I haven't sold a single ad yet. I'll give them another few days. I'm more interested in advertising options where I get paid a flat rate, rather than paid per click. AdBrite is next on my list if text-link-ads goes nowhere. I'm also seriously considering the Yahoo Publisher Network (in beta).

The good news is that my regular readership is increasing. I'm also becoming a better writer and better thinker, which is valuable by itself. My goal is "earn enough to pay for hosting and get my own domain".

I doubt blogging will ever be my sole full-time job. It's better to think of blogging as promoting other businesses, such as starting an agorist trading network. If I attempt "promote agorism via standup comedy", then my blog would be a way to promote my act.

I was looking forward to getting off Blogger and getting my own domain. It'd be like moving out from living with my parents! I'm trying to convince my parents "FSK should just spend the $20/month on hosting. It's not that much money!" I'll give competing ad networks a try first. I only need a page eCPM of $1.5-$2 to earn $20/month! That should be attainable!

Eventually, I may have enough readers to profitably directly sell ads. I probably need 100x-1000x more regular readers for that. The Remnant is 1M+ people in the USA, so I certainly haven't maximized my potential audience yet.

Any pay-per-click advertising program leads naturally to accusations of abuse. The publisher can claim that the advertiser isn't crediting him with enough. The advertiser can accuse the publisher of click fraud. The fundamental basis of Google's business model is pay-per-click, which is something that is easily abusable.


Anonymous said...

Always back-up your gmail account. If Linux, use a script; or open and download everything using a GUI mail client regularly. Also, use your own domain name. This way if you're cut off (My father was once for 24 hours, no reason given) you have your old e-mails and can easily recover by changing your name servers. Gmail spam filtering is just so good or I wouldn't use them at all.
We used to buy ads from Google. It started at 4 to 5 cents per ad. It then steadily increased to 10, then 12, then 15, then 20, then 30, then 40 cents EACH. Classic bait and switch. Goodbye. There's a bitter lesson and many hours wasted setting it up. Beware.

Kiba said...

Ad-sense never make much money for me so I ditch it before Google have a chance to suspend me.

Thankfully, I used an advertising network that relies on mostly traffic rather than ad-clicks because the owner behind the network knew that click based advertising are open to abuse.

Like I suggested before, is a great advertising network even if make minicule amount of money.

Plus it is friendly with other advertising network so you can supplement your income by selling ads from other network.

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