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Adsense Dumb Pricing

Jen has just posted information about Adsense that will be of interest to publishers using it across multiple sites. The crux of it being that Google’s ‘smart pricing’ can actually not only impact one of your sites but all of them. In short – if you have just one poorly converting site in your collection of sites it can drag down the performance of your other sites.

Jen reports on a conversation that an Adsense consultant had with a publisher who was considering switching to YPN. The consultant revealed a number of things including:

  • Smart pricing affects an entire account. It is not on a per page or per site basis.
  • One poorly converting site can result in smart pricing impacting an entire account, even sites completely unrelated to the poorly converting one.
  • Smart pricing is evaluated each week. So removing ads from sites you suspect are converting poorly could result in seeing an adjustment to a higher smart pricing percent in as little as a week.
  • Smart pricing is tracked with a 30 day cookie, so you could be rewarded for new conversions that saw the initial click from your site up to 29 days earlier.

I find this information both a bit disturbing (as someone with 20 sites that each perform at different levels) but also illuminating (it could explain why some of my sites seem to perform better and worse than others that I know who blog on similar topics). To me this just seems crazy – while I see the need for smart pricing on a site by site basis – I can’t work out what the sense of it is across different sites which will always perform at different levels in terms of traffic levels and conversions for advertisers for such a variety of reasons.

The frustrating thing that I find with Adsense is the lack of knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes. While I understand that they can’t reveal everything about their algorithms and processes (or they’ll be abused) I find that there are an increasing number of times when I feel completely confused and frustrated by them.

It seems with every new feature that they bring out that their system gets more and more complicated. Every new feature adds another variable that could impact earnings – this is now getting to a point where I find it very difficult to track what impact the changes I make are having. Perhaps this is a result of my adding new blogs to my business which complicates things further – but to hear this news today leaves me incredibly frustrated with the system that is increasingly becoming a mystery to me.

I get the feeling that those in the Adsense team are increasingly frustrated by the system also. I have a number of contacts at Adsense who seem somewhat hamstrung by what they can and can’t tell me. I’ve also had conflicting advice on a couple of occasions recently. For example one person told me that section targeting would help with my ad relevancy – another told me that it could be the reason my ads had been less relevant recently.

All I know is my Adsense performance continues to be significantly lower than it was a few months back, that ad relevancy is very poor and that pricing fluctuates from day to day by up to 20-30% with no changes being made at my end.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing how YPN performs when they finally let non US publishers in on the action and am in the process of deciding whether I might actually give some of my prime Adsense positions over to other ad suppliers like Chitika in the lead up to Christmas which should be a time that Adsense shines – but looks like being a time when Adsense flat-lines, or even worse goes into decline.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. On the flipside, a site that converts well should help your weaker sites.

  2. Mike Sigers says:

    Darren,

    Which is more likely ?

    1 bad apple making all the others in the basket go bad

    or

    1 good apple making all the others in the basket turn good ?

  3. Stuart says:

    Fivecentnickel – the flip side sounds good but first you have to be sure that there is a flip side.

    Is it really in Google’s interests to let one good site lift all the others or is it more in their interest to find some reason to pay us less than they might have to.

    Not knowing the details is one of the things that really bugs me about adsense – and out in the real world paying for advertising in the way Google pays it’s publishers would never fly.

    What they’re really saying is “Put up our ads and we’ll pay you … something.”

  4. Stuart: From the sound of things, they’re averaging across sites. So yes, a great performer would raise your average, and hence payouts on your lesser sites. But you may be right… They might just be looking at site-by-site performance (separately) and adjusting all sites down according to the minimum performance. But when you really think about it, that doesn’t make much sense… They’re applying performance across sites, so they are most likely calculating it across sites.

  5. William Cox says:

    My AdSense earnings have been significantly up since October. I was puzzling over it tonight, and perhaps your post is the key. At the beginning of October I switched one of my sites from Google to YPN. It was a underperforming site – perhaps it was dragging down my pricing for my other site?

    I would agree that this is crazy and very frustrating for folks trying to earn a living from this.

  6. Stuart says:

    Fivecent – maybe it does make sense to Google – they’re in the business of making money so why give it away to publishers when they don’t have to.

    The whole idea of is a little rank if you ask me. What if a surfer comes to one of my blogs and clicks on an adsense link and ultimately buys. At the same time the same adsense link on one of Darren’s sites gets clicked but the person doesn’t buy.

    My click has been worth more to the advertiser but I get paid less because my sites are not seen as being as important as Darren’s.

    Unless I’m mistaken that’s what’s happening here and if I’m not mistaken then there is nothing fair, reasonable or sensible about the whole deal unless you look at it from the point of view that suggest any company wants to maximise it’s profits and with Google most of it’s publishers are just plain cannon fodder..

    (BTW Darren I was just using your sites as an example. I, in no way begrudge the fact that Google undoubtedly does see your sites as being more important than mine.)

  7. Scott says:

    To be honest I dumped Adsense long ago for Chitika and haven’t looked back.

    Chitika CTR is on Par with Adsense on my site. And best of all the revenue per click is more than double!

  8. I’m going to take this with a huge grain of salt, as it’s at least third-hand:

    1. AdSense “support team member”
    2. The publisher he was talking to
    3. JenSense

    On top of that, the AdSense rep in #1 was making a call trying to convince someone to switch back from YPN to AdSense. I know Google’s non-evil credo should prohibit it, but It’s a rare salesman who won’t make up a few “facts” in order to keep a conversation going with a lead.

    Personally, I’m inclined to doubt it because it doesn’t make any sense to Google. Accounts are meaningless, any valid optimization should focus on sites. Advertisers’ costs shouldn’t change just because I sell a site to you and you put your AdSense code on it.

    It’s sure a shame that third-hand rumors like this are the closest thing we get to facts about AdSense, though…

  9. Your sentence: “I’m very much looking forward to seeing how YPN performs when they finally let non US publishers in on the action (…)”

    My comment: I just fear you won’t get interesting results in non-usa contries – since the ads will be less geographically targeted.

  10. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing how YPN performs when they finally let non US publishers in on the action”

    My comment: I just fear you won’t get interesting results in non-usa contries – since the ads will be less geographically targeted.

  11. Matt says:

    Very strange. I too have been suffering in this last month from VERY poorly targeted ads from AdSense. Up until October, they were quite good and I was making a steady income from them. Then the ad targeting went to heck. I was getting PSA’s for some reason, which never happened before. People were being asked to join the police force in Georgia on my site about video cards. Sure, there might have been some future policemen visiting my site, but I feel like maybe not so many as might have been interested in things like…. ohhhh… say…. video cards. In the last couple of days, the targeting has improved slightly, though not to the level it was at pre-October.

    It’s been very frustrating to me, especially since the eMiniMalls allow me to specify keywords via code and those ads are perfectly targeted and making two to three times what the AdSense ads are making for me, even though due to limitations in blogger, I can’t place them down amongst my content where they would really shine.

    I dunno why Google can’t do that. And I am annoyed at them for giving so little control to the publishers. And on top of that, I too am frustrated with the lack of understanding about how they work. Some days, I see my earnings at one level, and then see them lower later in the day for some reason. One would think that additional clicks would cause your earnings to go up, rather than down. But alas, that is not always the case. Something fishy.

  12. Marcus says:

    Last month I had ads on most of the forum pages on the biggest site I run that uses Adsense. The other place I had them was on the front page of the site which is similar to a blog and gets far fewer hits than the forums but has always made the highest revenues.

    This month I took adsense off the forums and left the front page ad in the same place. Not only did the front page ad perform better, but it outperformed what the forums were doing before by almost double.

    I’m not sure the exact significance of this, but it does seem to corroborate some of what you found out.

  13. Stuart: While it may make sense for Google to pay a publisher less whenever possible (although that’s not necessarily so, as they need to keep publishers in the network), my impression is that they also *charge* less for clicks affected by the smart pricing. Thus, it’s a lose-lose proposition (from a cost/payout standpoint) for them to adjust click prices down without a really good reason. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem, and Google does stand to gain from reducing click prices in that this practive will keep their advertising customers from jumping ship if they’re getting a bunch of low value clicks.

  14. Robert says:

    A little off topic—What tools do you guys use to track Adsense? I’m thinking of using AdsenseTracker. Any comments on that software or do you use another?

  15. Robert says:

    A little off topic—What tools do you guys use to track Adsense? I’m thinking of using AdsenseTracker. Any comments on that software or do you use another?

  16. Athomemama says:

    My adsense CTR is up, and my overall revenue is up, but the actual price I am now getting paid is abysmal. It just dropped this month. I guess it’s not just me. They must be averaging across all my sites. I dropped YPN this month on the only site I was running it on, an underperforming one, and I guess that’s why the rate decreased. I tell you, that really stinks. You shouldn’t be penalized on one site because another one has a low pay rate. That doesn’t even make sense…

    With my traffic increase this month, I should have made pretty well, but when the actual price you’re being paid per click is almost negative ::grin:: it would take 8X the visitors I am getting now to make a decent living at it.

    Ugh!

  17. hagrin says:

    Marcus –

    I had the same exact performance happen to me as well. My index.php performed well. I then added AdSense code to my phpBB forum pages and watched my CTR drop like a rock. I removed the ads from my forums and watched the numbers return to normal.

    To me, this was disturbing. My forums generate the most dynamic contact reaching a far range of topics and to have to eliminate AdSense from these pages was upsetting.

  18. wallybob says:

    I have been increasingly frustrated by the fact that Google seems to do TOO good of a job keeping information to itself. As an Adsense publisher I see fluctuations in earnings on a daily basis – some are quite drastic in fact. But I am largely left to wonder if this is a natural increase/decrease in advertiser spending or something that I have control over.

    Now Adsense has competition with YPN, Chitika and others. I am testing both YPN and Chitika on my sites and will soon make a decision about which sites I keep Adsense on. Common sense tells me that unless the dollars are significatntly better with Adsense I’m better off working with an ad system that allows me more control and information.

  19. Nick says:

    I had a contact with Google confirm that one of your sites running Adsense does not affect the other sites under the same account. If you were to drop ads from an underperforming site the income on a good performing site wouldn’t magically go up.

  20. Kim says:

    But that is contrary to everything that is beeing said around. Is he lying / uninformed or is this all a fuzz about nothing?

  21. Prathik Raj says:

    She has pointed it out right, I wonder what happened after the new adsensee update

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 26th, 2005 and is filed under News Brief. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently notallowed. [...]

  2. [...] Es kann also sehr wichtig sein, einen weiteren AdSense Account zu haben. Einen für gut performende Seiten und einen für schlecht performende Seiten, damit diese einen nicht die Guten herunterziehen. Weiteres dazu bei Problogger und Threadwatch [...]

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  4. Adsense rumoured smart pricing

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  5. [...] Additional commentary about this can be found at JenSense and ProBlogger. [...]

  6. [...] The team at Adsense have responded to some of the recent talk about Smart Pricing by writing a post on their blog on the topic. Their main points are: 1. Many factors determine the price of an ad 2. Clickthrough rate doesn’t affect advertiser return on investment (ROI) 3. Google doesn’t make money from ’smart pricing’ 4. Remember the old chestnut: “Content is King” [...]

  7. [...] A number of months ago it was revealed that if you use AdSense on multiple sites all from one AdSense account that the performance of one blog can impact the way AdSense converts on another blog. Up until this point it was thought that ‘Smart Pricing’ was on a site by site (or even page by page) basis but this news caused quite a stir. [...]