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How to Prevent and Monitor Invalid Clicks, and keep an AdSense Account in Good Standing [a Statement from AdSense]

Over the last week or two there’s been an increase amount of chatter on forums and blogs about invalid clicks and AdSense. Some of the talk has contained information that has been a little confusing and perhaps even ill-informed (and some ‘influenced’ by companies with their own agendas) – so I got in touch with AdSense and asked if they had any information to help their publishers protect themselves against invalid clicks.

The following is what they replied with – in their words it is ‘a concise guide to how to prevent and monitor invalid clicks, and keep an AdSense account in good standing.’ I hope that it is helpful to AdSense publishers everywhere:

The Google AdSense team has heard many concerns about how Google treats invalid click activity on publisher’s sites, and there have been questions on how to keep your AdSense account in good standing. The Google Ads Quality Traffic Team wants to help all publishers keep their accounts in good order, so here are some tips to keep in mind.

We understand that it’s not always possible to control the behavior of your users, but you can be proactive about monitoring your traffic, and you can take steps to ensure that your site provides a helpful and safe environment for users and advertisers. Here are some top tips for keeping your account in good standing (which you may have seen before): https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=23921

Expanding on the tip “Be aware of how your site is promoted.” we’d like to remind you that, should you purchase traffic to promote your site, you do so at your own risk. There are many site promotion services out there that appear to be legitimate PPC advertising companies or search engines, but actually may be sending artificial traffic to your site for their own gain. (For legal reasons, we’re not allowed to disclose the names of such services.)

To combat this, we highly recommend that you use channels to segment your traffic by source (e.g. a channel for your site’s Google AdWords traffic only). If one channel’s reports look particularly suspicious, you may want to consider unsubscribing from that traffic service. We also recommend using Analytics to slice and dice your traffic reports further to ensure that you’re receiving clicks from users who are genuinely interested in your ads.

Though we encourage you to be proactive about monitoring your site and ad traffic, we highly discourage the use of click tracking via third-party software or custom ad implementations. These methods may:

  • inadvertently disclose sensitive information about you or your site to a third-party
  • disrupt Google’s ad delivery or click logging in a way that violates our Terms and Conditions

In addition, click tracking may not provide you with significantly more information than you can already find in your AdSense or Analytics reports. We believe that the creative use of channels can help you gain detailed insights into your account.

If you see unusual activity on your account, feel free to submit this form to let us know: https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/request.py?contact=invalid_clicks_contact Please note that we will only respond if we find a significant issue with your account.

Invalid clicks can come from many sources, as described at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=16737. While we’re unable to go into the details of our monitoring system, you should know that invalid clicks don’t always mean clicking on your own ads or using click bots. Our Ad Traffic Quality Team looks for numerous types of activity that may inflate advertiser costs, then takes the necessary actions to protect our advertisers.

That said, we still find that many publishers are clicking on their own ads, possibly because they feel that Google is disregarding those clicks. Keep in mind that even though we filter the revenue from an invalid click, we don’t ignore it completely. If we detect significant invalid activity on your AdSense ads, we may take action on your account to protect our advertisers from inflated costs. Here are some examples of situations in which clicking your own ads is prohibited:

  • Clicking out of interest in the ad content
  • Clicking to see an ad’s destination URL, such as for filtering purposes (we recommend trying the AdSense Preview Tool, available at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=10005)
  • Clicking to ensure that Google is properly registering clicks on your ads (we log all ad clicks, but it can sometimes take up to 24 hours before your reports are finalized)
  • Clicking to test your website

For general invalid click questions, you can find more information at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/topic.py?topic=8426

For questions about AdSense accounts disabled for invalid clicks, you can find more information at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

Thanks to the team at AdSense team for providing this information.

Simple Changes Doubled My Adsense Revenue

In this post Todd Fratzel from Home Construction Improvement and Today’s Green Construction shares how he doubled the AdSense revenue on his blog with a few simple changes.

Several simple changes in my Adsense approach and layout have almost doubled my blog’s revenue. The results were so drastic and eye opening that I convinced a friend (www.oneprojectcloser.com) to make the same changes to his blog with even better results. The changes involve two simple ideas that can be easily incorporated into any Adsense monetized website or blog.

I’ve been blogging for over two years now and growing traffic, authority and readership slow and steady. Along with the steady increase in traffic the site has continued to increase it’s Adsense revenue at a similar pace with no sudden increases regardless of all the changes and adjustments I’ve made. That was true until I took the time to study many different published Adsense approaches. As I read all of these different approaches three distinct ideas came to the forefront.

Three Important Adsense Approaches

  • Less is More – This concept is really simple yet I hadn’t really given it much thought before. First off the top ad is the highest paying ad and you want that in the best possible position.

Secondly, if you’re using all three of the allotted Adsense units on a given page then there are quite a few ads all competing for attention or a click through. However, if you only use one Adsense unit then you’re limiting the number of ads served and improving the likelihood that one of those ads will get clicked. Therefore, the theory is that an advertiser will be willing to pay a higher rate for less competition.

  • Size Matters – If you read enough Adsense guides you’ll find that the 336 x 280 Large Rectangle is the most effective Adsense unit. It typically offers four ads and they are likely to be very related to the topic based on the position between the post title and body.
  • Position, Position, Position – Placing your Adsense unit above the fold is imperative for success. This makes sense to me for one reason. Every day my site (and I assume most sites) gets a majority of it’s traffic from search engines. This traffic is generated from people searching for something. So when they land on my page and they decide that it’s not the content they were looking for then I want them to see the Adsense unit right where they land so that becomes an “outclick” option.

How I Doubled My Adsense Revenue

In order to understand the approach I used to double my Adsense revenue I’ll use two graphics that show the same post before the changes and after the changes. First – the before shot:

increase-adsense-earnings-before.jpg

And here’s the after shot:

increase-adsense-earnings-after.jpg

My Old Adsense Layout Included:

  1. 468 x 60 Text Only Unit located in the header area of my page.
  2. 468 x 60 Text Only Unit located between the post title and the body of the post.
  3. 468 x 60 Text Only Unit located at the end of the post before the comment section.

Revised Adsense Layout Includes:

  1. Remove the old 468 x 60 Text Only Unit completely and replaced with an affiliate banner. The idea here is to remove some of the units in order to address concept #1 of Less is More.
  2. Replace the old 468 x 60 Text Only Unit with the 336 x 280 large rectangle unit. This unit is above the fold between the post title and body which makes it a very prominent position. This change addresses both of concept #2 and #3 for Size Matters and Position.
  3. Remove the old 468 x 60 Text Only Unit completely. I actually replaced this with the new Chitika Jumbo unit which is also performing quite well. Again the removal helps address the Less is More concept.

Immediate Results

increase-adsense-earnings.jpg

If you look at the graph of my Adsense revenue over the last two months you’ll see that the increased revenue was immediate. The changes were made as indicated by the Red Circle #1. As you can see my revenue went from under $150 per week to almost $300 per week. Immediate should be taken with a grain of salt, the increase happened over several days and it’s likely to take some time for Adsense to incorporate the reduced number of ads being served on your site.

Summary Of Improved Adsense Layout

While I’d be naive to think that this will double any and all Adsense revenue for any site I think the principal is worth evaluating on all sites. The concept is really simple; make one large, well positioned ad do all the work. This will make your page look cleaner and it’s likely to improve your revenue immediately. It’s also important that you follow some of the basic suggestions of blended ads that match the color and fonts of your site. So far I’ve done this on two of my sites and a friend’s site with the same result, improved Adsense revenue.

Note from Darren: I think that the key with optimizing a blog for AdSense (or other ad networks) is to experiment. The best thing that Todd did here was to try something new and to track the results. What he’s done has worked for him but it might not work for everyone – the key is to keep trying different combinations of numbers of ads, ad sizes, ad positions, ad design (color, fonts etc) and to try different ad types until you find what works best for your blog.

AdSense Introduces Font Size Choice for Publishers

One of the more commonly requested features that I see AdSense publishers making is for the ability to be able to change font size in their ads.

The AdSense blog today announces this change:

“The font size you choose will be applied to the body of the ad, with the title scaled appropriately. In order to fit the ad text correctly, the actual font size will vary for each format size, font face, and user-specific settings such as browsers and operating systems. In addition, some formats sizes currently have very limited room, so the font size application will be most apparent in cases where the number of ads appearing in your ad units varies automatically in order to maximize your performance.

Your ads are currently set at the default size for AdSense, which is the equivalent of ‘small’. You can select a new font size on an account-wide basis in the Ad Display Preference section of your My Account tab, or on an individual ad unit basis for new and existing ad units.

If you’re creating new ad units, you can choose between the AdSense default font size, your new account-wide font size (if you’ve selected one using the instructions above), or a separate size. To update existing ad units you’ve created using the Manage Ads feature, visit the ‘Manage Ads’ page under your AdSense Setup tab. Any font size changes you make on an individual ad unit basis will be maintained even if you change your account-wide default in the future.”

Also announced in the post is that the default size for ads will soon be automatically increased from ‘small’ to ‘medium’. This is due to testing that they’ve done which shows that larger size is performing better.

AdSense Announce ‘Google Ad Planner’ – Showcase Your Site

If you run AdSense on your blog and are looking to attract advertisers to target it specific with their ads then you’ll want to check out a new tool that AdSense have just announced on their blog – Google AdPlanner’s Publisher Center.

Ad Planner is a tool that advertisers use to find sites related to their ads and this new publisher center you can have some say over what they see when they’re looking for sites to advertise on.

First you need to claim your site (there are two methods either through Webmaster Tools or if you’re a DoubleClick Directory User) and then you can customize the description for your site, highlight the ad types that you run, share Google Analytics data (if you wish – this will replace the estimated traffic numbers that Ad Planner currently gives advertisers), choose categories for your site etc.

See more about Google’s Ad Planner Publisher Center in this video:

AdSense Developing ‘Category Filtering’ Feature

AdSense today announced at Adspace and on their blog that they’re developing a much requested feature for publishes – category filtering.

“Category filtering will give publishers the ability to block ads that fall into specific categories such as dating, religion, and politics. Regardless of how ads are targeted, they’ll be filtered if they’re within one of the selected categories. We’ll also show the percentage of recent revenue that ads in each category generate, so publishers can predict how filtering selections will impact their revenue.”

The feature is being launched as a beta test to a small group of publishers so don’t expect to see it too soon unless you’re in the test group.

Here’s a screenshot of what the feature currently looks like (click to enlarge):

Category Filtering Beta

Looks like a useful feature – particularly for those who regularly get irrelevant ads on their blog.

AdSense ‘Force’ Expandable Ad Units on Some Publishers and Exclude Others

Update: I’ve updated this post below with an update from AdSense. Please read it.

AdSense have today announced a new type of ad – Expandable Ad Units.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen these ads being tested on one of my sites (although bizarrely I am not able to use the ads as I’m not located in a country that they are available for – see below) and they are basically an ad that looks like a normal image ad but which expands when a reader interacts with it (by clicking it).

AdSense say that these ads are served on both a CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impression) basis (advertisers choice). If they are CPC you only get paid if people click the ad and visit the advertiser (I have a bit of a problem with this – see below).Expandable_Ad.PNG

Ads will only be available to publishers meeting all of three criteria:

  • If they’re located in North America or Europe, with a website in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish
  • If they’ve added the AdSense code directly into their site’s source code
  • If they’ve enabled image ads

OK – interesting. On one hand I think this is cool, while AdSense don’t say it I suspect these ads could pay more than normal ads. They’re rich media and in general advertisers wanting to use these sorts of technologies are willing to pay a premium and are generally top tier advertisers with recognizable brands and good budgets.

On the other hand a couple of concerns come to mind:

1. Why do AdSense keep offering new things to publishers in certain parts of the world?

Come on AdSense – we’re a global economy. While I’m an Aussie my sites are read by less than 4% Australians. The vast majority of my readers are in North America and the rest are largely European. I’ve ranted on this more times than I can remember. I can understand not wanting to run ads on sites where READERS are not in your target markets, but as a publisher whose blog is read by your target market, hosted by your target market and attracts other direct sponsors from your target market I would have thought you’d love to have these ads on my sites. All this does is drive me to put more and more emphasis on cutting you out of the equation and finding my own sponsors directly – something I’m having more and more success with (thanks to Lenovo this month for their sponsorship of DPS).

2. The ads are more interruptive – but don’t always generate revenue.

Some publishers will be annoyed that these ads are more interruptive than normal image ads. While AdSense say that they’ve got strict guidelines in place around what kinds of ads can be shown – when clicked they will cover parts of the publishers website. More than that, a click on the ad might not generate any revenue if the advertiser is using CPC ads. This means that an advertiser gets the benefit of someone noticing their ad and interacting with it (good for their branding) while the publisher has part of the rest of their site covered over…. and gets nothing for that.

3. Opting out of these ads is not easy.

So what if you don’t want expandable ads on your site?

AdSense makes clear in their announcement that there are ways to stop these ads appearing on your site. They give two methods – neither of which are satisfactory in my mind:

  • You can block advertisers using the Competitive Ad Filter – this means going in an blocking advertisers domains from having their ads appear on your blog. This is only effective if you notice the ads and also means you’re blocking any other ads from that advertiser from appearing on your site.
  • You can use the Ad Review Center – this allows you to log into the back end of your AdSense account and view all ads being targeted to your site. OK, this could work, but last time I checked my Ad Review Center (and I rarely do it because of the number of ads and the slowness of using it) to see what ads were being targeted to DPS I saw literally thousands of ads. AdSense say you can narrow it down by just viewing ‘Rich Media’ ads which is helpful – but I just checked my account and still saw hundreds of such ads on my own account. I don’t know how many were there exactly because I had to close down my browser – something about viewing 100 rich media ads on a page didn’t agree with Firefox on my computer).

OK – so my headline is a little exaggerated, you can opt out of them, but at the very least it is a chore and for some sites that get a lot of ads targeted at them it could be impossible to keep them off their site.

Note: there is a 3rd way of opting out of these ads – disable image ads. Of course this means you only will ever get text ads on your site which means less potential income.

Last Thoughts

IF I was a publisher living in one of the ‘lucky lands’ where these ads are relevant for I’d let them show on my blog. While I have some reservations I think they’re a good idea and don’t think my readers would mind them – however I wouldn’t be happy at virtually being forced to show them or for them bringing value to advertisers brands without compensation.

What do you think of them?

If you have a comment – I’d love to see it below but I’m sure the team at AdSense would love to hear it to – they have comments open on the post on their blog and there’s some good feedback for them already appearing there.

Update: I’ve asked AdSense for comment on this post and they have quickly responded with:

“Google AdSense is really excited to launch our new format of expandable ads, and we’re currently clarifying our statement regarding the eligibility for serving expandable ads based on publisher’s location.”

I’m expecting further comment in the coming hours.

Update 2: OK – AdSense have come back to me with a full response. Looks like they made a mistake in their announcement post. I’ve included their full respond below.

====

Thanks for your feedback on AdSense’s new format of Expandable Ads. We’re really excited to launch this new format, as it brings variety and choice in our ad products for users, advertisers, and publishers.

We made a mistake in our blog post regarding publisher eligibility for expandable ads, leading readers to believe that only US and European-based publishers could serve them. We’re glad to inform the ProBlogger readership that all publishers can accept expandable ads regardless of location. However only select US advertisers are testing expandable ads at this time. We hope to be able to extend this offering to advertisers located outside the US in the future. This has been updated on our Inside AdSense blog post.

Publishers generate earnings from a CPC-priced expandable ad when a user visits the advertiser’s landing page, rather than when a user clicks to
expand the ad. Advertisers have different goals, and we encourage them to achieve them on the Content Network with options to bid via a CPC or CPM
model for all rich media formats. Publishers benefit from our auction technology that optimises their yield from our wide range of ads. CPC expandable ads still compete with other ads to automatically maximise your return from AdSense.

We’re also constantly working to improve publisher controls, and between the Competitive Filter and the Ad Review Center, publishers have two comprehensive ways of blocking expandable ads. Google has designed this ad format to enhance the user experience with ads. Users are given complete
control over ad expansion – expandable ads are initiated with a click rather than a mouseover, and users can easily close the ad at any time.
Expandable ads do not interfere with the page’s layout, and if publishers have opted into accepting all ad formats, it takes no extra effort to
accept them. It’s an exciting ad product that will bring mutual benefit to publishers, users, and advertisers.

======

So – the expandable ads will appear on sites owned by publishers from all locations (after the initial test). The CPC issue is still an issue to me but the auction system that Google have in place to decide which ad to show should help to keep ads profitable. If an ad is not converting on a site then it tends not to be shown. I still have some concern with the ways to opt out for those publishers who don’t want them but I guess we have to live with that.

Thanks to the team at AdSense for responding!

Some European AdSense Publishers Can Now Get Reports in Euros

AdSense today have added the ability for publishers located in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain to view AdSense reports in Euros as well as USD. They write:

“If you’re located in one of these five countries and make this update, we’ll convert your earnings to Euros on a daily basis using the prevailing market rate from the previous day. With earnings converted daily, you’ll avoid the risk of currency exchange fluctuations between USD and the Euro. You can still choose to receive payments in either Euros or U.S. Dollars and select from a range of payment methods as well. “

There are some new terms and conditions to go along with these changes that publishers will need to agree to.

AdSense Lets You Change Your Font in Ad Units

AdSense have just announced a new feature that many of us have been asking for for a while – the ability to change fonts in ad units.

While there’s not an extensive choice of fonts (they allow Arial, Times, and Verdana font faces) it is better than nothing and allows publishers to tweak the way their ads look to fit with the design of their sites.

Find out how to access the new fonts via the official AdSense Blog.

My AdSense Tips on the Official AdSense Blog

adsense-tips.png

Overnight some a video and guest post that I did went up on the official AdSense blog.  

The video is just a few basics on using AdSense that some of the team from Google shot at my house late last year – and the post tells a little of my story and gives my #1 tip for using AdSense (and most ad networks) – to experiment.

In the post I outline a variety of ways (6 of them) that you can experiment and see your AdSense earnings grow.

A few people have asked how the opportunity to post on an official Google blog came up…. nothing too profound really – my Australian AdSense representative asked if I’d be interested – their film crew flew down – we shot it in an hour or so and the rest is history.

update: I just spotted this second video made by AdSense which they filmed on the same day: