A closer look at AdSenseI whine about Google AdSense a lot, because there are so many little areas in which it needs to be improved.

But, then again…Google has been my largest single employer for a few years. And who doesn’t love to criticize the boss??

And yes, believe me…it’s not like I haven’t sent them these suggestions directly…mostly long ago, and in some cases, several times. No action, no response other than “thanks for the input…we’ll pass it along to the team”.

Some of those areas include the following:

  • The online user interface needs help: little things like the ability to alphabetize palette names and allowed sites, so that eyes can more easily track when scanning them (a small delay when it happens once, but a lot of wasted time when you use it frequently). Worst of all, it’s incredibly simple to fix…they just won’t take the time. That, and a more obvious clue on some pages (like Competitive Ad Block) when your data has been saved. Little things. But little irritants.
  • More ad format sizes. When was the last time they added new format sizes? For example, how about something 468 pixels wide and two ads high…(i.e., 4 ads in a 468×120 space)? They experiment with so many different format types…why can’t they wrap their minds around additional sizes? As publishers, we need things that can work with our site designs. Sometimes, a header-sized ad is just too much, but a 468×60 banner is not enough. Plus, new formats are less likely to be as susceptible to ad blindness. What would it hurt to add a few more offerings?
  • Text-link referrals for AdSense. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told a friend to go sign up for AdSense. They always do, but they don’t always think to go find the stupid little blue button on such-and-such a page to click on before they do it. I realize that Google is sensitive about spam…but they have enough geniuses out there that they could put one on this project for a day or two and solve the problem for all time. There’s just no good reason that this continues to stretch out without a solution.
  • Protection for their publishers. I just went and bought some AdWords yesterday for the first time in a couple years. In the past I’ve spent a good deal of money with them, but since my sites don’t really exist to sell products, PPC ads are not that helpful to me. I was amazed to see that the keywords I bought required minimum amounts of 15 and 20 cents each just to be displayed…not in the competitive sense, but because Google had set a floor price. That’s all well and good for protecting their own interests…but where are they when it comes time to protect the publishers. I could almost understand if they are wary of setting price floors, but if they are unwilling, they should at least allow us to do so. I have had several occurances recently of TWO clicks on ads on my site netting me a total of ONE cent…i.e., the payout is HALF A PENNY apiece. Huh? That’s inexcusable. I’d rather show a Public Service Announcement than be raped like that. Where is the option for protection…where I can set a minimum bid of 3-cents-or-whatever per click? Personally, I feel like they should say that clicks are unavailable below some minimum price, period…no less than a nickel to purchase…no less than 3 cents payout. Something like that. But if they can’t do that, then at least allow ME to say what I’m willing to settle for.

Why don’t they address issues like these? These are issues of basic respect for their user base…the honest, hard-working folks in the crowd. I understand that web spammers take a lot of their energy, but what about those of us who do things the right way? AdSense has NO competition…so that’s no excuse. They’re making so much money that I think they get lazy sometimes with what they perceive as non-essential issues. But their user experience needs work.

ON THE OTHER HAND, my friend Josh said to me the other day, “I know you hate AdSense.” That comment shook me a bit, because I don’t. I never have. It’s more like being angry with someone because you love them. If you hated them, or didn’t care at all, what would be the point?

In fact, over the last few days, I’ve gone back and tightened up my commitment to AdSense across my suite of 30 sites or so. I’ve been experimenting for a long time with other options like ShoppingAds (AuctionAds), Text Link Ads, WidgetBucks, Chitika and others. I do realize that some folks make a lot of money with these vehicles, but none of them have ever really worked for me. I think much of it has to do with the nature of my sites. Also, I’m not an “internet marketer”, per se…so while my daily audience is pretty large (as is the number of clicks I see each day), they are not the rabid “show me how to make money” folks. And since they don’t come to my sites looking for that “put me over the top” secret, they are less of a mind to make a purchase based on an ad for an ebook or a membership site or whatever.

Also, the ads generated by these services are rarely “deals” in the sense of, let’s say, DealNews.com. Frankly, THERE’S a company that could make a ton of money by widgetizing their product and paying commissions for clicks or conversions. They have an aggressive staff that’s out finding deals (and I’m sure they are often brought deals by the dealers themselves, because they drive traffic). That’s the kind of thing I believe would cause people to buy (conversion). But just displaying products? Nah.

And, as far as ShoppingAds (AuctionAds) goes, we all know that Ebay is rarely what it appears to be. I can’t count the number times that what appeared to be a great price has ended up selling for roughly what I could buy it for on Amazon. Plus, Ebay is so cluttered with retailers and dealers now that I never bother with them anyway. In my view, that’s a weak base for an ad network.

Conclusion? These poorly-converting ads (again, speaking personally) are just giving folks something to click on OTHER than AdSense when they leave the site. But since they don’t convert for me, displaying them is a bad idea.

As a result, I have gone NBA: Nothing But AdSense. Even with all their flaws, the AdSense folks still have the best thing going. They deserve the best placement I can give them.

And here’s my new theory of ad placement. ONE ad block…probably a header, when I can make it work with my site design. Why just one block? Because each additional block displays cheaper and cheaper ads.

And, two or three AdLinks units per page, depending on the flow of content on the site. I don’t believe that the number of AdLinks units matter, because logically, they don’t get cheaper as you add more. Why? Because they take two clicks. Click one takes you to a second screen filled with AdSense ads…displayed from the most to the least expensive. So even with 3 AdLinks units, there’s no watering-down effect (at least, that’s my theory). And AdLinks units are wonderfully flexible when it comes to site design. I almost always use the horizontal units, and they tuck in neatly beneath my page header titles (before the content begins), as well as working nicely as separators between content section blocks.

As a result of this move, my AdSense income has increased noticeably. The simple fact is that we get around on the web by clicking. A click representing expressed interest in a compelling ad with conversion possibilities is the best way for someone to leave my site. And, for me, for now…that mostly means AdSense.