Google AdSense Weirdness

GoogleHandcuffsHaving dabbled in Internet Marketing, one of the things that I have tried is Google’s AdSense. AdSense is one of those things that is easy to set up, and once set up, is mostly autopilot.  It typically doesn’t account for a large percentage of income, but the main advantage is that you don’t really have to pay much attention to it.

Or do you?

About a week ago, the AdSense income from all of my websites went to about 1/10th what they had been for the last few months. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one that saw something like that. I figured there was another “update” or “Google Slap,” but the forum that passes for “support” in the Google world practically lit up with complaints. Google even responded (which they rarely do). They admitted to “a temporary glitch,” and claimed that even though the reports were coming back with no clicks, they didn’t actually lose any, and things would be back to “normal” in a few days.

Except I did not see any catch-up “bulge” in the curve. AdSense earnings just slowly came back up to about 70% of what they had been. Hmmmm…

Note that there is *NO* AdSense on this particular site, and probably never will be. One of the things that can get your AdSense account nuked by Google is talking about it (in any context, but especially if you are asking for clicks). And AdSense simply doesn’t make enough money to get worked up about. At least, not for me. For all I know, Google will slap me for complaining here, even though I don’t run AdSense here. Then I’ll lose the $2/day or so that I make, total, from all my AdSense links. Maybe all my sites will drop off the SERPs, but I’m not sure I care about that, either. Turns out that this “vanity” page is already much easier to find on Bing than it is on Google, anyway. Personally, I’ve found Bing to get better search results than Google for the things I’m seeking — for the last several months. It’s almost as if Google is so completely unaccustomed to having any real competition that they are completely confounded by it.

The last few weeks of exceedingly unreliable “service” from Google has caused me to wonder about *all* things Google, including AdSense.

Consider the following:

  • When you set up AdSense on your site, you simply put in a script (provided by Google) which allows them to feed you ads.
  • You have very little control over what kinds of ads that are run. You can disallow certain categories, but within the categories that you allow, Google is in complete control over what ads run.
  • Google serves up all of the custom links directly. You can’t even click on one to verify it (that is almost instant cancellation of your account; Google doesn’t like cheating, at least not by you).
  • Google counts all of the clicks (Hmmmm….).
  • Google then decides how much to pay you, based on their count of the clicks and the value of each click using evaluation criteria known only to them.
  • The process is completely opaque. It’s not clear to me how one would go about verifying any of this.

So, ask yourself, what incentive does Google have to provide you with an accurate count? Or, more to the point, does Google have an incentive to short your account?

Note that “Do No Evil” doesn’t appear to apply if Google doesn’t think anyone is watching. In the case of AdSense, Google has gone to great lengths to make sure that it is very difficult for anyone to watch what is going on. In order to do so, you would have to add some code to your site that could intercept and count all of the clicks on your AdSense links. How many people have done that? I certainly haven’t, but I’m going to be looking around to see if anyone has, and how it can be done. I suppose that I might be able to modify the code in the Google-supplied AdSense script to count clicks locally (and I may end up studying that approach). Most of the “solutions” to AdSense click-tracking involve using Google Analytics (DOH!).

Update 2/28/2013: I’m told that mucking with the AdSense script will get your account terminated. So much for that.

On the AdWords side, I can see that it should be possible to verify the clicks. I know how to collect data from the logs that show where incoming traffic originates, although I’m not sure if I could determine whether a particular visitor came from an AdSense link.

But, I don’t use AdWords, so that is moot. Been there, done that, no longer interested in that particular method of losing money.

I’ve been half-heartedly working on ways to reduce the amount of control Google has over me. Looks like I will be increasing those efforts. One of the things I may try is removing all the AdSense from one of my sites, to see how that affects earnings. For all I know, the intrusive AdSense links may be alienating potential customers for the other things I sell.

P.S. It seems that MicroSoft is running an interesting anti-Google site now.

Leave a Reply