15 February 2007

What's happening with Adsense?

Adsense was launched way back in June 2003 (Press Release) with the promise of allowing sites to make money by serving (relatively) unobtrusive ads on their pages.

Google AdSense, a program that enables website publishers to serve ads precisely targeted to the specific content of their individual web pages. With Google AdSense, publishers serve text-based Google AdWords ads on their site and Google pays them for clicks on these ads -- users benefit from more relevant ads and publishers can maximize the revenue potential of their websites. The self-service option augments the existing content targeting services for publishers announced by Google in March 2003, now making this service available to a broader universe of high-quality websites.

I used to run a small block on my previous blog, which didn't generate much. Hence I am not very keen on running ads on this blog. And for this reason, it makes me wonder where Google is going with their business plan for Adsense, and if it really works like people say it does.

Making sense of Adsense

For the uninitiated, Adsense actually works by displaying adsAds can be in the form of a row of simple text links, or blocks with more info and the latest new format, image ads - like the one's you see on high profile sites. that are targeted to the content on the page they are shown. There are various optimisation methods which you can use to improve the contextual part of it, but they aren't as unobtrusive as you'd like them to be.

You get paid by impression and/or per clickThis system, very cryptically is decided by Google to generate maximum revenue for the 'advertisers', not for you! Google decides what kind of ads (between impression or click paying) it serves. I don't know what algorithms it uses, but I don't think it generates the maximum potential revenue for the publisher :(, and you are paid in your currency whenever your collection reaches a 100 USD. Sounds simple? Well, things get murky from here.

Whenever Google doesn't find matching contentThis is always decided by their crawlers, who will try to figure out the topic of the content, and make the content of your ads target those keywords, it'll serve up public notice ads (you can change this configuration however) for which you do not get paid no matter what. The ad formats themselves are limited, hence you'll have to redesign elements in your sites to make them look a part of it. For example, I couldn't find a place which could hold an ad block in my template, hence one more reason I couldn't put one in. Google should offer more customisability than just allowing you to decide the colours. But more importantly, they should better their business plan to balance the kind of ads that are displayed. If they continue to serve CPC ads on a page where people don't click much, the publisher loses a lot of money and the ads make no sense. They have to give us some reason for wanting to put ads on our beloved blogs, don't they? The only good thing is that a tremendous percentage of the revenue share comes to the publisher, but that share is decreasing annually as wellGoogle Adsense Revenue Distribution.

What does it mean for us?

Viewers don't like to see ads. We have managed to estabilish that fact, and we don't need market research to tell us that. There is an immediate profile of the page we form in our heads whenever we see the familiar looking Adsense ads in any part of the page. Userscripts and Firefox extensions have been developed rigorously to block these ads along with the others. This defeats their purpose to quite an extent, although it doesn't cut out the publisher's revenue share.

At the end of the day, we can conclude that Adsense - barring a few success stories, and high profile bloggers who get tons of viewers everyday - holds nothing for the common blogger except an ambitious and shiney looking possibility. Advertising is always a dicey market to step into, and Google calls itself a contextual advertising company. This pulls in quite a lot of expectations from them by the publishers.

Let's see how Adsense evolves to meet these expectations.