Adsense Users Forum, March 2005
I live in Mountain View, CA, less than 2 miles from Google's campus. Most of their campus occupies buildings built by Silicon Graphics a few years ago when they were a high flying tech company. Remember [amazon-item:B00003CXAT|Jurassic Park]? The special effects were famously done using SGI equipment. I hope that occupying SGI's former campus doesn't give Google bad karma, because they and their projects are much too valuable. In any case the Google Adsense team held, on their campus, what they called "The Google AdSense Bay Area Forum". It was an event for Adsense users and the Google Adsense team to meet one another and talk about best practices, program experiences, and tips to maximize revenue.
For the thousands of people around the world who weren't able to attend, I took many notes and will try to list them here.
It's interesting that, 15 years ago when I moved to Silicon Valley, the land Google's campus now occupies was a little farm. Surrounding this little farm were high tech companies, Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Pyramid, Hewlett Packard, cc:Mail, NASA Ames Research Center, and more. Not too long ago Silicon Valley was all fruit orchards as far as the eye could see, and the people called this The Valley of Hearts Delight. This little farm was a fragmentary remnant of that past as an agricultural powerhouse.
"If you make more money, we make more money". The initial speaker, a Google employee, really impressed me with the clarity of their vision and intent. Their plan is to create a virtuous circle, where they serve the needs of the web-reading public (the "users"), the needs of the advertisers, and the needs of the publishers. Every step they make must fit the needs of all three, because together those three form the Web's ecosystem.
Between the search engine and the Adsense data, Google has ammassed a huge amount of data. But, the speaker said, that doesn't give them omniscience. It doesn't tell them what's in the hearts and minds of the people, they can only gain that knowledge from meeting with the people. Hence, holding the forum.
They plan to continue improving the tools and tips for optimization.
They plan to continue growing the advertiser base. Increased advertiser base increases the amount of money flowing through the system.
As the publisher base grows, more and more have poor HTML skills. They plan to ease the process of adding the code into a web page.
"Our goal is your success".
Dr. Cheng Wu, eFunda.COM
He runs an information site targeting a very narrow niche, mechanical engineers. There are around 500,000 mechanical engineers in North America. They were founded in the height of the .COM craze, and are one of the survivors.
As engineers themselves they had great troubles with sales and getting significant advertising. But one of the biggest lessons they learned from Adsense is the high overhead with the traditional method of selling advertising. A traditional advertising sale involves salesmen and commissions and in the end, for the sale to be profitable, it has to involve thousands of dollars. But can a small shop afford to do so? To him, using Adsense was like hiring Google to handle sales.
Most of his discussion was a simple change he made which doubled his revenue.
He has been using two ad units per page, one at the top of the page, another at the bottom. He actually did not know the limit was three ad units until the audience told him, so we can expect him to introduce a third one on his pages.
He had tried several placement and coloration strategies. None of them made a difference, until this one simple change.
What was the change? To make sure the colors did not have "frames" in the ad units, and to as much as possible blend the ad units with the content.
He called it tricking their readers into believing the ad units were simply part of the site. He talked of a phone call he received of someone wishing to order a half a ton of copper, because the illusion was so strong.
An interesting effect is that Adsense seems to have increased stickiness of their customer base. They're apparently finding the advertisements so useful they come back to the site for more.
As an aside he talked about how his site attempts to be very professional, and he wanted an option to turn off the "Goooooooooogle" part of the advertisement. That it detrimented the professionality of his site. This turned into a hubbub in the audience with the majority wanting to turn off the "Gooooooogle".
Chris Prillo, Lockergnome.com
Chris is a longtime "content creator" in technology. For example he had formerly hosted the TechTV "Call For Help" show. Lockergnome.com and other web properties he operates are all about providing technology help, advice, and more.
He started by talking about e-Mail as a promotion tool. In the past e-Mail was a great method for promotion but around 2 years ago its usefulness fell as the tide of SPAM rose.
"I never want to hire another sales person in my life" he said.
He is completely enthusiastic about Adsense, and threw out this question: How do you monetize free content? He sees his time as money, and while he loves to talk and give advice he also wants to be paid for his time in doing so.
He claims that Affiliate Marketing is "dead", and especially the way it devalues the web site it is installed on. I don't quite understand his point, but given that his Amazon.COM revenue has fallen to under $50 per quarter you can understand he might be feeling sour on it.
To explain himself he gave this idea: People look at graphics, and they read text. Text tends to draw people in. Hence Adsense, with its reliance on text, draws people "in" better than the typical affiliate tactic of placing a banner on a page.
That point I can validate with my experience. Whenever I've simply placed a banner on a page, it hasn't done much in sales. On the other hand whenever I've written a book review I link it to amazon.com, and with less than 1/10th the traffic level his sites see I gain 10 times the revenue he claims to get from amazon.com. The thing is that when I write a book review, linking it to amazon.com, that's a textual thing and I'm relying on the same effect he talks of. That text draws people in.
His main message was about the tendency to use adsense as an "afterthought". Instead he builds his pages FOR adsense, piling the content AROUND the advertising.
He also tries to make the adsense ad units invisible, blending it in with the content. He uses a large rectangle inline with the content, coloring it to blend with the background, and no borders or frames.
He doesn't see adsense as advertising, but as part of the content of his site. That's what Google has been great at, is the algorithms to select highly relavent advertising.
Jennifer Slegg, Webmasterworld.com, Mymommybiz.com, and JenSense.com
Jennifer spent her time talking about the way to get more revenue pages. It's a simple idea, the more pages you have, the more opportunity you have for a reader to click on a page.
For her it's all about content, content, and more content. Keep adding content.
Look in your logfiles, the raw logfiles especially. You're wanting to learn what your customers are thinking about. When they go to a search engine, type in some phrase, and eventually click on a link to your site, embedded in the log file is the search phrase they used. This is very valuable as you can then write content to match the phrases they're searching for.
If you use Adsense For Search you can learn more directly what they are searching for. The method is to place a graphic on the customized search results page. That graphic, when its pulled from your web site, will again cause the users search phrase to be entered in the log files.
What are your most popular articles? If you read through them, it'll give you some more ideas of articles to write.
The questions you receive can be a source of ideas for more articles. By answering the question on your website, you can head off having to answer that question again in the future.
Keep your articles relatively short, 200-500 words.
Use good titles so that when they show up in a search engine it'll grab peoples attention. Try to answer a question with your title. Or make it an actionable title.
Having an online forum in your web site is a good source of content and continued visitorship. But you'll see lower click-through rates (CTR).
You don't have to focus only on the highly competitive, high paying, keywords. The non-competitive keywords are just as important and can pay well.
Use limited URL filtering. It may be good to exclude advertisements on one page, but they may be perfect for another page.
When testing (and test a lot) use channels.
She advised when you run a test, run it for two weeks and to avoid special times like holidays.
"We try to make the ads so useful the users actually want them" - Google
They closed with a general Q&A session. Unfortunately I only wrote a few ideas down.
One question was about a page whose content varies frequently. The content of the advertisement changes slowly, reflecting the content that was there two weeks ago. I see this effect myself on my blogs.
The answer was to think about the meaning of a URL. A URL points to a given resource. If that resource changes regularly, is it the same resource it was last week? Or is it a different resource. "To the extent your URL is an indicator of the content, they can better target the ads". For example if you have a quote of the day on a page, if you embedded the date into the URL this would signal Adsense the page was a different page than the one it looked at before.