Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, November 7, 2003

Google AdSense Review: Strengths, Problems And Weaknesses

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Google's AdSense program allows third-party sites (like mine) to run Google's famously successful text ads, which also get tailored to each of site's pages' content. Already, there have been a few examples of the money this could bring to small sites.
Source: Potential Effects of Google AdSense.

Google AdSense has recently lifted a ban prohibiting independent publishers like me to report about the use and effectiveness of their unique advertising program for independent publishers, bloggers and Web site owners.

Google AdSense is a virtual advertising agency, which automatically places ads on your Web pages and selects which ads to publish according to the specific type of content available on each.

All of this process is automatic.

"Simply put, we provide you with AdSense HTML ad code to place on the web pages on which you want to display AdWords ads. Then, we take care of the rest by leveraging award-winning and proprietary Google search and page-ranking technologies to deliver relevant AdWords ads to those content pages.

"We go beyond simple keyword matching to understand the context and content of web pages. Based on a sophisticated algorithm that includes such factors as keyword analysis, word frequency, font size, and the overall link structure of the web, we know what a page is about, and can precisely match Google ads to each page."

Source: Google AdSense FAQ

After signing up, you need only to place one short script inside your Web site page template so that it will be used on all the pages where you want your ads to appear.

After the Google ads start appearing on your pages your AdSense counter starts ticking the number of clickthroughs generated by your site visitors on those ads. Though as a Web site owner participating in AdSense, you are fully prevented from knowing which ads were clicked and how much each click brings to you, the overall result is that, without doing anything more than what many Web site owners would normally do, one can end up making a tangible amount of streaming income built upon the interaction between quality content and ethical ads.

Google uses their search engine ranking technology to decide what ads to show on your site, and on specific pages on your site. For instance on a webmaster site an article about Flash might show ads for Macromedia products and an article about web hosting might show ads from different web hosting companies. This type of targeting is very effective and results in good click-through rates in most circumstances.

This targeting isn't perfect though. One issue is that Google seems to be doing very little in the way of ad rotation. If a certain ad is highly targeted to your content it might be shown every time. This means that if you have a lot of return visitors or a high number of page views per visitor you may experience declining click-through rates.

Another issue is that Google targets ads based on your site's content, not based on your visitor's desires. The difference between the two might not be readily apparently, but it can be very significant.

Source: Google AdSense Review

Google pays Web site owners with a monthly check that is sent directly to your specified address (for now some limitations apply if you live outside of north America).

So far it sounds and looks as an ideal marriage between ethical and contextual advertising and the growing number of niche writers, reviewers and reporters adding themselves successfully to the universe of online news, educational and reference sites and more.

But let's look a bit under the surface.

Thanks to Mihai Bocsaru I finally scouted an excellent article about some of the features and characteristics of Google AdSense that any Web site owner should be aware of:

1) Pages with single theme topics are highly effective.
2) Targeting effectiveness increases over time.
3) Hosting AdSense ads has no effect on the level of spidering from the "normal" Googlebot.

Having been fiddling and playing with AdSense myself, in the effort of optimizing my Web site pages to trigger the most relevant ads I have also made a few discoveries:

4) Critical factors that determine Google ad selection are clearly related to off-page factors. These may be variables, link relevancy or other categorization mechanism that Google uses to determine the type of content displayed on any Web page.

5) Highly descriptive file names with dashes between the words work extremely well.

6) Domain names that clearly specify what you are all about about do have a tangible effect on Google AdSense selection of ads.

7) It is true that Google AdSense fills in the adstrip with public service announcements when:

a) it does not have sufficient ads to run for a they keyphrase it has identified

b) it has not yet "cached" the page on its own servers.

That means that if you take any page from the Web, and report the content on an empty page of your site, you will see public service ads appear on it, until that page is effectively "public" and becomes cached by Google.

Unless your Web page is very simple (design-wise) and your content is very focussed optimizing any Web site page for Google AdSense can appear to be quite difficult, if not altogether impossible.

But there are a lot of simple logical steps one can take to make things work for the better than the worst. And it all comes down to publishing high quality content that is focused on one or more very specific topics.

On the other hand, it is also likely that Google AdSense will gradually refine and improve its invisible keyword-matching engine, but it is also possible that we are asking Google something we could maybe doing ourselves.

Now let me express some very personal ideas:

a) What I would want from Google AdSense:

If I were to decide and design my ideal Google AdSense this is what I would do.

Make these considerations:

a) Who would be most interested in placing the very best ads on a site?

b) Why does this process have to be ONLY automatic?

c) Can Google ever be as good as the advertiser or Web site owner in establishing whether an ad best fits a page or another one?

It seems to me that as much as the talent, skill, experience and ability of advertisers and web site owners is fully leveraged, much of the extra potential of this approach remain untapped.

I know that there are tens of thousands of good reasons that you are already thinking up for why this is not so, but please, let me play my role and let's try to stretch a bit our view of how things could really be.

Picture this:

What if I had inside my Google AdSense control panel the option to access and see all of the ads available through Google AdSense searchable and sortable by category and type of products.

What if I could select which ads to run on my site and which ones to run on different types of pages. Would I be a more apt gardener than Google automatic keyword technology?

What if I could also set Google to operate in automatic mode for all those pages where I see it doing great keyword matching, while having the option to go on manual on those, maybe very important and trafficked pages where AdSense keep stumbling on itself?

Who do you think would benefit the most?

What if advertisers could themselves target and control with a finer degree of accuracy the sites and minimum requirements they would want to consider any site a viable advertising channel? Advertisers could well use criteria as category of content, Pagerank, number of inbound links, keyword relevancy, categorization and presence, inside DMOZ and much more.

b) What I don't like at all about Google AdSense

I frankly feel very uneasy to be in a business relationship where my business partner, Google acts like God and I have to maintain blind faith and full trust in whatever it does.

Fact is that I have no way to check or verify whether is Google effectively providing me with what I deserve for my marketing communication effort.

The issue is particularly thorny because Google claims the right to nullify any clickthroughs that it will identify as unethical efforts to boost the AdSense traffic. (I have already heard in person horror stories of very serious and credible independent publishers being cancelled their AdSense payment on the basis of such rules. Having talked to some of these people I have had the net impression that they had not acted unethically and that they were themselves very surprised of Google decisions.)

I, for one, have been surprised at how wide the percentage of "valid" clickthroughs may vary from one day to the next, and have been perplexed at some of the reported clickthrough data. But can I verify? Can I see if I have been penalized because someone has been clicking too much on these ads?
No. I have no way to check, verify or even test the effectiveness of my work.

Would it be so outrageous then to ask Google to play its "private" testing game on my sites for a few months, and then, having seen my reliability, relevance and content, grant me a forfeit advertising budget for the aggregated worth of my online property (reach, Pagerank, clickthrough, relevance, etc.)?


Overall I like Google AdSense very much because it DOES offer a tangible opportunity to support many independent Web site owners, small businesses and thousands of good writers and reporters who would have otherwise no easy to way to maintain an information-based online business.

This is certainly much better and more effective than considering the much touted micropayments solution for example.

If advertising can be made to be as non-intrusive, contextual, relevant and targeted as AdSense intends to be, the positive results can be seen not only in the wonderful opportunity to stretch the potential for effective marketing in new directions, but also in the fact that this approach opens the advertising marketplace to many small players, while, for the first time, incentivating the creative publishing work of those who are least commercially oriented.

Related articles:

  1. Google AdSense Review

  2. Potential Effects of Google AdSense

  3. Does Google's AdSense Make Sense?

  4. Introducing Google AdSense

  5. How to Qualify for Google™ Adsense™ Contextual Advertising

  6. Google AdSense Expands Contextual Ad Placement Program To Small Sites

  7. AdSense FAQ

  8. Maximize Revenue with AdSense

  9. Blogads Vs. Google AdSense

Online Resources:

  1. About AdSense

  2. Try before you Sell

  3. Free AdSense Web Tool

  4. Google AdSense Sensor

  5. Google AdSense Forum - Thomas Brunt's Outfront Webmasters

  6. Google AdSense Review

  7. Google AdSense - Web Site Advertising Revenue

Readers' Comments    
2010-07-27 09:58:39


I’ve been using Adsense for close to a year now and find that it is very useful on some blogs but next to useless on others. I’ve got friends who run niche blogs on highly targeted subjects (sometimes quite localized on particular countries) and they have struggled to have any ads served to their blog. As with any contextual advertising it largely depends on your content as to whether it will work or not.

2006-08-25 13:31:06


hey guys,
i noticed that some People also are having problems with google, they even got sued for not returning money to the advertisers for illegal clicks.
anyway, you should try to use other companies like adbrite, its the same thing and its really popular, you can use my link so i can refer you =).×32-2

2006-06-09 09:50:34



I've figured a way out to add Adsense to GooglePages. Just use my configuration found at:

Good luck making profit!

2006-01-12 06:58:42


The google adsense program is not legitimate. Any user can be disabled for generating "invalid clicks" because one or two person somewhere keeps clicking on your ads for some reason or there are some people who are behind a router and share the same IP address who click on those ads . Google sees them a single computer and never bothers to hear what the publishers has to say.

Moreover the WORST THING is that google has ALREADY collected your private data ,such as your address , phone number etc which you don't give to anyone. Does anyone has the right to sue google for keeping our personal informaion ?

This is a game which google is a player cause you will be banned if your page ranks go high and you end up getting clicks quickly . On the internet page rank is very dynamic and your site can go up and down very quickly based on the content you write. If it had something to do with a celebrity then its most likely to be on the top and you get lot of viewers who might endup clicking . THis is a good thing for GOOGLE but they just say that you have done something bad.

2005-09-19 06:02:49


Google adsense is increasingly unpopular with the publishers as they are not transparent,forefiet your real hard earned money (except invalid clicks one), they dont treat you with respect not give you any explanation,prior notice/warning for disabling of your account.Their technology is poor or their methods are fradulant perhaps due to arrogance & power have corruptd this organization.It is trying to capture the internet.Everbody should be beware of google adsense programme & think twice joingin it as you may sufer huge loss after hard work.Yahoo has also started their own programme.

2005-03-15 12:28:15


Dont' really understand this hue and cry on getting banned by G. Well if you were basing your site on G's Adsense as the main source of income, perhaps the days ws to come. If not, then why be so disappointed?

If you have a sound business model, Adsense or No Adsense, it shouldn't let you lose direction. You could be selling your own 468X60 for 10$/Mo and have a 100 page real content based site you could be earning more than what Adsense could have offered you on those 100 pages. Forget that something like Adsense existed if you get banned, concentrate on your business model and stop wasting your time sending emails to G. The more you try to be Honest, the more they would think that you are a Cheat. Why does G look for publishers? In fact Advertisers should put a strict condition that they do not want any Site ecept G where they would want their Ads displayed. Then Who does G ban? Themslves?
These banning exercise is nothing more than Sales Gimmick from G


2005-01-08 01:15:51


Below is a copy of an email I sent to Google regarding cancellation of my Google Adsense account. Google cancelled my Adsense account without providing any facts whatsoever. They simply stated that invalid clicks had been generated from my site. I will continue to post messages regarding this issue for anyone interested.

I am sending this email as a second response to the very troubling email that I received from Google AdSense on Wednesday, January 05, 2005. I would again like to assure Google that I have no knowledge of, nor have I ever taken part in invalid clicking. My websites are doing extremely well in both Yahoo, MSN, MSN Beta and other lesser known search engines. My sites have a very respectable presence in the Google search engine as well. I have two bedding and linens affiliate websites that I have worked on day and night for over a year. I am very proud of these websites and would never do anything to jeopardize them or my relationship with Google. I am aware of the tremendous increase in traffic that my websites have enjoyed in recent months. This is a direct result of my hard work, and not only did my AdSense revenue go up substantially, but my merchant sales have increased over 900% as well. What has happened is that the new MSN Beta and Yahoo almost simultaneously ranked literally dozens of pages from my websites very high in their search engines. There are bedding and linens keywords that I actually have as many as 4 pages in the top 10 in Yahoo. As a result of this, I have enjoyed a great deal more traffic to my websites. The increase in clicks on my website are a direct result of legitimate traffic that my sites are receiving. I'm still hopeful that the impressive Google staff will realize this and reinstate my Google AdSense account. I will cooperate with Google in every way possible to get this matter resolved. I'm not sure how the determination that invalid clicks were being made on my websites was reached, but I assure you this remarkable increase in traffic to my websites was achieved with hard work and nothing fraudulent. I know there are many brilliant minds working for Google and I'm hoping very much that one of them will get this email and help me with this terrible situation.

2005-01-03 16:00:41



AdSense is a cool program, but it has a few „underwater stones“ which one should know not to be disqualified!

So if you will get a message from Google “It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated on the ads on your web pages. We have therefore disabled your Google AdSense account.” etc then you should not be surprised, because most likely it was due to the invalid clicks.

Here are a few insider tips:
1. Never click on your Google advertisements with the public IP address that you use to log-on into your Google account (they register it and thus may disable your account!) (if you do not know how to obtain your public IP address go to;

2. If someone wants to ruin your Google Adsense, he may do a few hundred of clicks within one hour on your Google advertisements and you are lost!

There is no simple defence against this at the moment.

AdSonar is more advanced in this case because they allow you providing a list of IP addresses which can be blocked (not counted as valid clicks).

AdSense from Google is weak here.

3. Pay attention to the following: the rate (number of clicks * 100 / impressions) should not be more than 10 %. If > 10 %, it may become suspicion for Google.

4. Your web site users are not interested in Google advertisements? There is a simple method on how to change it …

Best Regards,

2004-08-07 23:32:20


I have a site with about 25,00,000 HITs per month and a good amount of Page views.. Everything was working fine when I finally got a mail from google stating that fradulent clicks were discovered. I checked my site logs and monitered the clicks. Since, My site's most active part is the Forum, I can easily get the IP address. I suspected one IP address creating problems and I reported it to google by mailing them. I gave them the IP address and told them to check it for un-authorised or fraud clicks. I was ready to give away all cash generated by that IP address.
Guess WHAT! The Next day, My account is DISABLED! I am given a mail stating that fradulent clicks have been detected and hence my account was disabled. Now what kinda rule is this. A publisher who tries to be Loyal and reports suspecting IP address is SUED for no reason. It is all because Google has BOTS at their help system. After the above incident, I send them about 3 mails .. for which I got the same WORD-TO-WORD reply. But even though, they still remain on of the higest paying ad-network. And people have no way than to trust them and follow their path blindly. I lost about $200, However, I did get previous checks.

2004-06-14 20:43:16

Ad Incensed

Adsense is becoming a liability on my site. Until they changed their configuration at the beginning of April 2004, I was looking at very healthy profits for my site, increasing each month. Since then my profits have plummeted and Google refuse to explain their actions, claiming that they are working to better accomodate advertisers. In reality, Google Ads simply no longer match my content, varying wildly from the content and looking a little absurd as a result.

I would urge caution to anyone considering Adsense You may find, as I have, that you will lose the fight against poor ad targeting, being stumped by the weak 200-url banning filter. The latest trick they have been using is to simply use keywords from my site and drop them into automatically generated ads for Ebay, Dealtime and lately (and most devastatingly) Amazon. In the case of Amazon, they directly undermine my own attempts to sell books through my site, replacing my commision with a token 3 cents click.

Google are tearing my site revenue apart.

2004-04-15 01:52:51


We have the ability to track actual clicks and compare them to google stats. Based on our research, the largest percentage of the discrepency between paid clicks is that a sizable number of visitors click on either the same ad multiple times in the same page within a few seconds or multiple ads within a few seconds.

Surprised us but it happens every day. I can't release the percentage we found but it is a lot higher than one would expect.

We implemented this tracking to use as evidence should we ever get accused of falsifying clicks, check up on Google itself, as well as see which pages are generating which types of clicks.

So far, they have canceled pretty close to the number of clicks we had expected them to. We don't have their exact cancellation formula but can now make some educated guesses.

Just thought I'd share this tidbit.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, November 7 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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