AdSense – 10 years on

It was probably entirely predictable that the 10th anniversary of AdSense should have caused a surge of interest among webmasters. Yesterday I received a few emails alerting me to new blog posts on the subject. 

The first to come in was Ophelie Lechat’s Flippa newsletter. In it she mentioned that Flippa had carried out a survey of their users in May and found that 24% of their survey respondents claimed that their AdSense revenue had increased over the last year.

This didn’t seem to match the experience of most people I know, so I started a discussion about it on the Experienced People forum. The consensus was sceptical about this and wondered more about the sample, its size and demographics. It would also have been helpful to probe more into which niches suffered particularly marked losses of AdSense earnings and see if that correlated to Google’s own interests in those niches. In other words, is Google keeping the converting traffic for themselves? That’s certainly what some of us have suspected for a while.

Next to arrive was Morris Rosenthal’s email on the subject: Barbarians in the Castle.

The first graph shows that Google’s advertising revenue has never fallen year over year, yet the second graph shows that Adsense revenue has generally declined as a percentage of the total even as the quality of Google search results deteriorated.

So, Google appears to be taking in more money and paying less out? How many of us had already noticed that we’re being paid less for doing the same as before? After a couple of criticisms about the poor quality of search results, Morris says:

My conclusion is that Adsense has little to do with low quality search results. The problem is that Google decided to emulate the sleaziest of their Adsense partners in generating useless content that leaves users with no options other than clicking on ads. In Google’s case, this content is their search results, which are their greatest source of revenue. This is a very different business model than focusing on generating the most useful search results for users and then running ads alongside those results to earn revenue. Or to put it bluntly, the most harmful spammers on the Internet aren’t SEO’s with their garbage websites, the real spammers are the engineers at Google. The barbarians aren’t at the gates, they’re in the castle, and their goal is to teach your children up to be good little barbarian consumers.

There’s more – you really should go and read that article.

My own experience, and that of most AdSense publishers I’ve spoken to, is that some sites maybe took a hit by Panda or Penguin. Fair enough, that caused traffic to drop in some cases. But even when traffic was rebuilt to previous levels, the AdSense revenue never recovered.  Given that Google collects massive amounts of data on every user, they know what converts best, and they’re using that knowledge to keep the best for themselves. It’s kinda obvious. But it’s speculation because none of us have any hard evidence for this, just our observations.

And now for some more speculation. Did Google use Panda and Penguin as smokescreens to hide major changes in what they were doing with AdSense? I don’t know. I’ve not yet read anything anywhere that explicitly suggests that, and I haven’t done any analysis. It’s just a gut feeling.

Finally, here’s a Google press release from a decade ago, announcing the launch of AdSense:

“Google AdSense improves the overall web user experience by bringing relevant, unobtrusive, text ads to web pages rather than disruptive, unrelated ads such as pop-ups and animations,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder and president of technology at Google. “By providing website publishers with an effective way to monetize content pages on their sites, Google AdSense strengthens the long-term business viability of content creation on the web.”

Ha bloody ha. Google search these days is a joke, although it’s not funny. The screenshot at the end of Morris Rosenthal’s blog posting sums it up. The chances of anyone finding the information they’re searching for is very slim indeed amidst all the paid-for adverts. This does not improve anyone’s overall web experience.

The problem is that many of us have been raised on Google and it’s a difficult habit to break. I’m using DuckDuckGo these days, but even now I seem to find myself on Google sometimes unless I remember to engage brain before searching.

What do you think about it all? Are you an AdSense publisher? Have you noticed any changes in your AdSense revenue? What do you think about Google search?

Please comment below.


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