Why Google Adsense Revenue Was Lower in 2012

Google Adsense has a bad reputation with many people who work online. I have seen many website owners dismiss the ad network as a service that only beginners use. They also insinuate that people who use the network do not know how to make money online. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is, Google Adsense is still the most popular advertising network on the internet. It has a bad reputation with some people because they do not know how to make money through it. The thing that many people do not realise is that Google Adsense is best suited to particular websites.

It converts well on websites which have a broad audience, rather than those that are focused on one topic. It also does well on content websites which do not have any related products to promote. I currently use Adsense on my discussion forums and some small content websites. In the past I made ok money with it but currently I am only making a few hundred dollars a month (I am relaunching a website soon that will display Adsense ads so my income should increase).

Google Adsense Revenue Drops in 2012

The other day Ophelie Lechat from Flippa published an article entitled “Why AdSense Went To Shit In 2012“. One of the most startling facts she posted was that Google Adsense revenue fell by 40% more than other ad networks.

40% is a significant amount to lose against the competition. It would, however, be wrong to assume that this occurred because users switched to Adsense alternatives. It is apparent that the huge changes that Google made in 2011 and 2012 was a big factor in this (Panda and Penguin updates).

The internet was full of Made-For-Adsense (MFA) websites: small content websites that were created specifically for Adsense. Most MFA websites had grown traffic by using black-hat SEO techniques such as link wheels, anchor text manipulation, keyword stuffing and links from low PR websites. The Penguin update in 2012 stopped these traffic building techniques from working and the Panda update from 2011 penalised websites which had too little content and too much advertising.

I strongly believe that this was the reason that Google Adsense revenue dropped so much in 2012 because it happened to several of my own websites. I had many small content websites that were monetised using Adsense. They had not been updated in years so when Google changed their ranking algorithm, traffic to those websites dropped. As a result, Adsense revenue dropped at the same rate.

Essentially, Google was responsible for its own drop in revenue. They reduced the traffic of websites who were ranking higher than they should have been. In the short term, I am sure they lose millions of dollars because of this (if not billions). It was something they had to do. Google’s main source of income comes from advertising and if they become less relevant as a search engine, they would be in big trouble.

Is There a Risk My Google Adsense Account Will Be Closed?

I still believe that Google Adsense is a great way of monetizing certain types of websites. You just need to ensure you focus on a good niche, optimise your ad positions and generate sufficient impressions. Over the last two years, I have not seen a major drop in click throughs, CPC or Page RPM. The factor that reduced my earnings was the reduction of page impressions.

There were a lot of scare stories last year about Google banning Adsense accounts. This occurred to many well known affiliate marketers such as Spencer Haws. It seemed that most used less than ethical tactics to gain traffic to those websites, which is possibly why many people had accounts closed. It is a scary thought to know that Google can close your account at any time and refuse to pay out any outstanding earnings.

I had a scare about this recently. Every month pays me around a pound ($1.60) less than my final earnings. My final earnings for April 2013 was £159.22 yet they advised me that the balance that has to be paid is only £129.27. £29.95 is not a huge amount of money; however it does represent a 19% drop of my Adsense income.

Lower Google Adsense Earnings

The Google help icon notes that this field shows:

Your account balance, which includes unpaid earnings. Please note that your payable balance can change over the month if any credit or debit adjustments are applied to your account.

I contacted Google to see what caused this debit adjustment. Whilst Google are renowned for not replying to emails from customers, I was pleased to see that they replied to my question within 24 hours. They noted that my account perhaps had a high percentage of invalid clicks and/or impressions.

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your email.

Estimated earnings, which are used in your reports, typically reflect close estimates of your recent account activity, but do not necessarily reflect the amount you will be paid.

Finalized earnings, shown on your Payments pages, are accurate earnings amounts that include all revenue you will be paid for valid clicks. Once our records are processed and verified at the end of each month, finalized earnings are posted to your Payments page.

If you’re seeing a significant difference between your reporting estimates and your finalized earnings, it’s possible that your account has been receiving a high percentage of invalid clicks and/or impressions.

Your best strategy to combat invalid clicks is to investigate any changes in traffic sources you’ve experienced over the last payment cycle. We’d recommend taking a close look at all AdSense referral sites found in your web analytics tool reports and/or your site’s log history. You should investigate any unusual increase in a particular traffic source from another country, website, IP address, etc., that matches the time period where your finalized earnings differed from your estimated earnings. Once you’ve identified a suspicious traffic source you can then block that IP address or referral URL.

Ads placed too close to navigation or clickable elements can also lead to invalid clicks. Please make sure to carefully evaluate your current ad implementation to avoid accidental clicks. For more information, review our “Ad placement policies”: https://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1346295&topic=1271508&rd=1

We highly recommend closely monitoring any website optimizers you’re working with that are driving traffic to your site. Please read through this article on “Site optimization: best practices to increase traffic”:
http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?answer=2661562.

For additional information on how to use a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics to identify potential sources of invalid traffic, please visit the following Help Center article entitled, “How to segment your traffic”:
http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?answer=2583698.

Lastly, we’d also recommend reading through our Ad Traffic Quality Resource Center:
http://www.google.com/ads/adtrafficquality/publishers/index.html.

I hope that this solves your issue. If you still have any concerns, please reply to this email.

Sincerely,



Marcin


Google’s suggestion to check the traffic sources of my websites didn’t really help. I do not pay to promote the small websites that generate income for me through Adsense. All of the traffic comes from Google search (and a few referrals). I pointed this out to Google.

They replied:

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your email.

With our advertising programs, we strive to create an online ecosystem that benefits publishers, advertisers and users.

For this reason, we are constantly monitoring accounts for invalid activity. We recently reviewed your AdSense account, and based on the findings of our review, we’ve deducted the amount you’ve mentioned for clicks that we consider to be invalid.

These earnings will be refunded to the affected advertisers, and the deduction should apply to your next scheduled payment. Note: this is an estimated amount; the final amount will be posted in your account on the Payments page once it has been calculated.

We understand that you may want more information about the invalid activity we found on your account. However, because we have a need to protect our detection systems, we’re unable to provide our publishers with any details about their account activity. We appreciate your understanding. For more general information on what types of invalid activity affect accounts most, please visit http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2660562. We also suggest segmenting your traffic to help you isolate which of your traffic sources can be leading to invalid activity. You can find more information on ways to segment your traffic at http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2583698.

I hope that this solves your issue. If you still have any concerns, please reply to this email.

Sincerely,

Marcin


I fully understand that Google has to refund the money back to advertisers. My main concern with this issue was not the money. It was the fact that one or more of my websites was generating invalid clicks. Google are notorious for closing down accounts and not explaining why they did it. Seeing 19% of my income taken off suggests that there is a risk my account could be closed too.

I have been using Google Adsense for several years and I do not recall any time when the amount taken off my account was not within the £0.50 to £1.50 range. So to see a deduction of £30 is concerning, but what can I do if Google does not tell me what website the invalid clicks went through and what countries the invalid clicks were coming from. If they could provide me those details, I could take action. I’d have no problem removing Google Adsense from one of my websites if there was a high risk of my account being closed and unpaid earnings not being honoured.

Hopefully, this was a one off and I will not see such a reduction next month. Time will tell.

Despite this issue, I am hoping to significantly increase my Google Adsense income this year. One of the ways I will be doing is through the relaunch of one of my existing websites. I will give you all more news about that next week. Stay tuned :)

Kevin

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