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AdSense & traffic exchanges

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Saturday April 14, 2007 )

Are you participating in AdSense and also using traffic exchange services as a means of promotion? You may be unwittingly skating on thin ice and endangering your Adsense account.

A post on “Inside Adsense” (Google’s official AdSense blog) states:

“using third-party tools or services to increase your site traffic may lead to invalid clicks or impressions and result in your account being disabled”

The important part in relation to traffic exchange services:

“we don’t recommend using them, as they may also result in similar invalid activity”

Full post

The AdSense blog post is a little light on details, but on thinking on why they’d take this sort of action and reading some of the buzz that’s been generated about this move, here’s some possibilities.

The way that most traffic exchanges work is that you implement some code and when someone visits your site, a popunder window (behind the current window) is generated that has someone else’s site in that window. That’s considered a “visit” to that site and a credit is applied to your exchange account, which then goes towards displaying your page as a popunder to visits on other sites in the network.

In another scenario, you are credited for visiting a blog or site in the exchange network via a special browser add-on. Those credits are used to generate views of your site to others in the network.

Note: Traffic exchanges shouldn’t be confused with banner or link exchanges, these are totally different beasties.

The problem with these sorts of arrangements is the “visit” to the site in the popunder window/add-on isn’t a real visit; it’s forced. Therefore, depending on the quality of the traffic exchange network, often that window will be closed without any real attempt by the viewer in exploring the contents of the site being displayed.

Many traffic exchange services also allow you to buy credits – so low quality sites without any existing traffic can buy their way into the exchange.

Where this causes problems with AdSense is in relation to Adwords advertiser stats. Adwords prides itself of delivering relevant ads being displayed on the site where AdSense code is used.

These “forced” visits to AdSense enabled sites decrease the likelihood of anything being clicked on, let alone seen; but it still counts as an ad impression. In quantity, these sorts of visits can drive down the CTR (click through rate) and advertisers start wondering why clicks vs. impressions are so low. It may also impact on Adwords Quality Scoring for advertisers (which is a separate topic altogether)

There’s also the issue of these popunder site pages containing little real content, and just ppc ads – a bit like the case of splogs; which is something that Google has been cracking down on.

While people may click on ads in this scenario as there’s nothing much else to click on the page, the conversion to sale/lead/whatever tends to be very low; decreasing the advertisers’ ROI (return on investment).

In short, Google speaketh and AdSense publishers need to take heed. You’ll need to consider which is the less important to you – the participation in the exchange network, or revenue from AdSense. If you decide to continue in the exchange network, just be prepared for your AdSense account possibly being suspended.

Learn more about Adsense and boosting AdSense revenue.


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