Webmasterspot - Website creation and management
Exploring Web development and everything that goes together with trying to run a website!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The 3 minute Adsense optimization guide

The Adsense team has recently posted their 5 minute Adsense Optimization Demo. For those of you on slow connections, or those who are too impatient for the Flash presentation to load here’s a quick condensed version:

Ad positions:

  • Ads above the fold (visible immediately when page loads) perform the best.
  • Place ads near rich content and navigational areas, where visitors are more likely to focus their attention.
  • Place ads according to your visitor’s behavior. Anticipate where they will focus attention and how they will navigate through your site. Place your ads accordingly.

Ad Formats:

  • Wider ad formats perform best, since they allow users to read more ad text without having to skip to the next line.
  • Most effective formats are: 300x250, 336x280 and 160x600 skyscraper
  • Pick formats that complement your site design.

Ad colors:

  • Well blended ads that match the colors of your page provide the best click-through rates (CTR).
  • Rotating colors adds variety and freshens the ads.

Ad placement:

  • Maximize revenue by placing ads on all your pages.

Use Adsense features:

  • Channels – Channels allow you to track the performance of specific ad units and adjust placement accordingly.
  • Image ads – Allow image ads to be shown. Many advertisers choose to use the CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Sites with low click-through rates can increase revenue by allow CPM based image ads to be served.
  • Link units – Link units take up less space and can be used in areas where you wouldn’t be able to place normal ad units.
  • Adsense for Search – Allow visitors to search your site or the Web using Adsense for search. You’ll earn additional revenue if a visitor clicks on ads displayed on the result pages.

Experimentation is key. You need to experiment with various ad placements and colors to see what works best for your site. Allow a decent testing period for any changes you make (one week at the least). Change only one thing at a time so you can track which change had the desired effect.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Referrals 2.0 launches for all publishers

Those of you who keep track of all things Google would remember that Adsense launched a Referrals Beta program in March. They seem to be finished with testing and have announced that Referrals 2.0 will soon be available to all Adsense publishers.

The Referrals 2.0 program seems to offer some nice features for those interested in affiliate marketing:

  • Expanded product inventory: While many of you have had success referring one of our Google products, some of you weren't able to find a product that fit the context of your site. Referrals 2.0 offers products from thousands of AdWords advertisers, so you can find the right ads for your sites.

  • Category and keyword targeting: With thousands of products available, it can be difficult to decide which ads will perform best on your site. That's why we give you the option to refer products by category and keyword. You can narrow down the types of ads you want to display and let AdSense figure out which ones will perform best on your site. Whether you want ads for a specific category, advertiser, or product, referrals 2.0 will give you the control to decide.

  • Ad unit optimization: It can be tricky picking the best ads for your site, so we've included ad unit optimization for referrals. When you create a new referral ad unit, simply select the Pick best performing ads option. We'll then compare your selected ads to other relevant ads, and serve the ads we expect to perform best on your site.

  • Better targeting for pages with multiple themes: With standard contextual targeting, ads may not match up directly with the text around them if there are a number of themes on the page. With referrals, you can select unique “keywords” for each ad unit to narrow the targeting directly to the theme you want. Better targeting means higher earnings for your site.

  • Greater compensation for high-quality traffic: Since referrals are paid on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, your traffic matters. If the traffic you send to advertisers is more likely to turn into a completed sale or lead, you will earn more with referrals.

  • Add your seal of approval: Unlike AdSense for content ads, our program policies allow you to make specific references to referral ads on your site. If you endorse the product that you are referring, feel free to let your users know. By adding your personal review of the products you refer, you can help your users make more informed choices.
If like me you can't see Referrals 2.0 in your Adsense account, be patient. They are phasing it in gradually and it should become available within the next few weeks. It would be interesting to see which products they have on offer and how this CPA (cost per action) system will perform for publishers. I'll report back on my findings once I have had the chance to test the system.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm back! With a new PC....

Any regular followers of my blog would have noticed that it hasn't been updated since the first of April. Aside from some network issues with my ISP (and still lacking the option of getting any form of 24/7 internet connection in my area) I decided to take some time off, and recharge my batteries.

I finally got a brand new PC - funded by Adsense income (Thank you Google!). For those interested here's the specs:

  • Intel Core2Duo E6600
  • Asus P5N32-E Sli Motherboard
  • Geforce 7800 GTX
  • 2GB Transcend DDR II 667 RAM
  • 320 GB Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive
It runs like a dream compared to my old rig. There's still loads of parts I want to add to the system, but I'm waiting before adding the final touches.

I became addicted to Titan's Quest Immortal Throne and completely lost track of time. If you haven't played the game yet, it's definitely worth a try!

I just wanted to say that I'm back! Now, please excuse me, I have some major catching up to do on what's new in the world of webmasters...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Google the prank masters

I couldn't wait to see what Google came up with for April Fool's this year. They definitely did not dissapoint, with not one, but two pranks (I came across so far).

The first one is the revolutionary Google TiSP - wireless broadband for people who want to go with the flow!:

Google TiSP (BETA) is a fully functional, end-to-end system that provides in-home wireless access by connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.
The installation instructions is definitely the best part!

The second one is for all those paranoid technophobes out there. Afraid that Google will suddenly delete your gigabytes of Gmail e-mails? Fear no longer. Google comes to the rescue with their Gmail Paper service. They'll print all your e-mails for you on 96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum based paper, so you can file them away in the traditional manner without having to worry about damaging the environment!

Excellent stuff Google. Kudos!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Adsense team on overdrive

The guys on the Adsense team have been quite busy the last couple of weeks. In case you missed the latest developments here's a brief recap:

Updated Program Policy

The Adsense program policy has been updated with some minor (or major depending on your view) changes in effect. The most prominent is the fact that they have removed the contextual ad restriction, but modified it by not allowing any other ads that look like Adsense ads on your website. So unless your other ad services provide ads that don't look like Adsense ads, it's best to check with Adsense support if they are allowed or change the color/appearance of the ad units so they can't be mistaken for Adsense ads.

Another change is that the label restriction has been 'lifted'. You now have a wider choice when labeling your ads other than "Sponsor" or "Advertisements". However it's very important to note that this doesn't give you permission to post misleading labels such as "Interesting links", "Resources" or anything that could be seen as encouraging users to click on ads or misleading them into thinking that there is some kind of other relationship with your site. Best policy is to check with Adsense support if you plan to use a label that doesn't imply sponsored listings.

Be sure to read the updated policy and make sure that you take note of any changes.

Ad Placements

Adsense has introduced a new feature called 'ad placements'. This allows you to modify your channels and make specific ad units available for targeting by advertisers. You can post a description for each ad unit, making it easier for advertisers to select specific ad units when they are targeting your site for advertising campaigns. This would mean that you could see more advertisers bidding for the same units, resulting in a higher revenue for you.

New pricing structure for referrals

The pricing structure for Adsense and Adwords referrals have been updated and adjusted according to feedback received from publishers.

AdSense Referrals:

* When a publisher who signed up for Google AdSense through your referral earns their first $5 within 180 days of sign-up, you will be credited with $5.
* When that same publisher earns $100 within 180 days of sign-up and is eligible for payment, you will be credited with an additional $250.
* If, in any 180-day period, you refer 25 publishers who each earn more than $100 within 180 days of their respective sign-ups and are all eligible for payout, you will be awarded a $2,000 bonus (bonus payouts are limited to 1 per year).

AdWords Referrals:

* When an advertiser you refer spends $5 within 90 days of sign-up (in addition to the $5 sign-up fee) you will be credited with $5.
* When that same advertiser spends $100 within 90 days of sign-up, you will be credited with an additional $40.
* If, in any 180 day period, you refer 20 advertisers who each spend more than $100 within 90 days of their respective sign-ups, you will be awarded a $600 bonus (bonus payments are limited to 1 per year).

The referral bonusses are pretty good. So if you have some webmaster friends there has never been a better time to refer them! Read the full story.

That should bring you pretty much up to date with all the happenings regarding Adsense. If that's what the Adsense team can produce in just a couple of weeks, I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Google Pack Finally available to all international publishers

When I logged into my Adsense account today I was very surprised to finally see Google Pack as an option for referrals. In my previous post regarding the international Google Pack release, I explained that it wasn’t an actual “international release” since there were many countries left out (including my own).

Recently the Adsense team announced that Picasa referrals would be rolled into Google pack referrals. At that stage I still didn’t have access to Google Pack and I was a bit concerned about how it would affect my Picasa referrals. I e-mailed Adsense support and they stated that it shouldn’t have an effect and that Google Pack referrals could become available at a later stage. I could never guess it would be so soon!

It’s nice to finally be able to refer my visitors to the excellent set of utilities included in the Google pack. It’s definitely well worth trying out, and I can’t wait to see how well it converts. Being able to earn up to $2.00 per referral is also a nice bonus. Thanks Adsense for finally having a real international partial release that includes my country!

It seems there are still some countries that do not have access to Google Pack as a referral option, this is apparently still in a phased roll-out. However many countries have been added so be sure to check your account to see if this includes you.

If your country isn't yet supported please post a comment stating which country you are from. Also let me know if you have access to Pack referrals for the first time. I'm trying to compile a list of newly added and unsupported countries.

Newly Added countries

  • South Africa

Countries not supported at this stage
  • Singapore
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Pakistan
  • Norway

Making money from your website – the 101 guide

Let’s face it; although it might not be the primary reason, most websites are created to generate some kind of revenue for the Webmaster. After all it’s only reasonable to expect that someone who put hours of effort into creating a site would want something to show for that effort – even if it’s only enough to pay for hosting to keep the site up and running.

There are basically 5 main methods available to get income from a site:

  • Charge membership fees
  • Ask for donations
  • Sell a product / Provide a service
  • Link Sales
  • Advertising

Charge membership fees:

This is the online equivalent of the subscription service of most magazines. You charge visitors a membership fee to allow them access to your site for a certain period of time.

This method is only suitable to sites with exclusive content that can’t be found on other sites. It’s a reasonably difficult system to set up and maintain. Unless you have something exceptional on offer, it’s not very likely that people will be willing to pay for access to the content.

Ask for donations:

This model relies on the charity of your visitors. You ask them to give a donation to keep the site up and running. Once again your success will rely heavily on what you offer to your visitors. If your site offers something unique or has a very loyal user base this could be a viable method of generating revenue.

Keep in mind that the income could be very sporadic. There is no guarantee that you will get any donations at all, so you should not rely heavily on donations to cover costs. It should rather be used in conjunction with other revenue methods.

Sell a product / Offer a service

Most eCommerce sites fall into this category. You sell a product, either a physical (books, shoes etc.) or a virtual (eBooks, templates, photos etc) product to your visitors. Alternatively you can offer a service (web design, proofreading, graphic design etc.) to visitors.

The quality of your product or service is extremely important. You need to gain the trust of the visitor and really impress them with what is on offer before they are likely to make a purchase. Virtual goods could be a good option since you wouldn’t need to worry about shipping costs. However you run the risk of someone distributing your virtual product without permission, so you need to keep that in mind if you decide to follow that direction.

Link sales

Once your site is very popular or has obtained a high Google Pagerank (PR) rating you will be able to sell links on your site for a considerable amount of money. This is basically a form of advertising where another site buys a link on your site in order to gain more traffic or increase their Pagerank.

You can sell links on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Pricing will depend on the rank of your site and the amount of traffic you are able to send to the sites you link to. You need to be aware that Google frowns upon people selling and buying links to artificially manipulate their Pagerank. The site that buys the link runs the risk of Google negating the PR being passed by links they consider to be purchased.


Displaying some form of advertising is one of the most widely used and most successful methods of generating revenue from a site. There are various advertising models in use today (CPC, CPM, CPA) and deciding on which one to use would depend largely on the specific site.

The easiest way to leverage advertising on your site is to join one of the multitude of advertising networks available. They will provide you with ads to show on your site and charge a commission (mostly between 45% – 30%) on the revenue generated. They handle the advertisers on your behalf so you don’t need to worry about selling ads, accepting payments or managing which ads to show.

You can also sell ads directly to advertisers on your own. This might be more difficult to do, but in most cases you can expect a higher income and more relevant ads.

Deciding on the revenue model to use will depend largely on your site and what you have to offer. It might take some time and experimentation to see what works best for your situation. The methods discussed here can also be combined and used in conjunction with each other. Experimentation is key. Remember that making money online isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It takes time and effort, but once you have a successful model in place you will be able to reap the rewards for years to come.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Blogger

I finally received the option to convert my Blogger blogs to the new version of Blogger. I'm still trying to figure out how everything works and making changes so my blogs look more or less like I want them.

The new interface seems to be running much smoother than the original version and I like the customize option which allows you to use a drag-and-drop interface to drag layout elements to and from your blog.

The only problem I seem to have run across so far is that my site's RSS feed seems to be broken. It doesn't update with any of the new posts I made since my update to the new version. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to fix it.

Linking to copyrighted material unlawful

Recently someone on Digitalpoint asked whether it would be illegal to start a site that linked to ripped MP3’s, movies and TV shows hosted on third-party file hosting sites. This comes hot on the heels of another member asking whether it would be illegal to imbed YouTube videos containing full-length TV episodes on their site.

From an ethical and common sense standpoint there was no question in my mind – of course it would be illegal (or if it wasn’t then it should be). However, personal opinion doesn’t mean much, so having a bit of free time I decided to investigate the issue.

Now, if memory serves the whole Napster and Grokster court cases revolved around facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material even though these services did not host any of the files. They were still forced to shut down, pay damages or change their system so it prevented sharing of copyrighted material. From that it could be surmised that even though you aren’t hosting any files yourself, if you make it possible for other people to track down these files, you are facilitating infringement. Both of those cases involved some kind of software, so would the same apply to websites?

A Google search on the subject provided quite a few interesting links. In the US there are a number of cases where the court ruled that linking to copyrighted material is illegal. This is classified as “contributory infringement” where the site linking to the material is considered as facilitating the infringement of copyright material hosted on another site.

Sites linking to copyrighted material can be held liable for damages and sued by the copyright holder. In most cases according to the DMCA, if a site receives a takedown request and if they comply chances are that they will not be held liable for damages. This is only valid if the site acted in good faith and wasn’t aware that the material was copyrighted.

However a site that exists solely for the purpose of linking to copyrighted material (such as TV shows, Movies and MP3s) could be held liable regardless, even if they comply with the takedown notices. Sites like these most likely will not qualify for “safe harbor” under the DMCA since they are fully aware that they are linking to copyrighted material. Add any form of advertising (Adsense, banner ads etc.) visible on the site into the mix and things could get even worse since they will be viewed as profiting from the copyrighted materials.

Even though this still seems to be a rather grey area and it is currently unclear were exactly to draw the line – the fact remains that, according to US law precedents, linking to copyrighted material could indeed be illegal regardless if you are hosting the files or not. This would also include embedding videos containing copyrighted material (especially TV shows and movies) from YouTube and other similar services into your sites. Just because YouTube offers you an easy way to embed these files doesn’t mean that you should or that it is even legal.

Keep in mind that YouTube and other similar services most likely have a dedicated team of lawyers that help them with copyright issues. They also have protection under the “safe harbor” clause of the DMCA since they except files from members in ‘good faith’. Once copyright infringement is brought under their attention those files are normally also quickly removed. However if you link/embed a video containing the copyrighted content (movies, TV shows etc.) into your site you could be seen as wilfully distributing the copyrighted content and could be held liable for that infringement. It is common knowledge that TV shows and movies are copyrighted material so you won’t be able to claim ignorance in the matter.

My advice would be to use common sense. If you are linking to something in order to allow other people to download/view/obtain something they would have had to normally pay for, then you are doing something illegal and could be held liable for damages. So unless you have thousands of dollars to spend on legal fees, a cadre of lawyers on retainer and the will to fight court cases, then you should definitely not link to copyrighted material being distributed illegally. Hiding behind the excuse that no files are being hosted on your site, won’t be any defence at all.

It is best to err on the side of caution. If you are in doubt regarding the legality of incorporating something into your site, seek legal advice from a lawyer. Otherwise refrain from using something that could give rise to legal issues.

Killing the Internet?

There has been a huge outcry amongst the online community that the law/verdicts making it illegal to link to copyrighted material is an attempt to kill the nature of the Web and restrict freedom of speech. They argue that it’s a blatant attempt from ‘huge corporations’ to profit from the ‘little guys’. They are quick to point out that this would make linking to any site illegal, since content on websites are also copyrighted material.

However I think they’ve missed the point completely. This law is only there to prevent the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. It does not apply to normal everyday linking, and I doubt that it ever will. It’s an attempt at stopping someone from willingly distributing/facilitating the distribution of copyrighted material online.

This is definitely not a bad thing like they are making it out to be. Together with the ‘huge corporations’, it also protects the little guys – the fledgling digital artists trying to sell their music, software, artworks and books. The big corporations might survive their copyrighted works being pirated, but the little guys most likely won’t.

Copyright is there for a reason – to allow the creator of the work to control how that work is used and to offer them a way to generate income from their efforts. The sooner people learn to respect copyright the better. Who knows, you might even find yourself in a situation where your copyrighted work is being pirated and shared illegally. What would your views be then?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The above information is solely my view and interpretation on the subject and should not be viewed as legal advice. Please consult an intellectual property lawyer with regard to copyright and intellectual property issues.

Further reading:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple iPhone - WOW!

The first thing I have to admit is that I’m not much of an Apple iPod fan. I always thought that the whole iPod craze was way overrated. With the introduction of the Apple iPhone it seems as if I will have to swallow those sentiments.

The iPhone looks stunning. When I checked out their site and saw it for the first time my jaw actually dropped. It is one amazing looking gadget. I would definitely like getting my hands on one of those.

My greatest weakness would be the ability to browse websites wherever I am using GPRS. Sure my current Motorola V360 and Opera Mini can handle it, but heck it doesn’t look nearly as nice and websites are bound to look good on the iPhone’s larger screen. Not to mention that the text entry and navigation would work so much better (Ever tried typing a full length forum reply or e-mail using iTap… not something most sane people would do!)

It remains to be seen if the iPhone will fulfill the great expectations people have for it. One thing is certain, this is definitely one gadget I won’t mind finding in my Christmas stocking!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Beware!!! Adsense as forum posts.

After the recent clarification the Adsense team made concerning images next to ad units, I decided to err on the side of caution and e-mailed Adsense support to do a review of one of my sites to make absolutely sure that it is in compliance.

Two days later I received a response from them and luckily my site was still in compliance with the ToS (phew!). Their response did however contain a very interesting tidbit:

Thanks for your email. I have reviewed the implementation of the ads on your site and it currently does comply with our program policies.

In the future please keep in mind that publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way, for instance, by formatting neighboring content to look similar to the ads, or by making ads look like games or forum posts. Additionally, publishers may not attempt to associate specific images with the individual ads appearing on their sites. Such an implementation may confuse users who assume that the image is directly related to the advertiser's offerings.

Now that is a very interesting point although it could be very easily overlooked. I know quite a few forums where Adsense ads are inserted after the first or last post and appear exactly like a post created by a member (although the member name is normally Advertiser, Sponsor or something similar).

If I’m reading it right those webmasters need to be very cautious and work out another way to integrate their Adsense ads into their forum. So if you are using a similar method, please contact the Adsense support team to make sure that you aren’t in violation… unless you’d rather take your chances and pray that you don’t get the dreaded "account suspended e-mail".