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Making Sense Of Google AdSense Part 2: Managing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Christopher John Eggett's picture

This article is part one of a three part series:

Part 1: Is AdSense Right For You?

Part 2: Managing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (You Are Here!)

Part 3: Panda Problems: Laying Out Your Website To Avoid Panda Attack

Once you're set up with AdSense you'll soon want to get a firm grip on the reins of the beast. You're probably obsessively checking the ads on your site to see if they're working, and just what kind of ads Google think are appropriate to show on your site.

Before we begin we should point out the above approach isn't the most helpful way to work out just what's being shown. While we advocate a proactive stance on managing what ads appear on your site there's so many other factors (such as location and personalisation) which make this approach the least effective way to keep an eye on things. Better ways are to use the ad review centre or ask your community for their thoughts on the adverts.

Managing your ads through AdSense is easy and you're likely to want to do it for a number of reasons:

1.You want ads to fit your audience (The Good)

2.You want to avoid advertising competitors (The Bad)

3.You want to keep out low quality ads (The Ugly)

Why would you want to do any of these things? Well, you want ads which fit your audience because if the ads do fit your audience, they're more likely to click - meaning (some) cash for you!  The flip side of this is you want to keep out low quality ads to avoid reducing your CTR. You also want to keep your site free of crappy "One weird trick" or "One tip for a flat belly" ads which could bring your entire site into disrepute. Finally, and quite simply, you don't want to advertise competitors on your website.

1 Tip Of The Good AdSense: Just Follow This One Weird Tip!

Get Your Ads Audience Fit

To get a rough fit for ads and your audience, head over to the "Allow & Block ads" tab in Google AdSense and click "General Categories"

Here you will see a ton of categories which you can allow and block with the slider on the left hand-side.

If you already know your audience, you can make sure that only certain categories appear to your visitors - hopefully improving certain click through rates for your site. Don't underestimate the ability for a site to advertise across visitors’ interests however, it's not as simple as showing a tech ad because you run a tech site; these people drive, eat, insure and impulse purchase as much as the next person. 

If you're unsure about your audience we suggest you run all AdSense categories to begin with.

From the General Categories view you can see the % of ad impressions and earnings - by looking at these you can see what earns you the most, and what takes up the most impressions in your inventory.

To improve this in the future you could block underperforming categories - categories which serve a large number of ad impressions, but don't provide you with at least an equal percentage of your clicks. It's usually best to investigate any of these categories by looking at the sub categories and working out where the "drop" is. 

Ideally, by blocking (sub)categories which under-perform you will populate your site with more ads from better performing categories. Keep track month-to-month and see what improvements come from you actions. It's also worth noting that there is a limit of 50 blocked categories and sub-categories, so choose what you block wisely.

One Tip For Super Sensitive Categories 

In addition to the general categories you'll want to take a look at the "sensitive" categories. This includes sections which are more likely to produce offensive and, to be honest, crap, ads. The sensitive ads categories include things like Dating, Drugs & Supplements, Get Rich Quick, Sex, Religion, Weight Loss and even Black Magic - i.e. the kind of thing you wouldn't necessarily talk about at the dinner table with your grandmother.

These are all set to "blocked" by default, but it's worth checking if you can unblock any of them if they fit with your target market. Once you've done this, you're set up, right? No more rubbish ads?

Not quite. The content network which AdSense runs from is simply gigantic.

There's no way Google is going to manage this for you, so you (and they) have to trust that advertisers are honest about what their ads are about.

And, while you may block the Dating category on your website, if a wiley advertiser wants to pretend that in fact their advert for "Local Ladies Of Unsure Virtue In Your Area" is indeed about investment, gardening or any of your un-blocked categories there's really nothing stopping them.

That is, there's nothing stopping them except you (and the deterrent of being penalised by Google if they get caught).

Ad Blocking In Google AdSense

The main ways to stop poor advertisers, or a competitor, from advertising on your site are by: 

1.Blocking URLS

2.Blocking AdWords Accounts

3.Blocking Networks

All of these require vigilance and keeping an eye on the AdSense on your site. You can do this by hanging around on your site enough to see AdSense (fairly ineffective, but can catch the big problems) or using the ads review centre (good for catching the smaller issues).

Blocking URLS

Blocking URLs is the best way of dealing with competitors. You know their URLs so you can simply add the URLs to the URL block list to stop any ads showing. Bear in mind however that they may use separate domains for landing pages - so you'll still have to keep an eye out!

If you want to block everything from the domain “example.com” this is all you need to put in the URL field - this will catch:

example.com

www.example.com

example.com/page

www.example.com/page

subdomain.example.com

If you'd like to just on a more specific level, you merely need to be more specific. Full details here can be found here.

If you're running your own advertising on the content network, you may want to block your own website from appearing on the page - after all, you needn't advertise your own site to those already on it.

Blocking Accounts

One of the best ways to keep an eye on the ads which AdSense serves  to your site is to use the Ads Review Centre. This shows you a selection of the advertisers and the ads they are showing. You can scroll through the lists to see ads displaying and, most importantly, block individual ads and individual AdWords accounts.

To block individual ads, just click the red block symbol.

To block whole AdWords accounts, use the cog which appears when you hover over the questionable ad.

If you've made a mistake, or you want to review blocked AdWords accounts you need to view the "settings" page (which allows you to unblock advertisers) and to review individual blocked ads you should look at the "blocked" page.

By default AdSense accounts are set to display all ads without review. You can, if you have time, set ads to "hold" until you've reviewed them. This can be a time consuming and expensive - although you are guaranteed agreeable ads on your site. For the most part we recommend letting AdSense do its thing.

Blocking networks

Networks are the partners which Google has joined up with to provide ads. These are usually large ad buying agencies (many of which you'll recognise). Most of the time you'll find that networks play along nicely, however there are occasions that you'll want to turn ad networks off these could be:

1. Serving Incorrect Region/Language Specific Ads: While many networks are quite clever with their location targeting you will occasionally find a network making a mistake - for example, serving German language ads on your UK site. Many networks are broken into regions (for example: AOL: Advertising.com (JP), AOL: Advertising.com (UK) and AOL: Advertising.com (US)) and turning off ads from certain regions can fix this problem.

2. Consistently Poor Ads: It is fairly rare, but it does happen. We know that even massive companies aren't infallible. If you find a network constantly providing poor quality ads, your best bet is to just switch them off - this tends to be less of a headache than hunting down individual ads they may be serving. 

You can turn any individual network on or off in the "Ad networks" tab under "Allow & block ads" with the slider. Because these advertisers compete for the inventory of your site it's better to have as many networks activated as possible - the more competition there is, the higher the price will be pushed.

What Now?

You're probably pretty set up for the time being - but it's a good idea to keep your eye on the ads and look for small ways in which you can improve the quality and relevance of ads served. Finding a little time each day to have a look at the ad review centre, or responding to community requests to get rid of certain types of ad can improve the overall quality of your ads and in turn the first impression your site gives.

Next: Panda Problems!