Improvements to Google Adsense
(1) Security and Privacy
Google Adsense Bowling is growing in notoriety primarily because it is so simple. There are two ways to accomplish this: implicate the Adsense publisher in click-fraud by generating false clicks for that publisher, or grotesquely violate the TOS by posting Adsense code in places it shouldn’t be (to vulnerable guestbooks, forums, in spam emails, etc). Google could increase the security and privacy of publishers by implementing the following.
a. Site Tokens
Instead of using a publisher ID, Adsense publishers could generate site-tokens that would allow the AdSense code to only work on that particular domain. This way, malicious users could not use the second method mentioned above by posting AdSense to alternate sites in manners that grossly violate the TOS.
c. Click-Fraud Protection Opt-Ins
Adsense publishers should be able to choose click-fraud protections that are substantially stronger than those generally offered. For example, preventing ads from showing to IPs that had already clicked, or allowing the user to block their own IP or subnet to prevent bannings that occur when ISPs use proxies.
Despite the fact that Adsense Publishers are one of the most important financial assets the Google maintains, the level and quality of support for Adsense is abhorrent. Here are just a handful of very simple improvements that could be implemented.
a. Easier Help Interface
Aside from answering the simplest questions that a neandertal could coax out of a simple Google search, getting serious support is several steps away. For example, lets say a user is confused.
Step 1. Clicks “Help” in upper right hand corner.
Step 2. Taken to a glorified FAQ. Can’t find an answer? Search for it.
Step 3. No results found? Brilliantly, you are informed to “Search Google” (Duh), “Visit a Glossary” (Maybe), “Browse Topics” Done that. Notice they do not point you either to the Adsense Contact Support Form (https://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/request.py?) or to the Adsense Google Group (http://groups.google.com/group/adsense-help?sourceid=asos&subid=ww-en-et-homepage&medium=link)
Step 4. The user hits the back button and stares blankly at the screen, contemplating Yahoo Publisher Network (http://publisher.yahoo.com). Finally, he/she sees the Google Adsense Group link at the bottom right hand of the screen and knows what the hell that is, or better yet, notices the size 9pt font “contact us” at the very bottom.
How about this one. The simple “Support Search” on the top right, should not only search Adsense Help Desk, but also the Adsense Google Groups. Then, when that fails, they should be led directly to a contact Adsense Support page. All along the way Google can present the glossary and faq and help desk, etc. but the convoluted and difficult-to-find contact information is ridiculous.
Also, automatically subscribe Adsense publishers to web-only Adsense Google Group. It is redundant to create two separate accounts, and when integrated in the manner mentioned above, would allow a more seemless support system.
b. Timely Email Support
So, lets say by some stroke of luck, the user finds the contact form. My normal experience has been a 3-5 day waiting period before any response. I understand that Google Adsense support must be inundated with requests, but a better reporting procedure could be in place.
First, a ticket stating that the request had been received should be sent for Adsense support to prevent multiple submissions.
Second, an email should be sent with 24 hours letting the individual know how long till a qualified response (even if it is 3-5 days, Adsense is income, and publishers deserve to know when they will be served). Third, let users click on a link when the answer is made of whether or not to post their question and answer to the Google Adsense Group archive. If every Q&A via email was recorded in Google Groups, and the search mechanism mentioned above was in place, this whole thing would be a lot easier.
c. Transparent Investigations & Appeals
Google has made it clear that when under investigation, they can withhold payments to Adsense publishers. The reasoning is acceptable so-as not to pay out to click-fraudsters, but the effect can be devastating considering the following…
1. Adsense Bowling as mentioned above,
2. Google does not automatically inform Adsense users when they are under investigation,
3. The Appeals process appears to be equally convoluted. (http://stason.org/articles/money/how_to_bring_google_adsense_down.html)
The problem is that every legitimate click-fraudster can easily start a new corporation for $100-200 and start again. The average user cannot. What is needed is a simple, transparent investigations and appeals process.
-> If an investigation into an account begins, the user should be notified as to why (what sites are involved, what the violation was, when it occurred, what IPs were used, etc.)
-> If the violation is other than Click-Fraud (such as how the ad is displayed, etc.), request that the publisher change it before banning.
I feel the feature set for Google Adsense is fairly straightforward. I like the simplicity, but I think there are a handful of options that could improve the system substantially.
a. Keyword Filtering
I have a friend who runs a fairly popular entymology web site (study of insects, don’t ask). The majority of advertisements targeting insect keywords are exterminators & pest-control, not the type of advertisements an insect lover would like to run on his site. Unfortunately, there is no way to exclude these advertisers other than one-by-one listing their urls. It would be very easy to come up with a list of words (rid, kill, pest, exterminate, chemical, etc.) that should be excluded. The resulting advertisements would be far more appropriate for the site and its visitors – increasing clickthroughs and revenue for all involved.
b. Custom Ads
The days of pre-set ad-sizes should be long gone by now. Starting with a minimal width, height, and area going to a maximum width, ehight and area, users should be able to choose any size that fits their design. Please tell me that AdSense’s / Adwords’s technology can learn how to word wrap at some point.
c. Targetted, Attractive PSAs
Let publishers choose which public service announcements will run on their web-sites and, better yet, make the PSA match the format chosen by the publisher. Instead of one giant billboard, break the PSAs into traditional advertisements so they don’t ruin the look of a new article.
d. Local Targetting Improved
Let publishers choose local targetting. Type in a location and thats it. Can’t think of any fraud that could come out of it, and it could definitely improve the local targeting of Adsense.