I can only describe my attempts at improving our performance with Adsense as intensely frustrating. First there was the poor, canned customer support. The incomplete reporting (want to track ad channel performance over time? Tough luck, gotta buy third-party software). The spammy gateway advertisers with absolutely no content on their site (automated Adwords/Adsense arbitrage would be a nice way to describe what they do). The irrelevant ads because, let’s face it, automated keyword targeting can be quite dumb. Then an apparent lack of understanding of how a publisher works. If you’re serious about making money, in most categories Adsense is only going to be a convenient way to monetize unsold inventory. This can’t be your primary money maker by any means unless you’re really lazy and love to leave a lot of money on the table.
But despite the fact most of their current content partners are utter crap (I know, I tried to find interesting finance sites to buy ads on), the Adsense team seems to hold the weird opinion that without them you wouldn’t be able to make any money at all. Hello, not everyone is handling a blog trying to get extra pocket money here. Not to mention cheeky decisions like the introduction of site targeting and site representation on a sneaky, opt-out basis (do no evil, right).
We’re also Adwords advertisers, and it seems one of our campaigns would benefit from increased budgets on weekends. So I try to find software to automate that, as the Adwords backend doesn’t seem to support my requirement. I drift a bit and find people not really happy with Adwords API TOS and support. I should also mention that Google insisting on cramming their logo on your site if you use their campaign tracking is about as stupid as it can get. That’s a lot of anecdotal evidence piling up against Google as I’m trying to make money by advertising with and through them.
I’ve written again and again that I’m convinced Google is screwing around with too many poorly-related products with loose business plans at best (aka “spread and pray” and “who cares? we’re loaded”). Their recent acquisitions of incremental web apps with no revenue only reinforce that feeling. But now I’m getting more and more the impression that these diversions are significantly diluting their effectiveness on their core products.
Google grabbed the search market half a decade ago because their competitors we’re focused on everything but search. Now Google is committing the very same mistake that let them get where they are in the first place. Yahoo and MSN, please deliver strong competition, there are plenty of publishers ready to jump ship. One can dream that they won’t focus as much on porn, gizmo and gambling revenue as Google is. (I’d love to know how Google’s ad revenue is split by industry.)
Update: I forgot to mention we don’t have access to Google Analytics because we didn’t jump right at it at release, even though we had bought an Urchin license in the past. Way to handle your acquisitions, Google. (Since most of the companies they acquire don’t have actual customers, I guess that kind of makes sense.)