Google Blogoscoped

Friday, June 29, 2007

Public Launch of Google AdSense Referrals

Google has started to roll out their AdSense referral program (the one with non-Google products) to even more publishers, Search Engine Land reports. To see this, check your AdSense Setup -> Referrals page, set your market and language (like “Germany, English”), and pick some product categories (like “Entertainment” and “Telecommunications”) or specific products. You’ll end up with a code snippet for your website as usual. (Note that you’re only supposed to add three AdSense referral ads to your pages, additional to three pay-per-click AdSense ads.)

The crucial difference between referral ads and “normal” AdSense is that you won’t get paid per click, but only if the visitor who clicked the ad buys something from that site, too (or performs another action, like a newsletter subscription). For every ad, you can check the detail view to see what action needs to be performed and what revenue it will bring to you. Referral ads mostly look like normal ads, but they read “Referral Ads by Google.” And there’s one other layout option which normal AdSense don’t have: the link-only ad type, because this link will automatically adjust to your page’s font settings, and not break the text flow (and it will also not carry any Google-branding, or disclosure).

I’ve included a referral AdSense on one of my other sites. Note that the part reading “Ad:” is my own HTML, and only the “Comics T-shirts” part is served by Google (I surrounded it with a “strong” tag to display bold). Because I added only this single referral ad to my AdSense cart to generate the JavaScript snippet, there’s no rotation of any kind – this link will always display the same. As these JS-served links don’t pass on Google-juice, they’re (obviously) also not against the Google webmaster guidelines.

Now I’m not quite sure how you are allowed to promote referral AdSense. As you may know, the AdSense terms don’t allow you to tell people to click on pay-per-click ads. For referral ads, Google says you can endorse them (like “I use this product and suggest it to you too”), though you’re still not supposed to use language like “visit these links to support our site.” I wonder where they draw the line between the two. (I’m also not quite sure if you’re now allowed to click on your own referral ads – after all, the advertiser wouldn’t get billed for that anyway.)

With Google’s new selection interface, it’s weird that you have to pick a specific market; the help file says you need to “choose the combination that best reflects the profile of your users,” but what if my visitors come from all over the world instead of mainly from one country? Why can’t I select no market, as an option, and rely on Google handling the geolocation aspect (as they can check the user IP for every request)?

Other problems I currently encountered with the service is that navigating categories feels sluggish, and products don’t always seem to fit the category they’re placed in (“diet pill” in “telecommunications"?). Also, there just aren’t too many advertisers to choose from at this moment (and some advertisers which were displayed resulted in the message “The product you have chosen is no longer available”), though this is probably to be expected as the service is still young.

All in all however the new service has potential to be a neat new way for webmasters to make money from their sites. (I find it much easier to use then some of the competing affiliate systems, too, especially Commission Junction.) I’d say manually picking referrals could work particularly well for those sites of yours which cover a specific restricted topic, and where you believe you know the type of audience well. The text link type is also a good alternative to the usual AdSense ad boxes, and may lend itself especially well to fine-tuning of the ad placement. Now time will tell if these ads pay well, too... I’ve replaced normal AdSense with referral AdSense on some of my sites and can now start to track the difference it makes.


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!