It’s the End of AdSense as We Know It
(And I Feel Fine)

The results are in, and they ain’t pretty.

Market research firm Outsell released a report Wednesday that shows what many already knew — that click fraud in contextual pay per click advertising is a big problem. The report reveals that 14.6 percent of all clicks are bogus, and that 27 percent of advertisers reduced or stopped spending on click-based advertising.

That type of reaction is to be expected, and it’s reflected in Scott Karp’s post asking What Will Replace Pay-Per-Click Advertising? However, closer inspection shows that the majority of the fraud comes from third-party publisher sites, not in the actual search engines themselves, and that vindicates a pay per click model that actually works.

As I indicated in my recent pay per click advertising post, smart search engine marketers don’t bother with contextual advertising on third-party sites. Even without fraud it’s just not a good return on investment.

I’m not saying there is no fraud in the search engine result pages (SERPS) themselves, but it’s easy for Google to detect and discount that, and the motivation is lower. It’s a whole different story on independently-owned sites where a profit motive is present, thanks to AdSense.

AdSense has been a cash cow for Google for one simple reason — it caters to the “money for nothing” mentality that pervades the world of Internet publishing and marketing. You don’t have to sell anything or even add value to the Web… you just need that click.

So, once you have a program that rewards publishers for producing content and pages that effectively encourage people to leave as soon as possible, can we really be surprised that organized click fraud is the natural result? Did we think the millions of splogs and junk web pages littered with AdSense ads would be as bad as it got?

Nope. That’s not how this end game works, and I’m fairly sure Google had to be aware of this inevitable result.

However, pay per click advertising in search engines is still effective, and if the knee-jerk reaction from some advertisers is to abandon all PPC, better for the rest of us. Just understand that you can opt out of having your ads displayed on third party sites and still enjoy the ROI of search engine marketing.

But there is a definite shift afoot, and even Google’s smartly getting into it.

Affiliate marketing is making a strong comeback.

For many (such as myself), it never left. Unfortunately, the emphasis placed on AdSense, especially in the blogging world, has left many newcomers to Internet marketing completely in the dark about affiliate marketing techniques that work. And those techniques generally do not involve banner ads inserted in the spot where your AdSense used to be.

One learning option I can whole-heartedly recommend is Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind Coaching program. I’ve recommended Yaro’s course since he first developed it, and I was one of his earliest beta members. If you’re looking to make more money from your blogging efforts thanks to affiliate marketing, Yaro will show you step-by-step how he does it, and how you can too.

Check out Blog Mastermind here.

The fact is, you can make money with your blog (and other types of sites) if you’re willing to put some work into it, and invest a bit in learning smart strategies. Just don’t invest in any “make money with AdSense” programs at this point! :)

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  1. I’ve been saying that Adsense would come to an end for a long time. Last time I said it over on Problogger I got howled down and told it would never happen.

    I guess you better get ready for the same deluge of uninformed wishful thinkers who’ll tell you what they told me.

    Perhaps we can make a perfect duet when it does come to pass :)

  2. Erm, Brian I have been a pretty regular reader of yours. I guess whatever little I know about copyrighting, I learnt from copyblogger. I donot know what your take on affiliates is, but if I see a affiliate link in a resources field, I scream. I guess I did read all your resources when you did not have any affiliate links in them. Just yesterday, i saw, hey there are some new resources. Lemme read those gems. And guess what, Brian has inserted an affiliate link there. Now, I know that you put in a lot of efforts there. And you surely have a right to monetise your efforts.
    But then even google puts the organic and sponsored results seperately. I would not suggest you anything, but then I love copyblogger and I find that this diminishes the credibility( mixing organic and paid content), and thought I would just let you know.

  3. Stuart, I’m sure there will be some howling. :)

    Shabda, each of the items under resources, are in fact, free resources. They are all free tutorials, and they all have value whether you end up buying something or not. Some do happen to be tied into products that I personally own and recommend. I’m not sure how that makes me less credible, but I will take your comments under consideration.

    Actually, now that I think about what I have planned to do (when I have a moment), I think you won’t find any problems. :)

  4. Stuart,

    I know some people will still factor in the 15 (or 30%) click fraud and just pay it if they can get a good price on their keywords. BUT — You’re right in that click-fraud is a bigger problem than Google wants to admit.

    – Bryan
    http://www.BryanCFleming.com

  5. Bryan, that’s true. But why bother with the publisher pages? The only reason I could see for a small shop to venture outside of the SERPS is a topic so niche that you can’t get enough search engine traffic. And that may just not be a good niche for PPC marketing.

  6. I actually love what Affiliate Classroom offers, just like Revenue Magazine but I’m really very curious about how being an affiliate makes one less credible. Does the credibility come from a blog that does not have affiliate links only links to your own product?

    I really do what to understand how others see it as when I create a stand alone blog – I would want to monetize it but if adsense and affiliate links make things seem less credible then I need to rethink this.

    Tammy

  7. Tammy, I think that affiliate marketing “best practices” are actually way more credible than AdSense. Think about it… with AdSense you are encouraged (by Google in fact) to “blend” the ads with you content so people don’t realize that they are actually paid clicks.

    As a link, AdSense ads represent a “recommendation” of a product of service that the publisher is not even familiar with. Good affiliate marketing stems from valid reviews and recommendations of products and services that the publisher has experience with.

    I understand where Shabda is coming from, but to be truly intellectually honest, he must be horrified by AdSense ads in the credibility department.

    Let’s continue this discussion — it’s important for these things to get aired out, since we’re going to see much more affiliate marketing with blogs going forward.

  8. I know there’s a temptation to monetize your content this way, but this type of promotional post DOES hurt your credibility.

    Shabda isn’t alone. I still subscribe to your feed, but if I see more posts like this, I will take a lot of what you have to say with much larger grains of salt. Especially with a landing page that looks so much like every other snakeoil BS page. Affiliate Classroom might be a good program, but that landing page made me click the back button in 2 seconds and your credibility took 2 steps back. I just don’t want to see this blog take that direction. That’s just my reaction.

  9. Brian I never said that makes you any less credible, at least to me but I guess it might have a .. umm, detrimental effect, with ppl new to copy blogger.
    Still, I must say that,
    1. Not all are free resources, free as in free beer. At least one asks for a 1$ subscription before joinup. I know that 1$ is nothing, still.
    2. The affiliate links are right in the middle, with two copy blogger links above and two copyblogger links below. Now, now, I do not want to look like I am advising, but I really believe in sell yourself first -> http://www.seobook.com/archives/001592.shtml
    I was hoping your plans to monetise this site would be to say write a book, e course etc.

  10. Shabda wasn’t talking about the post, Markus.

    And that’s the point of a recommendation — I’m telling you the actual membership content is very good, and all you can comment on is how they market it. In my view, that’s your loss. Why not take the 14-day trial for a measly dollar and then tell me if it’s snake oil? At that point *your* comments might have more credibility.

  11. Brian, I am not horrified by the adsense ads coz,
    1. They are not sites I care for. I know they just want to make me click.
    2. There is a “Ads by Google” statement there. I don’t have anything against affiliate marketing, but I believe it when DMOZ says

    [quote=”http://dmoz.org/guidelines/include.html”]
    Why Doesn’t the ODP List These Sites?

    It’s not the business model we don’t like. It’s the mirrored and duplicated content. s
    [/Quote]
    PS. how does one put quotes on blog comments?

  12. Shabda, the affiliate email tutorial is free… not even a single dollar required. Anyway, I’ve changed all the links so that it will be clearer that those resources are offsite. And I really do appreciate feedback like this, but I’ve gone almost 6 months dishing out free content on this site without a dime, and people still complain when I recommend things that can help them make money. And that’s ok, because those people are beyond my help.

    And don’t worry, there are bigger plans in the works. But I’m not going to just duplicate what others have done with my own products and services. Frankly, a lot of my readers have a lot of catching up to do on the basics. And that’s the reason for the recommendations.

    I love writing Copyblogger, but I make my money on other projects using the techniques and tools I talk about here. I’d like to at least have a bit of return for my time. If anyone finds my recommendations that offensive, I’m not sure why they are here, because they are missing the point.

  13. Shabda wasn’t talking about the post, but the idea is similar – mixing affiliate links with “natural” links. I still love to read your posts, so don’t take it too personally, and keep in mind – I wouldn’t comment unless I actually cared.

    This article mentions what I’m talking about: http://performancing.com/node/40

    Also, TW has an interesting discussion about it here: http://www.threadwatch.org/node/3147

    And I’ll concede that I’m probably a minority in this view, it’s just something to keep in mind.

  14. Markus, I do appreciate you bothering to comment, and I don’t do anything without serious contemplation. :)

    The affiliate links were disclosed, and that is standard blogging procedure, so beyond that I can either plaster this site with ads, or continue to make relevant recommendations and thereby receive a bit of compensation for producing Copyblogger.

  15. but I’ve gone almost 6 months dishing out free content on this site without a dime.
    And I ask myself, how many sites I even care about. How many authors can write a 100$ book and make me pre book it on Amazon? I am pretty sure at least half of your subscribers would do so.
    Brian, I am an amateur webmaster. I have a full time job at a great IT company. ( I used to give my yahoo mail ids, but I gave my workplace this time). I read your blog because they are so amazing. Come on, blogging is a phenomenon, I may not make a dime off them but I want to write better and so I read copyblogger.
    I guess it looks off topic to you. The point I am making is that, you say you love writing copyblogger. But then 5000 of your subscribers love reading copy blogger. You have 100% right to make money for your efforts. But as readers of copyblogger, I am sure we can claim a small ownership of copyblogger and point out if we find something amiss.

  16. I agree with you Shabda, that’s why I am encouraging the discussion. But if I have not built up credibility in the last 6 months of free blogging, then I guess I have failed.

    If you think this blog is amazing, then you should view my product and service recommendations (of things I use to make a living) as somewhat valuable. If the thought of me making a few bucks off of those recommendations is that repulsive, then you will unsubscribe.

    It really boils down to that.

  17. Ok let me think why I find this, .., not repulsive, that is too harsh a word.
    Ok who gave the idea that one page sales letter sites are the best format for sales and affiliate conversions. That might have worked, in the past, but now it really puts a very large number of people off.
    If you would have links to say amazon.com or a reputed site, no one would be offended, but if you have a link to one page sales letter, even if it were the best thing, people can get suspicious.

  18. Shabda, one last time. I am recommending the actual product, not the sales letter or the marketing method. This is based on my personal experience, which is one way people can overcome their suspicions and give something a try.

    Do I market this way? Not, I’m a bit more understated. But that has nothing to do with it. I didn’t say this is a great way to market to a blogging crowd in 2006. I said it was a useful membership site that is cheap compared to what you can learn about affiliate marketing.

    And you won’t find this stuff at Amazon. If you could, believe me, I would send you there.

  19. Right-o boss!
    [Peace!]

  20. I find it sad that so many people (and not necessarily those who have commented here) feel that someone should spend hours writing posts and handing out great information and not be entitled to look for some monetary compensation from the work they’ve put in.

    Perhaps the resources, tools, products that are recommended may not look all that impressive at first glance but if somebody with the credibility and experience of Bryan recommends them then they just might be worth a second look.

    No one like Brian is going to destroy their credibility for peanuts so industry professionals are not going to recommend garbage just for a quick $5.00 or $10.00.

    I’ve been in affiliate marketing for years and, while I don’t advertise Affiliate Classroom, I have to say that I’ve looked at it and thought that it would be worthwhile for a newbie.

    Hell, new people to this industry need all the help they can get because it’s not as easy to make money as it once was.

  21. Ha, don’t sweat it, Brian; I’m sure you expected some amount of backlash after all this (unmonetized) time. No way to avoid it, really.

    Just a thought as a reader (going back to our convo on my blog): a little priming on recommended products that have, uhhh… marketing challenges, might work wonders.

    Anyway, your credibility is great; the vocal minority is just that.:)

  22. How fascinating!

    Brian; take a look at my blog and compare it to your own. I started in March. You started in January. I’m 28,000 or so on Alexa; you’re 25,000 or so. We are basically in the same industry.

    One huge difference is that I started out blatantly selling. I give free information, but the attitude is always… OK; now go put it to use. You’ll need this tool and this tool to do that. Buy those here. Sometimes those tools are my own. Sometimes they are affiliate tools. I don’t even generally disclose affiliate links.

    Now, you start making good solid recommendations and timidly even say “this is an affiliate link” and you have a rebellion on your hands.

    My gosh! This is your blog. You are helping people. You certainly won’t be losing me because you recommend some cool tools… at least as long as you have personally checked them out and it’s a real recommendation. That’s 1000% more than the Adsense bloggers do. They don’t even have control over the ads of the products they are recommending.

    Still… this phenomenon is a fascinating thing to ponder. Is it because you spent 6 months giving everything for free? Is it because you disclosed the affiliate link causing some to think that you weren’t as confident with your recommendation? Is is because your readership are freebie seekers because they were spoon fed freebie stuff for 6 months and they never will be ready to take some action, buy some tools and actually start making some money in their Internet business?

    I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’ll be watching this happen on your blog very closely to see what can be learned.

    -James D. Brausch

  23. FYI: My studies, using Google, show the biggest problem is when I allowed advertising to be placed on AdSense sites. The abuse was horrible. I submitted undisputable proof to Google. A few days later they came back with a denial. So I shut off Adsense forever. Larry Cragun

  24. Heh, thanks for the support guys, but when you compare the number of complaints (3, and I am in good graces with all three via converstations involving comments, links and/or IM) to the number of sales and signups today… I don’t consider it much of a rebellion. :)

    And James, you might be on to something on just about all your points — which is likely my fault for waiting so long. “Montization” of copyblogger has just not been a top priority, but I do intend to receive some compensation when I recommend products and services if it is available.

    As far as disclosing affiliate links goes, I for one think it is ridiculous. But I thought I’d give it a shot and see if it made a difference.

    Basically, I’ve learned two things:

    1. the field of “Internet marketing” is suffering from a huge trust and credibility problem. Before I started Copyblogger (and even after), I didn’t market to other marketers. I market to “real” people in consumer or business-to-business situations. There’s a lot less cynicism in any non “marketing” or “money making” field. So it can be quite a shock to see the distrust and suspicion. The bad sales letters don’t help either! :)

    2. BUT, even within this arena, most people just simply don’t care one bit about affiliate links, and they just make their own decisions based on what they think of you and the offer.

    Commenters are a very vocal minority. But everyone knows I love my commenters, so I happily argue with them when they’re wrong. :)

  25. Well, I learned alot from this discussion ~ I always read this blog, Brian and of course James’ blog too each day – the styles are different but in the end, both of you work at being up front. No need to ever apologize or even second guess at attempt at complete honesty or disclosure.

    Two years in this world online and I’m more curious when someone emails me a recommendation then states “its not an affiliate link but I think you need this.” It wouldn’t have mattered to me if it were an affiliate link.

    To me, its an endorsement and its your credility at stake which could only go down if you didn’t know the product or service.

    Often as an affiliate and I’m crazy about a product or service I hope and pray it offers an affiliate program so I can happily recommend it.

    Tammy

  26. Over the past year, I’ve watched Google AdSense become useless. Bogus websites and click fraud basically ruined it for everybody.

    I no longer market through Adwords because I don’t think that it is possible for me to get a good return.

    I still run the AdSense on my site, but that may be changing very soon. I’m starting to hate the look of those little ads.

  27. “I no longer market through Adwords because I don’t think that it is possible for me to get a good return”

    Chad maybe you’re not doing it right. I think it is still one of the most cost effective ways to drive sales and signups. (hint – go for signups first then sell)

    Let’s wait and compare the predicted CPA model before we predict the demise of CPC. I think it is a long way off.

    Also Brian I have no problems with affiliate links in posts. You provide great value here.

    Andrew

  28. I believe there are just ‘two types of people’ in this AdSense game.
    – Those who see AdSense as a ‘smart’ way to advertise on their site as secondary to their content. People with STRATEGY.
    – Those who mistakenly believe they can make ‘easy’ money by tricking people into clicking the adverts with all sort of sneaky placement TACTICS.

    Naturally those ‘type 2s’ ruin it for the rest of us who actually produce original content and insert ‘smart’ adverts because it makes sense to. A campaign shouldn’t feel like a campaign when done properly.

    Nothing wrong with affiliate links when the original content had value in itself.

    I do get sick of all these Joomla sites requiring registration just to download files and have no proper concept of internet marketing. In essence, once you’ve peeved me off I generally don’t return to a site.

  29. Brian,

    I think what we’re seeing here is more the distatse by many of those generic one page sales pages, which is a shame because they don’t get past that and into the actual product.

    Now in regards with credibility – it takes time build up great credibility but is so easy to lose.

    For me it’s a simple matter: You have great credibility. You recommend something, I’m going to seriously look at it. That’s the trust factor of 6 months of you giving it all away (rant alert: I hate this “I expect everything for free on the internet” mentality – if you’re serious about succeeding in business invest in products and services that will get you there).

    On AdWords – AdWords works wonders for me … ever since I took it off third-party sites.

    Keep recommending and I’ll (and every other reader) will make up their minds eventually if you’re the real deal.

    Now Brian, is there an eBook coming out of you or what! My credit card is at the ready. :-)

  30. Long time lurker/subscriber, first time commenter.

    The work you do here is fantastic and you should earn something from it.

    However, that affiliate link is very shady looking which is too bad because their home page is not. They should do a redesign to make it less objectionable. Also, they should not automatically opt you in for the $30 a month if you fail to cancel at the end of the trial. Instead, they should deny you access. The design and that make me nervous EVEN THOUGH you are recommending the product.

    Still, I am considering. Again, because you’ve recommended them. :)

  31. With ‘goog’ currently at $420, if adsense is the #1 income generator, is this the harbinger of another dot.com landslide?

  32. Hi Brian,

    I’ve started looking, again, to affiliate marketing with new eyes some weeks ago and now I read your post.

    This just confirm me that’s the way to go, at least one of them: good content and recommendations of good products.

    You’ve done a great job in these six months and I’ve learned a lot from you. It’s quite natural that you get a return of your investment for providing such a great resource as Copyblogger.

    I’m sure most of us, your loyal readers, will consider very seriously all your recommendations.

    Keep the good work!

  33. I think Mark and Martin make good points. Going back and looking over this post/discussion it’s clear to me that it wasn’t the matter of an affiliate link, but rather the look and feel of the landing page, which really isn’t your problem. And it’s a shame if it’s a legitimate service AND they’re actually trying to target marketers.

    I (hesitatingly) signed up for something that looked similar last week, but learned it was all garbage, so I have an even stronger distaste for that type of hard-sell page. Hence the misplaced criticism.

    Which really brings us back to your post – the same way those types of hard-sell one-page sites turn people off after a while – I think we’re now beginning to see a similar reaction to “ads by google”.

  34. Markus, Martin, and those who do not like the 1-page sales letter:

    While I tend to agree with your distaste of the 1-page sales letter, I have to say that from experience, when selling information, a 1-page sales letter works. In the Direct Marketing industry we live by the mantra “Ugly Sells.” From what I’ve learned, this means that the design should only exist to support the story being told, if the design does anything else then it hinders.

    While you guys may not like the sales letter, please take into consideration that it is favorable to others who are willing to be a little more open minded and read the letter.

    Just remember that when you are being sold information you generally only have 2 things to rely on: recommendation, and the story. For me, a recommendation trumps the story.

  35. this is sad to hear about it. But Yahoo Publish just launched their ‘pay per click’. However, it is just available in US. I think this is the way they control the fraud. mh…

  36. Brian,

    I, for one, appreciate the referral to Affiliate Classroom and I was influenced to click on the link by the material you have been posting over the past few weeks that I have been reading your blog. I’ve been singlehandedly publishing a website for seven years without ads. Now that I’ve decided to investigate earning some money with it, your blog has been much help and it looks as though Affiliate Classroom will also be a great help. Keep up the good work and know that you are appreciated and respected.