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Life After AdSense: Part 1 – The Post Mortem

If you’ve been given an AdSense policy violation email, or your AdSense account has been suspended altogether, then it’s worthwhile finding out what you did wrong.

But don’t dwell on it too much, don’t get angry, and don’t annoy Google!

Reasons for an AdSense Warning or Ban

In this section I’ll cover the reasons why you might get an AdSense ban, or a warning. If you’ve still got an AdSense account, then read this to make sure you don’t get a ban! And if you’ve got a ban, then here are some reasons why you might have received it.

I will point out here that making money online is a ruthless game. This is raw capitalism. If you’ve got a ban, or your sites are substandard, then you have to be honest and admit that you’ve messed up, or that your sites really are poor.

If you live in denial, you’re only cheating yourself.

I’ll own up here and say that some of my earlier niche sites sucked. What was I thinking? When I got a Panda slap I was angry. But you know what, I went back and read some of my articles. Yeah, they were rubbish. Google was right! Since then I’ve improved my game, and none of my sites I’ve built since mid-2011 have been hit with traffic penalties.

I even managed to save one of my micro-niche sites by taking off all the poor quality content:

My Niche Website Monthly Session Traffic Chart

So as to the reasons for a ban/warning – what are they?

According to Google, the most common reasons for invalid activity warnings/bans are:

  • Clicking your own ads.
  • Automated bot traffic.
  • Incentivised click programs.
  • Manipulating ad serving.
  • Encouraging ad clicks.
  • Deceptive ad placement.
  • Ads embedded in applications.

And policy reason bans/warnings are:

  • Porn or adult content.
  • User generated content.
  • Violation of webmaster guidelines.
  • Deceptive ad placement.
  • Copyright infringement.
  • Illegal content.

Invalid Activity

Always remember that you earn money on AdSense because people are spending money advertising their own websites and services on AdWords.

I myself have advertised my own sites on AdWords. I suggest you do the same, if only to get an appreciation of why Google needs to crack down and constantly close users' AdSense accounts.

As for my own experiences in using AdWords - I was generally pleased with my experiments. I wanted to establish a membership site. And in just 2 months of advertising on AdWords, I got 2000 members to join my site. I’d never have achieved that with article marketing or SEO alone.

On the downside, some of the sites my ads were showing up on were pretty terrible. I’d estimate that one third of AdSense sites aren’t worthy of being in the programme.

My conversion rate from advertising on the Google search results pages was also much higher than the visitors I got from AdSense enabled sites.

As to the reasons for getting into trouble for invalid activity in your AdSense account:

Clicking on your own ads is probably the #1 newbie reason for getting your account suspended. This is a huge no-no, and with a new account you’re most likely to get your account closed entirely.

One thing I’ll warn you about is that if your site is new, then don’t tell people about it, and certainly don’t tell your friends and family about it. Otherwise, you’ll find that your site gets 2-3 visitors a day, one of which is your mom, the other one is your grandmother. Both will click your ads because they think it will help you earn money. In reality it will lead to a ban! In fact, it’s usually safer to not put AdSense on a site until it gets some organic, real visitors.

As for bot traffic, well if you’re paying people to automatically click your ads then your ban would be deserved. Paying people to click your ads is the same.

Manipulating the ad serving. I’d say that the key here is to not jerk around with the Adsense code. And don’t install any suspect scripts that claim to monitor click fraud or record your Adsense clicks. Content locking – stay away from that as well.

Encouraging ad clicks, well make sure you don’t have anything on your site like “help support the site by clicking these ads”. I can’t stress how important it is to read the AdSense programme terms and conditions.

Deceptive ad placement – I’ve not seen this so much with AdSense, but with some other programs I’ve seen the ads so close to the link I’ve wanted to click on that I’ve ended up clicking the ad by mistake.

What I have seen are plenty of sites where the AdSense looks like the site’s content. A common ploy seems to be to start a list, then put an AdSense block under it.

A few people have had warnings about deceptive ad placement, so it’s definitely something Google are cracking down on.

Policy Errors

As to the policy reasons, here I would strongly urge you to read the AdSense programme terms and conditions. A surprising number of people don’t!

Adult content is the clause that tripped me up. Fortunately it only affected a small part of my online empire, and was easily rectified. I would urge you not to put AdSense on anything that you wouldn’t like your mom to see! This goes for text as well as images.

User generated content is something my friend keeps getting into trouble with as far as his AdSense account goes. His users often post sexual content on his site, and he got his account suspended for the first time around the same time as I did. If you run a forum then pay particular attention to this policy. The essence of this is that YOU are responsible for the content on your site. So you need to police the content and make sure you’re not adding AdSense on any page with questionable content.

This means that if you run a forum, make sure people aren’t posting nude photos or talking about visiting hookers. You will need to moderate the forum, and maybe use an automated word/content filtering system on a larger site.

And if you’ve got AdSense on your free dating site for example, then make sure profiles are manually reviewed because yes, people do upload photos of their genitals, illegal porn and other stuff that would swiftly get you an AdSense ban (and maybe end your web hosting plan as well if somebody reports it).

This brings us onto illegal content. This is usually fairly obvious. But just be aware that stuff that’s legal in some countries is illegal in others. Of course you can’t be expected to know the law in every single country your site is viewable in. But make yourself familiar with the laws in the main countries your visitors are from. For example, in the UK you can’t buy guns and ammunition online, and online pharmacies are frowned upon. Other countries (like Japan) have strict laws on dating sites, and of course adult content is not allowed in many countries.

Copyright infringement, well this is all pretty obvious. Or is it? I will give you a warning that if you’re using PLR, public domain or open source articles, then be wary of posting them to sites with AdSense on them.

Here’s a funny story. I made a couple of YouTube videos a couple of years ago. I searched high and low to find some open source, free music to use in them.

I thought I was safe. Yet soon after uploading the video I got a YouTube copyright warning!

Why?

Because some sneaky piece of work had uploaded them to a music sharing site and claimed them as his own work! Consequently Google’s crawler had figured out that he owned the music, and that I had stolen his work.

Having spoken to the music’s original composer (who is also a well known tech blogger), he told me that Google has no concept of PLR/freeware etc. etc. and so if something is already in the public domain, then Google may assume you’ve copied it.

As to “violation of webmaster guidelines”, well that’s a pretty vague term, and the one that I really struggle with. I think this basically means that if your site looks poor then Google don’t want their ads displayed on it. More disturbingly, it’s also an all-encompassing term. I guess that if you don’t know why your account was banned, then this will be the reason.

Traffic Quality and Conversions

Google list invalid activity and policy errors as the two groups of reasons for getting an AdSense warning or a ban.

There is also a third reason, one which most AdSense user’s don’t know about, and that's Traffic Quality.

If you’re doing any amount of SEO or driving traffic to your site, then you need to be aware of this.

The first consideration is where your traffic is coming from.

If you’ve got a website about washing machines, and 75% of your traffic is coming from users searching Google or Bing for washing machines then you’ve got nothing to worry about.

However, if you’ve buying cheap traffic then you’ve a reason to be worried, especially if that traffic isn’t searching for washing machines.

If you’re a guy and you’ve been, er, looking for porn online, then you’ll know what I’m on about. Usually when you go to a site with free porn on it, you’ll get popup ads for all sorts of products. Often these are served up by ad networks that allow you to buy traffic, and massive amounts of it. I’m surprised at how cheap it is. I’ve seen offers that will give you 5,000 website visitors for $2. The problem is that this traffic is low quality. Well in terms of searching for washing machines it is – these people are primarily looking for porn.

So what happens is that if one of these visitors does actually click the ad on your site then they’re highly unlikely to buy a washing machine.

And Google does know the conversion rate of your AdSense ads. When I was advertising on AdWords I was able to put a piece of JavaScript on my site that would report back to Google when I sold something on my site, or somebody signed up for my membership site.

The upshot of this is that Google knows exactly how effective the advertising is on your site.

Make no mistake – in these recessionary times, if you’ve not making money for their advertisers, then you’re gonna get thrown out of the programme.

I’ll also give SEO’ers a warning. If you’re just targeting juicy $2+ click keywords, then your site better convert well for your advertisers. Because otherwise your account might be in trouble.

Now at this point I’ll say that this is all speculation on my part. But many people on the Warrior Forum have claimed their accounts got banned for no reason at all. So either they’re lying about clicking on their own ads, or overstating the quality of their sites, or they’re simply being penalised for too much SEO.

How to get round this?

On my own sites, I don’t target a high value keyword on every single page. Sometimes I just blog about something I’ve read. Or I just post a page of funny photos I’ve taken – these can go viral sometimes and get quite popular. This means your site gets a lot more varied traffic, and not every click will be a high value one. I’ll also mention that I don’t target high value keywords.

Finally, you should definitely experiment with affiliate offers. If you’ve got a stop smoking blog but you can’t persuade any of your readers to sign up for a free electronic cigarette CPA offer, then it’s a big red flag! If your AdSense ads aren’t making anyone any money either, then it’s time to rethink your strategy.

How do I know this works? Because I tried it!

On my highest traffic site, I replaced one of my three AdSense ad blocks with a CPA offer from a vendor in that niche. After three months I crunched the numbers. It turns out I’d made just about the same per click on the CPA offer as I was through AdSense. In fact, in some sub-niches of my niche, I was comfortably beating AdSense. This was good news for my sites, because it showed that my AdSense advertisers (some of whom were the same vendors as I signed the CPA deal with) were making money by advertising on my site.

Non-US Residents

It’s technically possible for the resident of just about any country in the World to open an AdSense account. However, if you’re not in one of the countries in which Google has a physical office, then you’d better watch your step.

To qualify for an AdSense account, you’re normally going to need a very high quality site, with well written, original content. Furthermore, there is no room for click-fraud or policy violations.

The sad fact is that Internet fraud is endemic in many countries, and your fellow countrymen are ruining it for legitimate Internet users.

Particular problems include:

  • Dating site scammers and financial fraudsters from African countries like Nigeria.
  • Low quality SEO companies from India.
  • Spammers from the Philippines.
  • All kinds of fraudsters from China and Malaysia.

The result of this is that if you’re from one of these countries or one like them then you have to work extra hard to convince Google that you’re legit.

Sadly this is quite hard. Take the stats from my membership site:

  • Every single sign-up from Senegal was a spammer. Most sign-ups from Nigeria were also suspect.
  • Many sign-ups from the Philippines were from users with tainted IP addresses.
  • I had a huge problem with low quality Internet users from countries like India and Vietnam. By low quality I mean they uploaded porn, or illegal images, and generally just jerked around.

To protect my business, I’ve now blocked most African IP addresses from using my sites altogether. So you can expect Google to be similarly cautious when it comes to operating in other countries.

AdSense on AdSense

One other thing you need to remember is that Google isn’t a fan of sites that encourage people to make “Made for AdSense” sites. And Google don’t want people blogging about how easy it is to make money on AdSense.

For this reason, I would NEVER put AdSense on a page about making money with AdSense.

Read Part 2: Picking up the Pieces with MASSIVE ACTION!

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