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Giving Up on AdSense

Posted on Friday, Apr 13th 2007

I am a painful critic for Google’s AdSense program, as it pertains to Content (not Search). My beef is that it doesn’t take into account any understanding of the target audience of a publisher, nor does it take into account Context or Intent.

As a result, it pushes out-of-context Ads, which have little chance of being clicked upon, and attempts to monetize on a CPC model.

Instead, what I want is a CPM-based ad network that DOES take into account audience segmentation, context, and intent. And one that shares the revenues with me, the publisher, rather than Google, who is basically following an extortionist policy on its AdSense strategy.

Is this too much to ask?


I cribbed about it earlier, by serving as exhibit a Hardwood Flooring Ad that was served up to my site.

Here’s another one that has no synergy with the Context. It offers low-cost treatment at hospitals in India.


As you can see, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I have finally switched out of AdSense as my main ad provider, to the Washington Post Blogroll Program, powered by Adify. We’ll see how that goes in the upcoming weeks and months. AdSense will continue to provide the default Ads for inventory that Blogroll cannot fill, unless they shut me out for causing problems in paradise.

I haven’t had a chance to research this yet, so let me put the question out to you: what % of Google’s revenues come from AdSense? Someone said 50%. Well, if that is true, then this 50% is resting on fragile grounds of milking their publishers. Here’s a source citing that Google made $2.7 Billion off AdSense last year. That does not make AdSense 50% of their 2006 revenues, which is $10.6 Billion.

How much do they offer to the publishers? 10% of revenues? Geez!

As the competition fortifies itself, this party needs to be over.


So far, here are some data sources on how much Google gives publishers, none confirmed:

43%, 78.5%, and a whole lot of other speculative numbers …

I have been forwarding my toublemaking articles to Gokul Rajaram, the Director of AdSense Products at Google, whom I actually know for a long time through the MIT alumni association, and who is really a great guy, but he hasn’t so far cared to dispel the ambiguity around the revenue share % number. This is concerning, since if the number was a good, reasonable number, Google would brag about it publicly. The fact that they’re being cagey about it is already a sign that something fishy is cooking in Googleplex!


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Sramana, I couldnt agree more.

For a person who solely depends on google adsense for revenues, its a sorry state of affairs.

Another problem with google adsense is that there is a major fluctuation in terms of revenues.

I recently saw a 75 % drop in revenues this month compared to the previous good ol months. Whats surprising is, the CTR has remained constant, the ads that fill the inventory are the same, pageviews have increased and yet, the revenues have been miserable.

YPN is already proving to be a good option for US publishers. I think if MSN comes up with a robust product and capitalise on it, google might be in trouble.

Kartik Raichura Friday, April 13, 2007 at 11:18 AM PT

Hi Sramana,
I used to make less than a dollar to nothing every day from adsense. After a year or so, i add kontera adds (in text ads) and i started making on an avergae $2+ per day.

I really didnot like google adsense much from the begining. However, i recently made some changes and added different google ad formats in some hotspots and my adsense revenue jumped to over $3 per day.

Quality of adsense ads is substandard. But, do you have a better alternative? I don’t think so.
YPN, msn will have to travel too long to come to where google adsense is today.

sri Friday, April 13, 2007 at 12:23 PM PT

[…] my article: Giving Up on Adsense, which outlines the problem that not having CPM-based display advertising created, and an earlier […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Google Acquires Doubleclick for $3.1 B Friday, April 13, 2007 at 4:44 PM PT

(Since this is my first comment on your blog, let me introduce myself as a regular reader)

You could try Omakase links from Amazon: They are ads for just Amazon products but I’ve found them to have better click-throughs than AdSense. Although I guess one needs to have a reader base that will buy from Amazon to get the referral fees. 🙂

Umang Friday, April 13, 2007 at 10:30 PM PT

maybe you should try Amazon Associates. they have contextual ads (Omakase), based on CPA and use customer recommendations also into account. Another of their offering (Context Links) is very useful for intext advertising.

anon Saturday, April 14, 2007 at 11:56 PM PT

[…] my Giving Up on AdSense piece, I referred to the WPNI program, which is powered by […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Adify Challenges AdSense Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 1:06 PM PT

Excellent article.

I saw a dramatic drop in my AdSense revenue in March. I’ve written repeatedly to the AdSense people to try and find out why. They don’t reply at all.

For two years, AdSense has been monetizing my dedicated server and hosting — and March was a good month. (Just under a million page views.) I cannot understand why the revenue would drop to 30% of an average across 12 months.

When ‘support’ won’t respond. You know there’s something going on that they don’t want you to know about.

The quest goes on.

Thank you Sramana for your EXCELLENT blog, and for sharing your beneficial and enjoyable wisdom.


Fred Showker Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 10:39 AM PT

[…] algorithm is definitely quite powerful: vectors, weights, frequency, infrequency etc. But ppl think its not […]

The Google Adsense Patent at Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 8:39 PM PT

Hi Sramana – you write that you’d like to see “a CPM-based ad network that DOES take into account audience segmentation, context, and intent.” Check out, whic is exactly that (though not reallly for small publishers or blogs, etc).

Max Bleyleben Friday, May 18, 2007 at 9:21 AM PT

Thanks for the pointer, Max. I will look into the company.

Sramana Mitra Monday, May 21, 2007 at 10:43 AM PT

[…] just touched my favorite topic, Josh. I wrote Giving Up on AdSense earlier, and have been on a quest for alternatives … Adify looks promising. My guess is, Time […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Ask to Compete with Google AdSense? Friday, May 25, 2007 at 6:11 AM PT

[…] just touched my favorite topic, Josh. I wrote Giving Up on AdSense earlier, and have been on a quest for alternatives … Adify looks promising. My guess is, Time […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Ask to Compete with Google AdSense? Friday, May 25, 2007 at 6:11 AM PT

[…] have said before, that I am giving up on AdSense, and suggested how Yahoo could kill AdSense. The problem, however, is that the rest of the […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Google Great at Monetizing Crap Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 7:16 AM PT

I believe that Adsense is 37% of Google’s revenue, enough for weakness in this area to be dramatic. You focussed on the lack of results for publishers. I have seen it the other way around, the lack results for advertisers. Its great for traffic from their search engine and crap from adsense publishers – why? lack of context. This is where this bubble could burst.

bernard lunn Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 9:08 PM PT

[…] Google and Publishers, and Google has so far kept absolutely quiet on the topic, much to the annoyance of numerous customers. Yesterday, Google lost a major customer, Digg, with over 17 Million unique visitors a month. I […]

Google’s AdSense Revenues Vulnerable - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Friday, July 27, 2007 at 8:08 AM PT

I’m posting this almost a year after the latest post, and my website is new in 2008 (not a great amount of traffic yet), but my adsense revenue has been growing each month – although certainly not making me rich yet.

Bob - Up to $160/Referral Friday, June 6, 2008 at 9:34 PM PT

I have had a guest post on my blog by a PPC expert. Check it out to osee what you think:

Thanks for the great article!

Graeme Davidson Friday, October 17, 2008 at 5:09 AM PT

I am just entering into the enterprenuer’s world and the discussion here is a real eye opener for me. Because my website, to be launched soon, depends a lot on the AdSense program. The experiences shared here gave me a different perspective. I need to look at my business plan and make amendments now.

Thanks for all those who shared their views.

Sreedhar Y

Sreedhar Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 1:11 AM PT

I too saw a dramatic dip earlier this year, although my dip was closer to 80%! At the time I was trying out and had *just* worked with Google to switch my AdSense panel to a new Google Account.

Again, no drop in traffic, nor CTR, and still saw the same ads being served. No response from Google Support.

Shamus Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 5:13 PM PT

AdWords is responsible for 98.9% of Google’s revenue, and 82.68% of their profitability.

According to Google’s official, audited figures at their total revenue in 2007 was $16,593,986,000 while Advertising was responsible for $16,412,643,000.

Shamus Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 5:21 PM PT

i use Adsense on my blogs and websites, i can say that Adsense is the best make money online program on the internet.

Cathryn Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 12:41 AM PT

i am really very thankful that Google launched the Adsense program. this enables most of us who owns several websites to work at home.

Harold Newman Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 1:39 AM PT

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