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17 Jan

3 Google Adsense Alternatives: Time To Abandon The Ship? Youtube, Consumer Surveys And CPM Networks

Oliver Krautscheid May 01, 2015
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Adsense has been my cashcow for years, but the more recent earnings are not so promising – is it time to abandon the ship or double down? We are looking at what’s wrong with Adsense, how Google could improve the situation and what alternatives are lucrative right now.

1 Adsense Under Attack: Massive Click Shaving

As we recently reported, the entire Adsense network was attacked in April and apparently the worst is not over yet. Over at Webmasterworld, webmasters were complaining about a “red bar” on April 30, which usually means delayed stats and a massive drop in earnings for the day.

Delays in tracking often coincide with click-shaving.

The entire PPC game is notoriously unreliable. It’s been simply too profitable for Google, advertisers and until now publishers, but lately Google is seemingly focusing more on optimizing Youtube than its Adsense program and click-bombing is now threatening publishers on a scale never before seen.

2 Adsense CPC Historically Low?

Advertisers are increasingly spending their money elsewhere. Despite a lot of fake accounts and fake-likes Facebook receives a lot of attention and money from advertisers.

Competing networks such as Media.net are growing at an alarming rate.

3 Adsense Not Transparent Enough?

Despite great efforts to support publishers (introduction of chat and phone support), Google cannot disclose any information about its network to publishers, including any information about invalid clicks. Perhaps rightly so, but this non-existing transparency could possibly lead to further issues. Publishers are none the wiser, most invalid clicks are never listed as such and the money is most often immediately returned to advertisers.

4 Adsense Not Optimized For Mobile, Low CTR, Low CPC

The CPC on desktops is high, but advertisers are seemingly still reluctant when it comes to mobile. Even larger mobile sites have problems monetizing their sites adequately.

Although responsive ad units seemingly work nice on mobile devices, the CTR is rather low.

5 Adsense Put Restrictions On Premium Layouts

Ever wondered why some sites have ad units that look so differently from yours? Larger sites have access to account managers that can create fine-tuned premium units that look quite differently.

Many Adsense ad units still put as many as 8 advertiser links into a single rectangle. That the CTR for these units (example below) is quite low is obvious and apparent. People don’t want to read fine-print, they are used to links that are pleasing to the eye. Stop stuffing ad units. Yes, the more advertisers compete for a spot on the unit the better but Adsense units shouldn’t have to show all of them in a single box!

Oh, and don’t even bother asking your Adsense contact for this unless you are bringing in seven figures.

Bad Example: 8 Advertiser Links In One Unit

The following is an example of a medium-sized publisher site. As you can see the layout is cut off and there are many small links. Although I am sure that the Adsense team is doing a lot of testing, I wish they’d improve the appearance of those ads. Ugly ads can indeed perform quite well, but in this case many readers won’t even bother reading it simply because the font sizes are too small.

Bad Example Google Adsense.png

Good Example: Large Space and Fonts

A better example taken from well-known technology site CNET:

Good Example Cnet (1).Png

This unit has icons and only 5 links per box. According to my knowledge it is not possible to recreate a similar unit without access to an account manager. While it is true that you can modify font-sizes and the font family, this will not prevent Adsense from loading seemingly un-optimized ad units with 8 links which will automatically use a font-size smaller than the one you specified for that particular unit.

Google may have data that tells a different story, but without the possibility to recreate premium ad units on our own we will never know.

What Alternatives Are There? #1 – Youtube!

The hottest place to be on right now is Youtube. An increasing number of publishers are transitioning from being pure Adsense publishers to Adsense-Youtube partners. The most successful Youtube publishers are earnings seven figures per anno: Children, grumpy cats and even retired folks have found great success on the platform, so why not you?

Alternative #2: Google Surveys

Google is doing a poor job at promoting its latest introduction to the Adsense family. Consumer surveys.

Website owners can now conduct consumer surveys and earn a fixed amount for each completed survey. Many large outlets are already using this to monetize their premium content.

Where can I sign up? Monetize your content with consumer surveys

Alternative #3: CPM Networks

CPM Networks are increasingly becoming an attractive alternative. Although the load speed of CPM ads are often very slow due to score cards (scorecardresearch.com, etc.) the ad units pay a fixed rate for every 1000 visitors and can increase your bottom-line.

At the moment, very few advertisers pay Google on a CPM basis – is that something that could help lift publisher earnings in the future?

I am convinced that Google will turn this around and increase earnings for publishers, lower costs for advertisers and please shareholders at the same time by 2016 if they manage to tackle some of the issues mentioned and businesses start investing again. Right now, many online business owners are cutting back and the US economy is still not doing as well as the FED expected, but if the FED keeps printing money and banks keep giving cheap credits to business owners we may see a recovery in click prices yet.

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Bulls and Bears

2 Responses

  1. Feel free to disagree with me on any of my points. I am only listing points I consider a problem for publishers at the moment.

    I am sure the Adsense team is going through a massive collection of data every year, but I still believe that they could allow mid-sized publishers to further customize ad units. The reasons why they are not doing it is possibly because it would cost too much to hire a team of people who can review custom units, so my idea would be to simply add network-wide customization features that are ok to run on all sites.

    E.G. “always show icons even if advertiser does not provide favicon”,
    “never show more than 5 advertiser links”,
    “always use a padding of X”,
    “always use a margin of X”.

    etc etc – there are many things that could be safely implemented.

  2. My personal views are also confirmed by a recent Zacks analysis of Google last earnings report. I quote:

    “The main story didn’t change much at all: prices are still soft, volume growth is still not strong enough, revenue growth on partner sites remains challenging and other revenue continues to grow.”


    To me it looks like Adsense is failing, whereas Youtube is experiencing a significant boost.

    If you are a struggling Adsense publisher, I recommend you try to re-create all of your content for Youtube audiences. It may take time, but at least you are diversifying. And it looks like Google supports this move. One of my Adsense contacts I recently contacted has been re-assigned to Youtube as well. I guess it’s where the party is at so to speak.

    Personally, I will wait for a turnaround in click prices, cut costs wherever possible and invest into running my own services.


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