Received the first ever impression of Google Video Ads today

Google Video Ads

Today was the first time ever, that I received an impression of the much discussed Google Video Ads – that too a pretty high-paying ad from IBM.

So far I’d only heard about them and never experienced them first hand. They’ve been as elusive as the themed ad units though both have been in existence since the first half of 2006 – probably owing to the fact that most ad publishers find it very easy to go along with the quick & dirty text-based ad-unit setup of AdWords.

Video ads mean incurring an extra sizable investment on shooting & editing a good footage and converting it to a net deliverable format and I guess only the big players out there have enough time and money to go for it. According to Google

Note that as there is currently limited video ad inventory, you may not notice any ads on your site for some time. As our inventory grows, you may begin to see video ads appear on your pages. In the meantime, we recommend opting in to both text and image ads for your ads units to ensure you’re getting the ads that represent the maximum revenue potential for you.

Since video ads compete in the same auction as text and image ads for placement the increased competition leads to increased revenue potential for you. Video ads open your site up to a whole new type of advertising that is engaging and highly relevant for your users.

You can easily make out that there’s so sure-shot way of getting video ads on your site. However, you can always set the stage for them and thus increase your chances of getting them delivered to your site.

Video ads will appear only in the supported video Ad Formats which incidentally happen to be the large block-ish (rectangles or squares) formats that can deliver such ads best. The process is fairly simple and involves just two steps.

  1. Make sure that your ad unit adheres to one of the supported video ad formats as shown above.
  2. Opt-in for the image-ads for this specific unit.

Then onwards it’s a long long wait with your fingers crossed 😀 However, I believe including Geo-Tagged Headers in your site pages helps somewhat. If you carefully study the ad screenshot I’ve shown here, you’ll notice that it’s been delivered for IBM, Thailand. Was it a mere coincidence or a direct result of the fact that I geo-tagged my site just a couple of days back?

Free tools that deliver AdSense statistics straight to your desktop

Google AdSense LogoIf you’re a serious AdSense publisher, you’d have surely felt the need of an AdSense monitoring system that’d provide you with real-time statistics of the ad clicks & earnings from your site(s). Look no further – here are a couple of really handy tools that does the job for you. There are plenty of such tools available out there on the net, but keeping to the overall theme of my site, I present you with three carefully selected ones which meet the criteria of being a freeware as well as being feature packed. Out of these the first two work right from your Windows desktop while the third one is PHP based and can be used to display your stats anywhere on a web-site.

AdSense Status plug-in for Google Desktop

AdSense StatusFor those who use Google Desktop, here’s a really lightweight (approx. 450KB) plug-in from Airbear Software which displays your daily earnings and other related information from Adsense for Content, Search, and Referrals in a small panel docked in your Google Desktop Sidebar. The readings keep updating automatically every 5 minutes or so, unless of course you request a manual update. However, you don’t have any direct control over the refresh interva.

Clicking on the plug-in panel pops out a larger window with more detailed statistics about your earnings, page impressions, CTR, eCPM etc. on a daily or monthly basis. It can also display the All Time AdSense statistics.

The plug-in is compatible with both Google Desktop versions 3 & 4 and you need to have Google Desktop installed before you attempt to install / use it. Once installed, the only configuration involves entering your AdSense account’s username and password and you’re ready to roll. Though it hasn’t been updated or worked on since May 2006, it functions without any hiccups.

Get AdSense Status.

SysSense

SysSense ScreenshotSysSense from Singer’s Creations is another useful utility that displays stats similar to AdSense Status on your desktop.

The biggest difference between SysSense and AsSense Status is that this one doesn’t need Google Desktop installed on your system and delivers the statistics independently through a window that pops-up when you click your mouse on an icon in the system tray. Thus this is an ideal utility for non-Google Desktop users.

You can configure this tool to load along with Windows as well as monitor multiple AdSense accounts at the same time. Unlike AdSense Status, the refresh interval can be set manually to a figure you feel convenient. Moreover, you can make it display an audio-visual alert when a particular figure such as your earnings or number of clicks or even your page impression changes.

Another plus point over AdSense Status is that the stats displayed by this tool comprises of a wider range of daily/monthly figures.

I’d highly recommend this tool. I’ve been using AdSense Status for quite a while now, but am seriously considering a total switch-over to this one.

Get SysSense.

phpMyAdSense

phpMyAdsense is a PHP web application designed specially to provide detailed statistics of your Google AdSense advertiser’s account in real-time and using your own customized templates and colors. I haven’t used this one as such, but it seems an interesting and viable alternative to the desktop based ones.

However, being a PHP web app doesn’t limit this to web-site based installations. It can easily be used to deliver the stats right onto your desktop (similar to the former two) by running it in conjunction with Windows Active Desktop Channel. Other supported applications are phpNuke, phpBB etc.

Get phpMyAdSense.

You’re now free to use other contextual advertisements along with AdSense

Google AdSense LogoA recent revision of Google’s AdSense Program Policies now enables you to place contextual advertisements from non-Google services along with AdSense ads on the same page. Till now you weren’t allowed to display ads from third-party services like Chitika eMiniMalls, IntelliTXT, Kontera etc. on the same page as AdSense ads.

However, restrictions still apply regarding the nature of ads shown. You can use any of the other services in conjunction with AdSense, as long as their ads don’t mimic the AdSense ads i.e. the visitors shouldn’t confuse them with AdSense ads.

In other words, services which by default, show ads in the same format as AdSense ads won’t be permitted. If on the other hand, your ad service provides you ad customisation tools with which you can alter the format of the ads (e.g. add a border, alter the colour palette) you are free to place their ads parallel to AdSense.

According to the Jensense Blog

I have had a few questions regarding whether using the same ad unit sizes would constitute having the “same look and feel”, and some others are reporting that using anything in an ad unit in the same style as Google’s (such as using something that looks like YPN) would violate this policy. Fortunately for publishers, the answer is no, just the fact the ad units share the same styling (as nearly all contextual ad networks do) will not break the policy as long as you take care to change the color schemes used by each.

Bottom line, this means you can use the same ad unit sizes from two different programs, as long as there are clear differences in the color scheme (and things such as borders or backgrounds) used by your Google ads. It is also worth noting that proximity of the competitive ad units to each other also comes into factor when making changes to your site by adding competitive ads. I asked Brian Axe from AdSense to clear up just how different the ad units need to be so publishers do not inadvertently violate the policy.

Services like Chitika & Amazon serve ads in a different format by default – so you can go ahead and implement them directly without any alteration as such. You might require a bit of tweaking in case of IntelliTXT & Kontera.

As for YPN ads, be careful – it’s against Yahoo’s program policies to place contextual ads from multiple sources on the same page. But one might expect Yahoo to follow suit after Google’s policy revision.

All in all, the change is actually for the better as it’ll allow placement of ads of competitive products on the same page – and not just from a single source. All you need to ensure is that any other ads you use (whether contextually targeted or not) do not resemble the AdSense ads run anywhere on the same site.

Source: ProBlogger, Jensense

Actively endorse the Google Referrals to earn more clicks

Google AdSense LogoA little known fact is that while Google places strict limitations on how you shouldn’t draw attention towards AdSense ad units, they encourage you to actively endorse the downloading and usage of products you refer through Google Referrals.

You earn a lot better (upto $1) than clicks on your average AdSense ads, if you can gain a convert – i.e. get a new user to start using any of the listed products (AdWords, AdSense, Firefox with Google Toolbar and Picassa) for the first time. AdSense Referral Button EndorsementTo increase your chances of getting a visitor to click the referral link, Google tells you to devote a write-up on the usefulness of the product and then draw a visitor’s attention to the referral button. To the left is an example provided by Google.

Moreover, instead of placing the referral link in the spots where you place your standard ads, try and include them somewhere in the actual content of your site, thus enabling the visitors to follow your preachings 😀 and arrive directly at the link in one smooth flow.

They even advise you to keep rotating the referrals and try and make them relevant to your content in order to further increase the chances of a click.

Incidentally, if you’re using WordPress 2.x and are interested in placing a such referral unit in the sidebar of a widget enabled theme, I’ve created a drag-and-droppable widget called GARR (Google AdSense Referral Rotator), which will keep rotating between the available referrals on every page load. You can see it in action on the right-most sidebar on my home page.

A whole set of such advices and trips & tricks on AdSense Referrals (compiled by Google) can be found here.

Get the fabulous features of GMail, GTalk, GCalendar etc. to work with your own domain

Google LogoGoogle Hosted Mails is a pretty old service through which Google enables you to use the terrific GMail interface to handle mails for your own domain. I remember signing up for it almost an year back to handle mails for my company’s domain. At that time it was in Beta phase (it still is) – but you’d to undergo a long wait (close to two months) while they reviewed your application and approved it.

In short…

Google Apps for Your Domain lets you offer private-labeled email, instant messaging and calendar accounts to all of your users, so they can share ideas and work more effectively. These services are all unified by the start page, a unique, dynamic page where your users can preview their inboxes and calendars, browse content and links that you choose, search the web, and further customize the page to their liking. You can also design and publish web pages for your domain.

Recently I checked up with their service as I wanted to use the same for Chaos Lab and to my surprise – they now have a whole package of tools for your domain called Google Apps for Your Domain. It’s a whole suite of web-applications which can be customised and used with your own domain. The applications include …

  • The start page – A central place for your users to preview their inboxes and calendars, access your essential content, and search the web.
  • GMail – Offer email to your users with 2 gigabytes of storage per account, search tools to help them find information fast, and instant messaging built right into the browser. However, as of now the maximum email accounts you can create (for your domain) is 25. Anything more than that would require some sort of paid contract with Google.
  • Google Talk – Your users can call or send instant messages to their contacts for free — anytime, anywhere in the world.
  • Google Calendar – Users can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others.
  • Google Page Creator – Create and publish web pages for your domain quickly and easily with this what-you-see-is-what-you-get page design tool.

Even the signup process has been simplified and is as easy and instantaneous as signing up for a generic web-based service these days. However, you need to have two things handy for this.

  1. A Google Account – which I’m sure almost every second person out there on the net owns. However, if you don’t have one, it can be created in a matter of minutes.
  2. A pre-registered domain owned by you. This one is an absolute necessity. Owning a domain before-hand will make life a lot easier here. However, Google gives you the option of registering one through one of their partners for $10 in case you don’t have one already.

Once you’ve met the criteria, the signup process takes just under a couple of minutes to complete. By the end of it you’ve got all these tools up & running for you. You’re given a Control Panel, which allows you to enable / disable any of the above services. The changes are reflected across all the user accounts you create for your domain. Google Apps Control Panel

As for myself – I use only GMail, GTalk and Calendar for Chaos Lab.

Google Hosted Mail

There’s one catch though. To allow Google to handle the mail for your domain, you need to be able to modify the MX Entry for the domain. MX stands for Mail Exchanger. Normally, if you purchase hosting services along with your domain, the MX Entry automatically points to the email servers provided to your by your web-host. In this case since Google will be handling your mail, you need to point the MX Entry to Google’s mail servers. Further information can be found here. Most web-hosts provide you with an online software called cPanel for performing various domain related tasks. Modifying the MX Entry is an one-step easy process from there.

Also the URL that your users have to use to access their mail accounts is kind of cryptic and long, for example, http://mail.google.com/a/your-domain.com.

This can easily be changed to something like, http://mail.your-domain.com if you can modify the CNAME record for your domain.

The coolest part is that though this is another one of the Beta Tests of Google, a notice on the main Google Apps page says…

Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.

Cool, eh ? 🙂 It’s terrific. It’s FREE. Get Google Apps for Your Domain, today !!!

Excellent Free Tools to analyse your Google Ranking

Here are a couple of excellent free PageRank analysis tools that can help you estimate your site’s standing with Google.

Live PageRank – This tool gives you a comprehensive chart of your site’s PageRank across multiple Google datacenters. If you’ve been waiting for a hike in your pagerank for a long while – and you see a higher figure in any one of the datacenters it might be indicative of celebration time in near future 😀

Once you enter your URL in this tool, it shows you your site’s Alexa Ranking and Google Backlinks along with the PR chart. Also displayed are the minimum, maximum and average PR values averaged over all datacenters.

Live PageRank Screenshot

Live PR site also offers a PageRank extension for Firefox which sits in your status-bar and displays the PageRank of any site you’re visiting. However, I prefer the SearchStatus extension which shows both your Alexa Ranking and Google PR.

Future PageRank – Brought to you by SEOTools, this queries the various Google datacenters to check for any changes in PageRank values for a given URL. Usually all data centers output the same value, but if queried during an update, you might get a glimpse of any upcoming changes in your chosen URL’s PageRank value (similar to Live PageRank).

Future PageRank Screenshot

Similar tools in this category:

Visual PageRank – This tool shows you the PR for all links on a page. Once you enter the URL, the results will show the page given, along with the PageRank of each hyperlink on that page in form a tiny but nice PR graphic beside each of those links. You also have the option to show “nofollow” and external links. Very useful when you want to figure out what links on your site have a higher Google PR.Visual PageRank Screenshot

A similar script that can be run off your own web-space (and for free) is Webmaster Eyes.

Create designer ads with AdSense Decorator and increase your CTR

Gogle AdSense LogoIf you’re a Google AdSense publisher and are plagued by extremely low Click-Through-Rate (CTR) despite a large traffic, here’s an experiment that you might want to indulge in.

All conventional AdSense tutorials endlessly harp on the importance of modifying your ad palette to blend the ads into your site’s layout and/or to place the ads cleverly within your content. Sometimes you’re even advised to leave the link colour at the default blue as it supposedly serves as a subliminal-click-beacon to your visitors by virtue of being the default “link” colour on every other site.

Trust me when I say that I’ve tried all the above approaches and while it did cause a hike in the CTR (from next to nothingness) – it still failed to give the boost that I really craved for. That’s when I came upon this new hypothesis that suggests that, the average visitor after having visited thousands of sites with similar ad formats develop a kind of ad-blindness. When people get used to certain ad formats, they consciously / subconsciously avoid the ad and there goes your CTR down the drain.

If you consider the case of 468×60 banner (which is the most widely used ad format on the net) apparently less than 5% of visitors actually read the banner, while the other 95% consciously avoid looking at the banner because they know it’s an ad. With so many site publishers advertising with AdSense, more and more surfers are beginning to understand how AdSense works. The blended color themes and ads going together aren’t doing well anymore. This is what Ad-Blindness is.

To counteract this even Google keeps constantly testing new ad formats, including AdSense with backgrounds like the themed ads (scroll to the bottom of the page). As for publishers – a lot of them have tried to break out of the monotony by using something called AdSense Beautifier, which places images next to each ad in an ad unit and makes them look like part of the ads. According to reports, images adjacent to ads can help increase click through rate (CTR).

However, when you embark upon such experimentation you need to consider a couple of aspects of Google’s AdSense Program Policy.

  1. You are not permitted to change the ad code itself or according to the exact wording in their policy:

    Any AdSense ad code, search box code, or referral code must be pasted directly into Web pages without modification. AdSense participants are not allowed to alter any portion of the ad code or change the layout, behavior, targeting, or delivery of ads for any reason.

  2. You can not draw undue attention to ads, either with text or images. Once again, the wording in their policy says:

    Web pages may not include incentives of any kind for users to click on ads. This includes encouraging users to click on the ads or to visit the advertisers sites as well as drawing any undue attention to the ads.

While the second rule is kind of fuzzy and open to subjective interpretation. Even so, a lot of publishers have been warned by Google for placing images next to their ads using AdSense Beautifier. The only way you can do so is to include a thick border between the ads and the images, thus clearly demarcating the actual ad unit. As I said, there’s a very thin line here which you can easily step over and get banned from AdSense.

However, there’s another approach – which I’m currently experimenting with. This embeds your ad unit in a given graphical background thus enhancing it to a certain extent while blending it in with the site as the same time. The “attraction” factor seems to work in this case and Google doesn’t seem to have a problem with this as you’re not modifying the ad code in any way.

There’s a very handy tool for this called AdSense Decorator, which is freely downloadable from the author’s site. The main function of this software is to compose and export background images for displaying with Google AdSense. It also generates the HTML code necessary for displaying the ad unit embedded within the image.

The interface is really easy to work with and contains three tabs, namely Edit, Preview & Code. Edit is the visual designer, Preview shows you the results while Code shows you the actual HTML code you’re supposed to place in your site.

AdSense Decorator Screenshot

Features:

  • Supports the 12 formats of Google Ad Units
  • The colour palette of the embedded Google Ads is customisable
  • The Ad Editor allows you to insert objects including images, text and frames to the AdSense template
  • Ability to export the AdSense template to a JPG image file
  • Single-click preview of the template
  • Auto generation of HTML code (code for the image + AdSense ad code)

It’s very easy to create new backgrounds for your ads as long as you’ve any decent picture editor. If you don’t have one, try Paint.NET which I reviewed recently. It’s equally easy to insert your image and place the ads on it using the visual designer of this software. Once done you can check the results in the Preview tab or hit Code to get the finalised ad code.

AdSense Decorator Screenshot

In case you find yourself lacking inspiration for coming up with innovative backgrounds, you can check out Jay Young’s site, which offers a pre-packed list of themes (backgrounds) which you can use with your ads. However, this is priced at $67. So the ideal way of going about it would be to get in touch with one of your friends who’s good at digital art and get him/her to design a set of backgrounds for you. Here are a couple of examples of what your ad might turn out to…

AdSense Decorator Design 1 AdSense Decorator Design 3

AdSense Decorator Design 2

I’ve started using it very recently and cannot provide you with a feedback on the actual boost in CTR. However if you check back with me in a couple of weeks, I’ll surely let you know. To my own eyes the ads look quite catchy and I’ll experiment with a wide variety of backgrounds over the next few weeks.

FOOT-NOTE: Whenever you find yourself in doubt it’s worth lopping off an email to AdSense. Just make sure that you politely ask them to drop by at your site and take a quick look at your ads to make sure you’re within their guidelines. If you approach them with a question like this they usually give you an opportunity to make amends in case you’ve broken the rules. As long as you’re polite and make it clear that you’re approaching them because you want to adhere to the rules, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Track your AdSense Ad Clicks to further maximise on your returns

If you didn’t know, clicks on AdSense Ads can be effectively tracked and recorded providing us with further insight into the inner workings of AdSense. Google Analytics provides us with really useful tools to track AdWords statistics, but totally lacks any tool to work in conjunction with AdSense.

However, there are loads of third party scripts which can help you do the same, even up to the extent of linking the AdSense clicks to your Analytics account. Some of these scripts are hosted on remote servers and the host provides you with tracking facilities free of charge. This is an easy option for beginners. On the other hand if you’ve got considerable working experience with web-servers, there are scripts which you can install to record the clicks and store the statistics right at your site.

A simple search using the keywords “track adsense click” will fetch you links to thousands of sites displaying their click-track wares.

Note: Tracking your AdSense clicks doesn’t violate the Google AdSense TOS in any way as long as the tracking script doesn’t modify the original Ad Code or it’s behaviour in any way.

(more…)

Further musings on Google’s experimentation with the AdSense logo

I’d talked about my own experience with the “Ads by Google” logo experimentation in one of my earlier posts titled, Google experimenting with the “Ads by Google” link in AdSense.

There I’d pointed out how Google might have actually heard the grumbles against the idea and resorted to a win-win approach for both Google & AdSense Publishers by tweaking the new logo to blend in with colour palette of your Ads.

AdSense according to palette

Seems like I was pretty much right about it. A recent Ad that showed up on my site contained a full Google logo – in pure BLACK with WHITE background, which is the default palette set for my Ads.

New Logo

I don’t really mind if the logo turns up consistently like this, as it’s pretty much unobtrusive and I don’t think it’s going to reduce the CTR noticeably.

However, according to CaptainRon at Astahost Forums who’s recently read The Google Story, apparently 60% of users who click Google Ads have no idea that they’re doing so. In a way it might be a logical step for Google to avoid any kind of lawsuits, though this could make that segment aware that they’re clicking on ads and hence make them deviate from it.
What say you?

WordPress: Google AdSense Referral Rotator Plug-in

Preamble:

Google AdSense Referrals are pretty cool in a way as they contribute well in topping up on your daily AdSense earnings. Moreover, they’re quite unobtrusive and can be placed anywhere on the page without interfering with the content much. According to me they’re best placed in the side-bar and since I’m using a widget enabled theme I got down to searching for a widget plug-in that would let me to do just that.

If you don’t know how a AdSense Referral looks like, here’s a snapshot…

AdSense Referral Button

Anyway, I found plenty of AdSense widget plug-ins that allow you to display the text-ads anywhere on the side-bars. None of the plug-ins I found were cut-out for Referral Ads only, but with some minor modifications one could use the available ones to show referrals too.

Google provides you with 4 different kinds of referrals at the moment and my idea was to keep rotating between all of them randomly, thus presenting your visitors with a wider range of choice to pick from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single one in this category and hence with whatever limited knowledge of WordPress I have, I got down to writing one of my own. The idea was to use the mt_rand function of PHP which …

uses a random number generator with known characteristics using the Mersenne Twister, which will produce random numbers four times faster than what the average libc rand().” provides.

… and generate a number between 1 & 4 and use that number as a key to an array holding the google_cpa_choice code for the four different referrals. Pretty easy, eh ? Every time a visitor loads the page containing this widget in the sidebar, a new random number is generated, thus showing a different referral (most of the time). I say most of the time here, since occasionally the generated random numbers might overlap showing the same referral consecutively for a couple of times.

When it came to the implementing the idea part, I was at a total loss as I’d no clue about writing sidebar widgets. However, I’m extremely adept at making meaning out of existing code and modifying it to suit my purposes. I acquired half my PHP knowledge that way. So even here, I picked a AdSense widget plug-in that seemed the easiest to decipher and recode. The plug-in I chose was Google AdSense Widget written by Mike Smullin. It took me about half-an-hour to read through the code and another one hour to get it to do what I wanted. The result was GARR or Google AdSense Referral Rotator, which I’m sharing with you here.

Current Version

  • 0.1

Requirements

Download

[download id=”5″]

Installation

  1. Installation is really easy. Unzip the file and upload the contents to your /wp-content/plugins/ directory.
  2. In the Administrative Control Panel, go to the Plugins tab and Activate the widget.
  3. It will now show up in the Sidebar Widgets screen under the Presentation menu. It’ll be located in the spare widget tray. You can simply drag and drop it on to any sidebar you wish.
  4. Once placed in a sidebar you’ll notice a small icon next to the widget title. Click on that to open the configuration panel. Here’s a screenshot of the panel…AdSense Referral Rotator Configuration Screenshot
  5. Enter your AdSense client ID (google_ad_client) here.The default referral ad size (google_ad_width x google_ad_height) is set to a small button 120 x 60 pixels. You’re free to modify it any of the other standard sizes supported by Google.Make sure you modify the google_ad_format too in case you change the width and height. The available referral ad formats can be viewed by logging into your own AdSense account and visiting this page.
  6. You’ll notice a separate section below the general parameters with four fields titled Referral#1, Referral#2 and so on… they contain the ad code for the four different referral types available through AdSense at the moment.If there are further referrals added in future, I’ll upgrade the plug-in to reflect that. In fact I’ll try to modify the widget to enable users to add as many referrals as they want.
  7. Once done with your settings, click on the close (X) button and Save the settings…and you’re done.

Now your widget will show up in the sidebar and display different referrals on every page load.

Showcase

  • Empty

Comments & Feedbacks are more than welcome… 🙂

Please Note

I offer support for my plug-ins via the Chaos Laboratory Support Forum only. I will NOT respond to support queries left in the comment section below and, in most cases, will also not publish them. Of course, if you’d like to say something nice or helpful, then feel free to leave a comment!

UPDATE (2011-03-25)

Since Google Adsense Referrals have been retired for a while now, this plug-in is of no further use and is discontinued.