AdSense Optimisation: Creating Channels 1: URL Channels

The AdSense URL channel setup window.

One of the brilliant things about AdSense is that you can paste your HTML and implement ads on any web page you have control over. Google only vet the primary URL you submit with your AdSense application - where you paste your code after that is up to you. A problem arises that if you have several sites, each with several pages and several AdSense elements you can't easily keep track on which ads are performing and which aren't. You will want to focus your attention on under performing AdSense elements, instead of messing about with those that have a good click-through-rate, but how do you know which ads need fine tuning? By the use of channels is the answer. AdSense allows publishers to monitor their ads using two types of channel - 'URL channels' to see how particular sites are performing and 'Custom channels' to see how a particular type of ad is performing.

URL channels can be used to track ad performance across an entire domain or sub domain. Suppose you had a website which incorporated a forum, guestbook and blog and you wanted to know which of these pages got the most clicks - you can easily achieve this by setting up channels for each of these URLs. URL channels can be used to monitor AdSense for content (traditional ad and link units), AdSense for search (Google search boxes) and Referral buttons.

URL channels are easily implemented as follows:
  • Log into your AdSense account.
  • Click on the AdSense Setup tab.
  • Click on the Channels link.
  • Select either the AdSense for content, AdSense for search or Referrals tab in the panel that appears.
  • Click Add new URL channel.
  • Type the web address for the channel in the box that appears (omit the 'www').
  • Click Create new channel.
You are able to create a maximum of 200 different URL and custom channels combined. Display your individual channel reports by logging into your account, clicking the Reports tab and then clicking the Advanced Reports link.

Instant Traffic

One of the basic principles of AdSense and all other contextual advertising services is that the number of clicks, therefore revenue, is proportional to the number of visitors. Generating a steady stream of high quality visitors can be a slow process, requiring painstaking effort at search engine optimisation. Human nature being what it is, some people aren't prepared to wait for the spiders to crawl over their site and attract search engine traffic. They want traffic, hopefully ad-clicking traffic, as quickly and easily as possible. There are two main solutions - either use a traffic exchange program or buy traffic to your site.

A word of caution before you read further: Google do not approve of or encourage the use of traffic exchange programs by AdSense publishers. Other contextual advertisers have their own policies, which I suggest you read before using a traffic exchange. I am not aware of any publisher getting into trouble just for using a traffic exchange.

Traffic exchange programs come in all shapes and sizes, but the general idea is always the same. You register with the program, surf a selection of other member's sites and they surf your site in return. Typically you earn credits every time you visit the site of another member, which entitle you to so many visits in return. Your visits to each other member's site are timed so that you don't just click continuously from site to site without looking at the content. Normally you have to spend 20 - 30 seconds on each site visited.

Traffic exchange programs are a useful way of generating extra traffic for a new site, but they are unsustainable in the long term - there is only so much time you can spend surfing for credits each day. Furthermore, most users of these programs are more concerned about boosting their own credit total than actually reading, or clicking, on the content of your site. These programs should only be used with other search engine optimisation techniques, otherwise if you stop surfing you stop getting traffic - it's as simple as that. There are also some unscrupulous traffic exchange sites in the business. I would avoid TrafficSwarm. These sites hammer their members with spam email, constantly try to get their members to pay for an upgrade and direct their members to sites with spy ware and viruses. Luckily the high quality traffic exchange programs, BlogExplosion and BlogMad spring to mind, tend to outnumber the cowboys. These programs carefully vet each site submitted to their directory, don't spam their members and give a good traffic return.

If you haven't got the time or the inclination to sit for hours surfing traffic exchange sites, you can always cut to the chase and buy some traffic for your site. The going rate for traffic is about 1 US cent per hit, and you are guaranteed to get these hits as long as you keep paying for them. You can do the maths on this: a first-time click on an AdSense ad usually attracts a payment of between USD $0.20 and USD $2.00: a well optimised site has an AdSense click-through-rate (CTR) of about 5%, so you will probably make back your money and get a little bit of profit just by buying traffic. Again places like BlogExplosion and BlogMad offer traffic buying options, or do a Google on 'buy website traffic'.

In conclusion, you can get instant traffic for your website quite easily. If you have a lot of spare time and patience you can surf for credits on a traffic exchange program or, if you want results even quicker, you can buy traffic instantly. These methods should be employed alongside traditional methods of promoting your site, and I personally would only use them for a new site until genuine traffic started to arrive.

Getting Your AdSense Account Reinstated

You've been slowly and steadily attracting new visitors to your site, you've crawled up the search engine rankings and the AdSense clicks have started to appear. Just as you're on a roll, having accumulated only a few dollars short of your first AdSense pay check, you get the dreaded email from Google:

Hello Joe Bloggs,

It has come to our attention that invalid clicks and/or impressions have been generated on the Google ads displayed on your site(s). Therefore, we have disabled your Google AdSense account. Please understand that this was a necessary step in order to protect the
interest of the AdWords advertisers.

A publisher's site may not have invalid clicks or impressions on any ad(s), including but not limited to clicks and/or impressions generated by:

- a publisher on his own webpages
- a publisher encouraging others to click on his ads
- automated clicking programmes or any other deceptive software
- a publisher altering any portion of the ad code or changing the layout, behaviour, targeting or delivery of ads for any reason

These or any other such activities that violate Google AdSense Terms and Conditions and programme polices may have led us to disable your account. The Terms and Conditions and programme polices can be viewed at:

Publishers disabled for invalid click activity are not allowed further participation in AdSense and do not receive any further payment. The earnings on your account will be properly returned to the affected advertisers.

If you feel that this decision was wrong and can maintain in good faith that the invalid activity was not due to your actions or negligence or those of the people that you are responsible for, such as employees and family members, you may appeal against the closing of your account. To do so, please contact us only through this form:

If Google decides to evaluate your appeal, we will do our best to inform you quickly and will proceed with the appropriate action as necessary. If we have reached a decision on your appeal, subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be considered.

Yours sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

So what do you do next? Google has very good click fraud detection methods and if they say they have detected invalid clicks and/or impressions you can be fairly confident this is accurate. Probably 99% of AdSense publishers who receive this message have been correctly suspended for violating the AdSense terms and conditions, although most won't admit to it. They have either clicked on their own ads, asked someone else to, or had a 'helping hand' from their friends, colleagues or relatives. So what of the other 1%? The 1% of AdSense publishers suspended from the program because of the actions of an unscrupulous business rival, mischievous trouble-maker or genuine error or omission on the part of Google? If you fall in this 1% you face a difficult challenge - you need to convince Google, who get it right 99% of the time, that they've made a mistake this time. This isn't an easy task, but it is possible.

If you find yourself suspended for invalid clicks and/or impressions, and you genuinely believe you've done nothing wrong, here's what you have to do:
  • Complete the appeal form as fully and accurately as possible. It is a web form so once you send it the data is gone. Be sure to keep a copy of what you write.
  • Pay particular attention to the last 2 boxes of the appeal form: "Any relevant information that you believe would explain the invalid click activity we detected" and "Any data in your weblogs or reports that indicate suspicious IP addresses, referrers or requests". You need to think carefully about what you write here. It needs to be well structured and well mannered. These boxes are your opportunity to explain the suspicious activity and offer evidence to prove you weren't responsible. The importance of keeping accurate visitor logs for your sites can not be over-emphasised. You might like to supply visitor log entries, suspicious IP addresses, whois records or ISP records - the more evidence you provide the easier it will be to convince Google of your innocence.
  • Be honest in your appeal. If your six year old nephew went berserk with the mouse on your AdSense ads tell them that. If you were tidying up a web page and you accidentally clicked an ad own up to it.
  • Be polite in your appeal. Hopefully it will be read by a real person, although this is increasingly unlikely with Google. A person is more likely to read and consider a polite appeal form than one which is rude and insulting. Remember that the person considering your appeal form has probably read a hundred offensive forms already that day - you are at an advantage if you buck that trend.
  • Conclude your appeal form by doing a little grovelling. Tell them how much you respect the AdSense program, how you understand they need to protect their advertisers, how you would be happy for any revenue earned by invalid clicks to be refunded to the advertisers concerned and that you are more than happy to assist them in any further investigation.
  • After you've submitted the appeal, just sit and wait a few days for them to consider it. Within a few days you will get an automatic email reply, nearly always as follows:
Hello Joe Bloggs,

Thank you for your appeal.

After receiving your response, we re-reviewed your account data thoroughly. We have reconfirmed that invalid clicks were generated on the ads on your site in violation of our Terms and Conditions and programme policies.

We have implemented these policies to help ensure the effectiveness of Google ads for our publishers as well as our advertisers. According to our policy on this matter, we are unable to reinstate you into the programme.

Please bear in mind that subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be considered and you may not receive any further communication from us. We appreciate your understanding.


The Google AdSense Team
  • Now for the best bit - you need to complete the appeal form all over again! That's why you need to keep a copy of your first appeal. Do not be put off by the "Please bear in mind that subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be considered and you may not receive any further communication from us." Complete the second appeal form exactly as you did the first. Obviously include any new information that might help you prove your innocence. Google will know you have already appealed. They will also see that your second appeal form agrees with the first, that you remain adamant of your innocence and that you are keen to stay involved with AdSense - all of these are points in your favour.
  • Hopefully a few days later your efforts will be rewarded by your account being reinstated, but this is still by no means certain. At least you've tried your best and can start looking for another contextual advertising service.
Remember that prevention is much better than cure. Minimise your chances of being suspended by keeping an eye on your AdSense account and visitor logs - if you notice anything suspicious, or accidentally click your own ad report it to AdSense support immediately. Normally they are quite understanding.

Preserving Your AdSense Account

One of the main complaints I hear is from people who have been suspended from the AdSense program. Most of them proclaim to have stuck rigidly to the AdSense terms and conditions and, this being the case, they are aggrieved that they have lost what may have been a significant stream of income.

Once you have been suspended from the AdSense program it is very difficult, although not quite impossible, to get reinstated. You will lose your account balance and any potential future AdSense earnings. Most people who are suspended have actually violated the terms and conditions in some way, although many pretend they haven't in a vain attempt to get their account back. Ultimately, the terms and conditions are written in such a way that Google can suspend any member from the AdSense program for any reason they see fit.

Instead of facing a protracted uphill struggle trying to get your account reinstated, it's best to reduce the risk of suspension in the first instance by following these key rules:
  • Never click on your own ads. Never ask anyone else to click on your ads. It is best to avoid telling your friends and family about your website, in case they have the urge to 'help you out' by clicking on your ads. Google have very good click fraud detection and will spot unusual patterns of click activity on your site.
  • Never use any method of generating false clicks or impressions of your ads.
  • Do not display more ads than permitted. On a single web page you are allowed up to 3 AdSense for content ads, 2 AdSense for search boxes, 1 AdSense link unit and two referral buttons for each referral product (updated Jan 2007).
  • Do not modify the AdSense HTML code in any way.
  • Do not place your code on a page with similar looking ads. Competing ads are now allowed as long as they aren't confused with AdSense ads (updated Jan 2007).
  • Do not place your AdSense code on a page with banned content. Banned content includes pornography, illicit drugs, excessive profanity, incitement of religious or racial hatred, gambling, sale of alcohol or tobacco and sites containing copyrighted material to name but a few.
  • Do not place your AdSense code in a pop up window or email.
  • Do not offer any written incentive or inducement to click an ad.
  • Do not try and disguise your ads by hiding them in pictures or otherwise obscuring the text.
  • Avoid artificial traffic generation to your AdSense serving pages. I am referring to programs like TrafficSwarm where you view a site in return for someone viewing your site. Although these aren't technically false impressions - the surfer genuinely wants to visit your page in order to earn visits to their own - they are not encouraged.
It is a good idea to keep checking your AdSense account and visitor logs for suspicious activity. If you see anything untoward report it to AdSense support immediately - they like being kept informed and are less likely to accuse you of a policy violation. Likewise, if you accidentally click one of your own ads let AdSense support know - they understand that accidents do happen and wont penalise you for it.

If you are unlucky enough to get suspended there is a slight glimmer of hope, but that's for another day.

Which Ad Colours?

Three methods of optimising your AdSense colour palette - blending, complementing and contrasting. Blending is recommended in most cases.

One of the great things about AdSense is that you can easily customise your ads to suit your site and target audience. An important aspect of this is getting your ads the right colour. Google suggest three different techniques of colouring your ads - complimentary, contrasting and blended to the colour of the background webpage.

These techniques can be used to minimise 'ad blindness', which is the tendency of users to ignore anything separate to the main content of the site. Ideally we want users to see and read the ads and click on those that they find interesting. It is the flow of text is crucial - someone is more likely to click on an ad because of what it says rather than the colour it is.

Many people think that blending is the most effective method. Blending works better than contrasting because the it maintains the flow of text on the webpage. Blending also gives the impression that the ad link in an integral part of the webpage, thus reducing the ad blindness factor. Contrasting colours will undoubtedly make your ads stand out better on the page, but this mean someone is going to make a conscious decision to click an ad because it is a pretty colour!

For best results blend ads to match the background colour of your webpage. In particular:
  • The background colour and border of the ad match the background colour of the webpage.
  • The colour of the ad link matches the other links on the webpage.
  • The colour of the ad title and advertiser URL match the normal text colour on the webpage.

Ad Placement

AdSense heatmap - general web pages
(image from Google AdSense website).

AdSense heatmap - blog web pages
(image from Google AdSense website).

AdSense heatmap - forum web pages
(image from Google AdSense website).

Now you've considered the most effective ad formats to use, you need to think carefully about where to place them on your web pages. Imagine yourself in the place of the reader - how would you read or view each page? Give particular attention to the following points:
  • On pages where there are articles to read, it is a good idea to place ads at the end of the text. If they have found your text interesting they might be tempted to click on a well targeted ad as a follow on.
  • When a user is viewing a web forum topic they usually look at the opening post, to find out the subject, then scroll down to the final post before adding a reply of their own. It makes good sense to place ads at both these extremes.
  • In the case of a blog it is a good idea to place your ads between posts.
  • Place an AdSense link unit next to where your link list is - you might get lucky when someone clicks it by mistake!
  • Place referral buttons in side bars.
Certain regions of the page tend to be more effective than others. Google have produced some useful heat maps for guidance (images shown above). Remember, it's all a question of trial and error and considering how a visitor is going to view your page.

Which Ad Format?

'Ads by Goooogle' come in all shapes and sizes!

One of the main benefits of AdSense is that you have a wide choice of ad formats which you can customise before displaying in your site. You can easily adjust the ad shapes, sizes and colours to suit your target audience and blend into the content of your page.

The ad formats available are shown here:

Picking the correct formats for your site is a matter of trial and error, but there are a few points you like might to consider:
  • Larger ad formats have more ads to click on and generally a higher click through rate (CTR). However, it is more difficult to blend a larger ad into your site content.
  • Visitors read the content of your site from left to right. Ads which span from left to right, like leaderboards and banners, tend to do better than vertical ads, like skyscrapers and rectangles.
  • Consider using a link unit if you are short of space. These units are small, compact and versatile - they are preferable to having a larger ad format that disappears off the edge of a page!
  • Remember, the maximum numbers of each format you are allowed on any single page are:
    • 1 Link unit
    • 3 Ad units
    • 2 Google search bars
    • 1 Referral button for each product
Remember that these are general rules only. Experiment with different ad formats and see which ones fit your site the best.