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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.

 


Arbitrage: Made For Adsense (MFA) Web Pages and Poor Quality Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Traffic

January 26th, 2008

I learned a new word the other day: “arbitrage”. I was having an online chat with a representative from Google AdWords to learn more about PPC quality. What I learned gave me a new addition to my click fraud vocabulary, and a new warning to give to clients who may be thinking about launching a pay-per-click advertising campaign: Beware of traffic that comes from arbitrage or “made for adsense” websites and directories.

I was looking at a particular client’s website traffic statistics because I was managing his Google AdWords campaign, when I noticed traffic coming from strange new directories. The client said that he had signed up with a different PPC company (not Google AdWords) and that this might be the source. I investigated these traffic sources and here’s what I found:

A directory with NO CONTENT – 100% ADS!

smartbizsearch.gif

This is an example of arbitrage or what is known in the online advertising world as “made for adsense” or MFA websites. These websites have no content, their sole purpose is to drive clicks. You can read more about arbitrage in this article MFA Sites: Pay-Per-Click’s dirty little secret from the Click Fraud Network and in this article from Marketing Pilgrim.

Here’s a quote from the article The Click Fraud “State of the Union” at Click Fraud Network:

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch, traffic in the publisher [content] networks (including Google AdSense) is abysmal. Over 70% of the sites that make up these networks are made-for-ad sites or parked domains. Well over 60% of the traffic from these types of sites is traffic advertisers should not be paying for. Instead, advertisers should be actively excluding poor performing sites and avoiding low quality ad networks. “

Since these sites have no valuable content, the bounce rate is incredibly high, because and are considered a very, very poor traffic source. My client’s traffic from this source had a 100% bounce rate – literally every single visitor left immediately – the hallmark of poor quality traffic. (Note, these were not his Google AdWords ads, but PPC ads he had arranged with another PPC company prior to starting his Google AdWords campaign.)

How to Protect Yourself From Paying for Traffic From Made For AdSense Junk Sites

1. Track Your Website Traffic. You won’t know what you’re getting for your pay-per-click dollars otherwise. If have a PPC campaign running and you aren’t tracking your traffic, you could be paying for worthless clicks.

2. Investigate Your Traffic Referral Sources: If you see traffic coming from a source you don’t know, look up that URL and see what it looks like. Made For Adsense sites are easy to spot. Remember, they have no content, just ads.

3. Stop The Flow Of Traffic From These Sources, ASAP! If you are using Google AdWords, you’re in luck, because there are several tools available to help you do this. Here’s what the Google AdWords online help fellow advised (note that the traffic in the above example was NOT from a Google AdWords campaign – he was giving this general advice on how to prevent arbitrage after I sent him the screenshot.):

“I spoke with our Specialist Team and they confirmed that the arbitrage sites and directories that resemble the ones you sent me are not part of our Search Network and will only appear on the Content Network. In order to see on what specific sites your ads are running within the content network, you can run a Placement Performance Report. You’ll also be able to see performance statistics for your ads on each of these sites. Click here to learn how to create a Placement Performance report. You can also use Site Exclusion on the Content Network to exclude your ads from appearing on particular sites as follows:

1. Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.com.
2. Click ‘Tools’ at the top of your Campaign Summary page.
3. Click ‘Site Exclusion’ under the ‘Optimize your ads’ header.
4. Select your campaign from the drop down box and click ‘Go.’
5. In the field under ‘Add sites to be excluded,’ add the list of websites you want to exclude from showing your ads.
– Add only one website per line. Do not separate websites with commas or other punctuation.
– Enter websites at the domain (www.example.com, example.com), subdomain (topic.example.com), or path (www.example.com/stuff) level only.
– Do not enter individual pages (www.example.com/main.html).
6. When you’re done, click ‘Exclude Sites.’ You’ll see a confirmation page informing you how many sites you’ve chosen to exclude.”

But What If I’m Not Using Google AdWords And Am Using Another PPC Company?

If you are not using Google AdWords for your pay-per-click advertising, then the above controls are not available to you. You will need to contact your pay-per-click advertising representative and tell them you do not want traffic from these “made for adsense” or arbitrage websites and try with all your might to get a refund for the clicks that came from them.

If they won’t or can’t stop the flow of pay-per-click from these “made for adsense (MFA) sites, you might want to consider canceling your account – that is, if they’ll let you.

This is why I only recommend Google AdWords for pay-per-click traffic, because you get complete control over your pay-per-click campaign and can suspend or cancel any ad or your entire account at any time.

So remember, track your traffic, investigate your traffic sources, and if you see MFA (made for adsense) or arbitrage traffic, try to stop it ASAP.

Jill
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J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.



6 Responses to “Arbitrage: Made For Adsense (MFA) Web Pages and Poor Quality Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Traffic”

  1. mark cirrs Says:

    MFA= Made for Adsense
    The site you are showing doesn’t have any adsense on it, how can it be a MFA?

    That image is just a simple search engine, how do you know its quality of traffic if you don’t know the sources of such traffic? He could be using that engine to sell long tail keywords coming to his website through Search Engines that are not useful or targeted to his offer. This way it allows other advertisers finding a lead it could get lost otherwise.

    You are teaching your users the wrong way showing a very poor knowledge of the PPC market.

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Mark,
    The screen shot of SmartBizSearch is NOT showing organic search results – it’s showing paid ads – my client’s ad was first on the list – so I’m afraid you are mistaken. Ads are easy to spot, they look the same on all the websites that run Google AdSense, a title, a brief description, a url. I suggest you gain a bit more experience understanding how AdSense works before leaving insulting comments on other’s blogs.

  3. cbhost Says:

    I just tried MIVA because they had a free $50 credit and I added $25 of my own, and within the span of 4 hours, registered 100 clicks mostly from the site above. My landing page is a simple email submit form and after 100 clicks, not a single email lead. Total and complete scam..Cant say that ads on the Google content network are any better. Adwords is another scam, high prices low conversion rates which is why I believe others try these other networks…I can’t believe so many people waste their time with PPC, I wonder how many actually have a positive ROI..

  4. Jill Olkoski Says:

    I’m not at all familiar with MIVA, so thanks for the tip. Yes, the content network on Google is fraught with poor quality clicks, in general, I avoid them for my small business owners. But AdWords using the search network can have a good ROI, but this totally depends on your ad, your website, your business, your market conditions – it’s very different for each client, and you need to do a bunch of experimentation to figure out if the ROI is actually good enough to continue.

  5. Stew Says:

    Hi Jill, I’m not trying to spam you with my url, but I’m really interested in your opinion about my site and if you think it is a MFA. I have many sites and although I admit I do build my sites around adsense ads I try to provide real content. Let me know your thoughts
    http://www.deliverydriversjobs.com
    stew

  6. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Stew,
    Well, it’s got a ton of ads. The ones running across the top, the ones down the right, and the ones in the top center. I just counted 19 separate Google AdSense ads on the trucking company jobs page, as an example. Now, you’ve also got 13 links to actual trucking company websites where people can (I assume) apply for jobs, so that’s useful. So I guess I’ve totally seen worse, where there is nothing but ads. But I’m thinking that when the ads outnumber the actual useful links, well, it looks quite ad-heavy. I also know that when you give people too many choices, they often don’t choose, so maybe it would actually benefit you to lower the number of ads, but you’d have to test it. So boy, this is a tough question. It’s not nearly as bad as some of the ones mentioned in the early part of this article – you have actual useful content, which is great.

    I guess I’d say, that perhaps if I were to get charged for a click to an ad I had run with Google, and the click came from your website, I would not be unhappy at all. This was certainly not the case with the websites that caused me to write the original article on MFA websites. If I were charged for a click that came from your website, I think I’d be totally fine with it. I would probably wish though, that it had more content and fewer ads, but I would be happy with paying for the click.



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