Google AdSense: First impressions

So Google AdSense has been up and running on this site for about a day now (I very recently got it working, after having some trouble with the Adblock Firefox extension). Here are my impressions.

Google doesn’t really seem to be able to get the best ads for this site. Yes, they are largely relevant, but the artificial intelligence trying to correlate page content with ad content isn’t really up to snuff. Often it won’t be able to pick a suitable ad at all, leaving a black space. This shouldn’t be happening. Also, Google AdSense is way too narrow. It chooses an ad based on the content of that page only, regardless of what is on the rest of the site. So the single page views of some of my smaller blog entries just don’t have anything relevant on them (here’s an example). It should have some memory of content across pages, and tailor the ads on each pages to the content of the site as a whole. As it is, it just takes little snapshots, treating each page as if it were a completely independent site, and it misses the mark a lot of the time.

So far the earnings have been abysmal, but I’m okay with that, because I didn’t start this experiment seriously trying to make money. Also, the number of impressions Google is reporting isn’t squaring up at all with the number of visitors my Apache logs are telling me I’m getting. Are that many of my visitors really running ad-blocking software? Then again, I am only running one ad box, and the smallest one available at that. I’ll try switching this stuff up a bit soon, and seeing how the number of impressions AdSense reports changes by. AdSense also has a nifty thing called a link box, which doesn’t display ads directly, but rather, takes you to a page on Google listing a bunch of ads relevant to a particular category of content it saw on your page. That’ll be fun to play around with.

I’ve been playing around with AdSense at the suggestion of some of my friends from Wikipedia. We were throwing around the idea of running AdSense ads on the Wikimedia Foundation’s projects and we realized none of us had any first-hand experience, so I volunteered to use my blog as a guinea pig to report back some preliminary findings. As far as we can tell, and we think we did the calculations accurately, the Wikimedia Foundation is passing up somewhere between several hundred thousand and one million dollars per day by not running advertising. This is a colossal amount of money, and it could be used to do so much good in the free content community. Up until now funding has been mostly worked out, but with the failure of the recent winter fundraiser, which came in several hundred thousand short of the $1.5 million goal, things are looking slightly iffy. If worse comes to worst and hosting and salary bills become unpayable, you can be sure that the Foundation will put up advertising for a few days to cover the cost rather than risk going under.

I still find it sad that we could make as much money in two or three days with advertising as we did over the course of a month-long fund raiser.

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