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What to do When AdSense(TM) Serves the Wrong Ads

The most common frustrations among AdSense publishers are 1) Google serving
inappropriate ads on their web pages, 2) low click-through rates and 3) low payouts per
click. This article discusses the first frustration, which is highly correlated with the other
issues, and discusses what webmasters can do to combat it.

To begin, it is important to understand how Google determines what ads to serve via the
AdSense program. This explanation goes back to April 2003 when Google acquired Santa
Monica, CA-based Applied Semantics. Applied Semantics’ products are based on its
patented CIRCA technology, which understands, organizes, and extracts knowledge from
websites and information repositories in a way that mimics human thought and enables
more effective information retrieval. A key application of the CIRCA technology is that it
allows Google to, without human intervention, understand the key themes on web pages
in order to deliver relevant and targeted advertisements.

However, the CIRCA technology is not always accurate or appropriate to the page. For
example, in a general web page about health topics, AdSense is currently serving ads for
insulin even though only two words in one paragraph relate to insulin. Rather, the site is
much more focused on dieting.

One explanation may be that the CIRCA technology is tied to keyword pricing and
inventory (e.g., AdWords(TM) advertiser daily budgets), and that AdSense serves ads
that it hopes to maximize revenues. However, this often violates a critical AdSense rule -
if the ads do not relate to the topic discussed on the web page, visitors will not click on
them. Likewise, always tells clients never to try and trick
AdSense. That is, if customers are coming to your page from a link or advertisement for
one topic (e.g., hair styles), never try to create a page about an unrelated topic (e.g.,
mortgages), just because that unrelated topic is an expensive keyword. While you will be
serving expensive ads, because the topics are not correlated, visitors are unlikely to click
on them.

Getting AdSense to serve the correct ads is a trial-and-error process. In the health page
example above, all it took to get AdSense to remove the insulin ads was to remove the
paragraph in the text that mentioned insulin. Fortunately, AdSense often updates itself
within just a few hours, so it’s easy to keep modifying your site until the most relevant,
and hopefully most expensive, ads are served.

About the Author

Dave Lavinsky is the President of, a firm which tracks
and publishes databases of the 15,000+ most expensive PPC keywords.


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