AdSense: Using The Competitive Ad Filter May Actually Improve Your Conversion Rates

We recently blogged about using the Google AdSense competitive ad filter selectively, because you might end up banning the sites that are bidding highest for your keywords (maybe because they’re competitors, or maybe because you don’t like their sites). However, a reader of ours commented that this might actually be to the contrary. He has observed a marked increase in conversions (meaning the earnings per click) after he implemented a ban on so-called made-for-adsense (or “MFA”) sites.

Made for AdSense sites are just like “splogs” or spam blogs. These are blogs or sites that have virtually no content, or just a few lines of text, and have AdSense ads splattered all over.

Now many owners of MFA sites are fond of using AdWords to market their sites on other sites or blogs that have the relevant keywords. The problem here is that they’re able to game the AdSense system by bidding low on keywords, and reaping the rewards of AdSense clicks after–they actually profit.

Let me illustrate. You publish AdSense on your site. You get ads that lead to MFA sites that pay $0.01 per click. A user clicks that, you get $0.01. The user then gets directed to the MFA site that’s full of AdSense ads. The user doesn’t know better and click on these ads, thinking that these are the main content. The MFA site owner then gets something higher than the cost of the ad that appeared on your site, for example, $0.50 for that click.

Google wins (since both the MFA site owner and the owner of the ads that were clicked on the MFA site pay for AdWords). The MFA site owner wins (he gets the difference between the few cents he paid and the AdSense earnings). You lose.

Our comment-poster suggested to ban sites that are known to be MFA using the competitive ad filter. This will theoretically improve your conversion rates, since users will likely click on links that are actually relevant (that contain actual information or products, rather than just more ads). While you can do this on a trial-and-error basis, you can also use tools like adsblacklist to generate a list of MFA URLs according to your site’s keywords or topic.

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Once you get rid of the (usually) low-paying ads that link to MFA sites, you will likely see an improvement in your per-click earnings. You have to give the system a few days for your new settings to take effect, though. It’s best to give a lead time of at least three days to a week. Do monitor your earnings (and effective CPMs) if this actually works.