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Is Contextual Advertising with Adsense Dead?

Aug 17, 2007
Perhaps you've heard the cries lately that contextual advertising with Adsense and similar programs is "dead". This is the rallying cry of those who point out that recent policy changes for contextual advertisers significantly undermined the profit potential of thousands upon thousands of websites. Granted, some of those were legitimate websites, but most were "junk sites".

Let's look at the facts. What was recently done with contextual advertising programs was to establish separate bid structures for the Search and Content networks. The Search network is ads that turn up on the search engine results pages when you do a search engine search. The Content network is the ads that show up on web sites.

Prior to late 2005, prices were the same, so that advertisers who paid top dollar for certain search terms were also required to pay the same amount for click-throughs from ads they chose to simultaneously run on the Content network (which was optional).

The net result of the 2005 change was to dramatically cut into the income of many an owner of a machine-generated site. It had become very popular to buy a page generator for a few hundred dollars, "scrape" a bunch of content (either articles from public directories, or the search results straight from major search engines), and create a machine-generated "website" consisting of thousands of pages of duplicate content.

Nothing was new or unique, and the sites didn't really serve the needs of site visitors. Two people using the same software and keyword list would generate essentially identical sites, with relatively minor differences, if any. So the search engine powers that be did two things. They changed the TOS of their advertising programs, and on the search side, they began a massive de-indexing of those machine-generated sites.

Then, in July of 2006, along came what has become known as the "Google Slap", wherein the minimum bid structure on the Content networks was raised for any website that did not achieve high enough "quality", based, among other things, on whether a website had unique content, and standard things such as a privacy policy and the contact information of the site owner.

Hardest hit were site owners who were buying traffic to "sites" that were little more than a squeeze page, but one-page sales letter sites were also hit hard, as were folks who were using "arbitrage" to buy inexpensive traffic and send it to a page that had higher paying contextual ads on it, hoping to profit from the revenue/cost difference.

So ... is Adsense (and similar programs) dead? Nope. All that is "dead" is the days when you could buy a $200 software program, generate hundreds of thousand-page "websites" per day, and expect each of them to in turn rake in your initial $200 investment on a daily or weekly basis. If you build high quality content sites that offer visitor value and unique, original content, contextual advertising is far from "dead".

You can also use other forms of monetization on your sites. Things like affiliate links, building an email list to sell your own or affiliate products, and lead generation for CPA offers work as well or better than ever. Recent events are a wakeup call to all of us not to put our eggs in one basket, and not to invest too heavily in the latest fad. As always, Content is King.
About the Author
Author John Barbour maintains numerous websites, and writes on a variety of topics related to internet marketing. Learn more about how to make money online and how to monetize a website at his websites.
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