Getting rid of low CPC AdSense banners

Last time, we talked about why it is necessary to weed out your AdSense inventory from time to time (read: bi-weekly). Today, let’s talk about how to figure out who the cheapskates are that you want to get rid off in order to increase your CPC.A word of warning first:

  • There is no automatic way for blocking shitty advertisers. You have to do this by hand. Blacklists of alleged cheapskates do exist, but they are mostly worthless. At best they are just outdated and incomplete, at worst they might be wrong.
  • Don’t worry about blocking to many advertisers. If an offer looks cheesy it probably is and missing one sleazebag can hurt you more than blocking a desirable advertiser.
  • When you start cleaning out your inventory, your CTR will suffer. That’s to be expected as you are getting rid of the low paying clickbait.

As a publisher, your business model is to help someone else selling their product (not to hassle your audience with as many banners as possible, as most seem to believe) and getting paid a commission fee for that. So in theory you could just block everyone not having a pricelist on (or near) their landing page and call it a day. In practice, however, it is not that simple. Lawyers and craftsmen, for example, will usually not provide their services for a flat fee, but rather expect you to contact them for a quote.

The problem with AdWords is, that it is overrun with sleazebags. A lot of them look legit, but aren’t. Pretty much the best way to review advertisers is by thinking in categories (note: quite often, the shitty ones belong to more than one).

Traffic Resellers

Traffic resellers are probably the largest group and most diverse group of businesses you don’t want to promote:

  • Comparison shopping website
  • Blogs with banner ads on the landing page
  • Niche marketeers and search engines

Their business model entirely revolves around around buying traffic for cheap and immediately sending it off elsewhere in order to make money from arbitrage. They already earn peanuts and that means they’ll pass on even less. If you see terms like “find”, “search” or “compare” in the ad, then that’s a red flag.

Low cost products

The cost of promoting a product or service must be covered by the sales price. A business that sells low cost products won’t really be able to pay you much. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that low prices should result in an instant kick. Cheap web hosting, forĀ  example, can be bought for ~$10/month and a customer will usually stick with a hoster for years. You have to keep an eye out here if the product is offered for a one time price or a recurring fee (or if the customer is likely to make more purchases in the future).

Community / Audience builders

This is a very diverse category and largely overlaps with the traffic resellers.

  • Newsletter subscriptions
  • Social networks
  • Online dating
  • Newspapers & Publications

The thing, they have in common is not being picky about targeted traffic. They simply want volume: get in touch with as many people as possible. Eventually someone will pay, subsidizing those that won’t. Of course, if your business model resolves around opening copious amounts of oysters to find a single pearl, then you can’t afford to pay a lot for the individual clam.

Managed by an Agency

This is actually a tricky one and rather hard to catch. Check the account name of the advertiser in the full size preview. Does it sound like an agency and/or is it vastly different from the promoted domain? A lot of business owners are rather clueless about advertising themselves and leave managing their AdWord accounts to an agency. Part of their job is to bring down the advertising cost for the business owner. In other words: the commission fee for selling a product is split between you and the agency and you can count on them trying to cut you as low as possible.

An agency usually has terms like “media”, “ltd.”, “group”,… in their name.

False consultants

This kind of sleazebag runs wild in the financial sector and targets keywords such as “mortgage calculator”, “debt consolidation”, “student loans” and so on. At first glance, their website looks like that of a lawyer or an information center, but actually it’s just a referral “service”, in other words: a subspecies of traffic resellers that feed on the desperate.

For Free!

Yes… sure… for free. Block immediately!

  • Whitepapers
  • Surveys
  • Tests
  • Quizzes
  • Guides
  • Lotteries

Simply assume them to be audience builders. They are of no value to a publisher and usually dabble in shady business practices you don’t want to promote.

Software downloads

Software downloads is a really broad category with several subcategories that tend to overlap a lot with other categories.

Obvious Malware

You really want to get rid of these:

  • Browser toolbars (Mindcraft Interactive is a shoot to kill case, no quarters given, ever!).
  • Driver downloads (the only legit source for drivers is the website of the hardware manufacturer or your OS).
  • Utilities (repair, clean, backup tools)
  • Downloadmanagers

Nobody would pay for any of the listed above, so their business model is all about screwing the user over in one way or the other. In the best case you are promoting adware (and we already established, that traffic resellers are a no-go).

Antivirus Software

Anti Virus software is snakeoil. People don’t install it because they want it, but because they “know” they “need” it. Most don’t want to pay for it. This already is bad for your bottom line. What’s worse is that many companies take the deceptive nature of their product to the design of their ad: banners that are styled to look exactly like dialog windows informing the user their computer is infected by several viruses and to “click here” in order to remove them. To the clueless user this looks like s/he downloaded a virus from your website. As a result, the sleazebag company gets a new customer and you get the blame.

Personally, I block AV software on principle.

Online Games

Most games use banners that are pure eyecandy and therefore clickbait. Being clickbait gets you a discount from Google. Additionally, mostĀ  online games are either browser games or MMORPGs. The former are usually traffic resellers, the later are community builders. Both take in large amounts of traffic and pay peanuts for clicks.


Apps pretty much combine the worst of the worst. With few exceptions, they are either low cost or adware or community builders or malware. It’s not even worth the time to check their business model.


Posted in Tips and Tricks