TLA more profitable than AdSense

I posted last month about Text-Link-Ads and how much I liked them. Well I’ve been using them for less than 2 months now, and I’m already making more money than from AdSense.

I find this completely shocking (although very welcome) and I’ve been trying to figure out why TLA should perform so much better. I think it’s partly down to having some fairly high pagerank sites which advertisers like, but there’s more too it than that.

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen a steady decline in AdSense income. Unreported clicks aside, I think this is partly down to more savvy advertisers squeezing as much as possible out of the system for as little money as they can, but mainly because the average users is completely blind to Adsense units these days.

With Text Link Ads, the links are just like any other links – so as long as they’re relevant, people will click them.Earlier this month, TLA introduced a new WordPress plugin that lets people sell ads at the bottom of each post. I’m really glad to see they’re continuing to develop new ways to display ads, but I think the reason the system works so well is because it’s so simple – I really hope they don’t lose sight of that.

WordPress SEO

Here’s a few simple tips for optimising your WordPress search engine rankings. This is mainly here for my own benefit – I forget stuff easily if I don’t write it down – but others might find it useful too.

If you have your own tips, feel free to share in the comments.

If you possibly can, set up a custom permalink structure (under options->permalinks) – you will need to be able to use .htaccess files on your server for this to work though. I tend to use this set-up:/%category%/%postname%/- rather than anything date based, as I think this gives the most logical structure to a site. It also means your category name appears in the URL, which gives your post some context.

Post Titles
Always think carefully about your post title. It’s important that it’s concise, relevant to the content, and if possible contains keywords related to the content. Looking at my own referral logs, most search engine hits are from queries that contain words I’ve used in titles.

Try to categorise your posts properly and don’t have too many categories on your site (I currently have just 5 categories). The reason for this is simple; Most search engines will penalise you for duplicate content, and WordPress generates a page for every category on your site. The more categories you have, the more duplicated content – and the lower the rank of each individual page.

While this one may not increase your rankings directly, having an XML Sitemap will allow search engines to find all your pages and weight them properly. Google, Yahoo and MSN all now use the same Sitemaps format, so it’s a really useful thing to have.There’s a really good little Sitemaps plugin available here. Just download it and follow the instructions.You can now also include the URL of your sitemap in your robots.txt file to make it even easiear for bots to find it. Just add a line like this to the bottom of your robots.txt file:


You can find out more about the sitemaps format here and here.

Outbound LinksMake sure you link to relevant sources when posting, as most search engines will rank pages that link to other highly ranked sites higher. This is also a good way to attract new readers – people are much more likely to read your blog if you’re linking to them.Aside from SEO, linking to your sources is simply the right thing to do. Wouldn’t you want people to do the same for you?

RSS Links and Autodiscovery
While not strictly SEO, making sure your RSS feed is easily accessible is a great way to attract regular readers.The first thing you should do is check RSS autodiscovery works on your blog. If it’s working, your browser should display a little RSS icon in the location bar – clicking it should show your feed. If it doesn’t work, make sure you have a line that looks like this in the wp-header file of your WordPress theme:<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS 2.0″ href=”” />The other thing you should do is to make sure the link to your feed is clearly visible on the page itself. I try to put my RSS link at the top of the sidebar, as it’s easily the most important option (IMO!).

Be original
While it’s easy just to post links to other people’s articles on your blog, it won’t get you a lot of traffic. A single, well researched article (with sources) will always generate more traffic than ripping off someone else’s post.

Commenting on other blogs
This should go without saying, but always try to comment regularly on the blogs that you read – particularly if you have something useful to add to the discussion. A useful on someone else’s blog not only lets them know you’re reading, but is usually a ‘free’ link back to your own site.

But always be careful not to spam other people’s blogs. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t post just for the sake of getting your URL on someone else’s site. Ever!

MyBlogLog and AdSense: Google’s response

Many thanks to Shuman Ghosemajumder at Google, who finally got back to me on my continuing saga of MyBlogLog and AdSense.Shuman and the Google engineers have taken an in-depth look at my stats (including referrers and browser stats) and have come up with an explanation. The scenario described draws attention to a potential flaw in all click-tracking solutions, and (according to the engineers) is partly due to the fact I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from

The way that MyBlogLog tracks ad clicks for Firefox users is to hook thepage unload event and record the position of the mouse on every mouse event.On page unload if the last mouse position was over an adsense iframe it iscounted as a click. The ad placement on the Chocablog site is at the topof the page right under the Stumbleupon toolbar, so it’s likely that whenpeople go to click “stumble” their last mouse event will be over the adiframe and a false click will be recorded by MyBlogLog.It seems like whether the user is using Stumbleupon or not, many of theseclick tracking scripts will be vulnerable to false positives when the adframe is at the top of the page and users leave via the back button or theirfavorites bar.

Basically, the only way of tracking clicks on Firefox (and thus, the method adopted by pretty much all click-tracking software) is to look at the last position of the mouse pointer when a user leaves the page.Because StumbleUpon users use the toolbar to ‘stumble’ to the next site, and the affected site features a leaderboard of AdSense ads at the top of the page, people often move the mouse over the ad block before leaving the site.Convinced?This does sound like a logical explanation to me, and if true, shows up a major problem with tracking clicks.But I still think there’s more to it than this. After being featured in B3ta’s newsletter last week, the same page saw another spike in traffic, so I had another opportunity to look at what was going on. This spike was accompanied by an increase in clicks on other links and ads (albeit a small one), but the number of clicks reported in my AdSense stats actually dropped.I’m unsure why users would click other ads and links, but seemingly avoid AdSense ads – including the most prominent ad-block on the site (the top-of-page leaderboard).So while I think Shuman’s explanation seems quite plausible, I don’t think it’s the full story. But somehow I doubt whether I’ll ever find out what’s really going on.

Template Update

I’ve just updated my WordPress template to something a little more flexible.It seems to be working alright, but I’m still tweaking things, so if it looks a bit odd, try doing a shift+reload (ctrl+refresh in IE) or waiting a few minutes.Incidentally, if you’re ever updating your own WordPress template on a live site, I highly recommend Ryan Boren’s ‘Preview Theme‘ plugin which – as you might expect – allows you to preview a theme without setting it as the default and letting your readers see what a mess you’re making of it.

Sony BMG employees face sack for NOT blogging?

Sony BMGAccording to The Register, Sony BMG’s new corporate marketing strategy “has made it obligatory for all senior staff at both Columbia Records and RCA Records to start blogging actively”.Although a Sony BMG spokesman said employees would not be sacked for failing to blog, he did say it would be “frowned upon” and neglected to mention how non-blogging staff would be dealt with.Is it just me, or is this the stupidest idea since… er… the dawn of time?Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great ‘corporate’ bloggers out there – it’s just that these people do it out of choice. They’re also articulate, well-informed and know when not to blog.If it were any other company it would be bad enough, but Sony companies (and Sony BMG in particular) have one of the worse reputations imaginable. Encouraging – nay, forcing employees to talk about the internal workings such a company is simply asking for trouble.

Google Gone AWOL

It’s now been two weeks since Google last responded to my mails. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given it’s taken them two years to get back to me in the past. But frankly, this is getting annoying.If you don’t feel like reading my previous post on the issue, here’s a brief summary; My problems began a few weeks ago following a traffic spike to one of my sites. I noticed my AdSense click-through stats were significantly lower than those reported by MyBlogLog, and stayed lower after the spike had tailed off.Naturally, I fired off an email to Google questioning the stats, did some research and looked at other methods of verifying what I was seeing.I’ve now done further research into the problem, including:

  • Removing all click-tracking for a period and monitoring AdSense stats
  • Monitoring the CTR of other ads and links on the site
  • Delivering AdSense ads through my own ad server and monitoring click-throughs from there

The results from all these tests indicate that AdSense simply isn’t logging the majority of ad clicks on my site.My personal opinion is that some kind of over-zealous anti-fraud measures have automatically kicked in following the spike, but with no feedback from Google whatsoever, there’s little I can do.But my main discovery was that several other people appear to have noticed the exact same behaviour (some links below). So I’m not alone.My concern is that there is a genuine problem with AdSense reporting and most publishers will never notice because they have nothing to compare their stats against.With that in mind, my advice to all AdSense publishers is to use some kind of click-logging package (MyBlogLog or one of the free AdSense stats scripts) and monitor:

  • Any noticeable difference in AdSense stats when you implement the click-logging (to see if the logging is somehow interfering with AdSense).
  • Differences between AdSense’s official stats and your own. Note that there will always be a minor difference, but if your own logs show several times more clicks than AdSense reports, there may be an issue.

I should say that you should always be careful not to break the AdSense TOS by clicking your own ads or modifying Google’s Javascript. Most packages that track clicks (including MyBlogLog) do not alter the Javascript code and do not break the TOS, but do check and be careful.Finally, if anyone from Google happens to read this, I would really appreciate a reply to my emails. When your staff give up and stop responding in the middle of a conversation, it does not inspire confidence. And if there is a problem with AdSense stats, tell publishers about it.Further Reading:

Apple TV on iMac

A lot’s been said in the last ten day’s about Apple’s new AppleTV. Most of the talk is based on the fact that this little box was comprehensively hacked to pieces – in a good way! – within a week of being released.First someone managed to upgrade the hard drive, then it was hacked to play Xvid videos, run normal Max OSX applications (including Firefox and World of Warcraft!), and then someone managed to get the front-end working on a MacBook.

I decided to see what the fuss was about. So, I present….

Apple TV on iMac
Apple TV on iMac

And I’m actually pleasantly surprised. It’s infinitely more responsive than FrontRow when streaming media from my Mac Mini over 802.11g. I’m even running Windows XP via Parallels, Photoshop and iPhoto in the background.

The only annoyance is there’s no way to quit the application currently, so I’m having to kill it via SSH.I really hope that the Leopard version of FrontRow works as well as this, because at the current version is definitely NOT designed for streaming video over the network.

Useful Apple TV Links:

Help! I’m a blogger!

I hadn’t noticed until this week, but I appear to have become a blogger. In the past, I’ve always thought of blogging as a bit of a waste of time.And yet I now have four blogs – this one, Chocablog, Endiet and now my Fotonomy Photography Blog.I’m not sure why I’ve ended up going down the blogging route. I don’t actively enjoy writing like some people I could mention and I can never think of anything interesting to say about myself. In fact, I can rarely think of anything interesting to say about anything.But what I have found is that given a clear and concise topic, I find it fairly easy to churn out a decent length post in about half an hour. The difficult part is coming up with a subject that’s interesting enough to share with complete strangers.Apart from the horror of describing myself as a ‘blogger’, the other thing I’ve noticed is just how predictable my writing style can be. I tend to re-use certain words over and over. I really, really use the word “really” far too much, and I’m constantly overusing parentheses (I really don’t know why).I’m interested to know why other people blog. What do you get out of it? Is it the satisfaction of having done something creative? And are you happy with your own writing style?

MyBlogLog and AdSense

Here’s a question for anyone that uses MyBlogLog and Google AdSense on the same site: Do your stats match up?It’s a simple question, but one I’ve been struggling with ever since one of my sites received a large spike in traffic. MyBlogLog’s stats and AdSense’s stats showed roughly the same number of impressions (give or take what you’d expect for people who block ads), but the stats for click-outs were totally different – by a factor of 10!A little background information. This page recently appeared on the front page of BoingBoing, and as a result hit a load of new blogs. Traffic went up ten-fold over night. The following day, I was checking my AdSense stats and noticed that the spike produced no increase in ad clicks at all. The impressions were there, but clicks were reported at exactly the same level.So I decided to check the MyBlogLog stats, and was surprised to see they reported an increase in clicks on Google Ads that matched the increase in impressions. There were three possibilities:

  1. AdSense was reporting incorrect stats
  2. MyBlogLog was reporting incorrect stats
  3. They were both reporting incorrect stats

Personally, I was more inclined to believe the MyBlogLog stats because they’re completely independent – and because my other sites linked from the page in question were also seeing an increase in traffic. It’s difficult to believe these 10,000 or so extra visitors clicked everything except a single Google ad.So, thinking some kind of automated fraud-detection system had incorrectly kicked in at Google’s end, I mailed them and asked them to investigate. The curt response I received simply castigated me for using MyBlogLog and did not mention the actual issue at all.

“Unfortunately, we do not endorse or encourage the use of any particularclick tracking tools, and we are unable to verify the statistics reportedby any third-party tools. As per our Terms and Conditions(, a publisher’s earnings and payments willbe determined based on the statistics reported within their AdSenseaccount.”

Note that MyBlogLog usage does not contravene Google’s Ts&Cs at all, and while the response from Google did not directly accuse me of breaking the rules, I was left with the distinct impression that I was somehow in the wrong.After exchanging a few more emails with Google, I was finally able to get the problem escalated. I explained, in depth, what I was seeing and a week later received a final response from Google:

Hello Dom,Thanks for your patience.I’ve compared our reports with the information you gave me, and ran sometests of our own, but still could not resolve the difference between whatMyBlogLog is showing and what we’re seeing. Unfortunately, ourunfamiliarity with how MyBlogLog compiles its data prevents us fromdigging much deeper when looking for possible causes.I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. I assure youthat this case will be noted and we will keep this issue in mind movingforward. As previously mentioned, we realize accurate reporting isextremely important to publishers like you, and your help in thisinvestigation will be extremely useful for future reference.If you have any questions about this or anything else AdSense-related,please feel free to let me know.Sincerely,MollyThe Google AdSense Team

That was 5 days ago and there have been no further responses to my emails.So, basically Google is saying “nothing we can do, sorry” and not really taking an interest. And I’m left with MyBlogLog still reporting significantly higher ad clicks than Google.Now I’m not accusing Google’s stats of lying – it could be that MyBlogLog is wrong, or there’s something I’ve overlooked, but something doesn’t add up. So my question is, has anyone else seen such a large discrepancy in AdSense and MyBlogLog stats – or seen anything similar using other click-tracking solutions? And more importantly, were you able to resolve it?

Text Link Ads

Text Link Ads I’ve been playing with Text Link Ads (aff) lately as a way to supplement AdSense revenue, so I thought I’d write about – and why I like it so much.If you don’t already know, TLA allows you to sell links on your site to advertisers on a monthly basis. The TLA site is effectively a marketplace for advertisers where they can search for relevant sites and buy links. Pricing is based on the popularity and subject of your site, and TLA takes 50%. Simple.But TLA is different from other link ad services because the links are ‘hard coded’ into the HTML of your site, rather than served by Javascript. This means advertisers also get a lasting link value from advertising on your site. If you have a good PageRank and a niche topic, you’ll probably get advertisers fighting for a spot on your site because not only do the get relevant visitors, but they also get get a search engine benefit from being linked to by a well ranked site.From what I’ve read, advertisers often renew their ads from month to month too – so while it may take a while to fill all your ad slots (and you can choose how many you want to sell), once you’ve got a few good advertisers you should find your site making money consistently.The down side to this is that you can’t use TLA if you’re only able to use static HTML on your site (i.e. no PHP/ASP/etc). But just about every decent web host allows some kind of server side coding these days, and TLA provides the code for just about every language as well as plugins for WordPress and other blogging engines.But the best thing about TLA is that it’s non-contextual, which means you can serve AdSense ads on the same page. You won’t have to remove other ads from your site if you just want to try it out for a few months. In fact, as the links just appear as a normal part of your site, people won’t even know they’re ads unless you choose to tell them. I like that level of control.My only real gripe with the system is that the help pages are currently a little limited, but to be honest, it’s so simple I’ve not really had to use it. If you’ve got a web site and think you deserve more revenue than you’re actually getting, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose.