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AdSense Change Rules – Stupidity Stupidity Stupidity

Posted By Darren Rowse 9th of January 2008 Adsense 0 Comments

The AdSense blog has just announced changes to the AdSense referral program which I’m pretty disappointed in. In fact they anger me and leave me disillusioned with AdSense.

There are two changes:

1. Changes to Payment System

The ‘experimental’ payment system for publishers promoting AdSense is being changed back to the way it was before it was changed a year ago.

The current pay system (that is about to change) works like this:

  • If you refer someone to AdSense who makes $5 within 180 days you get a payment of $5.
  • If you refer someone to AdSense who makes $100 within 180 days you get $250
  • If you refer 25 people who make $100 within a 180 day period you get a bonus payment of $2000

The previous payment system (which is what things are being changed back to) is this:

If you refer someone to AdSense who makes $100 within a 180 day period you get $100.

This removes the incentive to refer anyone who is a small publisher and it removes the incentive to work hard at referring multiple publishers. In fact it removes quite a bit of incentive to use the program at all.

As someone who had always just fallen short of the $2000 bonus I can tell you that for me it always acted as a huge incentive to promote AdSense. When AdSense added the $5 and $2k bonus I thought it was genius – while the numbers may not have been right – I’m surprised that AdSense have removed incentive for publishers to refer them in this way.

But if that’s not enough – get this second change:

2. AdSense Referrals Retired for Publishers outside of North America, Latin America and Japan.

If YOU as a publisher are outside of North America, Latin America, and Japan – you’ll no longer be able to participate in the referral program.

Yes you hear me right, its about the location of you as a publisher that excludes you from participating in the AdSense referral system. It’s got nothing to do with your audience’s location, the topic you write about, the quality of your blog or any other factor – it’s about where you blog from.

I’m not privy to the reasoning for this – they simply say ‘We’ve found that this referral product has not performed as well as we had hoped in these regions’ – but in my mind this is stupidity to the ultimate degree.

As a publisher who blogs from Australia but who has a blog on a niche topic that relates perfectly to AdSense and which has the vast majority of it’s traffic from the USA (and which has consistently referred publishers to AdSense that have converted at the $100 in 180 range) I cannot understand the reasoning for this change.

I’m just one example (I’m the example I know best) and a quick look at my stats shows me that I’ve displayed AdSense referral ads close to 20 million times. I’ve sent them tens of thousands of visitors and have been responsible for thousands of sign ups. I cannot even begin to imaging how much money those signups have made AdSense – yet today they’re telling me that they don’t feel that that kind of evangelism for them is worthwhile paying for?

I can understand the reasoning for changing payment levels if they are not converting well for AdSense, but to exclude publishers from promoting them based upon the location of the publisher is simply dumb.

AdSense – this is short sighted, this will cost you money, this is stupid.

PS: The last line of the post on the AdSense blog which announces this shows just how out of touch the team that made this decision are with international publishers.

“We appreciate your support of this referral product, and hope it won’t cause you any inconvenience.”

You hope it won’t cause inconvenience? Are you serious?

Shoemoney joins the conversation with AdSense Slaps Foreign Webmasters in the Face

Update: I’m still a little confused by this decision of AdSense and have been wondering what’s behind it. One that comes to mind is that perhaps they have an oversupply of publishers and need to slow down the intake of new ones. Perhaps with the rise of so many other ad networks advertisers are finding other options to advertise with and going with AdWords less – causing an oversupply of publishers.

Not sure on that one – just the beginning of an idea.

Update 2: one thing I failed to point out in this post that Andy points out is that publishers that you’ve referred to Google in the last 180 days which are yet to make $100 will be switched to the new payout system at the end of the month. For example, if you referred someone 4 months ago who has made $99.99 as of the end of this month (when the changes come into effect) and who makes makes another cent the day after taking them up to $100 – you will only get the $100 payout instead of a $250 one. Of course that is if you live in the ‘golden zones’ of the Americas and Japan.

So for ‘international’ publishers – every person that you and I have sent to AdSense since the end of July last year that reaches a conversion point in the coming months will earn us nothing at all.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. @ Nick, hmm, it was lost on me… ;)

  2. Iam a publisher from india, my main income in adsense is coming from referals only, my website is small one but i got visiters much and now they are this updation is very inconvinence to us in india. there is any chance to change the updation in referrals.

  3. I can see that Darren. Good points. It is insulting. I don’t doubt that you make FAR more off affiliate programs. I do also.

    I’ve never had Adsense on my blog, it simply doesn’t make enough money, and I also have little control of who’s advertising on my blog. I value my readers and only recommend products that I’ve personally experienced.


    Darren, thanks to some of your tips and my persistence, my blog is quickly reaching back to its number 1 place in my niche, and readers are becoming more and more loyal as time proceeds.

    I’ve gone from 200 subscribers to over 1000 in only 1 year with a 5000+% increase in competition blogs/websites!

    I dedicated this in part to you Darren and the other ProBlogger commenters!

  4. Darren,

    Its about their tax.


  5. I totally agree that the move to limit the physical location of the publisher is simply stupid and a big turn-off that will tarnish Google’s image in many minds.

    Even in the case of your hypothesis that they might have an abundance of publishers at the moment, they should not favor certain countries and locations. It doesnt matter where the publisher is, what matter is his audience. They can come up with stricter rules or critera that can be used to filter the publishers and favor the ones with good quality, but not discriminate against good bloggers. This is the Internet. It should be without borders.

    The Arab Aquarius

  6. I understand the general bad mood about this decision from Google – particularly as a European blogger.

    However most of my revenue come from AdSense and not from AdSense referral and this for a simpgle (simple + single… got it Richard ?) reason: I’m not blogging in the blog / webmastering / internet niche, with the exception of one blog.

    My view is that apart from metabloggers, this decision won’t affect a lot of people. Not that it makes it good decision, but no major crisis.

  7. Regarding the geographic limitations, I’m wondering whether these sorts of changes might make it worthwhile for some folks to incorporate their business in North America. There would be tax consequences, of course, and cost of incorporating. For most bloggers the Google move alone wouldn’t make it worthwhile, but letting geographic limitations be such a factor for small web businesses seems like a problem that might not be so hard to solve. (Not to mention the fact that at least some businesses are more likely to take “MBB, Inc.” more seriously than “My Basketweaving Blog” on a loan application, etc)

  8. See? I was telling everyone months ago that adsense didn’t care for the little publishers.

  9. This is absolutely stupid. It’s not the first time though that Google has touted the geographical location of the publisher as a means to cut off services. They did it with the Video ads as well, which for me being in the UK was extremely annoying – especially as one of my websites was used to test the video ads in the first place.

    It obviously had enough US traffic to pilot the project, but as my postal address is in the UK I can go whistle when it comes to launching it.

    Google need to get out of this attitude that the location of the publisher matters. It doesn’t. The target audience of the website is what counts.

  10. I’m shocked. I live in the UK and was debating whether or not to publish AdSense on my new site. This post has decided it for me. I’d rather seek advertising elsewhere.

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of the latest developments, Darren. I hope that this doesn’t punish your own earnings too much!

  11. You got this post title very, very right – Stupidity Stupidity Stupidity! I can’t belive, either.

  12. Hm, so what’s next? Removing non US publishers from Adsense at all?
    Darren, I think it’s time for you and other big bloggers to create an advertising network :D
    G is getting worse with most of the things they do. I wonder how will this end up.

  13. My referral ads have not really had any traffic.
    Maybe this would affect my blog later.

  14. Are google people racists? Now I am glad I removed my referral ads prior to this news. Now the small income will be smaller, so when will it be the smallest, huh?

  15. you are right sir..
    this is an “stupendous stupidity”

    a true example of discrimination
    in a world wide scale.

  16. Stupid! Most of my sites run on revenue generated from AdSense referrals. Better start shopping around…

  17. schmuckamuk says: 01/10/2008 at 1:42 am

    I’m confused. Google was offering a promotion to get bloggers to help them get new adsense customers. You guys liked the deal and promoted the service. Now Google has decided it doesn’t want to promote it as much. So what? What’s the big deal?

    Do you get mad when P&G decides to spend less promoting Pampers?

    Bloggers are not entitled to advertising. In this case Google is a customer not a service.

  18. This is pure speculation on my part, but it could be that referrals in certain geographic areas were determined to be more fraudulent on the whole than in other areas, hence the change. Who knows? And, in my opinion, who ccares? Except for a few high-traffic sites like Darren’s, most AdSense publishers don’t make any money promoting referrals. You’re better off working on content and traffic generation than worrying about referral non-income.

  19. Are these the signs of downfall of a giant empire?

    Maybe Yes! It seems they are overdoing with their recent terms for the webmaster community. They are focusing on penalizing websites for selling text-links rather than working on algorithms to detect those links. They are focusing on limiting publishers base rather than expanding.

    This are some signs which may bring the company to a second level, provided one of the giants (Yahoo or MSN) takes the opportunity and grab it replace their number one position

  20. It seems to me that Adsense has saturated the market and it is no longer necessary for Google to promote it as widely as it has done in the past.

    I believe that Google has made the correct business decision since it only effects a small percentage of the publisher population.

  21. i agree with you John it only takes a few silly mistakes to create a wave of revolt against you. Delicate issues like these spread like wild fire on the internet and each time they do something like this it really hurts their reputation, especial in such a short amount of time.

    I think many bloggers and website owners are already looking for alternatives and its just a matter of time before some one else steps up to the plate.

    Hopefully in the end Google will fix this and other issues.

  22. Would all of you who are so upset over this move start promoting Adsense Referrals again if the decision was reversed?

    I definitely think this is a sleazy move by the Google Adsense team, but maybe if enough people pipe up then the changes will be reversed

  23. So does this affect all referrals (Firefox, Plaxo, what have you) or does it solely apply to referring Adsense publishers ?

  24. schmuckamuk says: 01/10/2008 at 5:17 am

    Sorry but still don’t get it. Why is this “sleazy”, “stupid”, “shocking”, etc? Google has decided to cut back on promoting a product – so what? Companies do that everyday. Why are bloggers entitled to any Google advertising???

    In this case Google was your customer!! Not your service provider.

  25. While it is truly insulting that Google has denied ‘outside’ publishers adsense referrals for promoting adsense, i want to clarify that still all publishers can use adsense referrals program for promoting products/sites other than adsense.
    Just read the 2nd last line in the adsense blog :
    “You may wish to begin replacing any existing referrals promoting AdSense with referrals for another product or an AdSense for content unit.”

    There are many products/sites in adsense referrals that are paying anything from $3 to $60 for conversions. That’s even better than adsense referrals for adsense. So, please remove this confusion from the minds of publishers.

  26. Darren – Adsense are stupid w..kers. I did not benefit much from their referal program but I am v annoyed for you, because you have promoted their product heaps.

    You have a huge amount of traffic and have referred thousands of people to them, and now they are slapping you in the fact. It’s despicable.

  27. Darren – Adsense are stupid w..kers. I did not benefit much from their referal program but I am v annoyed for you, because you have promoted their product heaps.

    You have a huge amount of traffic and have referred thousands of people to them, and now they are slapping you in the face. It’s despicable.

  28. Um, yeah, why not just be more selective with publishers then!

    I just started using Adsense recently, after resisting for nearly four years, and now I’m wondering if I just made a huge mistake by wasting my time and energy.

  29. @schmuckamuk:
    It’s google business and they have every right to do whatever they want. But if you see they allowed some parts of the world (Americas and Japan) the opportunity and robbing the same from top performers from other parts of the world who have sent millions of traffic to them. It’s definitely insulting top performers.

    Well a few weeks back, Widgetbuck has taken a decision to cut on the clicks from non-performing nations. They cut on the clicks and not the opportunity for publshers from non-perfoming countries. I would say it was a wise decision for its business model.
    What google did was exactly opposite. Which seems stupid and hence the word stupid I assume :)

  30. Dang, that is weird though.

  31. Well quite a long discussion…

  32. Adsence keeps getting worse and worse. Their ads are not any good anymore. We need the ability to pick and chose which ads we want to appear because some get way more clicks than others due to their visual appearance.

  33. Is this the beginning of Adsense’s end?

  34. It costs a few hundred dollars a year and you have to file a U.S. corporate tax return annually (not that hard), but if you’re really doing this as a long-term business you should just incorporate in Nevada via a resident agent and get a SkypeIn phone number and an internet fax number in Las Vegas. Oh, yeah, you need a bank account at Wells Fargo, and if you need to get the money out you need a payroll service (Wells Fargo can handle it).

    The worst part is the corporate paperwork (resolutions documenting the operation of the corporation) — not hard, but you have to get in the mindset that you and the corporation are separate and you need to document things in a way a third party can understand.

    You’d have to check into how you’d deal with this on your Australian tax returns, but in general you should only have to report salary and dividends paid out to you. PayPal is the best way to move money overseas.

    Anyway, this is what I did as an American living in Japan. It made my life simpler in dealing with U.S. partners and contractors of various sorts.

  35. Ouch! AdSense referral didn’t bring enough money for me, but decisions like these will surely bring a bad image to Google.

    After all these years of promoting AdSense on my blogs, I feel it’s quite rude to take such decisions. I’ll never promote adsense again.

  36. I just got two new publishers last month. That’s my first referral after 6 months and I will not get anything from that. Waah!

    I hope this change in the referral program will not be applied to all of adsense. Now, that’s more scarry!

  37. Saturday, October 15, 2005 … that’s the day I served my first AdSense impression … and at that time I lived in the US and joined the program from an affiliate link served up by one D. Rowse from the far off land of Australia.

    Somewhere since 2005 when AdSense was really paying well for publishers and Google actually treated their publishers as if they were an important part of Google’s income stream, the world apparently has gone substantially flatter and Google’s appreciation for those who were helping them become rich has gone out the window.

    I’m sad much more than mad, I was then and am still small-time and never made much of the referral program, but at one time actually felt by displaying those links and talking about AdSesne from time to time I was actually part of a team. Oh well … I hadn’t published 2008 goals on line, but I will share this one that has just been added to the list … remove all publisher referrals ads today and remonetize (or sell off) my existing blogs that live mostly on AdSense … I’ve frankly had quite enough of the “flat world” treatment. Business decisons based on real world data make sense to me. Business decisons based on completely irreleavant criteria such as where a publisher’s chair tuches the floor are stupid and xenophobic.

    Google? Thanks for very little.

  38. I was even looking at how I could implement the referral program.

  39. The cynic in me wonders if this has anything to do with the value of the dollar at the moment?

  40. Really astonishing. I hope this doesn’t sound like horrendous sucking up, but really, someone at Google should have said, “We can’t do that–for one thing, what about Problogger?”

    Leaving that aside, though, even if you lived in Connecticut & it didn’t affect you, I’ve often been struck by how many bloggers & other Internet professionals live in Oz and in the U.K. Telling all of those people “no, that’s ok, we would not like you to refer any business to us” is bananas.

    The whole notion is so outdated I just can’t figure it out. Do they really not have people left at Google who can say, “Dude, that is a really stupid idea.”

    Godin says that the really dumb ideas happen when there are too many people in the room. (I think he was talking about FB Beacon, actually.) This proves the point, I guess.

  41. Google simply cannot be trusted. They keep showing us bloggers that. And yet many of us keep using their services.

    I know how it feels to have promoted a company and then feel stabbed in the heart – I promoted Google plenty, and then they dropped my PR to 0. When that happened in November I made a commitment to stop using their services – and I have kept to it. I have not been to the Google search engine since then, nor have I been to any other of their sites which I used to use regularly. I took Analytics off my blog, and I replaced their search box with a scroogle.org search box. Same search results, just without giving any personal information to Google at all.

    Google are not the only people on the internet, they are not the only people providing services like the free email and the calendar etc. We have given them the power by using their services, but we can choose to take that back anytime we like. It just takes willpower – you’ve got to want it. ;)

    Unfortunately people often don’t want it until it affects their wallet – and even then they’re still willing to use it because it is easier. I know people with 0 page ranks who still use the Google search engine. They talk a good talk about being anti-Google, but they are too lazy to walk the walk.. Sad but true. ;(

    For me the bottom line is simple – kick me in the teeth once, and I’ll give you a second chance. Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe it was an accident. But kick me in the teeth twice, and I’m not getting within kicking distance of you again, ever.

    Google shut down several of my email accounts without a good reason and when I emailed asking for them back I never heard a thing – that was kick one. Then the page rank went to 0 – that was kick 2. They did give it back but the damage was done. So I’m done with them – and happy about it. :)

    You have a lot more influence than I do – if you decided to come out and say hey everyone, it is time we stopped replying on Google for everything and here are alternatives, chances are people would listen to you. That’s your decision to make. It isn’t an easy one – I know because I did it. However the only way Google will ever listen is when people are committed enough to stop using their services – they suffer from big company ego, just like Microsoft.

  42. Like everybody is saying, Google is doing a lot BS lately.

    At least they should give everyone the deserved money of the last 180 days for referrals they did.

    Changing their rules might be OK, no matter how stupid it is. But fooling people, who are helping Google to get customer and keep the earned money of the last months is IMHO just fraud!

  43. I was about to add on my opinion on this whole discussion, but decided to note this instead.

    With the barrage of comments on this anger-provoking post from you, Darren, I am pretty sure the (stupid) folks at Adsense will sit up and take notice.

    Used to love Google because, to me, they have a very human approach to stuff. But right now I felt like I am talking to any of the large corporations out there.

    I am deactivating my Adsense referral programme.

  44. Hey, I live in the US and I’m willing to help anyone out for free that needs help here. I’m not looking to make money at this I just think Google is screwing you guys and I willing to help you out.

    You can contact me at slacker [at] yourstupidblog [dot] com.

  45. This is a bad news. I’m from germany and I made some money from the adsense referrals.

    Does somebody knows why google did this? There are many german bloggers who have english language sites. So they have the right audience, but live the wrong country.

  46. I’ve already pulled the ads completely from my blog for obvious reasons. It will be difficult to persuade me to put them back…

    Aiyo… Google what the heck are YOU doing?


  47. this means that we have to leave google or not?

  48. Darren,

    I planned to write a similar comment to Bart – you can incorporate or form some other legal business entity in the US to get around this. Nevada or Delaware are likely the best states to do this in because of their respective tax laws. You should be able to do this for a couple hundred dollars.

    Yes, I agree what Google has done is a slap in the face to you and others who have done a lot to advance Google’s AdSense reach and ultimately pad their coffers.

    But, now you have to ask yourself – do you continue to work with an affiliate that makes you a fairly substantial sum of money and takes up a very reasonable amount of real estate, or do you drop it completely?

    I imagine you will continue to use AdSense on your other sites, so you will remain current on the AdSense environment. You will also offer a valuable service to many new bloggers (as you did me when I was starting out). You have the opportunity to adapt to this change in the AdSense environment.

    Yes, it will take a few hundred dollars and the time to fill out the paperwork to set up the business entity… but for someone with your reach, the reward is almost certainly worth it. Having an account in the US may make it easier to transfer funds funds from other sources to yourself in Australia, which is another benefit.

    It is unfortunate for those who do not have this option. But I have a strong suspicion you can make this work well for you. Good luck.

  49. I am astonished that Google was stupid enough to do this – they are the one company that I thought had some *sense* of the Internet community. Somebody there should have known this would upset people. For that reason ALONE it was a poor business decision.

    I am upset because I have been earning a little extra on the $5 referrals. I never referred one publisher who got me the $100 bonus. But I’ve gotten a lot of $5 bonuses. So now I won’t get a measly $5 that isn’t a lot to them but adds up for me.

    This is pure greed on their part. I am already looking at alternatives and will be testing out other PPC companies on a few of my blogs…because to me companies that screw over affiliates like this deserve no loyalty.

  50. I’m sure Problogger had sent more referrals to Google than probaly 1000 other publishers combined. I know I personally signed up through Darren’s link,

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