I should state quickly that our AdSense account HAS NOT been disabled. Still, there are AdSense publishers that have been getting banned recently…many of them have had their accounts for quite a long time. Particularly disturbing is that Spencer from NichePursuits.com just recently posted that his AdSense account has been disabled.
This is quite distressing for us…we’ve looked to him for tips on building niche sites and have been “growing up” with him in the niche site space over the last year or so as both of our blogs and businesses have matured.
Spencer mentions some of the reasons he thinks he might have been banned, including having too many sites, but the template email he received was the same that others had in their inbox…talking about a potential risk to Google Advertisers. What does that mean exactly?
That’s a pretty broad statement and leaves the door wide open for them to ban people that haven’t yet had a problem but might, potentially…some time in the future. Ugh…not very encouraging.
It doesn’t seem likely, especially after having followed and spoken with some of these well-known and respected bloggers. If they did break Google’s ToS, it seems that many of them sincerely didn’t understand where it is they went wrong. Because of this, we wanted to lay out our disaster plan and the exact steps we would follow should we have our AdSense account disabled similarly.
After that, we would take a step back, relax, and try to avoid doing anything rash. Most likely, being in the Philippines, we’d go relax on a beach somewhere (Boracay? Palawan?) with a fruity drink in hand and think about where it is exactly we want to go moving forward. We’d adjust our marketing strategy but, more importantly, we’d make some serious adjustments to our process, as laid out below.
The first step we would take would be to appeal the ban on the AdSense account, but before doing that we would look very closely across our various niche sites to try and determine why it is that our account was banned.
Tip: Once your AdSense account is banned you no longer have access to the data in your account. Make sure you are making regular back-ups of the data so that you can go through it in case of an emergency. If you see any major changes in your traffic, earnings, etc. make sure to document that, consider shutting down ads on that particular site, and let Google know right away through this form.
The templated email that goes out doesn’t give you much to go on, but they do tell you that your account was posing a risk to their advertisers. That’s fairly general, but there are some things we can look for:
You need to document anything out of the ordinary from the above questions and prepare your message to the Google AdSense team. I would attempt something like this:
While there are instances where these appeals have been approved (link to a pretty random approval story here), it seems more likely that the appeal will be denied. If you’re an experienced publisher and know what you’re doing with AdSense, you may consider appealing again after the first was denied, but Google does state pretty clearly that the first appeal is the only one they guarantee to consider.
We mentioned a few of the different alternatives to AdSense here, but the companies I think we would setup immediately would be a combination of Media Net and InfoLinks.
While there are some less than exciting reviews about Media Net, I’ve also seen some from people I trust stating it’s a viable alternative. The InfoLinks would serve as a top-up option for us, hopefully helping to earn a bit more to help close the gap between Media Net and AdSense.
Unfortunately, Media Net is not nearly as large as AdSense and doesn’t have near the number of advertisers, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the ads aren’t as closely contextually targeted as some of our AdSense ads have been.
We would rank our sites highest to lowest in terms of AdSense earnings, Pageviews, and recency of creation and start going down the list. Our thought is that we would switch out the monetization from AdSense to Media Net and Infolinks for:
We’d be hopeful to recover 50%+ of our earnings and relatively happy if we were able to recover 70%+ because we think it very likely that, across the board, we wouldn’t make nearly as much as we were making with AdSense directly. A silver lining might be that a changed monetization strategy might actually improve the earnings on a few individual sites, even if the average earnings across the board went down.
Some of our fellow bloggers remind us regularly that AdSense is not the only game in town and that there are plenty of alternatives outside of AdSense itself. Some of our sites lend themselves well to affiliate offers through Amazon, Commission Junction, etc. Other somewhat informational sites might be better monetized through a Clickbank info product. Here’s what we would do:
Targeting the same qualifications listed in Step 2, Joe and I would go down the list, looking for the most closely matched affiliate offers we could find. We’d split up the work…one of us would take Amazon, another would take Clickbank, and a third would go after smaller or more specific affiliates.
We’d lay out the best options from all three in a spreadsheet first and then pick the one that’s most closely related to the niche sites we have. This would be a ton of work and might end up taking several weeks to complete with everything else we have going on. That’s ok…we’d like to give a bit of time to review the results from Step 2.
About two months after switching to Media.net and InfoLinks, we would review individual site performance and decide on a new monetization strategy for each niche site. Any of the site we found to be earning MORE with Media Net and InfoLinks we would most likely leave alone.
With the rest, we would lay out our process for the switch and assign two-man teams of our Virtual Assistants to go through the site(Including one site-creation agent and one Content Manager), changing the monetization and content where necessary. During this process, all new site creation would be put on hold while we make these changes to our sites.
I think it highly likely that some of these sites would ultimately see quite a bit of improvement individually and, potentially, we’d see a bump in income across the board. We would take several weeks to implement and several months to review the success of this campaign.
Depending on how the sites have performed after the switch, we may make a few more adjustments to a few of the sites down the road on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether we thought there was enough value or ROI on it or not. Tweaking our sites has not been a part of our process in the past and I’m hesitant to get into that game with the volume at which we’re creating sites, but if the returns with alternatives were worth it then this is something we’d be willing to add to the machine, of course.
I’m hesitant to give this advice, as I’m not entirely sure what the rules are here with AdSense. (If you can point to reliable resources talking about this, please let us know…but make sure you’re referencing and that it’s not only opinion!) My understanding is that once you’ve had an AdSense account disabled, you are no longer allowed to participate in the AdSense program.
In our case, that would mean our corporation would no longer be able to participate. Since businesses are viewed as entities (wouldn’t they be in this case?) I can’t see why creating a new company would not be viewed as its own, separate entity.
Our plan would be to create two completely separate corporations or LLC’s. These would most likely be based in separate parts of the country (world?) and would have everything separate. (Including addresses, bank accounts, incorporators, Google accounts, pen names, etc.) Nothing would be attached or connected with these separate companies and we would most likely be forced to be a bit more vague with our income reports, case studies, etc.
With the first company, we would setup an AdSense account. Once approved, we would go through each of the sites that fit the qualifications in Step 2 and that have NOT been improved in terms of earnings for Step 3 and Step 4 and add our AdSense account to those sites. We would monitor them regularly to determine their success and the viability of this plan laid out in Step 5.
With the second company, we would wait and, should something not work out with our account with the first company, we would use the second company to only build out new niche websites that have no attachment to our previous sites. We would continue to build out our niche sites with this account, but it’s likely that our process would change dramatically and we would include considerably more randomness to the process to better protect our investments.
Lastly, I’d mention that this is probably not a strategy many publishers could or should consider. If you’re only making a few hundred per month, you have to consider a good amount of time, effort, energy, and money would have to go into a plan like this…and it simply might not be worth it.
If you’re at our income level or Spencer’s, the lost revenue is significant and well worth a detailed and costly adjustment to recover that lost revenue. I’m not sure what the legality or rules are with this step, I’m reserving the right to edit, modify, or remove Step 5 in the plan as I find out more information about its viability!
While this plan would help us to mitigate our AdSense revenue losses and explore alternatives to Google AdSense, we’re unsure as to what this would do to site sales, our multiple, etc. Some of the benefits to selling AdSense sites include:
This is a very disturbing topic to discuss to say the least. I have to say that, knowing this is currently something Spencer’s going through, I now can see how frustrating this must be for those who were legitimately playing by the rules as they understood them. (If you get a chance, do stop by his site to offer some encouragement or advice for alternate strategies away from AdSense.)
I do sincerely hope this is not something we have to ever go through, but I’d like to have a disaster plan in place we can follow if this happens to us.
We hope you found some tips and tricks here that will help you and your business. As always, we’ve taken a no-holds-barred approach with this post, knowing that the learning we get from this is invaluable and hoping our honest assessment and gameplan will be useful to anyone else who reads this.
We empathize with many of those who have lost their AdSense accounts over the last few weeks and months and particularly with our friend Spencer who has provided a wealth of information on his site, through email and Skype, etc.
Have anything you’d like to add? Any AdSense alternatives we haven’t considered? We’d be particularly interested in a critique of our plan and your thoughts on how we could improve it. Let us know in the comments below!