How to Block Filtered Adsense Categories

by jim on January 8th, 2010

If you’ve used Adsense much on your site or just visited lots of sites with Adsense advertising, you’ve probably seen a lot of scammy types of ads. Whether they’re teeth whitening or get rich quick, lasik or pay day loans, Adsense has a lot of advertising that may not be a good fit for your site. As good as Google’s targeting may be, sometimes your site will still get unrelated ads that some would find scammy. If not scammy, at least irrelevant.

Block Individual URLs

So, how do you block them? Well in the past the only way was to add filters based on URL. You would go to your Adsense Setup, Competitive Ad Filter, and enter in URLs to filter out of your results. It used to have a limit of 200 several years ago but nowadays there is no limit.

While this is great, it’s very time consuming. There are thousands, if not millions, of URLs promoting everything and they change constantly. You could spend hours finding every URL promoting unwanted stuff today and by tomorrow, there will be even more URLs. It’s simply not feasible, which is probably why Google introduced categories.

Block Entire Categories

Login, go to Adsense Setup and Ad Review Center. The first heading is Category Filters, which will probably say you are blocking none. Click change and it will reveal a box like the one below.

Adsense Filtered Categories

What’s helpful is that Adsense will tell you both % recent earnings and % recent ad impressions, to give you an idea of what you’ll be giving up. I was surprised to learn that 9.6% of my recent ads were from Get Rich Quick, accounting for 8.1% of my revenue. If I were to remove Get Rich Quick ads, I could expect my revenue to suffer, at most, 8.1%.

However, in thinking about it some more, I want ads that perform better on my site. It’s hard to come to any definitive conclusions because there are too many unknowns, but at the very least I know that none of these filtered categories outperform. For every category, the % earnings is less than % impressions. That means the unfiltered categories, in aggregate, have % earnings greater than % impressions.

Either way, I do know that these ads aren’t doing me tremendous favors so I excluded the maximum number I could – 8. Cosmetic Procedures & Body Modification, Date, Get Rich Quick, Politics, Religion, Ringtones & Downloadables, Sexual & Reproductive Health, and Sexually Suggestive. I kept Drugs & Supplements because I have a few posts on fitness, video games because I have a few posts on video games, and weight loss because I hit the limit, it’s a small percentage and less scammy than the other ones I could’ve chosen.

I’ll report back in a week or two to see how it has affected earnings.

It Will Probably Cost You

For those not willing to wait a week, I got the idea to test this from Alex Schultz. He recently decided to remove the weight loss category of ads from his cocktail recipes website and saw his earnings take a hit.

Ultimately, it comes down to creating a great user experience so that you can grow even bigger – not squeeze a few more cents out of the visitors that do come. I met Alex briefly once at Facebook, where he’s in charge of internet marketing, last year during Elite Retreat – user experience is paramount at Facebook so it’s not surprising Alex feels the same way about his private projects.

In his case, weight loss ads accounted for 10.6% of his recent ad impressions and a whopping 20.2% of his recent earnings. In his case, earnings > impressions, so removing them really was a testament to his desire to maintain a good user experience.

It remains to be seen how the change will affect Bargaineering. At the very least, there will be fewer get rich quick scams!

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5 Responses to “How to Block Filtered Adsense Categories”

  1. FFB Says:

    Wow, very interesting! Just hopped over to Adsense and saw that 9.5% of my earning are Get Rich Quick. I’m surprised to see a little over 7% from politics (and about 4% impressions). I had no idea I was getting so many political ads.

    I wish we could see the actual ads that were getting served or at least clicked.

    Thanks for the info!

  2. jim Says:

    Political makes sense for personal finance blogs because sometimes we write about pending laws or how certain laws affect finances (FCRA, etc.), so that category isn’t “scammy” in the way that Get Rich Quick is.

  3. FFB Says:

    So the question we need to answer is: Is it worth losing potential income in order to make the site a better user experience and perhaps help build reader trust?

    Would you say that when something like a Get Rich Quick ad is shown that it’s the highest paying ad that would appear at the time? Just wonder if other ads that would show would make up for the difference. Of course it could be that some readers see the spamy-ness of the ads and wouldn’t click them but might click other ads instead.

  4. jim Says:

    The answer to that question will guide you in deciding whether or not to remove spammy ads. 🙂

  5. » Impact of Removing Spam Adsense Categories (Early Results) Says:

    […] January 8, I blocked some filtered categories from appearing in the Adsense blocks. My guess was that it would cost me a few dollars, hopefully not too many, and that it would result […]

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