Google AdSense Kind Of Sucks

I’m sure there are a lot of people who have good success with Adsense, but I could never get it to work on this site. I get a lot of traffic from my WordPress plugins and some other posts. I configured my blog to show Adsense ads to incoming external visitors and ran ads for 2 years. The result? $75.

I think we’ve become blind to text ads if we haven’t already hidden them. I run Adblock Plus so never really see that many ads and even if I do I never click on them. There’s just something about allowing a third party to display content on your site that may or may not be completely relevant or trustworthy. I never click on ads so I’m not sure why I would expect other people to.

I had to close my entire AdSense account to get a pay out. The regular $100 threshold wasn’t too far away, but the way things were trending I doubt I would have ever gotten there. The last 4 or 5 months saw tens of thousands of impressions with zero earnings.

I’ve had much more success with Amazon’s affiliate links during the same time period. I think a fundamental difference is that visitors are getting to my posts because they are already interested in buying something. For example, the links in my posts about replacing the stereo in my Toyota Tacoma have a very high conversion rate. I link to all the items needed at a popular online retailer with low prices and free shipping and I get a cut of their order. I could remove the affiliate links and just put ads up, but I don’t know what’s going to show up, if people will click them and how much I’ll get (probably just a couple cents).

Maybe I just got lucky with my WordPress plugins pushing my other posts up in Google’s search results. All I know is more people bought Tacoma dash kits and wiring harnesses over clicking stupid AdSense ads.

Show AdSense to Google Search visitors in WordPress

I put AdSense ads on my WordPress plugin pages since the donation button wasn’t exactly raking in the dough. I inserted my AdSense code straight into these pages’ content. Looking through some of my stats I noticed a few of my posts got lots of hits from Google Search that would be good for ads. I didn’t want to show ads to my friends and normal readers so I went looking for a simple solution.

I borrowed some of the code used in this post, One template function checks the referrer, if it returns true then you display your AdSense code in your post template, single.php in my case. This goes in your functions.php:

function scratch99_fromasearchengine(){
$SE = array('/search?', '', '', 'search.', '', '', '/search/', '.yahoo.');
foreach ($SE as $source) {
if (strpos($ref,$source)!==false) return true;
return false;

and this goes in your post template where you want the ads to be displayed:

<?php if (function_exists('scratch99_fromasearchengine')) {
if (scratch99_fromasearchengine()) { ?>
<?php } } ?>

And that’s it. Visitors coming in from Google and some other search engines will have whatever ad you want displayed. There are plugins that will do this all for you, but this is simple enough to build straight into your theme. The only downside is if you are using caching, but odds are only your older posts are going to be getting hits from Google. If a page happened to get cached with the AdSense code inserted then everyone will see the ads. Not really a big deal to me, but just something to be aware of.

Geeky Weekly Stats

The Blarg announced his number of visits a while back and I thought I’d take a look at some of my stats. I’ve been using Google Analytics for a while and I’ve got data back to Sept 2006. I started my blog in Oct 2005, but traffic would have been negligible that first year, maybe add 5% onto these numbers. So where do I stand?

  • Unique Visitors: 47,295
  • Visits: 61,400
  • Pageviews: 102,244

Not bad. My WordPress plugins make up the majority of my traffic, about 55% of the page views. A lot of those are single visit bounces, probably because I don’t have my sidebar up on individual pages; might be a good thing to change. A couple other interesting factoids:

  • About 98% of visitors have a screen resolution larger than 800×600
  • 58.5% were using Firefox vs 31% for IE

I’ve been wanting to do a redesign and it might be safe to finally push out towards 900-1000 pixel wide layouts. Still have to take into account that people don’t run their browsers maximized all the time.

Google GrandCentral Beta First Look

Google has their GrandCentral service in beta right now and I signed up to find out more about it. GrandCentral is a telephony service that let’s you route all your phone calls coming in and going out through a single phone number. Google provides you with a phone number and you link your phone numbers like cell, home and work to it. So what does GrandCentral actually do?

First off it let’s people call you at a single number. When your GrandCentral number gets called, all the numbers you link to it ring (or however you configure it). That makes giving out your number easier since someone will be able to get a hold of you from a single number. This is also nice if you have numbers that can’t be ported like home and work, just give out your Grand Central number. You can initiate calls from your browser: select the person you want to call and which of your phones you want to use. You get a call from your GrandCentral number, you pick up and then it calls whoever you chose.

At home and don’t want to use cell minutes? Answer your home phone. There is also the possibility of putting your Grand Central number in your “Fave 5” if your cell provider offers that service. Another cool feature is being able to switch between your phones without interrupting calls. Just hit *, your other phones will ring, answer the phone you want to transfer to and hang up the other one. Could be useful if you are having a conversation on your cell and arrive home or you have to leave and want to seamlessly switch to your cell.

There’s a few other cool features. You can screen calls like you could with old school answering machines: you hit 3 to pick up and listen as the caller leaves a message and then hit * to jump in. You can record conversations (both parties get notified) and forward or playback messages from your browser or by calling your Grand Central number.

The system is pretty customizable too. You can set how callers get screened based on if they are unknown or if they are in your address book. Have unknown callers go straight to voice mail and let them leave a message, but let your friends get right through. You can create groups and decide which phones ring for each one. You can record personalized greetings or rings for specific people and groups; friends could get a casual greeting, but business contacts get a more formal greeting.

Overall I think GrandCentral is a great idea if you actually need it. If you’ve just got a cell phone it might not be too useful. If you are juggling a cell, home and work it could be a pretty cool tool to have. Everything is free right now, but I think the plan is to charge for outgoing calls which might affect how appealing it is for personal use.

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Gmail and AIM together at last

I’ve been a faithful user of Gmail for a little over 2 years now and one of the things I never really used was the built-in chat since most people use AIM to chat. The Gmail team released a new feature today that allows you to login to your AIM account and have your buddies show up in the “chat” list with your other Gmail contacts. I haven’t been much of a chatter for a while and I even went through today and purged my buddy list of over 50 screen names.

The integration with Gmail is a little primitive (as is Gmail’s chat), but it works great for the amount of chatting I do. The one feature that I would love to see is the ability to map AIM screen names to Gmail contacts so they don’t show up twice in the chat list. That would be uber-slick. If you use Gmail try it out, hit the options button on the bottom left of the chat list.