Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beware the Ides of ... well, August, I guess

And now, the tale of intrigue I promised yesterday!

This is actually Part Two of a continuing mis-adventure, so if you haven't already read the first segment -- Read this first ... at the very least it'll help to make a shred of sense of the tale of woe which I am about to relate.

And grab a coffee ... or something more fortifying. If you're here because you have an interest in marketing your books (or any stuff, I suppose) on the Internet, and having the site pay for itself with (aha!) contextual ads, then like me, you probably have a lot to learn.

On the other hand, you might also be snorting with evil humor at this point, having known for ten months what we just learned. (If so: sound of ripe raspberry.)

Speaking personally, I could use a margerita made according to the zombie recipe (50% tequila, 50% triple sec, a sqeeze of lime juice and three ice cubes ... served in a tall glass and KEEP THEM COMING.

Now, I assume you've read the "Give a Good Goggle at This, Guys post??? And we're sitting comfortably? Then, we'll begin.

When you're on the internet, do you ever feel someone breathing down your neck? You should, because they do. Google KNOWS. The engine knew the instant we decided to duck the homophobic attitude of Google and go with Adbrite for the contextual ads on Mel Keegan OnLine. Ten days later, we know for absolute sure that Google knows ... and in about 48 hours from now, the engine will know that we know that it knows.

Seriously, we were "winning" a lot of generic searches up until the day the Adbite content went up. You could go to The Goog and search on "gay thrillers," or "gay ebooks," and Mel Keegan OnLine would pop up, as high as the first page in The Goog's search results page. Things were fine and dandy, and sales were not just good, they were very good. But we knew Google's homophobic, so we used Adbrite as the ad server for the contextual ads...

Mistake. We use Statcounter for website stats, so we know when the Googlebot spider visits. It paid us a visit about 18 hours after the Adbrite code was uploaded, and like throwing a switch, Mother Goo stopped sending us visitors. Nada. Not a one. We stopped winning searches well within 24 hours of switching to Adbrite. You can imagine what happened to sales. No visitors means no customers, means no income, means a lot of research to figure out what the hell happened, and...

Fortunately, we have the Statcounter data to work with. If we hadn't, we'd be paddleless, up some creek. We could pinpoint the moment when the Big G stopped playing nice.

And I suppose (sigh) that's fair enough. It's a fact that Yahoo! punishes web publishers for carrying Google Adsense, so why shouldn't Old Gooey punish publishers for carrying Adbrite?

The problem is, The Goo is so homophobic, they actually -- according to their own TOS -- don't allow you to put Adsense on a gay-friendly page ... but, by gods, they'll pull the rug out from under you if you carry anyone else's ads.

Now, in your travels around the web you'll have noticed that gay friendly sites carry Google ads, even though the TOS says you're not allowed ... even though a click on one of your ads earns you under a penny ... and you have to wonder why. Here's the reason, and it's painfully cynical. Actually, it's two reasons. One: The Goog will send your gay friendly page lots of traffic if you carry their ads; because they get paid a ton of money every time someone clicks on one, and they don't pay the publisher worth a damn. This much is fact. The other fact is that Ma Goog will send the spider to crawl your gay friendly site in a matter of hours after the Googie ad code goes up ... because they have a vested interest in your pages, now that you're carrying ads making the aforementioned ton of money for them.

So here's the routine. You play by Google's rules, or you don't play at all. Switch to a competing ad server, and, like throwing a switch, you stop winning those searches that keep your business buoyant. If you're a gay site, sure, you can carry their ads ... just don't expect to get paid!

And here's what we're doing. Having untangled the data, we know the competing ad server has to GO, and fast. Jade has invested a good few hours in a raft of new artwork to fill the spaces which had been set aside for ads. (You're looking at a selection of it on this post.) We'll be switching to The Goog tomorrow or the next day, to get our traffic back. We know we won't earn enough from ads to buy a candy bar, but Ma Google will give us back our visitors ... and there's no law says we have to put their ads in places which will offend the eye with cynical commercialism.

These are some of the misadventures you get up to, when you're marketing your book, or books, on the internet. Good golly, you learn something new every day ... and the lesson is quite often rough. From the little guy's perspective, it's dirty pool, because in order to get one up on companies like Adbrite, Google -- which earns so many billions, it's absurd -- really hurts a small business enterprise. With luck, they'll let us get our oars back in the water fairly quickly, but at this point, we don't know how long the engine keeps up the punishment. We're hoping it'll play fair, because it's dumb past believing to punish the gay friendly pages carrying the very ads that make them money, and for which they don't have to pay out, on account of their homophobic TOS!

Now, where's that margerita?!

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