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I got a really depressing email last week that my Google Adsense account has been shut down!
I received the same message for all of my business accounts as well; I no longer have any access to Google Adsense. The news fell on me like a ton of bricks, and I'm still a bit dazed and trying to climb out of of the rubble. To say the least, it hurts…bad! However, since I have always tried to be as open as possible here on my blog, I felt like I needed to share the news with you.
Update 7/30/2012: After forming a new LLC, I was able to get another Google Adsense Account. Read about it here: Welcome Back to Google Adsense!
For those of you unaware, I have been consistently averaging over $10k a month for the past year or so. The last REAL income report where I showed my full Google Adsense income was in August 2011, where I had earnings of $13,099.49. Since that time I have only been sharing partial results about a group of 20 sites I built or my authority site. Overall though, my income from Google Adsense has continued to be in the six figure annual range, that is until last week. My income from Google Adsense is now $0. In fact, the money I earned last month will NOT be sent to me. Google is “kind” enough to return that to the advertisers.
So, what happened to my sites and where do I go from here?
I got the standard message from Google, which you can read here, but says: “we've determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity”. These are the only details given, no specifics. Here is the email I received:
This message was sent from a notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message. --------------------------------------------------------------- Hello, After reviewing our records, we've determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due to invalid activity, we've found it necessary to disable your AdSense account. Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers. Please understand that we need to take such steps to maintain the effectiveness of Google's advertising system, particularly the advertiser-publisher relationship. We understand the inconvenience that this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or concerns about the actions we've taken, how you can appeal this decision, or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting http://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Sincerely, The Google AdSense Team
I have of course submitted a reconsideration request, but from what I've heard I don't have high expectations.
My sites receive nearly 100% of their traffic from search engines and I NEVER click on my own ads or ask others to do so. I've been using Google Adsense since 2005 and have never had issues in the past. So, all I can say is that Google has obviously changed something on their end. I'm not sure if it had to do with being to aggressive with my adsense layouts or other factors. I probably could have picked a less aggressive WordPress theme with regards to ad placement. It seems like Google is getting much more aggressive in closing accounts. In fact, you have probably heard of lots of other reports of people getting the Google Adsense accounts closed as well.
Here are just a few others that have also recently had their Adsense accounts shut down:
and many others. In fact I have received a few other private emails from people in the past couple of weeks that had their Adsense accounts shut down.
So, it appears I am not alone. So, this isn't something I did, but I believe Google is getting MUCH more aggressive about shutting accounts down. I would suspect that accounts with a high number of domains are at higher risk. That is the only thing that I can figure; lots of domains probably raises a red flag.
Well, it could have been worse. Even though my primary monetization source is gone, the source of my traffic is not. All of my sites still rank exactly where they were before in Google. So, with some experimentation I hope to find some other contextual advertising networks that get me close to where I was with Google Adsense. It won't be easy, and to be honest I would be very surprised if my sites earn what they were earning with Google Adsense with any other network. However, hopefully I'm wrong.
I already have approved accounts (and have for a couple of years) to the following networks:
So, there are plenty of options (and MANY more besides what I have listed), but the problem is that most of these don't pay as well as Google Adsense. Google just has such a large pool of advertisers when compared to these other networks; therefore, there is more advertising dollars being spent on Google as these companies compete for placement on your site.
So, I fully expect to get back some of the income, but its going to take some time. After all, I have over 200 sites and it won't be an easy task finding the best advertising fit for each site. Some will do okay with Amazon, but most won't. Infolinks and Kontera are a quicker and easier general in-content ad solution for information sites – so I may rely heavily on these to start. However, I have a lot of testing to do in the coming months…not fun.
Will I Ever Use Google Adsense Again?
I can personally never have an Adsense account under my name according to Google. Technically, I could form a new legal entity and open a new business account and make sure there is no linking information to any of my banned Adsense Accounts, and the new business entity can re-apply to Google Adsense. However, I'm not sure I want to go down that road. The wound is too fresh right now, so I need to take some time to think about it. Even if I somehow got a new adsense account, I would always be in fear of the same thing happening again. There is definitely going to be a shift in my business.
You see, I have specialized in building more informational types of blogs and websites that are best monetized with Google Adsense. Because they have such a broad advertising network, I could (and I have) build sites on Worm Farms, Buffalo Nickels, or Oil Change Coupons, and made good money. However, those keywords could NEVER be monetized well with Amazon Associates or many other networks.
So, while I was using Google Adsense I could really use my skill of finding low competition keywords – because there were SO MANY to choose from. If I don't use Adsense, my pool of keyword choices is going to limited greatly. At least that's how I see it now. Who knows though, maybe some of these other ad networks will surprise me.
Should I Still Build Micro Niche Sites?
I don't know. Its too early to say where I am going to take my business. If any of these other ad networks are anywhere close to what Google Adsense was able to pay out, then I will likely still dabble in building small niche sites. I'm not saying I'm giving up on niche sites by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just saying that I'm considering all options; including building larger sites, building lots of small affiliate sites, or other strategies.
However, as I wrote about a few months ago; I've always known that a better strategy is to build a larger site that you are in love with and provide unique tools or other value to the end user.
So going forward, I am going to be considering additional ideas on large niche sites (1 or 2 maybe) that I can just keep and build for years to come. I already have one site that is only a few months old that I think has a lot of potential. Its only getting 150 uniques or so a day, but I think it has potential for 100 times that easy and maybe more.
I don't know if I have the personality to do that honestly, but this is probably the best strategy for many of you out there. So, I will most likely continue to build small niche sites and grow the winners into something bigger. I just might have to find other niches and other means of monetizing.
Doesn't This Change Everything?
Yes and No. As mentioned, as I try different revenue models, I may find something that works nearly as well as Google Adsense. However, the skill that I have been able to master is keyword research, and that has always been the core of this business. There is no reason why I can use this same skill of keyword research and simply apply it to either a larger site strategy or use different ad/affiliate networks.
I wrote about the risks of building niche sites about 9 months ago. (Getting your Adsense account banned was #3). So, I have always been VERY aware of all the risks involved, but I stuck it out because I know ALL businesses have risks.
Luckily, for the most part, the things I have taught on this site remain unchanged. The keyword research tactics I teach are still valid as is nearly everything else on the Niche Websites Hub. The difference is that instead of using Google Adsense, I'll need to find something else. However the basic process of: finding a good niche keyword, building a site, and ranking that site remains unchanged.
Of course, this also just makes me think longer term about the viability of micro niche sites (without Google Adsense) and the types of sites I should build in the future. This will be an ongoing consideration. Perhaps you should look twice at your own business as well.
Overall, I really like the attitude that Eric Gati had when his Adsense Account was disabled recently. He feels like he will be able to look back on the experience as one of the best things that could happen to his online business. Perhaps I will feel same in the future.
UPDATE: I just posted a part II of sorts to this post that covers a few more details – The Importance of Diversifying Your Online Income
I want to hear what you have to say. I know that some of you look to me for guidance when it comes to Google Adsense and Niche sites; so that's why I wanted to share this latest information. However, I now look to you for any monetization strategies or other tactics that you have found outside of Google Adsense that have worked well for you! What do you think, should I build small sites with affiliate products, cpa offers, or something else? Or should I move beyond small sites and move onto something that could become a long term success?
I also expect that many of you have other questions regarding my ban from Google Adsense that I haven't covered. So, feel free to ask away.
I look forward to reading and responding to all of your comments!
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Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?