WTH is adsenseformobileapps.com? & Why is it Costing Me So Much?

By Tad Miller | May 24, 2010
More Articles by Tad


I’ve come to accept that for some advertisers, Google Content Network can be an effective way to achieve an advertiser’s goals.  Google Content Network ads are contextually triggered when keywords on a Google AdSense Publisher’s website match the keywords in your Search Advertising accounts.  At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work…

I recently wrote about, how Google was showing Content Network Ads in Gmail, based on the content of possibly up to 100 different e-mails, the Content of the e-mail you are actually reading won’t always necessarily trigger any ads.  Sort of like contextual triggering of your ads divided by 100.  Not nearly as effective for advertisers as having your ad match the content that’s on the same page.

Now, in the course of monitoring our clients advertising and experimenting with Content Network on Google Mobile, I’ve discovered another instance of Google looking the other way and showing Content Network ads somewhere where the keywords I want triggering my ads are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND!

Mobile advertising is exploding at an exponential rate every month.  The incredible number of smart phone sales like Android phones and the iPhone are obviously the primary drivers the mobile advertising growth.  If you use Google Content Network on mobile devices it’s pretty easy to see the places that are triggering your Content Network ads.  Just go to the Networks tab in AdWords or run a “Placement Performance Report” in the AdWords Report Center.

What you need to look for in these reports is a domain called “adsenseformobileapps.com.”  If it were any other Content Network site you could drill down into each URL to see the exact content that triggered your ad.  But, you can’t go to these URLs on your computer.  They are all within Mobile Apps used on smart phones like Android devices or the iPhone.  After doing some research on Google AdWords Help I discovered this page:

What is adsenseformobileapps.com?

adsenseformobileapps.com are ad placements on mobile applications within the Content Network. Ads on mobile apps offers advertisers the ability to extend their reach to customers on mobile devices. And because mobile devices are more personal, advertisers find that users are often more engaged with the content on their mobile screens.

If you’ve set up your campaign to display ads on the Content Network and you are targeting iPhones and other mobile devices with full Internet browsers, then your ads will be eligible to appear in mobile apps. By default, ads in your campaign are eligible to show on both Search and Content, across all platforms, to offer you the maximum number of opportunities to reach your audience.

I then discovered this help article in the AdWords Help Forum about adsenseformobileapps.com.  With quotes like:

” I’m noticing spikes in traffic from adsenseformobileapps.com which don’t seem to fit the usual pattern of content network traffic.”

“Oh Yes…a banner month alright for Google.  Try explaining the increase in clicks to your customer.  They know enough to know that they were ripped off.”

“The slight increase in impressions compared to an order of magnitude jump in clicks is what triggered the click fraud alarm.  ;-)”

“Turn off mobile apps. From everyone I talked to, no one buys things on their mobile phone. these “clicks” are due to “fat fingers” and the users are not clicking on your ads to see your site. They just eat your budget up.”

“I guess some ‘app publishers’ found a new way to cheat the system and make bank with AdSense for mobile.”

The problem’s these advertisers are experiencing are likely centered on two mobile apps, the the biggest culprit is one of my favorite music apps – Pandora.  The overwhelming majority of my mobile Content Network clicks and costs are from Pandora.  There isn’t any text triggering the ads on Pandora, the title of the songs doesn’t matter.  The ads are just “Display Advertising”.  On top of all that the layout of Pandora with the Google Content Network ad is practically MADE for the ACCIDENTAL CLICK, as noted by the AdWords Help Forum:

Because the size of the screen is under 3.5″ diagonal I’ve accidentally clicked these ads during normal use.  One application in particular, Pandora, displays advertisements right above the playback buttons (Rewind, Stop, Play, etc.) and it is very easy to accidentally click these ads.  Multiply the number of the users by the average number of accidental clicks and you’ve got an expensive campaign on your hands.

As a Pandora mobile user I can tell you that the real culprit is the voting buttons for “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” that helps Pandora customize and improve the music is serves up for you.  I accidentally click on Google AdWords ads all the time when doing this.

The second biggest culprit is something called “StyleM” backgrounds which are desktop backgrounds for your mobile phone.  The majority of my mobile Content Network impressions are from this App.  Again these ads are purely display ads.  Their is nothing in the way of any content that will trigger your ads.

My results, made my decision on what to do with my mobile Content Network advertising on AdSense for mobile apps very easy.  My conversion costs were about 100 times more expensive than normal.  So I obviously excluded my ads from showing there.

I have a major problem with Google essentially changing the rules of Content Network just for AdSense for Mobile Apps.  The reasons are numerous:

  1. Like with the changes in Content Network on Gmail, there has essentially been NO NOTICE to advertisers about how things have changed.
  2. It’s purely “Display Advertising” but Google is still clearly touting it (Content Network) as being more effective than that.  This needs to be a completely different product offering separate from regular Content Network Advertising.
  3. Google appears to be targeting Ad Groups with the highest default cost per click to show the ads on mobile apps, those bids are set higher because the keywords have been deemed to be best at converting – but the mobile apps don’t have ANY content matching those high default CPC keyword groups.
  4. Google is taking advantage of the majority of its advertisers, that should, but don’t monitor and exclude their Content Network clicks responsibly.  They trust Google too much and are giving them the benefit of the doubt.
  5. There are obvious tactics on how to use display advertising on mobile apps more effectively, but Google appears to be opting for keeping advertisers in the dark as to what they are and reaping larger revenues as a result.
  6. Irrelevance: Relevance and Context is the key to successful search engine marketing and Google is completely ignoring all the work advertisers do to make their advertising relevant.  They are just randomly showing any ad they feel like to mobile users – although I’m guessing they are showing the most expensively bid Ad Groups first.  They are trying to sell something to someone that they aren’t looking for.

The reality is that AdSense for Mobile Apps is only going to get bigger.  Google recently paid $750 Million for Ad Mob. The FTC recently approved this transaction.  Ad Mob is a huge mobile advertising platform and many of its publishers are on mobile apps.

Their is a way to make this product work for you as an advertiser, but that way and the best way to do Google Content Network advertising are not the same thing.  I’ll address how I think advertisers should use mobile display advertising on Apps in the future – but here’s a hint: Think local – Think geo-targeted and think old fashioned brick and mortar businesses…

adsenseformobileapps.com are ad placements on mobile applications within the Content Network. Ads on mobile apps offers advertisers the ability to extend their reach to customers on mobile devices. And because mobile devices are more personal, advertisers find that users are often more engaged with the content on their mobile screens.

If you’ve set up your campaign to display ads on the Content Network and you are targeting iPhones and other mobile devices with full Internet browsers, then your ads will be eligible to appear in mobile apps. By default, ads in your campaign are eligible to show on both Search and Content, across all platforms, to offer you the maximum number of opportunities to reach your audience.

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