Wednesday, October 26, 2005

google.com - review

google.com
content [0-10]: 10
ad layout [0-10]: 9
Made For AdSense: No

If anyone out there is offended by my Made For AdSense site reviews, here's something to comfort you. By the same criteria I'm applying to the other sites, it would seem Google is a Made For AdSense site. It just goes to show that my use of the "Made For AdSense" label is loosely defined.

Why does Google fit the description? They make most their money from ads.

Google shares soar on hearty revenue report (October 21, 2005)

Google said it generated $885 million, or 56 percent of total revenue, from ads on its own Web sites, compared with $675 million, or 43 percent of total revenue, that was generated from partner sites through its AdSense program.

What about their content? Maybe if you've been living under a rock you might not know what Google does. They have an assortment of services and tools. Oh, and I hear they have a search engine.

And their ad layout? It's clear to most people where the ads end and the search results begin, so the deception is to a minimum. Refer to the following screenshot with the ads highlighted in yellow. The ad at the top is shaded differently, and the ads off to the right can't be confused with actual search results.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

cruiselinespot.com - review

cruiselinespot.com
content [0-10]: 2
ad layout [0-10]: 4
Made For AdSense: No

Supposedly this website was contracted to Dan Schulz, who is a get-rich-quick guru. This isn't a commentary on quick-money schemes, so I'm not going to dwell on who designed it, but rather just evaluate it for what it is: a useless Made For AdSense site.

I'm not saying the articles are useless, but they're not original. The content at cruiselinespot.com is syndicated. I found one article at EzineArticles.com, which is a popular free article repository.

Unoriginal content + Unoriginal presentation of the content = useless site

The only other thing that could be considered content are the latest news links, which are provided by Yahoo! News RSS. And since I think cruiselinespot.com is breaching Yahoo's terms by using the feed for commercial purposes, it definitely doesn't add any points to my score.

Content isn't the only problem I have with this site. The layout uses the same blending techniques that I've criticized in the past, although it's not so tricky that you can't tell where the ads are.

For the screen shot below, I decided to highlight the AdSense in yellow. The purpose of which is to point out how the ads overwhelm the content. The leaderboard uses a now common technique of placing pictures above the ad. The deception works most effectively when Google serves up four links in the unit.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

skookummaps.com - review

skookummaps.com
content [0-10]: 6
ad layout [0-10]: 2
Made For AdSense: No

I can appreciate skookummaps.com. As far as I can tell, the webmaster put some work into the map code. That proves to me that maybe he might have an interest in the content beyond putting up ads. I checked out the Toxic Waste and Volcano maps, and it's mildly interesting to check out where the markers are.

Enough compliments. Now it's time to pick it apart, because not as much work has been done as first appears. Obviously this site is utilizing Google's Maps API, so all the bells and whistles (the map interface itself) can be credited to Google. What does that leave? For anyone to use the API, they still have to know what they're doing. The marker logic doesn't just code itself. Well, true as that may be, SkookumMaps didn't code it either. The marker framework is PdMarker from pixeldevelopment.com. So now what does that leave? I'm not sure. I don't intend for this to be a code walkthrough, so let's just say SkookumMaps has some novel maps implemented on top of a some cool frameworks created by others. And that's good enough for a 5 rating in content.

The ad layout is the part of the site that I don't like. It's a blended layout, big surprise. Pictures next to borderless ads, formatted to look like content links, and so forth. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. All this serves to do is trick the user into clicking an ad. Layout score is 2.

Update: In response to Dave (lonecrow), thanks for stopping by. I base my reviews on first impressions, and skookummaps.com seemed like a borderline Made For AdSense site. Regardless, it's your ad layout that piqued my interest, because blended ads are a sure sign of putting money before usability. However, I changed the content rating from a 5 to a 6. Good luck with the coding experiments.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

celica.eduardomaio.net - review

celica.eduardomaio.net
content [0-10]: 3
ad layout [0-10]: 7*
Made For AdSense: No

Does this site have some legitimate information about car modifications? Maybe. Is it a useful site for car mod enthusiasts? Definitely not. Its real purpose is displaying ads, not providing information. If there were more than six content pages in the entire site, I might say otherwise.

The ad layout blending is something to marvel at. I know what to look for, and it made me question what's the ad and what're actual links. I'd hate to think how deceived a casual user would be. The layout consists of 3 page links, 1 AdSense ad unit, and 3 page links, all lined up vertically. What it ends up looking like is seven links to content. This illusion is helped because the links and the ad all have the same font, and all have pictures beside them. Of course there is an Ads by Google marker, but someone could easily be confused.

Update: This site changed its layout, but you can kind of tell how the ads used to blend in the scaled-down screenshot below. Old layout score: 1. New layout score: 7. The review itself is based on the old layout.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

problogger.net - review

problogger.net
content [0-10]: 9
ad layout [0-10]: 7
Made For AdSense: No

[Update: Much of this review goes against my new philosophy of not labeling sites with real content as Made For AdSense, but seeing as how I'd have to rewrite the whole thing, I'll just leave it.]

Just because a website is immensely popular, doesn't mean it's not a Made For AdSense site, which as I said in my introduction is any content-based site that wouldn't exist if not for the advertisements.

More likely than not Darren Rowse wouldn't be putting the effort into problogger.net if there were no advertisements. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because if done correctly, the ads are not only tolerable, but may be even considered useful. That's the idealistic goal of AdSense. That it somehow complements the content. For the most part, I agree with that, but I'm not here to justify AdSense's existence. I'm just trying to review problogger.net as a Made For AdSense site.

Although it's tough to define what a blog should be, I'm going to have to say that ProBlogger is it. If this review is sounding sycophantic, then I don't mean to be. A good blog should be a resource for topical information, and provide insight into that information. I think Darren accomplishes that in regards to info about blogging and making money with websites. He posts relevant links, and has the experience to add value with his own commentary. All of that adds up to a site that people will visit again.

Now that I've gotten the content aspect of the review out of the way, time to get critical with the ad layout. Not too critical, though, because there aren't any tricks implemented. The ads consist of AdSense and Chitika eMiniMalls. There is a link unit under the top menu, and a mix of ads near the blog entries. Sometimes the ads can crowd the content a bit, so that's why I took off a few points. Google encourages ads to be placed in hot spots, but like I keep saying, I'm not reviewing how effective the ads are at bringing in revenue, I'm commenting on what a user might think about the ads.

All in all, this is what a Made For AdSense site should be like.
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Site Review History

fitness-training.net - review
lasalute.net - review
googlewordads.blogspot.com - review
google.com - review
cruiselinespot.com - review
skookummaps.com - review
celica.eduardomaio.net - review
problogger.net - review
cpmcal.com - review
seounleashed.com - review
softwarediscounts.info - review
onlinegames.net - review
p2pinformation.com - review
visitorsplanet.com - review
tableportal.com - review

cpmcal.com - review

cpmcal.com
content [0-10]: 4
ad layout [0-10]: 4
Made For AdSense: No

With only one page, cpmcal.com is easy to evaluate. The content is a collection of CPM advertising calculators, and they do what they promise, so I can't complain there. A nice bonus is there are brief explanations of the equation elements.

It seems I have kind things to say about this site, so why does it only get a rating of 4? The calculations are fairly straightforward, and there are variations of the tools all over the web. For example, Yahoo! and javascript.internet.com have similar calculators.

An ad layout rating of 4 is generous considering how overloaded the site is with advertisements. The webmaster must be counting on some errant clicks because of the close proximity of the ads. Yet, there's no camouflage, so at least end users aren't being deceived.

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seounleashed.com - review

seounleashed.com
content [0-10]: 5
ad layout [0-10]: 2
Made For AdSense: No

A website dedicated to SEO will usually have one of two main purposes: to sell their SEO services or to provide free information with advertisements. It looks like seounleashed.com is the latter, given the intrusive presence of ads within the content.

Most of the ads are 120x600 AdSense units placed between paragraphs in the articles, plus there is another unit in the left column. None of those ad placements are that bad, but they do have one really deceptive technique. On the main page in the “Our top Articles” section, there are blended AdSense units between the article links. A clever trick, but I deduct points for tricks.

There's not much to say about the content. The advice presented looks ok, but I'm not going to rate the site for its SEO worthiness. I just want to evaluate whether a visitor would find the site useful. The quantity of articles is meager, and the grammar is awkward, so there's not much incentive to return to the site. You may consider the web tools a good way to entice users back, but the tools are provided by iWEBTOOL, so there's no real reason to use them via SEO Unleashed.

Update: In response to Chinmay Shubhransu, owner of seounleashed.com, you make some very good points. Most of my criticisms were based off what a user might think. Unfortunately it's often tough to tell how users will react to a website, and what it boils down to is how I react to it. Good luck with the site.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

softwarediscounts.info - review

softwarediscounts.info
content [0-10]: 3
ad layout [0-10]: 5
Made For AdSense: No

I wouldn't call this a Made For AdSense site. It's an affiliate site with Made For AdSense tendencies, but it tries to play off the AdSense ads much like a content site would.

The affiliate links are from Amazon, with a little bit of Chitika up top. Ok, I didn't want to comment on the affiliate side of things, but softwarediscounts.info has no value-added content or functionality. As an end user, I'd be inclined to just search Amazon for software rather than go to this site.

Ok, back to AdSense. It's not entirely deceptive, but having the ad unit on top of the affiliate links certainly gives the impression it's part of the, um, content.

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onlinegames.net - review

onlinegames.net
content [0-10]: 6
ad layout [0-10]: 2
Made For AdSense: No

The domain onlinegames.net has been registered since 1997, and the Wayback Machine shows a diverse revision history, so instead of focusing on what the site has been, I'll just review what it is now.

Paying no heed to who owned the site previously, the fact is it's currently an a Made For AdSense site - that happens to have every kind of ad imaginable. But that's the thing. Even though AdSense has only been around since 2003, the concept of made-for-ad sites has been around for a long time. It's just that before AdSense, most ads were generic, annoying, blinking, popup, popunder, click-me! kind of ads. OnlineGames.net apparently feels that a mix of old world and new world works for them. To their credit, such tactics really only work when the site has some actual content.

So, what kind of content do they have? Online games obviously, but it isn't a collection of online games written by the webmaster. It's a repository for other people's games. Nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind many of the games can be found at other sites. To set oneself apart in a market like this, one has to have a better user experience. The discussion forum looks to have been recently added, but already has decent activity. That's a plus. As a result, I give the site a 6 for content.

Ad layout is the tricky part. It may seem harsh to say the ad layout is a 2 of 10 based on deception, because the site seems to be playing by the rules. But AdSense rules were made to be bent, and OnlineGames.net is certainly bending the rules. The biggest deception is the blending of AdSense text ads with content. You may not even notice but there's a 234x60 ad mixed in the What's New section. It's an admirable camouflage technique, but for the user experience it detracts from the normal navigation flow. That, and all the other annoying, blinking, click-me! ads.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

p2pinformation.com - review

p2pinformation.com
content [0-10]: 3
ad layout [0-10]: 6
Made For AdSense: No

This is what I'd call a quick and dirty Made For AdSense blog site. It's only fitting that my review will also be quick and dirty.

You could argue that there a few bits of useful information in there, but most of it is fluff, and there are only 5 entries.

It gets a 6 for ad layout. The only AdSense is a leaderboard above the content, which is a conservative layout, but I deducted points for the ACM affiliate link disguised as a blog entry.

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visitorsplanet.com - review

visitorsplanet.com
content [0-10]: 3
ad layout [0-10]: 6
Made For AdSense: No

This site can summarized in one word: Mesothelioma. It is a word synonymous with high-paying keyword lists. Webmasters will often joke about it, but really it's sad that a cancer condition has been trivialized by speculators. The reason for using such words in Made For AdSense sites is almost like a pyramid scheme. Lawyers make money from lawsuits, lawyers place costly AdWords ads for mesothelioma keywords, publishers put up junk websites with AdSense optimized for mesothelioma keywords, then publishers use AdWords accounts to get traffic to their junk websites, and the cycle continues.

Visitors Planet doesn't stop with just useless mesothelioma pages. You can also find useless pages about debt problems, credit cards, and other neat keywords. The content isn't automatically scraped, but it's so elementary that it's the equivalent of a high school student's book report derived from a dictionary definition. So, I'll give it a ranking of 3.

The ad layout isn't all that deceptive, and is perfectly legal by Google's standards. The reason it only gets a 6 is because the ads overwhelm the content.

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tableportal.com - review

tableportal.com
content [0-10]: 1
ad layout [0-10]: 2
Made For AdSense: Yes

This is a prime example of a Made For AdSense site, and toes the line of breaching the AdSense terms and conditions. It has no real content. The webmaster doesn't intend on getting any repeat visitors, because the idea is to get traffic from search engine results. How do they accomplish such a feat? I don't have the time or expertise to explain all the SEO tricks they might use, but a major factor are all the keyword-laden pages. They put a bunch of auto-generated pages with keywords in the page names, and fill the pages with junk text, links to relevant articles with a bit of scraped content, and links to other auto-generated pages. Oh, and of course advertisements!

The reason this site gets any points whatsoever in my content ranking is because someone actually put the effort to pretend like the site has content. It's obvious to anyone who looks at it that there is no content, but it's the thought that counts.

The ad layout is deceptive with cues such as "Select from the links below" which is right above an AdSense ad unit. They can play it off as legitimate by claiming that there really are links below - way at the bottom. Though I'm not sure how they can explain the statement "See the links at the top of this page" in the middle of the page, since the only links above are the ads. I gave it ranking of 2, because believe it or not, it could be even more deceiving.

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Site Review Rating System

URL
content: 0-10, 0 is just ads, 10 is really good original content
ad layout: 0-10, the lower the number the more deceptive it is at fooling the user into clicking ads
Made For AdSense: Yes|No

review
The review is a subjective analysis of the site, explaining what makes it a Made For AdSense site.

Update:
The "Made For AdSense" ranking was added because I was thinking about how it's unfair to label every website I review as a Made For AdSense site. Any site that gets a "No" means it has actual content.

Landing Page

You probably arrived here from either my "Click My Ads" or "Blended Ads" post.

This blog just has fake ads. I'm performing a little experiment.

Google says
your site cannot contain phrases such as "click here," "support us," "visit these links," or other similar language that could apply to any ad, regardless of content.

But when it comes to ad layouts they encourage blending content with the ads. There are some techniques that are borderline. For example, putting pictures next to ads is usually ok, but the AdSense team may tell you to put a border around the images.

Do you think it's fair that PPC ad networks don't allow solicited clicks, but using techniques such as blending ads with content is ok?

What is a Made For AdSense site?

AdSense is Google's pay-per-click, context-sensitive, online advertisement network for publishers. Sign up is not limited to high-traffic sites, so it's become popular, which has led to Made For AdSense sites.

Made For AdSense sites are created for the sole purpose of putting up ads. In a strict sense they don't contain any real content. Examples can include scraper sites (snippets of content is taken from other sites) and random keyword generators.

Those kinds of sites obviously have no purpose other than serving up ads, but I'm going to loosen up the definition to include any content-based site that wouldn't exist if not for the advertisements. I know what you're thinking. Don't most web sites try to make money? Yes, and that's great, but it's not too difficult to tell the difference between a webmaster who cares about the content, and one who spends most of his time trying to deceive the user into clicking ads.

I have no vested interest in reviewing these sites. I'd rather not even link to them, but I'd like anyone reading my reviews to see what I'm talking about. One thing I do is to put rel="nofollow" in each of the links to the sites I'm reviewing, so spiders don't follow them. I'm not trying to be a jerk, just an impartial observer.

Another thing. There's no guarantee that the sites I'm reviewing will still have the same layout a minute after I post my review. Google might kick them out of the program, they might do a site redesign, or who knows, maybe they'll just shut down their site. So just keep that in mind.

In response to adam's suggestion to take screenshots, I will now be displaying a scaled-down screenshot for each site.