Learn with Google for Publishers

Jacob Allred

Google New York offices

I spent the day at the Google offices in New York attending their first Learn with Google for Publishers event. It was awesome! This series of events replaces the AdSense in Your City program and has been expanded to include sessions on DFP Small Business, Google Analytics, and the Go Mo initiative. Most (all?) of the staff running the sessions were imported from Mountain View and I was really impressed with them. If someone had a question, then they either had the answer or directed you to someone who had the answer (or in a few cases, tactfully kept the discussion going when someone asked something that didn’t make any sense).

There were perhaps a hundred or so publishers at the event, ranging from hobbyists to big publishers with over a hundred million impressions per month. Based on a “raise your hand if…” survey, only half of those in attendance worked for a company that had at least one employee, and of those with employees, only a couple had an employee dedicated to ad sales and operations. I thought this was pretty surprising. Glad to know I’m not the only random person sitting at home running a business out of a spare bedroom.

I left with a lot of new information and huge “to do” list for my websites, and I don’t think it’d be reasonable to share everything I learned, but I would like to share a few of the things I found more interesting.

First, Google knows that there isn’t a good way to make a site with progressive design and AdSense. They know there isn’t a supported way of getting fresh ads on your site when you refresh the content using ajax. They know the workarounds (like limiting yourself to mobile friendly ad sizes) are less than desirable. Product Management Director Jonathan Bellack says that a big focus for 2013 is to work towards solutions for these problems, and that they are problems that even huge publishers are facing. It was great to hear this. I assumed Google was on the ball with this, but it is good to hear it from someone in a position to actually know what is going on.

Second, there was a bit of an atmosphere of fear among the publishers at this event. Many publishers were openly scared of losing their income either due to Google Search algorithm changes or AdSense account suspensions. These topics were brought up again and again throughout the day, and finally, at the end of the event when Bellack was speaking, it came up again several more times. Based on another “raise your hand if…” survey, nearly everyone in the room said they’d be willing to pay for live help with account suspension and policy violation issues (via telephone or whatever) even if Google still decides to permanently suspend their account. This seemed to be pretty surprising to the Googlers. It seems to me that for medium to large publishers, it is almost a no brainer. I’d rather spend a couple hundred to have my issue addressed quickly rather than lose hundreds per day due to having my account suspended.

Bellack was also surprised at the number of publishers in the room that had previous account suspensions (maybe 20 people) or policy violation warnings (maybe 45 people) in the past. I was also surprised by this. Presumably the group Google assembled were the publishers that care the most about their businesses, and are doing their best to learn about Google’s products and to follow the rules. I don’t want to dwell on this topic more than I already have, but I’m grateful that, again, someone in charge has been made aware of the issue and will likely take steps to make things better in the future.

Google poster in the Gwb Tech Talk room

On a positive note, Bellack says that a publisher’s reputation over the course of their relationship with Google will have an impact on suspension decisions moving forward. For example, if a publisher plays by the rules for 10 years, and then accidentally breaks a rule, then the 10 years of good behavior is going to show Google that it was likely an accident. The example given by Bellack was a long-term publisher that does everything right but then hires a firm to drive traffic, and the firm does it in a spammy way. The publisher didn’t do anything bad intentionally, which is demonstrated by the long-term history of white hat SEO. Google is working on mitigating the damage that can be done by the disreputable firm. This isn’t really news, as Bellack has publicly stated this recently, but it is always good to hear that it wasn’t just a press release item but something they are actually going to follow through with.

Changing topics entirely, it was interesting to see more go mobile information from Google. They say that they are working on replacing the desktop/mobile distinction within DFP to instead focus on device capabilities, such as does the device have a camera? touch sensitive? resolution? GPS? This is incredibly interesting to me. I have some ideas for engaging landing pages that require specific device capabilities, and I suspect the big advertisers will come up with even better ideas to make use of this level of targeting.

According to Bellack, there are more available mobile ad impressions than there are ads to fill them, so they are also working on bringing in more mobile advertisers to the Ad Exchange. This was surprising to me. I’m curious where these mobile ad impressions are coming from. The general consensus I heard throughout the day from the publishers in attendance is that they aren’t terribly interested in putting resources into mobile or responsive designs when there isn’t a good way to effectively monetize them, which brings us back, again, to Google’s commitment to work on solutions to these problems this year.

There were a few session on DFP Small Business. I only attended one but was able to get a pile of information on how to use it better. This post has already grown longer than I’d like, but perhaps if someone is actually interested (or for my own future reference) I’ll write up a post of what I learned. The Googler that ran this session seemed to know everything about DFP and kept me busy taking notes.

I also attended a Google Analytics session. It was well presented and well organized, but I didn’t really learn anything new. It covered basic topics like search engine keyword reports, the Visitors Flow report, and goal conversions. These are good things to use, but I would hope most people are already aware of them, even if they don’t take the opportunity to use them.

Thank you Google for putting on this event! The entire day was thoroughly enjoyable, especially the UX focus group and the unexpected QA with Jonathan Bellack. I’m going to be stuck at my desk for a week implementing all the recommended changes and best practices that I gleaned from the various sessions.