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I have been running a news site (with articles in multiple languages) for years and have around 100,000 views per month. The site used to generate around 10-40 USD / day via Adsense but that was way back in 2009-2011. Due to some business model changes then, I decided to remove the Adsense from our articles.

I have decided to try out Adsense again but now the site is only generating 0.4-1 USD / day (been testing it for 3 weeks or so). Reading a few articles about Adsense, it seems Google in the meantime decided to make all their ads personalized instead of contextual. Previously, the ads were highly relevant to the content of my news articles, and perhaps that generated more clicks and then more ad revenue.

Is there a way to tell Google to only show contextual ads? Or perhaps another ad broker that could work?

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... it seems Google in the meantime decided to make all their ads personalized instead of contextual. Previously, the ads were highly relevant to the content of my news articles, and perhaps that generated more clicks and then more ad revenue.

There are five categories of ad targeting: Backup Ads, Contextual, Placement, Personalized, and Run of Network. Make sure you have your backups chosen and your keywords in place while you wait a week or two to be crawled.

Google says:

  1. "Factors that affect ad serving":

    Google doesn't guarantee that we'll always have relevant ads to display, because ad serving depends on a number of factors, including our ability to crawl your site, your webpage content, and the availability of relevant Google ads.

    Similarly, if Google does not have ads for an AdSense for search query, or if the query will return non-family-safe ads, we will not show any ads.

    If we don't have relevant ads for a given webpage, or if we haven't yet crawled your site, we'll display no ads. Alternatively, you can set the backup ads of your choice to take their place.

  2. "How ads are targeted to your site":

    Google automatically delivers ads that are targeted to your content or audience. We do this in several ways:

    • Contextual targeting

    Our technology uses such factors as keyword analysis, word frequency, font size, and the overall link structure of the web, in order to determine what a webpage is about and precisely match Google ads to each page.

    • Placement targeting

    With placement targeting, advertisers choose specific ad placements, or subsections of publisher websites, on which to run their ads. Ads that are placement-targeted may not be precisely related to the content of a page, but are hand-picked by advertisers who've determined a match between what your users are interested in and what they have to offer.

    • Personalized targeting

    Personalized advertising enables advertisers to reach users based on their interests, demographics (e.g., "sports enthusiasts") and other criteria. To opt out of personalized advertising, users can change their controls in Ads Settings.

    Personalized targeting type reports may include contextual targeting when user data, such as cookie ID, isn’t available. If you’ve selected “Non-personalized ads” in your EU user consent settings, you might still see ads under the "Personalized" targeting type even though user data isn’t being used.

    • Run of Network targeting

    Run of Network lets advertisers target all sites in the AdSense network, except explicitly excluded sites, according to available inventory.

  3. "Why content is critical to ad targeting":

    You may already know that AdSense works by crawling your web pages for content, then delivering ads based on that content. This means that if your content is limited, our crawler may have difficulty identifying the information on the page. As a result, you may see ads that are not directly relevant to your page.

    Here's a fix: Ensure that your pages are full of compelling content. The more targeted, text-based information you provide to our crawler, the easier it will be for our system to determine what your pages are about, and the greater the relevance of the Google ads will be. This enhances the effectiveness of the AdSense program, resulting in a better experience for your users, not to mention for the advertisers appearing on your pages. Here's a simple equation that spells it out:

    A content-rich page = Highly-targeted ads Highly-targeted ads + Interested users = Healthy clickthrough & conversion rates Healthy clickthrough & conversion rates = Success!

    The Google ads appearing on your site then serve as supplemental content, providing useful information to your users that pertains to the content you've worked so hard to develop. So help us help you -- optimize your page with good content.

  4. "Targeting the ads by keywords":

    At this time, AdSense only targets ads based on overall site content, not keywords or categories.

    If you'd like to display ads related to specific topics on your website, we recommend including more text-based content about these topics, including complete sentences and paragraphs, to assist our crawlers in gathering information about your pages and determining relevant ads to display. Please note that it may take up to 1 or 2 weeks before any changes you make have an effect on your ad targeting.

  • Sorry for taking so long to respond. From your answer, I see that backup ads are essential but how do I actually configure that through the Adsense interface? I only see an option to either "minimize, show a color or a website" if no ads are available (support.google.com/adsense/answer/113262). How does this solve my problem with contextuality? – Sha Dec 28 '18 at 5:13
  • I am in the middle of a few other questions but I can revisit this over the weekend and reply before Monday. – Rob Dec 28 '18 at 5:17
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    Okay, I appreciate that. – Sha Dec 28 '18 at 5:18
  • I think this is a new question. See here: webmasters.stackexchange.com/a/103630/93353 - Since I'm not a member I don't have a dashboard or support, from what I can see support.google.com/adsense/answer/7480616 explains the setup. - You can also use "Show Clickable Image" (see URL in your comment above) to setup your own backup AD (point to your Blog, YouTube channel, etc.). – Rob Dec 29 '18 at 20:22
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I found the answer myself:

The Google Adsense interface has a setting to turn off personalized ads instead show non-personalized ads (which defaults to contextual ads):

https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/7670013

This specific Google support answer relates to EU-residents (EEA). There is an additional setting in the Google Ads interface Under

Blocking controls | Content and then All sites and Ad serving. Then turn off the setting where is says something like:

User-based ads - show ads based on users’ interests, demographics, and Google Account information, and allow Google to collect visitation information from my site to create interest categories. Note, this control does not affect remarketing.

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