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Using The Competitive Ad Filter To Increase AdSense Earnings

written by John Chow on November 4, 2006


The purpose of the Competitive Ad Filter is to enable you to block specific ads, such as competitor’s ads, from appearing on your pages. Google allows you to enter up to 200 URLs. Most webmasters don’t block out any sites because they’re not an AdWords advertisers and therefore feel they have no competition. However, by not taking advantage of the Competitive Ad Filter you’re losing money to MFA sites and Arbitragers.

Made For AdSense & Arbitrage


MFA stands for Made For AdSense. These sites have almost no content. The only reason they exist is to make money from Google AdSense. The above is a screen shot from the “Computers” section of 10-bestsites [dot] com (I refuse to give them a backlink). The only content on the page is a header and the word Computers. Everything else is advertising.

How does a MFA site like this affect your AdSense income? Traffic to MFA sites are generated by advertising from Google AdSense and other PPC services. These sites offer a really low CPC rate so they can get the traffic as cheap as possible. If you’ve ever checked your AdSense account and see some 1 to 3 cent clicks, chances are it’s from a MFA site. Here’s how it works.

  • MFA sites bids the minimum amount on a keyword on your site.
  • The ad from the MFA site shows up on your site.
  • Reader clicks on the ad to visit MFA site – you make 1 to 3 cents.
  • MFA site is nothing but ads. Reader leaves by clicking on an ad – MFA site makes $1 or more.
  • Not all readers will click on an ad but enough will for the MFA site to make 50% to 500% return.

The above process, known as PPC Arbitrage, directly affects your AdSense income. It also creates a very poor user experience. A user clicks on an ad expecting to find information, not more ads. The funny thing is, Google can easily put a stop to this but they won’t because they make huge money from it – whether the click comes from your site or the MFA site, Google profits. Therefore, they have no incentive to shut this down. As long as Google allows this, you will have more Arbitragers creating MFA sites to take advantage of legit sites.

Using The Competitive Ad Filter


The only way to keep these MFA sites from advertising on your site or blog is to use the Competitive Ad Filter to block them out. By blocking these low CPC MFA sites, Google should serve higher paying ads to your site.

To block an ad, you’ll need to enter either the display URL or the destination URL into your filter. The display URL is the URL shown within the text of the ad. Not every ad features a display URL; depending on the ad format you’re using, you may need to rely on the destination URL of the ad in order to properly filter it.

There are two methods of obtaining the destination URL of an ad: the AdSense Preview Tool, and viewing the link Properties. Google suggest using the preview tool, due to its ease of use and additional functionality. Do NOT click on the ad to get the URL – that is a violation of the AdSense TOS and will get you banned.

A much easier way to block MFA sites and low paying CPC sites is the use the Ads Black List. This site will generate a list of 50 MFA sites for you to filter. If you become a member, the generated list increases to 200 – the current limit of the Google Competitive Ad Filter.

Using Ads Black List is extremely easy. Just enter your site URL and click the Get Black List button. Once you have the list, copy and paste all the URLs into your Competitive Ad Filter. It can take up to 12 hours before Google starts blocking the ads from the sites in the filter. In addition to the black list, I would also recommend you add tinyurl [dot] com to your filter list since many MFA sites love to use this service to hide their URLs.

Google really needs to increase the limit on the Competitive Ad Filter. With more and more MFA sites popping up everyday, 200 is really not enough anymore. However, I don’t see Google increasing the limit anytime soon – they make huge money off these Arbitragers and filtering them out is not in their financial interest.

By using the Competitive Ad Filter to block out the major MFA Arbitragers, you should see a nice increase in your Google earnings. If enough sites do this, it could force the MFA sites to increase their bids, or go under. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the Internet reads this blog, so don’t expect these MFA sites to disappear.

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Binary Dollar November 4, 2006 at 6:35 pm

Is there a list of these MFA sites that you have off hand?

John Chow November 4, 2006 at 6:40 pm

Sure! Here you go. :)

David Mackey November 4, 2006 at 7:22 pm

John, I never realized that this could really hurt my income. I have started using AdsBlackList and am looking forward to seeing how it affects my income. Thanks a ton.

Charles Hamel November 4, 2006 at 7:47 pm

Great article John, I really appreciate your work on this one.

Off to block some sites.

Binary Dollar November 4, 2006 at 7:57 pm

Thanks a bunch!

Jon November 4, 2006 at 9:00 pm

That’s one hell of a list of crappy MFA sites. The ones we make look nothing like that garbage, no wonder people do bad with them. But even so, that’s the old way to do arbitrage. I’ve done well over $5k a day with one site with a nice MFA site that you’d never think was a MFA site at all.

Anyhow, good post John.

Jay November 4, 2006 at 10:46 pm

Nice post. You’re sure on top of your game John.

I’ve never really used the ad filter though I’m aware of its existence.

Thanks for the tip. I’ll give it a shot.

Kev November 4, 2006 at 11:10 pm

Thanks for the tip, I’m not entirely sure this will work as surely the AdSense ad’s being displayed are the ones with the highest bids?

I’ve given it a go anyway as I’m interested in seeing how this works.


Abhishek Goyal November 4, 2006 at 11:30 pm

Thanks a ton!

Gdog November 4, 2006 at 11:57 pm

Thanks John, I’ll be giving this a try for my Korea blog.

Yan November 5, 2006 at 12:10 am

I signed up myself recently and was surprized to find that is in the list of the greedy web sites. Who would think?

siong1987 November 5, 2006 at 2:06 am

Thanks for your list. The list is really good. Actually, it is quite sad that we have to pay to get the list.

Is there any free portal?

Google Chance November 5, 2006 at 2:33 am

John, there’re a millions of MFA sites in web now, so you can’t list their all in ad Filter. And we don’t know how many MFA sites will appear in near future, so your adSense filters not effective.

Donncha O Caoimh November 5, 2006 at 4:08 am

I’ve tried blocking adverts using the filter but one of the consequences of doing that is some ad units may not be filled.
I can’t say for sure if it’s related, but after one particular session of tracking down MFA sites my income halved the next day – despite having a normal CTR. I really need to get my adsense tracking script working properly and see what ads are being shown. A daily summary of viewed adverts (and not just clicked) would be very useful to track down what adverts are not money making.

Spode November 5, 2006 at 4:22 am

Great Piece John.

Emperor November 5, 2006 at 4:46 am

Excellent posts John Chow. I was aware of but never got around to using it, I think it’s about time I start.

Char November 5, 2006 at 7:10 am

Of course you can’t block out all the MFA sites, just like you can’t stop all the spam in your inbox, blog comments, etc. My thought is that any little bit that can help, especially when presented to us so clearly, can’t hurt.

Thanks John. I’ve added these and will see how they affect my Adsense bottom line in the future.

Matthew November 5, 2006 at 7:53 am

I thought I would experiment with this also to see what the stats show over the next few days. I will let you know which way it goes.

Emir Pilavdzic November 5, 2006 at 9:33 am

Thank your for this article John.

I’ll make sure to notify my members about it as it’s really enlightning.

and siong1987, althought ABL is far from being “paid membership” site, it will always remain free to users who contribute to site by reporting their MFA discoveries.

kind regards,

Ian November 5, 2006 at 10:40 am

Yeah, only being allowed 200 sites in the list kinda sucks. I run about a dozen sites on different topics, and it’s kinda hard to do much with only 200 blacklists across the whole account.

My Hot Image November 5, 2006 at 11:55 am

Thanks for the info, actually i shared in the beta stages of and i really liked it

it helped me tripple my earnings ( yeah 3X so far) and i’m expecting more earnings from my site as long as i keep updating my blocked list

those MFA sites really affected my income for 2 months getting few cents per click but not anymore

thanks ABL team and thanks John Chow for caring to spread the word ;)

Emir Pilavdzic November 5, 2006 at 1:03 pm

I just want to share this Before / After example with you all:

Derrich November 5, 2006 at 1:07 pm

Great post, John. I better get rich now! :) Dugg, and linked!

Sucker November 5, 2006 at 2:32 pm

One of my sites actually had a roughly 300% increase in earnings after blocking these sites! (It’s a low earning site in an unpopular niche, but I’m very happy with these results!)

exchange ingredients November 5, 2006 at 5:06 pm

Great Post, very informative.

Tony November 5, 2006 at 7:14 pm

Some of those sites seems to have very similar names. It’d be nice to have regex, or some other way of matching and blocking groups. Especially with the imposed 200 entry limit.

Nomar November 6, 2006 at 5:45 am

wow, never knew this… thanks for the information,

very good article !!

Jonancoop November 6, 2006 at 10:32 am

I’m curious how the revenue increase is explained – considering that adwords is an auction and advertisers always pay the lowest CPC possible – so if you remove the lowest bidder either there is no other bidder so you lose 3 cents, or there is a next higher bidder, but that next higher bidder automatically drops to the lowest possible CPC. I can’t think of a scenario that would explain higher revenue per pageview… Thanks!

uncle sha November 6, 2006 at 12:50 pm

thanks for the tip!

u’re a ‘god-send’

Google Chance November 6, 2006 at 5:09 pm

> My thought is that any little bit that can help, especially when presented to us so clearly, can’t hurt.

I think this help really a little bit.
But you can left ONE adSense block in top of page and take away two other to make ads more expensive and increase CPM. This will block MFA sites by adSense without any filter as well.

John Chow November 7, 2006 at 12:09 am

Jonancoop – It’s not that simple. Google doesn’t always serve the highest CPC ads on a page. They use Smart Pricing to decide what sites get the good ads and what sites get the bad ones. If we know how this all works we can prevent but we don’t. However, blocking off the MFA site won’t mean the ad goes to the next bidder. It just mean the MFA ad shows up on some other site.

Google Chance – Having only one AdSense won’t stop the MFA sites. And overall CPM goes down with you run just one ad spot.

Google Chance November 7, 2006 at 1:36 am

> And overall CPM goes down with you run just one ad spot.

I’m not sure that’s right. Maybe CPM goes down for a few fist weeks while Googlebot put your pages in search index, but if your adSense block placed good CPM will rise from the initial after. I’ve hundreds of sites, so this is experimental results.

> Having only one AdSense won’t stop the MFA sites.

In most cases it stops. Why?

adSense is able to redistribute CPM depending on a site’s thematic, blocks amount and placing them on a page. I Think adSense blocks show more expensive ads if you put only one block in page, as I wrote. It means MFA sites that paying less money for a click will be replaced by quality sites with good bids in your adSense.

Ian November 7, 2006 at 8:35 am

These are active MFA sites. Do yourself a favor and block these:

Dave November 7, 2006 at 12:35 pm

You know it never really occurred to me before reading this that I might be missing out on a lot more quality ads by blocking these MFA types. I’d read and interpreted the information on the Google site as being competitors only, but having read your entry and the comments that followed it makes perfect sense! I wish I had learned of this sooner but I thank you for educating me now. I’ll have to see how much this effects my daily earnings of $0.00 on average!

Ed November 8, 2006 at 6:43 am

Same here!
It worked!
At least 100% increase in profit.
Hope someone can post more MFA sites

Chris November 8, 2006 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for this valuable information. I wasn’t aware of these MFA sites…Can’t Google ban these type of sites? I added the sites to the filter and I hope my income will increase!

Daily Blog Tips November 9, 2006 at 6:01 am

Google should revise slightly its pricing structure. I mean they just reported huge profits for the quarter, they need to make sure that the whole system (including publishers and advertisers) will keep working, else they might suffer also.

droo November 9, 2006 at 5:06 pm

Thanks for the list!

AM Putra - Weekly Weblog November 10, 2006 at 1:23 am

No more question. Even some of the internet marketing consultant not recommending you to do it, but I do. It is unethical act to publish website that contain nothing more than ads on your blog. People will feel tricked, as their purpose is to find content. November 10, 2006 at 3:40 pm

Anyone heard about the new adwords quality score bot? Saw a post over on about it. Would that make the Ads Black List less useful? I might actually think it could go the other way, where Google could filter out many of the obvious ones, and sites like Ads Black List could be used to augment Google’s quality bot. Thoughts?

BTW, I signed up for Ads Black List ealier in the day, and generated my list. We’ll see how that helps!

Webmaster Labor February 20, 2007 at 1:46 am

Apparently the Google quality scoring system still has a long way from weeding out MFA sites. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still continuously tweaking it.

Emir Pilavdzic November 13, 2006 at 6:57 pm

So JFST? any success so far?

Eric November 14, 2006 at 7:42 pm

Thanks for the tip! I haven’t been making any money with Google AdSense and I was about to give up. Thank you so much dude, for your help!

Adwords Agentur November 15, 2006 at 3:39 am

What I do to avoid this things is that I always show Adsense formats with 1 ad only. So only the ad with the highest payment will appear on my page. Normally the spammers will not get the chance to place their ads because of mostly somebody bids more. They will get the position 3 or 4 which I not show on my pages.

StrangeProgress November 16, 2006 at 7:44 am

Some interesting factors emerging in Adsense as it matures. One to watch is most certainly the Ad Filter situation.

Philomena Ojikutu November 16, 2006 at 8:26 am

Thanks John foir this reminder. Now after one week of putting this strategy to test. All the 1 cent, 3 cents clicks have disappeared from my adsense reports. non of the clicks is less than 12 cents now. My income is gradually climbing.

Sucker November 16, 2006 at 1:41 pm

I’ve seen an overall earnings increase thanks to this, and on one of my sites, the earnings are significantly higher (up to 300% higher some days!)

John Chow November 16, 2006 at 4:26 pm

Good to hear that this is working for people! :)

Roy November 19, 2006 at 8:42 am
Cesco November 20, 2006 at 12:31 pm

Should’nt all these sites be categorized since they bid on keywords and not every publisher has the same type of website (thus not the same keywords).
For example, if my website is all about music, why block a MFA that targets drugs related sites?

unless i missed something – which is quiet possible :-)

Vee December 1, 2006 at 3:47 am
LearnIt2 December 7, 2006 at 7:57 am

Thanks, I will try ABL out.

Steve M Nash December 12, 2006 at 12:51 am

Thanks John for an interesting piece.
I will definitely look into doing this
and seeing what effect it has, if any.
Signing up to ABL now

Cheers again,

Norbert December 16, 2006 at 8:20 am

I have a question. I tried out ABL and entered a LOT of keywords, but there are sites like “” showing up, which will probably never show up on my site.

Is there a way to somehow block certain sites that are more likely to show up in my ads?

white fish December 27, 2006 at 10:03 pm

thanks for the site but i wonder how well the adsblacklist site works for finding ads on my site. ive been using it for a while and i cant tell.

VENKATAKRISHNA NALAMOTHU January 5, 2007 at 6:26 pm

It is better if google fixed minimum price on adwords auctions. I cann’t understand why google is allowing such low paying advertisers.

aquasana January 31, 2007 at 2:55 am


Great Information…i always appreciate the work like this !

kostas February 14, 2007 at 12:32 am

Thanks a ton!

Michael Zhao May 13, 2009 at 11:14 am

Another great post! I’m still a small fish in an ocean dwelling at the bottom…a baby great white…haha!

Michael Zhao’s last blog post: Time…is not on any bodies side.