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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

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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

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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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