Yesterday was a big day for more than 2 million publishers: Google began the rollout of its new Google AdSense interface. The interface has been four years in development and will be provided in over 200 countries and more than 30 languages. Two questions arise: how is it going to help publishers make more money? And why should other networks be paying attention?
The answer lies in a problem that was expressed very clearly during the BLUE BOOK Top 20 research project that we recently completed here at mThink. Time and again, publishers told us that one of their biggest issues was getting to grips with the complexity of network tracking systems. We heard stories of affiliates tearing their hair out at having to learn four or five different interfaces, each of which offered different approaches to accessing the same type of data. And of course, this problem become more acute with less experienced affiliates.
As our research progressed, it became apparent that from the point of view of publishers, there seems to be little focus on making the learning curve less steep for newcomers. This should rightly be regarded as a mistake for an industry that spends so much time agonizing over how to grow faster.
In the new AdSense interface Google has taken up the challenge with a three-pronged attack on the problems that many website owners face:
– Reporting: publishers desperately need clear, simple dashboards that are easy to customize and that allow drill-down reporting. The new AdSense interface does just that, offering lots of graphing capabilities plus “even more detailed performance reports by ad type, ad size, ad unit, targeting type, and bid type for total earnings and other metrics, over custom date ranges.”
– Ad Controls: website owners want more control over the ads they run on their site. Google now offers deeper yet simpler controls together with a much improved ad review center that are being placement-targeted.
– Ease of Use: Google is making a big deal of how stable and fast the new AdSense interface is, as well as stressing the enormous efforts they have put into usability testing, specifically with a view to making it accessible to publishers of all ability levels.
Here’s the thing: due to its market share Google has huge competitive advantages already. Google Affiliate Network gets advantageous placement on Google SERPs and there is no doubt that the success of the Android operating system (now officially the 2nd most popular operating system worldwide) is going to lead to even more opportunities in that regard. Given how difficult Google is as a competitor for online ad dollars already, it would be ironic if they also gain an advantage by something as simple as having an easy-to-learn, well-designed interface.
It’s a well-rehearsed tune but it bears repeating: if networks wish to survive and prosper, they need to be investing in technology and differentiation, and positioning themselves as having the easiest and most accessible platform – this could just be the best differentiator of all.