Google AdSense, the ad-serving system used on scores of blogs and websites, is generally favored over competitor services because of its higher “RPM” rate, or “Revenue Per Thousands Of Impressions.” This blogger has been a happy user of Google Adsense for years, as it’s coupled with the YouTube Partner Program – no complaints here.

But from a read of the Google AdSense Forum, folks like me are in the minority. A number of Google AdSense users, including some of its most successful personalities, have taken to the online forum to complain of a sudden and dramatic declines in RPM, in some cases as much as 70 percent.

Take this entry, posted August 9th, 2011:

I’ve been a publisher with Adsense since it began in 2003 (was actually personally invited by the network to join due to the fact that I own one of the more heavily trafficked websites in my genre) and up until April of this year, when Panda hit the U.S., I enjoyed a very lucrative and successful partnership with the ad network…so much so that Adsense has in the past invited me to their Mountain View facility for a personal interview, used me and my site in a national TV media interview (with Tory Johnson of ABC News) and in a national newspaper article (USA Today, where my logo was displayed on the front of the financial section along with Google’s, AOL’s, Yahoo’s and two other publishers) as an example of a ‘successful publisher with Adsense’, obviously these were promotions to hook potential publishers into joining their ad network. Unfortunately, over time it has become apparent that it wasn’t a win-win situation for me…a lot of copycat websites popped up, created by those trying to mimic my ‘success’ I suppose…and may be the reason why I lost over half my traffic when Panda first rolled out in the U.S. My Adsense earnings have dropped by up to 60% in the last 4 months. I have other ad networks that I work with, but Adsense has always been the leader in providing top RPMs…but not since April 2011. Use to be Adsense provided account managers for their ‘big earners’ with a direct telephone number…not anymore. Now, if any publisher regardless of earnings needs help, they have to post their concern or question in Adsense’s so-called “help forum”…how is that good business??? Without publishers, Adsense would not be. For the last two days I saw an increase in earnings that gave me some relief that perhaps things were finally getting back to ‘normal’…but today RPMs are the lowest I’ve ever seen!!! Adsense sends out a monthly enewsletter to its publishers and as of yet I have seen absolutely no mention about the drastic drop in publisher earnings for the past 4 months. And such a DRASTIC drop in earnings HAS NEVER HAPPENED SINCE ITS INCEPTION (so don’t try and tell me this is a normal occurrence with Adsense)…anyone else curious as to why “TEAM ADSENSE” doesn’t address this issue in their enewsletter??? Something needs to be done….and very soon…are you listening “Team Adsense”?

There are other postings reporting similar declines. The suspected reason: Panda.

What’s Panda?

Panda is not what you’d expect, but the codename of a new Google set of codes that governs how websites are read by its search engine to determine how they’re ranked in a search. For some years, Google has claimed to be on a mission to rid the World of spam. Personally, Google’s approach has the advantage of making its overall method of ranking sites always a little unpredictable. The objective? Increased use of Google AdWords, the ad placement part of Google’s main revenue generation system.

The idea seems to be if webmasters can’t figure out how to consistently maintain high website search rankings, they will have to use Google AdWords to buy ads that click through to their websites. Google makes money via this method of what I call ‘systemic unpredictability,’ keeping its’ stock price high in the process, and pleasing shareholders.

That aside, it’s not that Google’s intent is not a good one. Websites with content “scrapped” (where the entire text of a blog post is copied and pasted to another website) from other sites, have been the scourge of original content makers for well over a decade, especially over the past four years. Since Google has commonly represented up to 70 percent of all search engine activity, it’s almost a sure-thing the problem happens at far more than anywhere else.

Something had to be done.

Where I break with Google’s efforts is in how the search firm has handled it’s Google News content. I’ve blogged about this extensively before, but the problem was that Google has favored traditional news websites over blogs, even to the point of hiding Google Blog Search from immediate front page view, as is the case with Google News. It can “do” Panda, and not harm blog sites that should be in Google News, and it can make Google Blog Search front page accessible. That’s why I contacted the Federal Trade Commission last fall.

My complaint was that Google’s actions were helping news websites at the expense of blog websites, giving an unfair advantage to those organizations powerful enough to continuously sue them in court. Since Google controlled the search market, bloggers had no where to go to hope for a level playing field.

The FTC’s current investigation of Google’s anti-competitive practices touch on blogs, but where things get muddled is in the FTC’s work on “the future of journalism” and support of something called “The Hot News Doctrine.” (If you think all of this has nothing do with Panda, not so.)

The document Google wrote in response to the FTC’s interest in punishing copiers of news – and where the Hot News Doctrine has the weird result of favoring big news media, even when it didn’t create the news content – but covers up some of Google’s own practices in acting as content gate-keeper.

Google’s trying to have it both ways, assuming that one side of the giant firm is aware of what the other side is doing. It claims “Content Producers Control the Terms of Access,” but really, it’s Google that controls the terms of access.

If you can’t find a website or a blog site on Google, you can’t access it to start with. The trouble is, Panda is acting as the method by which Google controls “the terms of access,” and is probably banking on the FTC not being savvy enough to realize that.

So while Google presents itself to the FTC as this passive system where people get to “quality” websites and don’t, as the document reads, “linger” on Google or Google News, the real truth is that Google is anything but passive and controls website traffic.

Panda is the Google search device update that does this.

Panda Update May Go Too Far

The latest Panda update has been roundly hammered for causing massive drops in website revenue, especially for those companies like Demand Media, which saw its stock price dive from over $27 a share to around $8 per share between March and July of this year, 2011.

Demand Media has responded by removing 300,000 articles that didn’t meet the new quality requirements. That’s fine for a large organization which has regular meetings with Google execs and for which Google does rely on a significant level of pass-through ad revenue. But for small website makers, such forced changes may entirely wreck their business, and their ability to keep a roof over their heads.

The FTC has to become much more intelligent in how it looks at Google and its impact on the small website master. Google, and other search engines, have to be stopped from these “whenever we feel like it” changes in the algorithms that govern search devices.

From the reading outcry of Google AdSense users and from studying this entire matter of Google’s progress in search technology versus the society’s understanding of it, we have a lot of catching up to do. There’s not enough of a marriage between the FTC and webmasters to allow the agency to really have the appropriate understanding required to really corral what Google and other search engines do.

I don’t want Google to go under – quite the contrary. I want Google to thrive from the perspective that it’s only as effective as the smallest web business it helps, not the largest one. Right now, Google’s steadily crafting an image of helping the large at the expense of the small.

Stay tuned.

By Zennie Abraham

Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.