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Idiosyncracies in the use of google_ad_section tags to drive targetted AdSense content - and why it might fail

December 2, 2006

My article Find that Font! Fantastic font sites revealed a small problem in the use of google_ad_section tags to obtain targetted content. Simply, it wasn't working.

Five months later - to the day - I noticed that the Google targetted ads had headers like 'Full-featured EMR', 'Health', 'Cerner & PharmNet labels'. Not a single site having anything to do with fonts. Never mind that the main text, dealing only with fonts, was enclosed in <!-- google_ad_section_start --> and <!-- google_ad_section_end --> tags. Title, description and keyword tags went completely ignored. And the Google AdSense bot had continually crawled my site, so it should've been updated.

The google_ad_section tags, when used, effectively cause material outside the tags to be excluded. Not weighted less, but totally excluded. This includes the exclusion of highly relevant material: title, description, keywords.

There are two solutions. One, use the <!-- google_ad_section_start(weight=ignore) --> tag to exclude stuff you don't want to drive your targetted content, such as your site's navigation menus. See our article on the use of META tags for more specifics.

Alternatively, enclose your pages' meta-data within an additional set of <!-- google_ad_section_start --> tags, i.e.

<!-- google_ad_section_start -->
<head>
  <title>Your Title Here</title>

  <meta name="AUTHOR" content="your name">
  <meta name="DESCRIPTION" content="your description - make sure it's
appropriate to your article, descriptive enough for Google search to index it
correctly, and for appropriate AdSense content to be targetted.">
  <meta name="keywords" content="your keywords - ditto the above">
  <meta name="copyright" content="Copyright (c) 2006, your name">
  <meta name="robots" content="index, follow">
  <meta name="revisit-after" content="1 week">
  <meta name="language" content="english">
  <meta name="distribution" content="global">
  <meta name="rating" content="general">
</head>
<!-- google_ad_section_end -->

Two days.

That's how long it took for appropriately targetted content to appear after we made the changes and re-submitted the updated site map to Google.

A minute or two worth of coding, and a two days' wait. Definitely worth the effort.

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