AdSense – Xen

Case study from Nottingham City Council for AdSense on My Nottingham

The rather wonderfully named Xen claimed to have the best subject of the day because he was going to show us how to make money! Yes, that’s right, Google want to pay us a little bit if we allow them to put adverts on our websites.

There are two options with AdSense – putting adverts on search results or adding adverts to content pages. Where the ads appear on the page can be configured so they can be relatively unintrusive at the bottom of the page. In both cases the algorithm analyses the search term or content to deliver adverts which are relevant.

There is no direct manual input into the ads but you can block advertisers by category or specific URL. Google have their own restrictions on who can advertise and you can choose from three broad settings to make sure advertising on your website is family safe, mixed (includes adverts for sexual health for example) or completely open. You choose which pages of your website to allow advertising on and there will soon be an opt out for sensitive categrories (not entirely sure which categories they are or how you opt out).

Rather than talk too much about it though we heard from Nottingham City Council about their implementation of AdSense on their MyNottingham portal (and I will blog about other features of this website such as customisation / personalisation / pulled in data some other time).

MyNottingham is billed as a one-stop shop for Nottingham residents and their aim in redesigning the website was to have the best local government website in the country.

They believe that advertising adds value to their website as they couldn’t manually add all the links. I, personally, disagree with this as I believe there is a world of difference between an advert and true content. Or there should be. But let’s leave it at we have a difference of opinion for this blog post.

They have adverts across their site and say there is no resource needed to manage them other than opening the envelope with the cheque in each month (they say they have made around £15,000 in 12 months from AdSense). However, they do say they have to do some work to manage the ads reactively (I would guess this takes some resource?) in terms of blocking unsuitable ads or adverts in direct competition with services such as fostering and adoption. They also block adverts from political parties.

I’m not sure what process they have behind what gets blocked and what doesn’t? The decision seems to be taken centrally rather than asking services whether they feel they have non-public sector competitors.

They have also changed their privacy policy as Google AdSense uses cookies to target ads along with their geolocation from IP Address.

I don’t feel totally at ease with advertising on council websites but will formulate my thoughts and articulate my feelings in another post.

11 thoughts on “GoogleLocalGov

  1. Thanks for some really detailed notes. I just wanted to ask you to clarify what “The Ordnance Survey” question is, for those of us not in local government and who can only guess at what it might mean 🙂


  2. Ah, yes, sorry!
    It is around the issue of copyrighted information – I’m not completely on top of the details but understand OS have some issues with putting geo-information they see as theirs into Google or some other mapping systems. That is a very broad overview and may be slightly missing the finer point of the issue! Hopefully someone will correct if I am wrong / missing something!

  3. Great write up, Sarah! Just to elaborate on the OS issue, it’s basically that any GIS data produced by an OS system is then subsequently owned by the OS and cannot, say, be exported to use in GMaps. Microsoft seem to have an agreement with OS that gets around this and Google aparently do with their pro version of the maps API, however it’s not clear if these issues have been cleared up for the basic version. It’s kind of akin to Microsoft turning round and saying “Okay, you’ve made that Word doc. You can’t now turn that word doc into a PDF because we now own it. Kthxbai!”

  4. Ah, thanks Sarah and Andrew for the explanation. That’s much nastier than I’d expected – no wonder it’s such a big issue.

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