If you have a free website may have noticed for the last two weeks or so your website is no longer displaying advertisements. For the last four years, our primary method of supporting free websites was by placing advertisements on them using Google Adsense. Google Adsense is a service that allows anyone to monetize their websites by allowing you displaying ad blocks within a webpage you own or control. These advertisements come from people building ad campaigns using Google Adwords. Goolge Adsense was perfect for us because it helped us to monetize free websites so that we could effectively offer a free service plan.
Recently Google Adsense has terminated our account due to inappropriate content (adult, pharmaceutical or other types of banned content). In the past Google would notify us when a site was in violation, then we would shut that site down. This type of content is in violation of our terms as well and when reported we immediately disable the offending website. Nothing has changed with the number of sites reported, so this move by Google has come as a big surprise to us leaving Spruz with a big gap in our revenue to effectively support everything we have included within our free service offering.
As you know in order for us to offer as much as we have for free websites we need to place advertisements on your website with us. Alternatives such as selling our own ad space or using a different ad network are easier said than done. An advertiser wants to know what is displayed next to their advertisement, where it is positioned on the page, and if they can be guaranteed their ad will display as promised. Without Google Adsense there is no effective way to meet these criteria since we are a network based platform. It is far easier for you to monetize your website/network than us, and you will normally earn a higher CPM rate.
We have contacted Google to appeal their decision on this matter, only to be rejected. Because of this we have been forced to re-evaluate what we can offer for free.
The following changes go into effect starting today for new free websites and August 31st for all current free website plans.
Free websites will have:
a limited number of advertisements or no advertising at all aside from promotional links to promote Spruz or site sponsors.
a 250 member limit. Once this limit is reached new member accounts will have a customizable message stating "We are not accepting new members at this time, please try back later."
a 5GB transfer limit. This eliminates our unlimited traffic that was part of our free offering. Once reached your site will be disabled until the following month or until you upgrade to a pay plan.
a fixed 100MB file space limit. We will be adding better controls so you can audit your members file space usage and can limit storage allowed per member. This cancels our tiered file space program.
We have removed the very restrictive limitation of Pages and Elements. There are new measures in place to handle this more effectively rather then limiting sites to 10 pages and 40 elements.
Please keep in mind we are not canceling our free website service, only adding necessary limitations to keep our business model sustainable. The new limitations help us control our costs that are no longer being covered by Google Adsense.
If your site reaches any of the limits above such as traffic or members you should be able to easily recover the costs of a $9.95 upgrade -- less than a lunch at McDonalds (by adding a donation element, your own advertising or charging for subscription).
This was a very tough decision for us and one of several scenarios including moving to a completely pay service. However, as we have stated in the past, we know the value of offering a free solution. Even with the changes outlined above our free solution will still allow a community to grow to a point that makes our upgrade sensible for most.
You are welcomed to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your complaints. If something does change with the status of our Google Adsense account we will return to our normal free service, though a reversal on the part of Google Adsense is unlikely.
As one last note, this does not change development on new features mentioned in our previous platform update post and as always we have big plans for unannounced features and improvements to come. We want to thank you in advance for your understanding on this matter, and hope that you stay with us during this difficult and unexpected change.
Update 5:47PM EDT - We wanted to address some of your common questions and concerns
Q: If I go over the File Space limit will you delete our content?
A: No, you just won't be able to add more photos or files.
Q: If I go over the Member limit will you delete our members?
A: No, new members will get a message saying they cant join at this time. Plus as the site owner you can delete inactive members to bring your site back under the limit.
Q: What really happens if I go over the Transfer limit?
A: Your Administration area will be disabled first, your site will still be fully usable for members. If you continually go over and if you continually go over after a 1 or 2 month period you site will be disabled until you upgrade and like all free websites are subject to deletion based on usage. But as we have mentioned, if you do hit the 5GB limit, placing a few ads alone will make $15-$30 per month in advertising or use our Site Fund elements to raise donations to upgrade.
Note: We are not shutting down websites with this change. Most networks will not be effected.